By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Local quartet Demographics clearly have their eyes set on lofty heights with If Ever, their dizzyingly ambitious debut. They're the rare art-rockers who let their love for deep grooves and buttery R&B shine through in their songs, resulting in some seriously tasty space-age slow jams.
"Not to sound all fatherly and wise, but we all grew up in a time when people still bought albums," offers band drummer/production wizard Ryan Mach, flanked by singers/multi-instrumentalists Greg Reese and Casey Garvey during a late-night interview session at northeast Minneapolis's Mayslack's. "The mindset of music may be changing now, but I like the idea of albums that really feel like a comprehensive snapshot of a band."
"It's all about albums for me," concurs Reese. "When I say, 'I love Beck,' what I really mean is 'Mutations changed my life.'"
True to the band's word, If Ever's 41-minute journey into the spacey side of indie-pop feels carefully calculated. Buttonholing the group's sound is impossible, but enjoying it is all too easy. Like the best full-lengths, it strikes a balance between idiosyncrasy and immediacy. Standout tracks like "Some Lovers" find Reese's falsetto soaring to the stratosphere while the band lays down a deceptively groovy foundation, equal parts machine-manipulated sounds and organic rock textures. The shimmering and slinky opening passage of "Florida" might have you convinced your iTunes is on shuffle and Sade is taking over the speakers.
"At first listen, it sounds like a kind of down and morose record," admits Mach. "But I like to think of it as a pop record."
"I wouldn't say morose," counters Reese quickly. "It's down-tempo, but it's groovy. We wanted it to be pretty but dark."
The shadowy sultriness and warped wooziness of If Ever's sound extends to its lyrics, where cracked imagery ("You surprise me like a moon in the daytime/You move me like a single father undercover cop in a bank heist") is favored over explicit meaning — regardless of whether Garvey or Reese is taking the lead.
"Greg and I have grown up together, and most of what we're writing about is that experience even if it's abstracted," offers Garvey as he explains the band's hazy lyrical logic. "Staying up late into the night partying and waking up hung over is definitely part of our twentysomething reality. We've written plenty of songs at four in the morning after a long night out."
While If Ever is the debut from Demographics, it's not the first time at the rodeo for anyone involved. Reese and Garvey already made their mark on the local scene with Yer Cronies, a band openly championed by Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell during his brief time spent living in Minneapolis. Mach is likewise an established talent, having helmed records and manned the skins for the Alarmists in the past, and Joey Ryan & the Inks at present. All agree that it's the collision between Mach and Garvey's pop-minded sensibilities and Reese's experimental bent that has led to Demographics finding their sonic sweet spot.
"I don't want to be sitting here taking more credit than I deserve," states Mach sheepishly. "But I've been at music for a while and as I age I find myself drawn to songs that get to the point faster. At the end of the day you don't ever want to punish people for listening to your music. This is a very produced album, but we wanted it to sound big while still being poppy enough that it would be relevant to all the attention-deficit listeners of today — that includes us."
"I really have a tendency to want to extend parts and make them more intricate," admits Reese. "What's great about this band is I've got two people with the opposite creative agenda. We end up meeting in the middle in a good way. Frequently I'm upset over the direction a song is taking in the moment, but ultimately I trust the people I'm working with. If I didn't this band would break up fairly quickly."