in the Category: music
‘Two modern minds won't say what they want to / To push a button in real time, with an undo.’ These two lines have been firmly stuck in our heads since mid-April. They make the perfect chorus for 2019’s post-punk/darkwave/dream pop/goth rock anthem: Drab Majesty’s lead single ‘Ellipsis’ from their latest album, Modern Mirror, a gorgeous collection of well-crafted, ’80s-inspired pop songs. We made a WhatsApp call to Drab Majesty’s founder, Deb Demure aka Andrew Clinco, while he was playing a synthesizer in the back of their tour van.
Interview by Dries Robbe
Photos by Colin Medley, shot in Toronto
This is your third full-length since 2015. How does this one differ from the others?
I don’t really know. The songwriting is more mature and the overall feel and mood of the album is lighter and more optimistic, while the older records were a bit more written around pain, depression and suffering.
How come the change of tone?
I was very happy when I was writing it, living in Athens, Greece. The landscape and people were very inspiring and just being by myself was really important. Alone time is quite rare to me; when I’m touring I’m constantly in a group of people, so being alone for two months was quite amazing. I started to learn about myself, about how my brain works when I don’t have to actually engage with anyone for any kind of work-related thing. That opened up some new kind of creative pathways in my mind and was very healthy.
Some people are saying the myth of Narcissus is an inspiration for the album. What role did it play?
Greek mythology can have a very present-day adaptation. In these myths, we can learn a lot about others and ourselves. And, there’s something very contemporary about the Narcissus myth in particular. Narcissus rejects Echo’s advancements in love. She is a true living creature, but he instead becomes enamoured with his own reflection, which is quite abstract. To me, it’s a very clear metaphor for losing oneself in one’s own digital identity and forgetting about the human interactions that are actually more important than having a separate identity on the screen. It gets pretty startling realising how many people start losing the ability to love and have meaningful interactions when they’re so fixated on their screens. I’m not saying I’m not part of the problem; we all are to some degree. I just see that there’s a parallel between these two stories.
It gets pretty startling realising how many people start losing the ability to love and have meaningful interactions when they’re so fixated on their screens
That isn’t a very positive view on contemporary times, yet you said the new record is more optimistic. Is that a paradox?
It’s sonically optimistic: the chord progressions are more major instead of minor. But a lot of my critique on the record doesn’t come from anger or sadness; there’s humour in it as well. It’s the Drab Majesty tongue-in-cheek style; we don’t take ourselves too seriously. This record is even less serious when it comes to being dark, or the goth aesthetic. I’m trying to get away from that, to be totally honest [Laughs].
Focusing on the lyrics again, what writers inspire you?
I think Charles Baudelaire is the clearest example. I love his wordplay and how he speaks of quotidian things and makes them interesting. He can extract so much meaning about something very basic. In general, I really am inspired by wordplay, twisting language and having fun with that. There are endless opportunities to make interesting plays on words, puns…
There are a lot of references to the 1980s in the band's music. Why this period?
A lot of the gear we use – synths, guitar effects – are from the ’80s. I think the musical equipment made at that time is pretty amazing, more than in any other time. But if you took away the particular sound palette that we use, kept the chords of the songs and played it with a piano or acoustic guitar, it would sound more like folk songs. The band was never made to be intentionally referential to that period; I’m just drawn to these instruments.
If you took away the particular sound palette that we use, kept the chords of the songs and played it with a piano or acoustic guitar, it would sound more like folk songs
Will you make a folk record?
Quite possibly. Maybe even an acoustic record. I love writing on acoustic guitar, it’s both liberating and limiting.
We'd be very curious to hear it...
Me too! I’d get rid of all of my goth fans though [Laughs].
Are you part of a specific '80s/gothic scene?
For sure. We’re all under the umbrella of post-punk, there’s a movement happening in the US.
Are there people who are in their 50s and 60s attending your shows? How do you feel about that?
Absolutely. I appreciate that a lot. If anyone can comment on this music, it’s someone who grew up in the ’80s and has these references, especially from a live perspective. I never saw any concert in the ’80s, so it’s nice to get that approval from someone who’s a veteran in the scene.
Drab Majesty plays Het Bos in Antwerp on 27 September.
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