There’s no better feeling than being right, and so it was with great pleasure and somewhat smug self-congratulation at our own impeccable taste that we learnt that longtime DIY favourites Demob Happy were heading out on tour with the almighty garage rock riffmeister Jack White – selected by the man himself, no less (and not just because he’s obsessed with the number three).
We join the trio in their hometown at the Brighton Centre ahead of the first show, less than 24 hours after they returned from another career milestone – a comprehensive, two-month jaunt around the US (their first time across the Atlantic) in support of Nothing But Thieves. “We’re deeply, deeply tired, but very happy. It’s a confusing mixture of feelings,” laughs drummer Tom Armstrong backstage in the band’s somewhat conference room-like dressing room. “Like a really old Ford Fiesta, but one that’s had an oil change,” backs up singer Matt Marcantonio.
Across the waters, the group’s intoxicating blend of silky sweet harmonies and filthy riffs seem to have hit home rather well. One person, they note, drove for a full nine hours to come to their mid-tour headline show; another followed them around for 10 dates. “There were people coming up to us saying, we thought you’d never come,” grins the singer. Now, however, they’re back on home turf and ready for an altogether more surreal challenge. “For a lot of our generation, White Stripes songs – especially one in particular – were probably the first things they learnt on guitar. They were for me,” explains Tom as guitarist Adam Godfrey nods along. “It’s a rite of passage learning that riff. The White Stripes are part of the DNA of the band, really.”
Tonight, however, they’ve got no need to worry. A well-oiled machine after eight weeks of solid gigging around America’s medium-sized sweatboxes, Demob these days are an altogether tighter, slicker proposition than the band who used to play impromptu gigs out of the back of their van. If the swaggering guitar jabs of ‘Loosen It’ or the dirty rumble of old favourite ‘Succubus’ naturally work in the confines of darkened back rooms, then with the space of a Proper Big Venue, they’re a whole different beast; amplified to a level that does them justice, the band’s three-part harmonies, meanwhile, would put most barbershop groups to shame.
“The White Stripes are part of the DNA of the band.”
Fast forward to the final night of the tour at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, and there’s even more ridiculous goings on afoot as the band are hoiked out on stage during Jack’s set to help with a run through of Dead Weather track ‘I Cut Like A Buffalo’. “It was completely unplanned. We had 100% no idea that it was going to happen and in actual fact I wasn’t there for the first couple of minutes because I was up in the stalls watching the show with my parents,” laughs a still-overwhelmed Matt after the event. “I only just coincidentally decided to go downstairs for a drink when one of the techs rushed in and said that they needed me onstage right now. I thought it was a photo opportunity so I rushed on and then realised that no one was taking a photo and actually Tom and Adam are on the instruments. I just jumped on the piano and Jack was going up to Adam and giving him the chords. There was no planning whatsoever, but because we’re exceptional musicians we managed to work it out on the fly…”
It’s, undoubtedly, a rather special patronage from a master of their field and one that hints that Demob’s appeal is starting to permeate into rather more exciting circles. “When I got a moment to look over at Adam and Jack playing together, with Tom behind me playing drums on one of his favourite songs to 6,000 people in this beautiful venue, it felt like a dream,” grins Matt. Like we said, it’s nice when people agree with us.
Demob Happy’s new album ‘Holy Doom’ is out now.