Ghost Frequencies & Newtonian Physics: An Interview with Drab Majesty

Ghost Frequencies & Newtonian Physics: An Interview with Drab Majesty. Andrew Clinco talked about new EP An Object in Motion and more
Deb Demure from Drab Majesty

Northern Transmissions recently sat down with Deb Demure of LA’s Drab Majesty to chat about playing shows in, Tasmania upcoming EP An Object in Motion and more. The album drops on August 25th via Dais Records. The 4-track release signals a deviation from genre-pegged expectations – perhaps best personified in the new single “The Skin and the Glove.” The EP also features Rachel Goswell of Slowdive contributing vocals on the title-track.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Northern Transmissions: I saw that you all played a festival called Dark Mofo in Tasmania prior to your set at last
month’s Oblivion Access.

Deb Demure: Omg yeah. My clock is still fucked up from that shit. It’s so weird. It’s really only 7 hours difference, because it’s 7 hours earlier but like tomorrow. It’s the future over there. It’s crazy. I’m okay now though.

NT: How was it? That seems like quite a trek, and not a lot of bands get to play in such a far-off corner of the globe.

AC: I know it’s so far and removed, but it’s also amazing that it was the 10-year anniversary of that fest, I believe. Maybe more. But it’s wild how it’s this little microcosm of the music community on this remote island. It doesn’t even feel that remote. We had actually been before, right before COVID. There’s multiple venues around the city hosting things, so it’s not centrally located. We played one of the venues Dark Mofo was hosting shows at 4 years before and I barely recognized the city. Everybody who’s involved, even the local breakfast place, they have some kind of acknowledgement of the fest. Like they have “the sinister omelet” or like, “the devil berry smoothie”. It’s got this whole black and red thing going on. Everything is black and red but it’s not goth, that’s what’s really weird. It’s kind of more ritualistic and underwordly, which was really cool. But it’s artfully done too, so it’s not cheesy. They really create their own aesthetic, and most of the shopkeeper lights and even the streetlights are changed to be red bulbs. The whole city is kind of baked in this red glow, it’s like you’re under a heating lamp at all times. It’s pretty cool. Yeah and there was just a lot of really awesome bands and a lot of weird acts I’d never seen before there. I don’t know if you like oysters, I really like oysters.

NT: I love oysters.

DD: This is like where the best oysters in the world come from. So of course, naturally me and my bandmate (Mona) we’re big oyster people and we ate probably our bodyweight in oysters when we were there and they were so good. And we went camping one night actually after we played, we got to spend a couple days extra. We went and took some mushrooms on the beach and looked at the sky, and that was really fun.

NT: It’s beautiful to see these experimental or more progressive minded festivals and spaces popping up and thriving post-pandemic. At least that’s how Oblivion Access felt here in Austin as a city that has a lot of festivals…it’s cool to see around the world people pushing outside of the norm a little.

DD: Absolutely.

NT: Are there any cities where the music community feels fresh and exciting for you right now?

DD: It’s always evolving and maybe somewhere is hot only for 2 years, and then it’s dead again and pops back up. I can’t really put my finger on a place that I felt has a really thriving music scene for a long period of time, or has experienced their renaissance yet. I mean, New York is killer. New York is definitely a great scene, but if you want to speak more exotically, I’ve always been partial to Athens, Greece. They have some cool sort of anarcho-punk stuff going on there. Kind of wild synth punk and noisy shit. It’s kind of just really aggressive music happening in corners of the city. Athens is alive and well in that way. Probably not on everyone’s radar, but it’s rad.

NT: The new EP, An Object in Motion is out next month. This was written in Yachats, Oregon. What brought you to venture there?

DD: In terms of getting the meat of a record made, for a while I’ve always wanted to go to places that are either remote or places where I don’t speak the language. I can just exist in silence, and not have that many distractions or know many people. So, for instance, Modern Mirror was written in Athens and I stayed there for a few months. I don’t speak the language, and only had a couple of friends there so, it was remote in this way that I was an island. Then, more on a physical level Yahats is kind of remote, there’s nobody around, and its this sleepy little seaside town that’s like up against the forest there. It’s called “The gem of the Oregon coast”.

It just so happened to be that Gibby (Miller) who runs Dais Records had some friends from Portland, this couple who lives there and bought this A-Frame in Yahats because it’s a beautiful destination. They refurbished it and they wanted to turn it into an AirBnb which they’ve since done. It was just getting completed at the time that I was looking to get out of town and write some music. Not even for this EP, it turned into this EP but it was more like I just want to compose and not be caught up in the COVID matrix of LA and all that. It just feels so removed. They hadn’t put it on AirBnb yet, I was the first guest which was really cool. Now it’s booked for like a year solid, it’s impossible to get in there.

NT: Vanity was released as the first single with Rachel from Slowdive, gorgeous track. I feel like you can really hear the shift into this more ambient spacious territory. Can you speak to the theme of the music video? One thing that kind of stands out for me is like the exploration of memory.

DD: Maybe related to that, growing up in LA there’s a lot people that I grew up with who had entertainment industry parents, or wanted to get into the business themselves to some degree. People from a young age are kind of geared towards, everyone wants to be an actor. And vanity is a huge component of making something of yourself. It’s an illusion, but it’s a big component of being someone in LA for a lot of people, you know? And it’s weird, it’s bittersweet because you’re kind of a product of your environment here in that way. It’s something that you’re constantly reminded of. When you go to places that aren’t LA and see the entertainment industry it’s not this looming thing and some sort of dragon to chase. And it’s interesting to watch people, myself included. Although, I never approached it in that way, any kind of success that Drab Majesty has had has just been a fluke in my opinion. I still feel like a bedroom artist. It was never done to enter that discussion of fame or whatever. But it’s been an interesting thing to observe, some of my peers growing up, are now actors, actresses, or models.  What’s going on with that? Is it the genetic lottery that just brought you here and you actually wanted to be a CPA or something like that? A lot of people are just thrust into these acting and
modeling roles, and I mean LA does breed some pretty good looking people. It’s just a weird byproduct of moving here for a lot of people and that’s kind of what the song talks about.

NT: I know you’ve mentioned in the past admiring folk artists like Nick Drake and how that sort of had a piece of inspiration on your finger picking style. How did you come across this Ovation guitar that you’re using on this EP?

DD: I always had an interest in acoustics. I love the sound of The Church – Marty Wilson-Piper’s guitar playing. He’s just like really great to me. I know he plays a Takamine. The Ovation is an interesting guitar because its not entirely wood, the back half of the guitar is plastic, it’s kind of weird Kevlar or something. It was actually recommended to me by Ben Greenberg (The Men) who produced the record. He’s kind of my sonic brother. I’d always known Ovation as kind of a goofier looking guitar, and I didn’t realize they had such a unique sound. I found this one, and it was a right-handed guitar. So I flipped it over because I play left handed, and set it up to suit my orientation. I immediately vibed with it. Some instruments you pick up and you’re like, “I can’t write a single song on this thing.” And that one somehow just really started to speak. I only had it for a week before going to Yachats. I just uncorked it, sat down on the couch and the tunes just sort of manifested real fast. It’s an inspiring instrument.

NT: Where did you end up recording, and what did that process look like?

There’s a bunch of other tunes I wrote in Yachats, but those 4 just seemed to be a group of songs that kind of felt like on the same wavelength. I sent those to Ben, who lives in Brooklyn and he was like, “Yeah, this is tight, you should come out here and just track it all.” So I tracked the entire thing myself in Brooklyn. I didn’t even know if it was going to be for Drab Majesty. I was like, “I just want to make this more ambient record.” And then it slowly turned into, this should be a Drab Majesty EP. So there was only one song that had singing, and then the rest were instrumentals. “The Skin and the Glove” was also an instrumental, and then the ending of it we just turned into a whole new song. So there’s 2 songs that have singing on it.

NT:  Vanity is definitely a single?

DD: I agree, actually the response was actually very positive. We ended up finishing the next single with this little acoustic guitar ending to the song that comes before it, so we were like “Let’s extend that and turn it into a whole tune.” So I built it out in my home studio, and Mona and I finished it one night and I sent it to Ben and then he mixed it. We added the extra song, or turned one song into two.

NT: So you’re saying the next single encapsulates the EP?

DD: It encapsulates the new direction of the band, it’s the pivot. We’re headed more towards neo-psych now, not really the darkwave thing anymore.

NT: “Yield to Force” is just over 15 minutes long!

DD: Yeah it’s a long one, it’s a meditative piece for sure – a big dirge-y drone thing that goes on for a long time.

NT: Who did the cover art?

DD: I did!

NT: Can you walk me through how this relates to the theme of the record? It’s striking and seems to come more from a graphics perspective than your previous cover art.

DD: I kind of had always been thinking of this image of a slant with a circle on it, not being able to tell which direction the circle is going. Its basically a landscape drawing, its very minimal. It’s a circle on a hill, and it’s not clear is the ball is being pushed up the hill or rolling down the hill. It’s the Newtonian – “An Object in Motion Stays in Motion”. There’s this Sisyphus-ian kind of aspect of pushing the rock up the hill as well, so I like how it looked visually. And actually, the way the cover is designed is that the circle is die cut, so when you open the jacket up it actually opens up, it’s a hole in the cover of the record.

NT: That’s fun, a lot of band don’t do those interesting sleeve features anymore.

DD: I know, I miss that! So that was definitely something I wanted to do.

NT: Do you have a favorite musical discovery from recent years?

DD: I’m so bad with new bands, but definitely this band we played with in Miami, Donzii. Are you familiar with them?

NT: I don’t think so!

DD: They’re incredible, I don’t understand how they’re not already massive. They’re female fronted, it’s an interesting hodge-podge of people. A really cool eclectic group of people from all different age groups, but they’re all total weirdos. We played a show with them, it was super fun. They’re huge in Miami, but when you live in Miami you basically live in another country because first of all: Florida. And second of all, it takes like 7 or 8 hours to get into the actual states because you’re on a peninsula. It’s hard to tour. Being from Miami, it’s beautiful but kind if a curse because you’re so removed. I mostly listen to older music, I’m a total Luddite in that way. Did you see Earth at Oblivion Access?

NT: Sadly, I missed that one.

That was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life. The acoustics were so good in that room. I cannot even comprehend how perfect the acoustics were. It created these weird ghost frequencies and harmonics and stuff. I thought there were war chants and all these people screaming in my ears. But it was totally quiet. It was just droning guitars reverberating in this wild, psychedelic cacophony. I lost it. I’m still kind of reeling from it. Dylan (Carlson) is a very good friend of mine, I love him, and I’ve seen Earth play. My old band played with them. I’ve never seen them do a full drone set, and now I look at him differently. You’re channeling, you’re a magician my friend. I hope they do that again. There were no seats, I just layed in the aisle.

NT: It was your sound bath.

AC: Oh, yeah, It was a cleansing experience for sure!

Pre-order An Object in Motion by Drab Majesty HERE


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