It’s hard to believe that anyone would have been involved with the indie music sphere for the past few years and not know of Demo Taped. His single “Game On” blew up, by blogosphere measures, around the heyday of Hype Machine. His subsequent releases were met with equal if not greater interest, and while his rise hasn't been atmospheric, it's steady and strong.
Real name Adam Alexander, the artist got on the phone to talk to me on the release day of his newest EP, Momentary. It’s a synth-filled, harmonious, emotional ride, one that provokes an unpronounceable form of nostalgia. Alexander doesn’t use the EP to show off, focusing on creating an ambiance through tight production rather than cheap tricks to grab your attention. It’s something you want to listen to all the way through, a singular cohesive mood rather than a set of them. However, the songs still stand individually—“Pack Of Gum” in particular, which was written about the artist’s tendency to carry a pack of gum due to anxiety.
“I can’t even—well I can now, but for a while after…I couldn’t chew wintergreen gum ‘cause the taste would remind me of that time and just make me feel ill. It’s crazy how the mind associates things with other things,” he tells me when we get to talking about that particular song. Although he’s still 19, he’s as composed and eloquent as you would expect someone twice his age to be, even more so. But being beyond his years isn’t a new concept to him.
“I’ve always been told by family and friends growing up that I was really mature. I don’t know if I believe that,” he confesses. “I don’t know. I can say that I grew up watching and listening to a lot of stuff that was just – I don’t know how I found it.”
Mostly, Alexander turns to his cultural influences to explain his maturity. “My dad definitely put me onto a lot of music. I grew up listening to Curtis Mayfield and Jimmy Hendrix and I was listening to Parliament Funkadelic and just all those iconic groups, Zapp & Roger. I just love watching things that are before my time and really appreciating them. When I was really into film I watched a lot of French new wave films and a lot of avant garde films and art house. I watched a lot of dramas and R-rated movies from a really young age; heavy subject matter.”
In explaining the major themes of the EP, he gives a sense of a life of introspection and observation. “Family is definitely one. Themes of I guess what you could call – well just questioning the nature of things and perspective, masculinity, challenging that, whatever that is, that whole mantra thing; whatever. Dealing with cynicism as a symptom of depression or change in world view and how acidic and toxic that is and realizing that; coming to that realization instead of wallowing in it—that’s what ‘Chemical’ is about.”
As far as changing his world view has gone, Alexander has certainly been in an environment that’s conducive to it. He’s signed to 300 Entertainment, and currently performing all over SXSW. However, as any person with depression would tell you, environment isn’t the only factor that influences the illness—and Alexander is more public about his struggles than most artists. “I would have loved to have seen someone big, famous that’s been through mental health issues,” he mentions to me. “I would have loved to have seen them come out and say that, because I didn’t know. For the longest time I felt very, very alone. I thought that it was only going on with me. I really had no idea the scope of mental illness. I now have a platform, so it’s just something I have to do. It’s not up to me. It’s not a matter of choice. I have to do it.” An internal-made-external discussion between the artist and his mental health is present as an influence on the EP, but just as present are external influences.
Rather than closed off to outside ideas, Alexander chooses to learn from his surroundings. “When I’m not in Atlanta I go to LA and I work with a lot of different producers and writers and really just – I don’t know. It’s important to see somebody do something you’re not the best at. For example, if there’s a producer that’s better at drums than I am, and I have a session with them, and I see them doing it, I really get to learn just by looking and being around them.”
The more he talks, the clearer it gets that this is just the beginning for Demo Taped. Although the project has been around for a few years, as Adam Alexander grows and absorbs the world, so will it. In a few years, it may be a different project, under a different name. But right now, we have Demo Taped’s Momentary, and that’s worth celebrating. What he wants people to gain from the EP?
“I want people to step back more. It’s really important to step back and gain perspective and think for yourself. Not getting your information and aligning with someone else’s belief, but really just thinking for yourself. It’s important. Sitting down, ‘cause that’s what this EP was for me was me sitting down, and realizing and thinking, and asking myself questions and coming to the realization that, okay, while I’m worrying about this and this and this, this, all of this is all momentary and I might as well make the best of this,” he says.
“Not to say, oh, put on a happy face; mask your feelings. No. I might as well try to enjoy it when I can and live it to the fullest and laugh the hardest I can and smile and pass that feeling onto others because it’s bigger than us. To look at this world and not think – I don’t know. It’s bigger than this. We just have to realize that. I just mean that as I guess seeing people for what they are, which is just other humans, other people with problems and concerns, doubts and fears and love and families. A take away: live a life that’s filled with excitement and do what you wanna do as long as it’s morally okay. Believe in yourself and follow your dreams. I know that’s cliché, but actually. Actually pursue it. Sit down and think about what you would wanna do most and try it and depending on what you believe. I just believe you only have one life, one shot at this. Other people believe different and that’s cool, but I believe I got one shot at this so I’m not gonna waste it. That’s the take away of this whole EP.”
Check out Momentary, available in most places music is found.
Photo by Savana Ogburn