The Demos is a Rochester band with an indie-rock sound, self-described on its Facebook page as being influenced by “girls, fast cars, nightlife, girls, reckless romance, and girls.” The band’s last album, “Paramount Clouds,” came out last April, and since then the group has continued performing around Rochester. The Campus Times chatted with vocalist Jason “Jay” Milton over the phone.
It’s been about a year since the release of [Paramount Clouds]. How do you feel about the reception of it?
Jay: It’s interesting. It did really well for a band putting a record out on its own, because we do everything independently, we don’t have a label or anything, it’s all funded and done by us. A single got onto Alt Nation last year, which was a huge deal. We were the only unsigned band […] We were in their “Advanced Placement” show for a few weeks […] Listening to it in context of these other songs, these other bands who have huge budgets, it’s a pretty big deal, to do something that huge having pretty limited resources and a tiny PR budget. We did a lot of cool stuff and met some pretty cool people out of it. Obviously, I’d love to reach even more people, but like I said, with a pretty limited PR budget, it’s a little more difficult.
Noting it being on Alt Nation’s AP list, I remember that in 2012, in an interview, Cal said that y’all were trending more in Japan, and he said in an interview that he was having dreams about it. Do y’all still feel a closer connection to that side of the world than you do to the U.S. or has that changed in recent years?
Jay: That whole part of it was really strange for us in general. So a label came up to us to put out “Lovely” in Japan, which is how all of that came about. We were just seeing a lot of traffic and interest coming from Japan, and a lot of it is still there, but it’s really difficult to kind of put your finger on it, being that it’s so far away. It’s sort of different there, music in general and the music business is different than it is in America.
Talking a little bit more specifically about the music, as a whole, y’all have this dreamy, indie rock sound, especially with “Paramount Clouds” you have this doodle theme coming, where’s the inspiration for that come from?
Jay: We and Cal and Caela used to live in apartment downtown. It was like a third floor in a big house; it was like an attic, and it had a pointed roof and rafters everywhere. While we were living there, we had these little index-card poster boards and extra ones would pile up, and while we were hanging out in the apartment, all of us would just draw these doodles with our free time and put them on the walls in the apartment. By the time we moved out of the apartment, there wasn’t a part of the wall you could see anymore. So all the walls of the apartment were just covered in these cards of doodles, and that kind of just seeped into our sub-conscious. So like the video for “Clearly” that we made is basically a lot of those and some we drew just for the interview, but basically the concept was making the walls of that apartment come alive, essentially. Cal and Caela specially are the visual artists people of the group—I can’t draw worth anything. I think that will always be an element of what we do.
We spoke briefly at ROC4Tim, that was a pretty good portrayal of the Rochester music scene—what are your thoughts on it currently?
Jay: I think that it’s great. I think there’s a lot of really cool bands happening right now in Rochester. We’ve been around in Rochester a long time playing, but I feel like right now is the best time in terms of what I can remember of a music community, especially seeing ROC4Tim […] I’ve seen a lot of bands be competitive with one another, and it was very cool to see that completely disappear. I feel like now, not necessarily that it was like this before that show, but now there isn’t a lot of competition between bands to be better than one another, which I always thought was kind of ridiculous to begin with, but now everyone’s helping each other in whatever way they can. For instance, Joywave is blowing up, and we’ve been in bands with those guys and playing with those guys since we were teenagers, and they’re making an effort to take Rochester bands out with them on tour whenever they can, and they’re always talking up the city in general. It’s awesome to have a band from our town at a national level and talking about our little city and what’s going on it. I mean, there’s just so many amazing bands in Rochester right now, and it’s just really cool that everyone’s out to help one another. I feel like that doesn’t happen a whole lot in general, and I’m just glad to be a part of a community that’s like that as opposed to the alternative.
I’m thinking about “Lovely” when I ask this question: how would you say that Rochester influenced you as an artist?
Jay: That’s a really tough question. I grew up in here, so living here is really all my experience. I’ve been all over the country playing music and just travelling in general, but it’s hard to quantify how much a place has influenced as an artist, especially when it’s all you know. I imagine it’s a lot, but I mean obviously “My City” is about Rochester, but in general, I like to think our music is general enough where the feelings conveyed in it are kind of attributed to wherever it is that you live […] I imagine that a lot of people feel the same way, or I hope that they do at least […] I try to make things as universal as possible to help people identify with the music and the words. I think, Rochester, I love it here. I’m not really planning on leaving anytime soon. I spent a lot of time when we were making “Lovely,” we made that record all over Rochester. We had a studio in a backpack essentially that we would take around and record in people’s apartments. I think we recorded in somebody’s bathroom that was exceptionally echo-y and it sounded really cool. Making that record was so Rochester, in general.
Jay said The Demos are working on new material right now, some of which will be played March 2 at the Bug Jar. Their goal is to have new music out this year.
Correction (3/8/17): A misspelled name was corrected.