From Cold and Dark Los Angeles to Montreal: An Interview With Drab Majesty

Drab Majesty. From Facebook. Drab Majesty. From Facebook.

It was a cold winter night as I approached the Fairmount Theatre, located on the tip of the Montreal Plateau. The acts of the night: Cold Cave and Drab Majesty, two Los Angeles bands whose music would match the icy night at hand. As I approached the theatre, I noticed much of the audience would match the night at hand as well. On this evening, many of the Fairmount’s entourage were clad in black, sporting t-shirts and sweaters with names of bands ranging from Depeche Mode to Skinny Puppy. My phone was dead as I approached the scene and I was unsure about how to contact Drab Majesty, who I was to interview. I stood outside the venue in the snow, with fans exhaling smoke into the air, when two interesting characters emerged from a side door. Faces covered in white makeup, topped with blue wigs, I knew it was them. People around began congratulating them, and generally calling them amazing and awe-inspiring. I squeezed my way in, candidly. “Hello, my name is Kyle,” I said. “I’ll be interviewing you guys.” “Great,” said one of them. And this is how I met Deb DeMure and Mona D., the members of Drab Majesty. They led me through the dark halls of the venue to a room behind the kitchen. There we spoke, while working at a bottle of wine.

Kyle Lapointe (KL): Honestly, I first heard of you guys while on I had been eyeing this event with Cold Cave and saw you guys on the bill. The funny thing is, they had typoed your name. So, for the first while I knew of you guys, I knew of you two as ‘Drag Magesty.’”

D.D (Deb Demure): (Jokingly) That’s another band, actually. I think you might be interviewing the wrong band.

K.L: Am I? Oh dear. Well, let’s carry through with the interview anyways.

D.D: Sounds good.

K.L: Well, when I had first heard your music, I was pretty transfixed. I really dig goth music, and heard a lot of that in you two.

M.D. (Mona D): Neither of us really think of the project in terms of goth. We just kind of have the recipe for goth. Everything interests me, personally, from psychedelia to jangle pop, dream pop, shoegaze, punk, hardcore. But for this project, we tend to focus on more dreamy, ethereal, melodic and emotional songs. What would you say? (Looking to Deb)

D.D: Yeah, I would say that we’re not so much married to one genre or aesthetic, as much as we’re married to the chord changes and note groupings. In Drab Majesty, all the songs are written in one particular guitar tuning. The synth parts he writes function in tandem with the harmonic structures of the guitar.

K.L: What tuning do you use?

D.D: I will not tell you. It is a forbidden tuning.

K.L: Oh my, sounds mysterious. It in general creates a pretty neat atmosphere. I find it kind of funny that a band coming from sunny Los Angeles can create such eerie and chilling music.

M.D.: I mean, people from L.A are people too with the same emotional depth as people from anywhere else.

D.D: True, also the postcard idea of L.A doesn’t exist. It’s sold to people who don’t understand Los Angeles. L.A can be a very dark place. The name ‘Drab Majesty’ is actually a reference to L.A; it’s a direct summation of the city. Lots of parts of it are very drab and banal and just kind of ugly. But it’s also extremely majestic as a sum of its parts.

M.D.: And we’re both born in Los Angeles, which is actually a very rare thing to encounter there. True locals.

D.D: It’s true, most people either leave for college when they’re eighteen or you arrive after college. I think it’s a very defeating city for a lot of people.

M.D.: Think of how many people arrive in L.A with an idea of what it is and dreams, and think of how many of those dreams fall apart. There are a lot of frustrated people, but there’s also a lot of art and ambition and drive. People there have a vision to do something with their lives, and the sad reality is many of them fall short. But, the only way you can achieve anything is pursuing those dreams. You run the gamete of failures and misfortunes ad poverty but everyone wants to be happy.

(At this point, through the walls, the sound of Cold Cave permeates. They are beginning their set on the other side of the wall. We continue to talk in the small, closet-like room behind the kitchen)

K.L: This isn’t you first time playing here, is it?

D.D: No, I had played here last October, but that was before he had joined the band. (Pointing to Mona) The project had started solo for three years, before bringing Mona onboard. Now we’re a two-piece, and probably will be for the rest of time.

K.L: How do you find visuals and music meld together in your performance and aesthetic as a band?

D.D: For me, sound is the same as imagery; they are frequencies that can move us. Sound creates imagery, and the imagery that I see when I hear Drab Majesty has connotations, like a colour palate. Drab Majesty isn’t necessarily oranges. Drab Majesty is pinks and blues and purples and blacks. It’s not necessarily cold; it’s also whites. We definitely feel a synesthetic relationship with our music. We are the custodians of this vision and express it in our style and videos.

K.L: ‘Custodians of the Vision.’ That sounds really intense. I know for me, my favorite of your videos is ‘The Heiress.’ How did you go about releasing a bunch of black goo into that room?”

D.D: Well, the goo was all CGI. The room was completely real and practical though, all tactile space. We built that set out over of six months. I want to give a shoutout to Thomas McMahan for doing the motion tracking for the CGI in that video. He was the first person to believe in this project on a visual level; we’ve worked together for three music videos. He has done a great job too. I wouldn’t release anything I wasn’t happy with. I would can it and say, ‘I’m sorry.’

(I can hear loud cheering through the walls, as Cold Cave begin what is clearly a crowd favorite)

K.L: So what are the plans for Drab, after this tour?

D.D: It’s really hard to think about that right now. We will be touring until June. I honestly won’t be able to consider composing anything until maybe August. Perhaps on tour more ideas will come about. I’m looking forward to Mona playing more guitar; he’s a very good guitar player. We might do some guitar duet sonatas onstage. No drums or anything. We really want to send the live show in a compelling direction.

K.L: What would you say is the best way to do that? Does it depend on the other bands playing? Does it depend on the audience?

D.D: All of those things. It depends on the space. It depends on the lighting. It depends on the sound.

K.L: And how do you implement all those influences in a compelling way?

D.D: I have no idea.

M.D.: (Laughing) It just happens. We don’t really have to think about it. We try not to talk too much onstage and let the music speak for itself and be very grateful. We try to lace the songs together with interludes and make everything a continuous piece.

K.L: Is talking onstage a problem?

M.D.: You see, we try to distance ourselves from our personalities and make it more about the aesthetic. Our personalities are irrelevant. When the audience listens to the record and is immersed in it, they don’t hear the artist’s dialogue. Live we want to represent the music of the recording but with a visual element. There are some artists who can engage with the audience, but our music doesn’t lend itself to those kinds of breaks in song. It needs to flow and be a departure. Tonight I said something to the audience at one point; an acknowledgement. It’s important to give acknowledgment. But in general we let the music speak for itself. Our persona is not a conversational one. Also, you never know when you’re gonna say something stupid.

I said thanks to the band and they gave me their new record, “The Demonstration.” I went into the main concert area to watch the rest of Cold Cave’s set. While watching them perform, I thought a lot about what Mona and Deb had said about performance. Cold Cave played with a similar sound; one that is dark and icy. I tried imagining their colour palate. Sometimes I imagined blues and purples, but I could imagine fiery reds as well. Maybe that was just me. They played “Confetti,” one of their more popular songs, and the audience all cheered. The synths sounded piercing. Wesley’s very low vocals were high in the mix and I could hang onto every word he said. Many of the band’s songs strung together and Wesley let the music speak for itself. With the noticeable electronic dance music influences in the band’s sound and the continuous nature of the set, I was reminded of a rave scene, albeit a dark and somber one; in a good way (if that makes sense). When the band finished I looked down at my record at Deb immersed in green light, on a black backdrop, looking gloomy and bizarre. I went home, and like a puzzle piece into some ever-growing image, I hung that record up in my room.