The guys in Demons clearly understand they're style of music isn't easy to categorize. On their Instagram page, the Norfolk band refer to themselves as "post-whatever rock," and though it's obviously done with a sarcastic tone, it's fitting. You can hear elements of AmRep-styled noise rock, angular punk, and traces of hardcore in what they're cooking up.
I dig whatever it is they're doing, so I chatted with Demons vocalist/guitarist Zach Gehring to get the lowdown on the band.
Give me the backstory on the formation of Demons. What drew you guys together on a musical level?
The band got together initially as a studio project initiated by myself since I wanted to explore my love of hard music outside of another band I am also in called Mae. The band name comes from the Dostoevsky book of the same title.
At first it was just me (guitar and vocals), Jonathan Anderson (engineer and bass player), and Drew Orton (drummer). We recorded an initial EP and then began playing live, which is when we added Christopher Mathews on guitar and vocals. We are all fans of hard music and we came up in the hardcore and punk rock scenes in our respective communities (I'm from Florida originally), Drew in Atlanta, Jonathan and Chris in Hampton Roads.
We were interested in something off the rails but also thoughtfully crafted — influences include Mudhoney, Converge, Superjoint Ritual, Daughters, Fugazi, Pissed Jeans, Metz, The Body, Private Room, Queens of the Stone Age, Drug Church, Shellac, Moutheater, Cursed, etc.
I know this one is sticky, but how would you describe the band’s sound?
Most generally it's described as "post-hardcore." Always aggressive and heavy, very riff-centric, and our tempos vary from very fast to very slow. We've been compared to Hot Water Music, Shellac, QOTSA, Nirvana.
How has your local scene received you? Also, what are some bands you guys feel a kinship with, local or not?
We love the scenes that have developed Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Very warm, very enthusiastic, engaged, and socially conscious. Each scene has its own flaws of course, but that comes with the territory. We're proud and fortunate to be based here. We took an immediate liking to Prayer Group from Richmond, Rose Milk based out of Norfolk, Guiltwave, just to name a few, but I'm sure to be missing some.
Tell me about the latest release/material.
We released a 2-song EP entitled Made in the USA in 2018. Last year we released a single called "Uglier Americans." They were both recorded in our practice space. Jonathan (our bassist) brings his mobile rig and we set up mics there to record.
On Made in the USA, the lyrics generally deal frustrations. Chris wrote the words and sings "Lever." I wrote and sing on "The Shadow of St. Luke." Both songs deal with subjective frustrations, but from different perspectives. Lever being more about social identity in a hostile environment, and "The Shadow of St. Luke" is more focused on critical self-reflection and excuses made to maintain an ideal version of yourself.
"Uglier Americans" was explicitly political and written to help raise money for Raices.org, and organization that provides legal aid for immigrant families being detained and separated at the border. All Bandcamp proceeds went to Raices.
The lifespan of a punk band isn’t long. How far ahead do you guys plan on things, or are you more in the thinking of taking things as they come?
Taking things as they come. But we do care deeply about what do and how we represent ourselves. We have an agent that helps us out, and a label. But we're all working, we have families. So, we try to navigate that space of obligation and devotion. It's tough, but our ambitions are in check and I'd like to think realistic considering our situation and sound.
Follow Demons on their social media pages: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram