The Reel World: Cemetery
Halloween is right around the corner so strap yourselves down for the jolt and sizzle of the third edition of The Reel World. I recently got a chance to chat with some members of the Chicago death rock band Cemetery (tis the season, right?) to talk about the surprise success of their excellent 2011 demo tape. Their music is as dark and dusty as their namesake, so if you are into a celebration of the macabre, then stick around because this stuff should be right up your alley.
So guys can you give us a bit of background info on the band? How’d you guys get started?
Danny: I had been wanting to do something in the vein of Cemetery for a while and had talked about it with several different people from school etc. for quite some time but nothing ever came to fruition because of everybody—including myself, being too fucking busy for it. Finally in the summer of 2010 a friend of mine who was a drummer of a band that had just recently broken up started talking very seriously about starting up something very close to what I was interested in and said he had been talking with Des, an incredibly talented guitarist who I admired although I met him in a liquor store years earlier and thought he was a complete asshole. I think our first practice happened in October or November of 2010 and initially the lineup was Des on guitar, Michael on drums and me doing bass and vocals. I was fucking shit at doing the bass/vocals thing and we didn’t do anything for a few months until the addition of our friend Casey, although he was disturbed (his occupation was cleaning up murder, death and suicide messes) and I’m pretty sure illiterate, he was a fucking incredible bassist. We all worked really hard and fast and came up with that initial setlist that’s on the demo within a matter of a couple of months and had really excellent small tour out east summer of 2011 that we put together in around a week. That was really the beginning, we were doing a lot and very fast.
Des: I’m pretty sure we started in October. But I do drink a lot of corn syrup so I might have ruined my brain.
So what sort of music influenced you guys and pushed you towards this death rock sound?
Danny: As an early teen I was obsessed with The Big Four as well as others like The Sisters, Southern Death Cult, The Nephs, and other stuff too like The Smiths and The Furs—as well as some awful shit that attempted to be the contemporary version of that at the time, and that was really what I was into before I got into the kind of punk that would make sense to get into from there—Mob, Zounds, Rudi Peni etc. and then just getting really into you know, like, punk. When I read comments about the band and hear the term “death rock” or that its an early Christian Death worship band I am very flattered, but I don’t think that’s necessarily what we really initially set out to do. Bands like Virgin Prunes, Chameleons, The Sound and Crow People were really what we were shooting for but everybody had been so used to being in different styles of punk bands that we naturally came out with something was a much louder and less delicate and refined version of that. Actually our guitarist Des and I are both also highly influenced by A Flock of Seagulls and have attempted to imitate their sound as best we could. Personally I’m a huge fan of The Human League.
The point of this feature is to sort of zoom in on the resurgence of tape culture. So in that sense, what does the medium mean to Cemetery and why did you guys decide to go with tapes?
Danny: Because who the fuck buys a CD-R? There’s so much about that medium that doesn’t transfer well into the DIY aesthetic. No matter how much you’d spend on making sure the cover sleeve looked nice at 600 dpi it would still look cheap and shitty behind the cover of that jewel case. Not that I have a problem with the ease and mobility of it and maybe somebody could figure out how to do it right, but the only time I would make a CD-R is to give to friends in other bands, I wouldn’t sell that fucking shit, it would look like a fucking party favor for a fucking Bar-Mitzvah. Des once said, “CD-Rs are no good because they’ll just end up on the floor of someone’s fucking car.” Also I think when we made the tape our approach at the material may have been a little bit more pornographic than artistic, if you’re the type of person to make that distinction, and that kind of music just sounds a lot better on tape. Tapes sound really fucking good.
Des: A good demo tape is something special. I do think people take demo tapes way more seriously than they do CD-R demos. Paying four bucks for a CD-R sounds like bullshit to me, but I’ll pay five for a tape that looks like it took more effort. Like Danny said, even if you put a bunch of work into your CD, in the end it doesn’t look like it. I also think tapes are more universal than vinyl, a lot of people in all countries around the world still have cassette players. We sell cassettes to people not just in the US, but in Brazil, Russia, and Malaysia, etc. They’re cheaper to produce and easier to ship than vinyl. Much cheaper. I love vinyl, but cassettes are the more accessible medium when you compare the two. I hope all of our releases have a cassette version.
The release seems to be highly successful with several different editions of the tape selling out (I’m glad I managed to snag one). Did you guys foresee the demo becoming so popular?
Danny: Never. Personally I thought it would only appeal to real fucking creeps and total masturbators.
Des: No, when we first released the tape I was afraid we would be sitting on 80 of 100 copies in a year. I knew I liked the demo but that didn’t mean anyone else would. The right people got a hold of it and spread it farther than I expected. It was re-issued in New Zealand, that blows my mind. I just put in the order for the 4th re-press. I never expected that this time last year. We’ve had offers to put it on vinyl. I’m into that because we don’t plan to re-record or re-release most of the tracks.
I’m eager to get some new material from you guys, what can we expect from Cemetery in the future?
Danny: We’ve been sitting on so much material for a while—we have an EP coming out with Apop Records soon. We’re going to stop doing all the fucking shows and shit for a minute so we can concentrate on working on new material and really getting fucking hard on our selves and on our hard-ons.
Des: The Apop 7″ should be out before next spring. Hopefully way sooner. We’ve submitted tracks to 2 compilation LPs, no word on when those will be out. What’s most likely after that is a full length LP and a 12″ single. We’ll be on tour next year too. Come find us.
(Curated by Cactus-Mouth)