Still shrouded in mystery, Drab Majesty has been fascinating listeners for over a decade now with their seamless blend of shoegaze and darkwave. The project began when Andrew Clinco created the character Deb Demure as the front figure for a new solo venture, while in 2016 Alex Nicolaou joined as keyboardist under the moniker Mona D. After releasing their latest EP An Object in Motion at the end of the summer, the duo was added to this weekend’s Darker Waves Festival in Huntington Beach, California, where they’ll be playing alongside legacy acts such as New Order, Tears for Fears, Echo and the Bunnymen, and The B-52’s, bridging the gap between nostalgia and darkwave’s future. “It’s amazing,” reflects Demure, who’s also played in the groups Marriages, VR Sex, and Black Mare. “It’s a cool time to be alive, to see this kind of last hurrah from the great, legendary bands.”
With their goth-adjacent credentials, Drab Majesty are cementing their place as up-and-coming festival favorites, in spite of finding themselves as genre outliers in most other lineups. Their dynamic and boundaryless music is increasingly reaching all sides of the globe—in 2019, after the success of their last full-length record, Modern Mirror, the China Global Television Network stated that the enigmatic duo was “The band we need right now.” With this newfound reach, Demure shares that the pandemic provided them with the time to meditate on the sonic evolution of the band, mentioning My Bloody Valentine’s 22-year gap between their iconic Loveless LP and its follow-up and how their time away essentially allowed them to reinvent themselves completely.
“It almost feels like a fresh start—I kind of consciously chose to not force myself to make a release happen during COVID and to just really take that time to meditate on what were the next phases,” Demure shares about the break from writing and releasing music. “It was a blessing, and I think the project is better for it. When you’re making work at a consistent output, it’s hard to have any perspective—you’re just kind of working off the last thing you did, and you’re not growing too much. You have to kind of hit the pause button and catch up to yourself and figure out, you know, what are the ways in which this thing can grow? What’s important, and what needs to be cast away and put to bed?”
“When you’re making work at a consistent output, it’s hard to have any perspective—you’re just kind of working off the last thing you did, and you’re not growing too much.”
In 2021, Demure traveled to the Pacific Northwest, staying in an A-frame cabin on the Oregon coast to record ambient music inspired by the area’s natural beauty, which is reflected in the sound of the Object in Motion EP. “I just had a 12-string acoustic guitar that I fell in love with,” Demure recalls. “That was the sole tool for generating the tunes you hear on the EP, and it’s just an inspiring space, free of distraction. I didn’t know anybody in the town. There’s no cell phone service. So that was a plus.” The lack of distractions pushed the creation further, Demure says. “All you have is tools and you and your brain and space to create you. It’s kind of the optimal way for me to work.”
The lyrics, meanwhile, were written in a single night in New York, and they tell the story of growing up across the country in Los Angeles. According to Demure, the inspiration comes from the cult of stardom in LA while actively rejecting celebrity status. “It’s a reflection on kind of being inundated with a culture. People from a young age are presented with the idea of potentially having some modicum of fame and being in some kind of stardom. It’s an interesting perspective, being raised in Los Angeles. I couldn’t get around that, and seeing some of the paths that my peers forge to try to force their way into showbiz. It’s kind of interesting when you notice people who are genetically blessed and are kind of thrust into a vein of the industry but actually want nothing to do with it.”
Drab Majesty has maintained a specific aesthetic that pushes back against the hyper-glamorous world of Southern California, defying the genetic code of Hollywood by hiding their faces with white paint, sunglasses, and wigs—a unique costume that gives the duo an otherworldly feel. Demure explains that these aesthetic decisions come from a place of wanting to make good music without their physical appearances becoming a factor in their popularity. “The theatrics and the stage persona are important to us because, yes, people are attending shows with their eyes as well,” he notes. “Ultimately, I don’t like a hot band with a sexy photo shoot. Just because there’s some models in the band or whatever doesn’t mean they should have a leg up on a band that doesn’t fit that description, but also has great music. I think these priorities are pretty fucked up.”
“Just because there’s some models in the band doesn’t mean they should have a leg up on a band that doesn’t fit that description, but has great music. I think these priorities are pretty fucked up.”
Regarding their own boundary-pushing sound, Drab Majesty teamed up with Rachel Goswell from Slowdive for a track on Object in Motion. Demure met Goswell in 2016 at Slowdive’s show in Bologna, and after crashing their green room, Demure and Goswell reconnected through the internet in 2020. Demure asked if Goswell would be interested in working on a track together, and soon after they were putting together the pieces that would become “Vanity,” which even led to Goswell starring in the music video.
The future looks bright for Drab Majesty, as Demure says their sound is still evolving. As their era of darkwave appears to be coming to a close, Demure is looking forward to a psychedelic future with a new experience for listeners. “Just more immersive,” he explains, “trippier. Something you could take acid to and just let the album roll.” FL