About to embark on their first national tour, we caught up with Demon Days to talk music.
One year and one week in and they’re doing pretty well: a national tour, two singles, radio play on Triple J and RTR. All this at only 19… WA neo-soul groovers Demon Days are certainly one to watch (if you manage to catch them – they move pretty fast, it seems). Having just launched their latest single, Killer Bees, we caught up with Bella Nicholls (she of the beyond her years, smooth Erykah Badu vocals) and Mark Ashforth (he of the drums and throwing handmade band shirts into the crowds at gigs) from the four-piece to check on their short history and get some hot music tips.
How did Demon Days come together?
Bella: “When we started, it wasn’t really a band – it was more of a job opportunity… we formed with other people we knew from WAAPA to play a charity gig, so we started the band just for this gig. And then that got cancelled. But I got offered to play another charity gig – and it was just like, this is cool, we all like the same music. Let’s just write stuff. We’re named Demon Days after the Gorillaz album.”
Bella – I read one of your influences was Erykah Badu, which I can totally hear in your voice, who else influences you?
Bella: “There’s the obvious, which is Hiatus Kaiyote, that’s the standard (laughs)
(note for uncool people like me: Hiatus Kaiyote are a Melbourne-based soul quartet). I also like The Internet, The Roots.
Mark: “I love The Roots. I want to be QuestLove. We also like BadBadNotGood…”
Bella: “Oh! BBNG! I feel like it’s weird, because I don’t listen to a lot of soul singers. People tell me ‘Oh, you sound like Nai Palm’ (Nai Palm is the lead vocalist of Hiatus Kaiyote) and I was like ‘I’ve been singing like this since before I knew who Nai Palm was. I did a jazz at school. I’m more like ‘oh, Ella Fitzgerald, for sure.”
Mark: “But Nai is the new Ella Fitzgerald. (laughs).”
Who do you like to listen to locally – or your favourite Australian artists?
Mark: “Well, locally it’s just like – our friends. (laughs)”
Bella: “Locally, I really like Your Girl Pho. She’s a gun – and, oh, beautiful voice.”
Mark: “POW! Negro… Casual Sets, Koi Child. All the ones that sound like us (laughs). Spacey Jane.”
I’m so glad I’m recording this because I do not know who any of these people are! I used to always be out at live gigs and know things, but now I’m old and crusty.
Mark: “Don’t worry about it, I’m already out. People are like ‘do you go to many gigs? and I’m like, naaah’, hahaha. I will go to the ones I’m playing at.”
Bella: “We’ll go to the ones where we get free entry! Because we’re poor. (laughs)”
How does the writing process work? Do you all write?
Bella: “I’m the only one that does lyrics – I don’t think any of the band members even know my lyrics to be honest.”
Mark: “Nope, we don’t listen.”
Bella: “I could write really offensive things and you wouldn’t even notice.”
Mark: “Someone will usually have a general idea of what they want to write, and we all get around it. Josh is better at writing chords than me. Marley’s tunes turn into instrumentals every time.”
Bella: “All my songs are autobiographical… just experiences or observations that resonate with me. Killer Bees is about being in that transitional stage from child to adult… I’ve always been the baby of groups: in the band I’m the youngest, in the scene we’re the youngest, at home I’m the youngest child… I always feel really young, but in an adult world, trying to make it. Also, it’s called Killer Bees because I always get attacked by bees. A bee stung me and my hand swelled up for like two weeks, it was awful…”
Mark: “That’s funny.”
Bella: “Then I went into ensemble, I was crying, everyone was teasing me. It was, like, the most painful thing that ever happened.”
That’s horrible. Haven’t you Googled “why do bees chase me”? My friend Clare says bees chase her because she looks like a flower.
Bella: “I am cute, like a flower. That’s probably why.”
And you’re doing a national tour! How did that come about?
Bella: “We have the most incredible manager, ever. She’s from PS Music Group. She asked us if we wanted to do a tour, we said yes, thinking it would be a Wheat Belt tour and she came back with Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast…”
Mark: “We messaged you and were like ‘it’s a proper tour!’ …so weird.