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INTERVIEW: Daemon Chili

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hey, doing alright. Can’t complain. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Devil Woman”? 

Devil Woman is the 5th track on our new album Mercy of the Sea. Musically, it’s a minor blues arrangement with a dark, sinister feel to it. I had originally written it in 2/4 time, but I knew I needed something different for this outfit, something that would speak to the strengths of the band. So I took the tempo way down and dropped it into 6/8 time, which really gives the song a sense of balance between content/tone. We are stoked to present it here with you folks!

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

I wrote Devil Woman a long time ago, about 12-13 years ago, if I’m not mistaken. I did a lot of my best songwriting during that period of my life. I had just returned home from a three-year stint on the road, living quite the carefree, bohemian existence. I kicked it in Seattle for a couple of years, and then rolled down to South America for a year where I picked up gig teaching English out in the Galapagos Island of Ecuador. I wrote a ton of music down there, so I guess I was still riding that wave when I wrote Devil Woman. Once I made my way back home to Boston, I began dating a woman who you might say put me through the ringer. It was a short, turbulent, whirlwind relationship, and when we finally split-up, Devil Woman was born. It was written in the heat of passion, so it definitely conveys a bitter, if not hostile tone. She and I are all good now though.  No hard feelings. We were just young and stupid.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Yeah, videography has become one of my latest artistic endeavors. About a year ago, my day job tasked me with making a bunch of short, instructional videos, and I ended up getting pretty good at it. Lucky for me, some of those skills transferred over to making music videos. So far, I’ve produced a couple of official videos for the band that I’m pretty happy with. If all goes well, I’ll get around to making a video for Devil Woman before the album release in April.

The single comes off your new album Mercy of the Sea – what’s the story behind the title?

There is a distinct oceanic/nautical theme to the record. The first single “Take Sounding” chronicles a kinda-sorta-semi-near-death experience I had with two of my best friends about 10 miles off the coast of Boston. “Great Blues Sea” & the title track “Mercy of the Sea” are both, respectively, based on Homer’s the Iliad & the Odyssey.  Literature and writing have always played an important role in my life. I’ve made my living as a teacher, so it stands to reason that I would infuse some of my songwriting with the great books of antiquity. When I take on this kind of endeavor, I also try to weave in some of my own, personal story. I guess I enjoy blurring the lines between fiction and reality.

How was the recording and writing process?

We called upon some good friends to help us bring this album to a higher plane of existance. First, we brought in Max Chase (Amulus) on keys. The organ sound he chose coupled with his monster chops really captured the mood I was after on this cut. Next, we called upon our old pal Nick Heys (Hot Day at the Zoo) on piano. He composed a hauntingly sparse piano arrangement which floats inconspicuously atop of the organ. Together, these guys delivered a masterful performance, not just on this track, but throughout the whole album. Last but not least, we signed on Jes Sheldon (The Lightkeepers) to help us with the back-up vocals, and it all started with this song. Jes and I have been friends for a long time, and we are both super fans of each other’s work. When she agreed to sing on the album, I was ecstatic. She compliments my leads like no one else I have ever sung with. If this record ever takes off and we hit the road for real, I will be offering Jes full-time work. True story!

What role does Boston play in your music?

Well, we hail from Lowell, MA, about 25 miles northwest of Boston but, yeah, this whole region plays an important role in my music, but it’s more than just the geography; it’s the people, the attitude, and the brotherhood that we share. Boston is not just a city. It’s a realm, a cosmos chock-full of beautifully flawed chaos. We’re loud and obnoxious. We drink too much; we fight too much; we’re overly prideful, and we’re sometimes a little out-of-touch with reality. But we’re also good-hearted, generous, protective, and faithful to a fault. We’re far from perfect, but when shit goes down, we’ve got your back. This is why I sing and write about where I come from and what I’ve been through. I’ve travelled all around this world, and I ain’t found no better place to hang my hat. These are my people, and I will spend the rest of my days on this rock amongst them.

Would you call this a departure from your previous record or a follow up?

Our first album – Rise Up – was merely foreplay. Mercy of the Sea is most certainly a departure. We have absolutely come into our own on this record. It’s a big sound with lots of spicy meatball. Mama Mia!

Known for blending different genres together – does one style tend to shine out the most depending on the lyrics’ theme?

Well, we cover a lot of sonic territory on this record and, in general, in this band. There’s a ton of Rhythm & Blues. Plenty of Rock & Roll. There’s some Folk/Americana. There’s even some Dixieland Jazz and Roots Reggae thrown in there just to keep ourselves sharp.  This is the most versatile band I have ever had the honor of playing with, so I have zero intention of limiting or constraining what this band is capable of.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I’ll tackle this in two parts.

The Song:

I wrote Devil Woman around the time I discovered the theory of affective key signatures, which basically speculates on the mood and/or emotional characteristics of all the musical keys. The definitive work on the subject was written by Christian Schubart back in 1803. After studying the theory extensively, I landed on G minor for the key of Devil Woman. Schubart described the key of G minor as “discontent, uneasiness, worry about a failed scheme; bad-tempered gnashing of teeth; in a word: resentment and dislike.”  I owe a great deal of gratitude to this man because I’ve since gone on to experiment even more with other aspects of the theory. Dude was a serious mother@#$%^&!

The Lyrics:

I’ve always really dug abstract metaphors, so I often push myself to write beyond the scope of what I’m comfortable with. I wrote each verse of Devil Woman about a specific (meta)physical characteristic (smile, eyes, and soul) of the muse. In the first verse, I compare her smile to a day of the week (Tuesday). In the second verse, I liken her eyes to a season (Winter). And in the last verse, I equate her soul to a month (July). I like getting experimental with lyric writing. More recently, I’ve been getting into juxtaposing lyrics/music. Under normal conditions, you want the music to reflect the lyrical content, but sometimes it can be even more interesting to turn that paradigm upside down. It all goes back to the old adage which says essentially that you must know the rules before you can break the rules.

Any plans to hit the road?      

No official plans to tour but, we’ve got a few select regional dates surrounding the official release on Friday, April 7:

Fri Mar 17 – Dudley’s – Lowell, MA

Sat Apr 1 – Root Cellar – Greenfield, MA

Fri Apr 7 – Plough and Stars – Cambridge, MA

Sat Apr 22 – Rockwood Music Hall – New York, NY

Sat Apr 29 – Penuche’s – Concord, NH

What else is happening next in Daemon Chili’s world?

Well, once the album is released, we’ll just take it one day at time. Hopefully we can leverage some better regional plays and maybe even grab a couple of festival slots. Also, we’re looking to bring on a manager this spring to help us steer the ship. That’s about it really. Trying not to take ourselves too seriously and keep expectations low. Music is a tough racket, and we have no delusions about this. Doesn’t mean we can’t still have an excellent time doing what we love while we’re able.

For More Information on Daemon Chili:

Website // Facebook // Youtube // Instagram // Spotify

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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