More Than Music: A Conversation with Demo Taped

Demo Taped © Chris Braun
Through impressive technicality and lush production, Demo Taped sings of his most personal life experiences, bringing us into his world and sharing its importance.

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Demo Taped © Chris Braun

Demo Taped © Chris Braun

“It’s more than music for me; it’s about starting a conversation and keeping it going,” Adam Alexander says of his musical brainchild, Demo Taped. “It’s about healing, and really just caring for others. It’s the foundation of what I do; that’s what Demo Taped is all about.”

With Demo Taped, Alexander has effortlessly curated a distinguishable sound and style that will keep you dancing while tapping into one’s innermost emotions. His EP Momentary, released in February of this year, expertly navigates through narratives that remind us it’s okay not to be okay, tackling ideals seldom shared so openly in music. Alexander and Demo Taped have found a particularly peculiar niche; one that seems as though it should be more prevalent, yet somehow is overlooked, ignored, or otherwise stigmatized. Momentary is a glittering gem brimming with dualities: wanting to dance, wanting to cry, looking to the future, reminiscing on the past. It outright acknowledges even the deepest crevices of one’s thoughts and emotions, acutely tapping into humanity at its ubiquitous core.

Through impressive technicality and lush production, Alexander sings of his most personal life experiences, bringing us into his world and sharing its importance. Through his lyricism, he is potently relatable, poignantly traversing themes of mental illness in ways that feel entrancingly redolent. He knows full well, too, just how significant this truly is.

“Even if you don’t have any of the mental illness things going on, it’s important to talk about it from an educational standpoint, because some people still think it’s a weakness, or it’s a handicap,” Alexander notes. “There’s stigma around it still, so it’s very important to just talk about it. And I feel like repeating yourself is important—it may get annoying, but stuff just needs to be said, and you’ve got to get it across no matter what.”

Listen: “Insecure” – Demo Taped

A CONVERSATION WITH DEMO TAPED

Atwood Magazine: First of all, your EP is so, so good. I love a lot of the themes that you talk about, which you’ve been open about before as well. Personally, I really love ‘Own It,’ and talking about being ‘man enough.’ What does that mean for you, that whole idea of being ‘man enough?

Demo Taped: Yeah, that song is like a challenge on masculinity, and it’s also like a sort of, I don’t know, a sort of challenge to groups of – just the older generation. There’s a lot of hate for Millennials, which is weird to me. We didn’t set any of this up, and Millennials and younger people get all the hate and all that. It’s really just about not accepting that whole attitude of, “you’ve got it all figured out,” because I know several “adults” who don’t have it figured out. Adulthood doesn’t make you an adult; being that age doesn’t make you mature. So, yeah, it’s just challenging the sort of ideas of masculinity and maturity, and what that means to other people, and kind of fighting that.

Listen: “Own It” – Demo Taped

Very cool. And you have a very supportive family, and a very cool upbringing; especially being in Atlanta, how has that inspired the way that you’ve gone in your music career?

Demo Taped: Well, “Winter Soon” is actually about that; it’s about car rides with my dad when I was like, four—those rides, and all the music I would hear during them. I really think those rides shaped me into one, hearing good music, because my dad played the best stuff; also, just being with him and listening to those songs with him, a musician, it brought a new element to it. I could see when he was intrigued by a certain part. You know, musicians have a certain famous “stank face,” where something’s too good. You make that sour face. So seeing that happen, picking up on that, and really just—my mom loved Prince, and she also just played great music. I played in the church, I sang in the church growing up, and I think all those things prepared me. I didn’t even really want to do music, is the thing. They prepared me indirectly.

What did you want to do?

Demo Taped: I wanted to be a filmmaker. I wanted to go to school for film; I had it kind of all planned out, and set up, and it had been that way for years. I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker when I was like, in middle school, and I kept with that until I was about to graduate and go to college. Then I released Heart, my first EP, and it picked up attention I didn’t think—I was just releasing it to release it, it was more of a cathartic kind of getting my emotions out after a bad breakup. Once I saw the reception, it sort of got me in the mindset of “I can do this full time,” or try it at least.

And still sticking in a creative field as well!

Demo Taped: Exactly.

So who are some of the musical inspirations that you have that you maybe have listened to growing up, or that you’ve found now are inspired by?

Demo Taped: For sure. Herbie Hancock is one; I listen to his album with the early synth stuff, back when synths were just a new idea, drum machines were a new idea, all these things, electronic instruments, were new. And seeing him just take those new things, and innovate and do great things with that, that inspired me a whole bunch. Flying Lotus was the artist I saw live where I thought, “I want to be doing this.” He was actually one of the people that really sparked it, my curiosity and performing that style, with the live elements and the electronic elements and the blending of the two. And I just knew that when I heard his music, that what I wanted to do. Curtis Mayfield, for sure.

Is there anyone that would be surprising, based on the music that you make?

Demo Taped: I’d say Steely Dan — that’s pretty surprising, right?

Very different from what you do, absolutely!

Demo Taped: Yeah, Steely Dan. I fucking love all that. It’s a sonic purity that you don’t really get, because they found the best mics for every instrument that they use, and that takes dedication and real appreciation for the craft, and that inspired me a whole bunch. And their music, of course.

Demo Taped © Chris Braun

Demo Taped © Chris Braun

And you still live in Atlanta—what is that music scene like now?

Demo Taped: It’s growing. There’s a bigger DIY scene there now. Before, when I first started, I couldn’t find anyone that was sort of even close in production or what they were thinking about making, so that was kind of a struggle at first. Because, you know, it was all trap music, and trap producers—there’s a lot of them there, obviously—and it got a little discouraging. But there’s been a push toward, I don’t know, being experimental and doing different things that I think is really cool. I’m seeing a lot of my friends start to embrace different styles of production of things, and learn more. I think the thing that I take away most from living in Atlanta creatively would be the work ethic of everyone else. Everyone there is always working, always on the grind, and it’s something that you pick up on. You see your friends doing it, and you want to do that; you want to make a song every day, two songs every day, and then it just builds.

Nice. So then, now playing live, what has that been like, considering the fact that you have so many different technological aspects? What has playing live been like for you?

Demo Taped: Well the main thing, before I even got any of the gear I needed for a live setup, my main concern was, I don’t want to just be pressing play. I don’t want to. It’s boring to look at, it’s boring for me, especially, and that was my main thing. And if it’s boring for me, I don’t want to be doing it. So my first priority was getting everything set up in a way where I can live—effect things different every time, and that’s based off of me listening and hearing the right places to insert things, and insert beat-repeats, or reverbs or whatever. It’s been a learning process, and a lot of trial-and-error, but I guess the main thing when I was setting it up was, “How can I make this fresh every time? How can I make it so that I don’t get bored?

What’s your favorite part about playing live?

Demo Taped: My favorite part about playing live is messing with the drums. I really love triggering beat repeats and delays and weird things. I don’t know, just because I have it all in my ears and it’s perfect. I just like bending—I don’t know, I like experimenting. It’s really just me fucking around. It’s fun though.

It’s more than music for me; it’s about starting a conversation and keeping it going.

Totally! So what is your favorite part about making music?

Demo Taped: I’d say that my favorite part about making music is—hmm. I was going to say the reaction, but I get a lot of fulfillment before I even play it for anybody.

Well that’s good that it’s for you, and not for anybody!

Demo Taped: Yeah, it’s definitely something that I have to feel first. Even if someone likes it, and I don’t like it, it’s trash. You know? But I think, yeah, my favorite part about making music is finding the right sounds. Sound design is probably my favorite thing; taking something, like, me blowing into a bottle, and taking that tone and turning it into a kick drum, or a bell, or something that’s totally different. That’s my favorite part, just the experimentation side of it. Long drones, just everything that goes into that; I just love sampling and experimentation, for sure.

And talking about other people’s reactions, what have been some of the coolest responses that you’ve ever received, either about a particular song, or maybe a particular lyric?

Demo Taped: I think the coolest response is when—I’ve had a few people come up to me and tell me that what I do, or at least how I talk about mental illness, that helps them. That is the best thing that I’ve ever heard, because that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s more than music for me; it’s about starting a conversation and keeping it going. It’s about healing, and really just caring for others. It’s the foundation of what I do; that’s what Demo Taped is all about.

What do you think is the most important thing to talk about, with anxiety and mental illness? Because I firmly believe that talking about it is the only way to destigmatize it, and move forward.

Demo Taped: It’s the only way!

What do you think we can do to press for that?

Demo Taped: I think that right now there’s a great effort being done, with people with bigger voices coming out and saying “I struggle with depression,” or “I struggle with this or that.” I think that’s huge. I remember when Kid Cudi came out and talked about being hospitalized. The reaction I saw from the people was one of caring, and it was just based in wanting to know if he was fine, if he was okay. And that was beautiful for me. The internet is weird, of course, so obviously you’re going to get weird stuff, but the majority of it, the real people, were embracing and loving and just wanting him to get better, and that was really cool. So I’d say, people with bigger voices—even if you don’t have any of the mental illness things going on, it’s important to talk about it from an educational standpoint, because some people still think it’s a weakness, or it’s a handicap. There’s stigma around it still, so it’s very important to just talk about it. And I feel like repeating yourself is important—it may get annoying, but stuff just needs to be said, and you’ve got to get it across no matter what.

I think more people should try to experience something uncomfortable every week.

And obviously your EP talks a lot about all of this stuff as well—do you have a favorite lyric that relates back to mental health, one that you think is the most poignant?

Demo Taped: Yeah. It’s all so clinical / all these chemicals / I get cynical. That lyric was inspired by—that whole song was inspired by me coming to terms with my mental illness. Really, for a while it was me knowing I had it, knowing that it was something—for me, my depression is something that’s a chemical imbalance, like most people’s, and it made me very upset, because I went on medication, then was off medication, then had to go back on, and my doctor told me that if I go back on the second time, chances are it’s something I’ll be dealing with for the rest of my life. And that made me really upset; it just made me mad that I couldn’t “get over it,” I guess. Obviously that’s wrong, and I know that now.

But at the time, it’s definitely scary.

Demo Taped: Yeah, exactly. So, yeah, [“Chemical”] is about coming to terms with it, and really sort of accepting that it’s more than just feelings, it’s more than thoughts. It’s the fact that it’s a chemical imbalance, and my body doesn’t make enough serotonin, or the receptors are just messed up, or whatever. I think that’s my favorite lyric because it’s something that a lot of people go through: getting upset about having it. The way I look at it now is like any other illness; I treat it as if I had to take insulin. And that’s how I try to talk to people about it, in that way, because when you think of it more as a medical issue and not just as “bad thoughts” or all of that kind of stuff that people think, you start to think differently about it. You start to tell yourself, “If I had diabetes, if I was born like this, I would have to just deal with it.” I would have to move on, and continue on, and I started thinking about [depression] that way. It’s important to think of mental illness as that, because it affects everything, one, and it also is chemical. It’s important to remember that.

Listen: “Chemial (Blue)” – Demo Taped

It’s not anything that you can really control.

Demo Taped: Exactly.

So is that your favorite song as well?

Demo Taped: I’d say my favorite song is actually “Winter Soon.” The first time I heard it, I cried. And that sounds so weird, because I made it, but it was just like, from such a place of truth and realism. I wrote it with How To Dress Well, and the way we wrote it was like, he would ask me a question about my childhood, and I would just answer it as truthfully and as honest as possible, and we built the song around that. So when I heard, and was putting together the final version, I was almost bawling. It was really great.

That’s so awesome, that it had that sort of impact!

Demo Taped: Yeah, it’s a special song for sure.

Do your parents love it too?

Demo Taped: Yeah, they love it. My mom, she’s ready for me to write a song about her, which is coming. It’ll happen. But she’s after me for that. It’s coming!

Listen: “Winter Soon” – Demo Taped

Patience! So what is one thing that you really want people to know about you, either as a musician or just as a person?

Demo Taped: Well, I’m incredibly clumsy. That’s a thing—that’s a big thing.

A big one?

Demo Taped: Yeah, incredibly clumsy. I’ll trip over air. It’s great. I don’t know—I practice transcendental meditation, that’s something.

Every day?

Demo Taped: Every day, yeah. Wake up in the morning, do that, get started with the day. That centers me, it gives me a level head for the day. I’m a big, huge David Lynch fan.

What’s your favorite?

Demo Taped: My favorite film is Eraserhead, because it makes me very uncomfortable and I love that. I love being uncomfortable. I think that’s a special thing. I think more people should try to experience something uncomfortable every week, just something that makes you feel weird. Put yourself in an uncomfortable position every week; I think you’ll learn something new.

That’s really good advice!

Demo Taped: Yeah, you’ll learn stuff about you, you’ll learn stuff about the world; it’s cool. So, yeah, favorite film is Eraserhead, and I love Twin Peaks. That’s my thing—I can’t get over it. I freak out every time I hear the theme song; it’s beautiful. I might cover it one day, I really want to cover it.

You should!

Demo Taped: Yeah, yeah, now that I’m thinking about it, now I’m going to do it. It’s been decided here.

Alright, putting it on the record, and I’m holding you to it!

Demo Taped: Alright, alright. What else is interesting? Recently, I’ve gotten into dressing up. I never used to dress up for the stage. I used to wear t-shirts and stuff, which is cool; but, I don’t know, I feel a little bit more in charge? I feel like I’m doing more of a job, I guess, when I’m up there. So that’s a new thing that’s just started.

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Momentary EP - Demo Taped

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Maggie McHale

Maggie is the Chief Music Director for Atwood Magazine, currently living in Philadelphia. She also works as a Digital Marketer for Fame House, a Philly-based Universal Music Group subsidiary. She is heavily involved in the arts and music scene in the City of Brotherly Love, often enjoying (and even preferring) going to concerts and museums alone; just generally loving and exploring the city that she calls home. A self-proclaimed “hug enthusiast” and dog lover, Maggie also enjoys fashion, travel, the paranormal, and drinking way too much coffee. In addition to writing for Atwood, she freelances and contributes to JUMP Magazine. (Fun fact-She also once slow-danced with Boyz II Men in Las Vegas.)