Interview: The Demos Prepare to Take The Parcel 5 Stage at Rochester Fringe Festival

The Demos, a mainstay of the Rochester music community, are prepping for their set at KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival. They play on Saturday, September 16 at 6:30pm at Parcel 5 on Main Street. The 75-minute long set will span the power pop band’s fifteen-year career, which they’ve spent continually writing, recording and gigging. With a couple EPs and a full-length album already under their belt, they’re in the studio again working on a new project.

Over the years, The Demos have been through a few lineup changes. Singer/guitarist Jay Milton and bass guitarist Cal Saunders have remained the core of the group, with the addition of Caela Moore on keys, Jeremiah O’Reilly on guitar and the newest addition, RJ Papaleo on drums. They took time away from rehearsing for the big show to talk with NYS Music about Rochester Fringe, The Demos’ body of work, and identifying their spirit animals.

Paula Cummings: I’ve seen the promos you’ve been posting to promote your set at Fringe Festival. How excited are you for this year’s event?

Jay Milton: It’s really exciting to play in such a huge space in the heart of the city that most of us grew up in.

CS: And that we call home.

JM: This is our home and it’s awesome. A very unique venue, and a free show. I always feel it’s great to play a free show. I love doing free stuff.

Jeremiah O’Reilly: I think what appeals to me most is that I think sometimes when you play at specific venues around town, you run into the situation where you’re often playing for the same people. Playing at an outdoor free concert during a festival allows you to play to a different variety of people in the community. It’s nice to be able to share and express ourselves to those people as well as the ones who come to our Bug Jar shows.

JM: And it can be a family show. We’re PG.

https://soundcloud.com/younglionofthewestrec/sets/the-demos-lovely

PC: You’re recording songs for the next album. Will some of those songs be on the set list?

CS: For sure.

JM: It’s going to be a very eclectic set from us. It’s a lot longer than we usually play. Most of our sets are 45 minutes or so. So this is a double set almost. So we’re digging deep into our catalog. Me and Cal have been together in this band for 15 years. So we’re going back and playing songs from every era of our time as a band, from our first EP’s in the mid-2000’s. We’ll be playing songs off Lovely which is our full length from 2012.

CS: The notes on that are that it was the one that went #1 on FMQB.

PC: That was the one that was big in Japan, right?

CS: We’re very proud of that.

JM: It was big in Japan. That was the one that got us the Tokyo billboard. And obviously, we’ll play songs from our latest EP, Paramount Clouds, which came out last year. And then a whole bunch of new songs, and a few covers for good measure. Obscure though. We can’t be playing songs that everyone knows. Because then they’ll know how bad we play them.

(Laughter)

CS: We kind of make them our own.

PC: Although the Andy Kaufman cover was awesome. It might be the wrong crowd for that one.

CS: But I think though at Fringe, it’s weird enough that if you did it people would laugh, which is the point.

JM: Andy Kaufman is my hero in life.

CS: He’s your spirit animal.

JM: He’s definitely my spirit animal. I have been obsessed with him most of my adult life. And the thing I love about him is the more I learn about him the less I understand him. Which is what I love about it. Every time you think you’re getting deeper into what it was about, it seems you’re just opening millions of other things which go nowhere. Which to me is… Life as performance art, perhaps.

CS: The whole world’s a stage.

JM: I actually own Andy Kaufman’s childhood record player. And his smoking jacket as well.

Jay with Andy Kaufman memorabilia, Photo: Jeremiah O’Reilly

PC: So we’ve got your spirit animal. What would you say yours is, Cal?

CS: Billy Martin, a friend of ours, once told me that he thinks Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes is my spirit animal.

JM: I’d believe it.

CS: But it’s not that easy. My struggle is endless. I seem to go around, which makes me think serpentine, like a snake. I’m year of the dragon, too.

JO: I think I’m an earth dragon.

JM: What’s the difference between a dragon and an earth dragon?

JO: So there’s different parts, like your animal that’s part of the Chinese zodiac, and then an element that goes along with it.

CS: Like earth, water, fire.

JM: I thought maybe an earth dragon was one that couldn’t fly, or something.

JO: I’m like the black sheep of dragons. I guess that’s my spirit animal.

PC: Is it too soon to divulge any details about the next album?

JM: We don’t know when it will be ready. I would say by this time next year, there will be something.

PC: Jeremiah, this is your first time recording with these guys?

JO: Yeah, I’ve known these guys for a while. I actually went to one of their shows back in 2005. When I was a wee little lad. One of my best friends Alex Northrup was one of the founding members of The Demos. And I’ve been playing music with him.

CS: He’s the Syd Barrett of The Demos.

JM: That’s actually very accurate.

JO: I was 16 back in 2005, so I’ve known you guys for a while. But I’ve only been playing with them for 8 months. It’s been a blast.

PC: And now you’re no longer the newest member of the band.

JO: I am not the newest member.

CS: We’re like a restaurant. We change staff as much as we change clientele sometimes.

The Demos: Jeremiah O’Reilly, RJ Papaleo, Cal Saunders, Jay Milton, Caela Moore

JM: Honestly, I think we’re just intense workers when it comes to music. We just pour everything into it.

JO: It frightens some people.

CS: Or people have lives.

JO: Aren’t you glad you found me – I have no life!

JM: That’s the worst thing about being a musician in a place that has such a great local scene is that it’s hard to work on music and do things. Tart Vandelay is playing tonight and I’d love to go do that, but we’re doing this and then we’re going into rehearsing right after. And if we’re not in the studio, then we’re rehearsing, or we’re writing. It’s hard to do cool things, like watching other people play music, when you’re so focused on doing it yourself. That’s my least favorite part. We’re very dedicated.

CS: We’re dedicated, honest, and hard working.

JM: Every moment that we’re not working on music, we wish that we were.

JO: Me and Jay text each other at work saying, “I wish we were in the studio.” 

(RJ Papaleo arrives)

PC: Hey, we’re just wrapping up. What is your spirit animal?

RJP: I feel like it would be a bird of some kind.

JM: Maybe like a pterodactyl.

PC: And what is Caela’s spirit animal?

JM: A fox.

Catch the Demos live at what is sure to be a memorable performance Saturday, September 16 at 6:30 at Parcel 5 on at 285 East Main Street in Rochester. Get ready by listening to their catalog of music on Bandcamp. Follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates on this and other shows.