It is fair to say that bands which bring a diversity of imagination and sound together stand out from the thick music crowd more than most and that is exactly what is happening with Demi The Daredevil. Since forming in 2006, the Texan outfit has explored their art rock natured sound without allowing it boundaries, persistently luring attention from fans and media alike to now knock on global awareness. We recently had the chance to do our own exploration of the band with one of its founders Jeff Azar to look at the beginnings of Demi The Daredevil, that journey through sound and imagination, their latest release and much more…
Hello, many thanks for taking time out to talk with us.
Can you first introduce the band and give us some background to the bands beginnings?
My name is Jeff Azar from an Art Rock/Dark Theater band called Demi the Daredevil. It all started in our hometown El Paso; El Chuco as some like to say. Jovan (RIP) and Marc started playing guitar together, and I was introduced to them by a mutual friend. I started off on the drums in this band.
Were you involved in other bands before Demi the Daredevil? If so what influence did those experiences have on what you are doing now?
Marc is in a few other bands. I jammed with some people sometimes. I guess they helped me realize what direction I did NOT want to go in.
What inspired the band name?
Demi is short for demigod, which is a half man half god. Kinda like a Hercules type.
Not sure about Daredevil. Marc and Jovan chose Demi the Daredevil over The Rootbeer KamiKazis.
Was there any specific idea behind the forming of the band and also in what you wanted it and your sound to offer?
No, at least it was more intuitive rather than a logical idea behind what we were doing. When we first started, Jovan was inspiring from random things like film scores or TV show theme songs or video game music and we punk rocked those out. We didn’t have too much of an audience in mind, we just wanted to make loud fast melodic music.
When my brother came into the mix later down the road, I thought we’d have two ideas: classical music merged with the pop world and the world of movie acting/very obvious themed songs. Currently, the main goal is to have 1) good chord progressions 2) good melodies 3) and killer grooves. Besides that, there is no one idea musically, and as far as the lyrics go, I’m speaking to those who struggle with mental health.
Do the same things still drive the band when it was fresh-faced or have they evolved over time?
That’s a good question. At first it was the pure fun of playing and analyzing music, with no thought of an audience. Then the drive became to be a critical success. Now, the drive seems to be connecting with kindreds, with like minds. Wanting a sense of community is the drive.
Since your early days, how would you say your sound has evolved?
This band has had a lot of style changes. There have been phases, which might have made it hard to pinpoint an audience. But it was a necessary exploration…. Anyway, at first it was balls out punk rock or power pop. Then during a Beatles phase it became more reserved and softer. When my brother Thomas came into the mix, it became very Broadwayesque, because he’s a classically trained pianist and likes Broadway styled melodies. Now, there don’t seem to be rules. As long as the songs are accessible, emotional, and will stand the test of time at least for a little while, we can inspire from soft rock, power pop, classical, funk, dark cabaret, etc…
It has been more of an organic movement of sound rather than you deliberately trying new things?
It’s always been an organic movement of sound. At every point in the history of this band we’ve just dished out what we were taking in at the time. For me it’s intuitive writing in that I take in a bunch of impressions, and then somehow something is synthesized from all those impressions.
Presumably across the band there is a wide range of inspirations; are there any in particular which have impacted not only on the band’s music but your personal approach and ideas to creating and playing music?
Yes. You’re right about there being such a wide range of influencers. I’ve obsessed over bands during each stage…And can’t list them all. But, even though I’m ashamed to keep bringing up this contemporary band that only in the last year has been the biggest personal influence, Twenty One Pilots has had a major impact on my personal approach. I had similar subject matter to Tyler lyrically; he just said it better with zero pretence. He got me to get more sober, gave me faith in making songs that don’t have to be master crafted mega hits, just as long as they are good and accessible. They made me go the distance with grooves, and incorporate all these intricate rudiments I learned in drum line. And they created online community of a certain type of fan with a very particular identity which I’d like to reach too. The live show energy; I could go on. Please stop me.
Is there a regular process to the songwriting within the band?
For me, I need to start with a timeless and emotional chord progression…Or at least a variation of one. That is most important to me. I try out syncopated rhythms with the core instruments. Melody then is experimented with. Previously written poetry is put more into lyric and song form. Recording programs help with happy accidents. There is a long phase of punching the song up after the main idea is there…So many bases to cover.
Where do the biggest inspirations to your lyrical side come from?
Lyric inspiration starts from what I think is a big realization or feeling.
I then take months to get a more bird’s eye view on it and to say it better than when I tried to describe it initially.
Can you give us some background to your latest release?
A lot of the lyrics for it were written in strange places, like an attic on the UT campus during my last summer of school there, a couple psych hospitals(a lot of time to reflect there), and in a tee pee (which I needed to live in to save money for marketing). The band was in flux, and our producer lived in New York. So it took a long time to coordinate with our producer long distance, which left me a lot of time to treat the songs like Frankenstein until they were the best they could be.
Give us some insight to the themes and premise behind it and its songs.
The EP is called Secret Schizoid. The schizoid, defined by a psychologist Rollo May, is someone unable to feel, or to have close connection with others. They are out of touch with themselves. So these tracks are tracking that recovering the self process and piecing it back together.
Are you a band which goes into the studio with songs pretty much in their final state or prefer to leave plenty of room for development as you record?
Definitely a band that goes into the studio with songs more in their finished state. Unless a group of musicians are dedicating enough time with each other to make magic happen going into the studio without set ideas seems like a nightmare. Plus we really just need to record live drums in the studio. The rest can be tracked at home.
Tell us about the live side to the band?
We’re starting to prep for the live shows and trying to make them theatrical, in the sense that we we’re creating little inner dialogue scenes with voices on the back tracks, or I should say monologue scenes because they are like schizophrenic voices, in between songs…And making it engaging with the audience. We want people to feel like they are part of the inner turmoil.
It is not easy for any new band to make an impact regionally let alone nationally and further afield. How have you found it? Are there still the opportunities to make a mark?
Yes, there are opportunities to break through; the key is knowing what kind of person your fan is and send them personal messages. Build relationships. Also learning how to using social media to reach them. Facebook offers a really useful audience insights tool to learn more about your fans, and a power tool editor to advertise correctly. In terms of playing live shows to regional fans when you don’t have money or resources to book nation or worldwide tours, promoting your shows to potential fans in whatever area will make it more worth your while. No industry ppl who can take you to the next level will mess with you without fans, and you can’t leverage anyone in the industry without fans.
You touched on social media there, how has it impacted impacted on the band to date? Do you see it as something destined to become a negative from a positive as the band grows and hopefully gets increasing success or is it more that bands struggling with it are lacking the knowledge and desire to keep it working to their advantage?
At first, the social media made us feel insecure because we just got crickets. After understanding how to use it (to spread your music to people who are care about that kind of music), it’s a free marketing tool. You have to learn how to use it and adapt. If you want to get signed to a company, you need to prove you have engagement from a Fan-base because that is in our control now. If you don’t care about getting signed you still need to use social media to have a Fan-base. You can play a show to ten people, two whom really likes you, or you can reach 8,000 people by $20 to market a live performance online for example.
Once again a big thanks for sharing time with us; anything you would like to add for the readers?
Thank you for asking good questions! Yes, admit insanity, embrace your humanity.
If you are plagued with self-doubt, are conflict ridden, and someone who asks existential questions listen to our Secret Schizoid EP 🙂
The RingMaster Review 13/01/2017
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