Holy Doom? Holy Damn. Demob Happy are all swagger and style.
Since the release of their 2015 debut Dream Soda, the Brighton-based, Geordie-raised trio have been eulogised by many (not least by Frank Carter). And now there's follow-up album Holy Doom – an immediately gripping and enduring affair that oozes seedy sex-like style with the swing of its grungy, bass-laden moves. It's even better than the first. And even better in person. On stage Matthew Marcantonio leads the line, sort of part Josh Homme, part John Lennon, a Frankenstein of riveting rock wielding a bass guitar, supported by Thomas Armstrong and Adam Godfrey on drums and guitar respectively.
Despite the reception to their debut, the road to Doom has not been easy. Emotionally draining relationships and the departure of lead guitarist Mathew Renforth are some of the cited challenges. But a retreat to a cottage in Wales, to conciliate demons, divine spirituality and harmonise sound, proved reformative, delivering a Demob-Happy sorta Doom.
Realigned and reinvigorated, the mercurial Matthew Marcantonio discusses internal balance, albums as art, and why the music industry's in the midst of a "dark age".
DISORDER: What themes does Holy Doom explore?
MATTHEW MARCANTONIO: The first album was kind of looking outwards towards the world, seeing [external] problems. [But] in the intervening two years, we went through a lot as a band. Personally, I went through a lot. [Holy Doom] is an attempt to sort through my head and put into words the way I see myself, my place in the world, [and] the wrongs that I see in it. It’s an attempt to shine some light and find my way through, you know, and often that’s dealing with religious dogma and spiritual ideas. It’s also about corruption, the way that people are oppressed and how those things affect me and the people I love. Holy Doom represents the light and dark that’s within everyone. The modern way to deal with problems is to cover them up and pretend they don’t exist, whereas in reality you [also] have to be aware of the negativity and anger inside yourself. It’s all about balance.
How important is it that Holy Doom represents a collective body of work as opposed to a bunch of songs?
It’s very important to us. We still believe in the album as an art form. I hope it will endure. We’re in the age of streaming but we made [Holy Doom] for people who will listen to it top to bottom and give it that opportunity. Because that’s how we listen to the albums that we love.
How do you feel about the music industry currently?
We’re in a bit of a dark age. I think that any band that manages to get through this and somehow come out on top will be seen as survivors. It’s a very difficult time for rock music because it’s not as popular. [But] trends come and go. [Rock] will come back; these things exist in twenty-year cycles; you can see that across fashion, music and art. I long for the days where you could just be a writer, be in a band, and it was [someone else’s] job to take what you’ve done and sell it. Nowadays, you have to be the artist and the gallery owner. You have to sell yourself. It’s detrimental while making art to keep in mind, like, how am I going to sell this, how am I going to talk about this on social media, what’s going to be our social media campaign…. There isn’t enough money anymore, at least not at our level, that you can employ people to do that stuff. You have to think about [promotion] and that’s potentially damaging. [There’s] two different ways of thinking about things: the right [side of the] brain that’s creating [music] and the left [side of the] brain that’s selling it. Engaging both [sides] at once doesn’t do either of them justice.
Has the creative dynamic changed from album to album?
I think we will always have the ability to get into a room and play and be able to write stuff. We write what we want to hear, what we want to listen to. We’re constantly keeping ourselves in check, [and] making sure that there’s never a dull moment on the album. We’re very much aware of [having] no filler. [With Holy Doom] it was nice to know that, even though we’d all been through a lot, we still had that ability to sit down and write with each other.
You retreat to a Welsh cottage to write your albums… Why there?
It’s isolated; we like being able to get away. It’s great because there’s no mobile phones or internet. No distractions. It’s somewhere you don’t have to look at the clock – the hours and days just blend into each other. We like that headspace. You can go there and forget the world exists for a couple of weeks.
And how do you find being on the road?
I like it – there’s ways of surviving – this is the biggest tour that we’ve ever done so you have to figure out how to look after yourself, but actually being out here on the road is amazing. The audiences have been really receptive, so that’s great, and it’s great seeing everything and the world.
We’re doing a few festivals which we’re still kind of announcing, but I think the focus is going to be album three, because we don’t want to leave it long. We have enough songs that we could go and record next week if we wanted. Nowadays, quantity is becoming as important as quality. People just want new stuff. If we can record and have good stuff just waiting there, then we’d be mad not get it out as soon as possible.
Photography by Jack Lloyd
– – –