An Interview with Jarvis Leatherby of Night Demon

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It seems many Metal fans today point back to music made in the 80s and 90s as the end-all, be-all of the genre. They will say the same overdramatic, cliché thing that many have said about other genres, “Metal is dead.”

Those of us that take the time to sit down and discover new music know any statement to that end is false. Certainly, Jarvis Leatherby and his band Night Demon are one case in point.

Night Demon has that nostalgic feel of Metal bands past but with an exciting modern twist. A best of both worlds if you will. Since discovering them myself, I have become a huge fan. When I was asked to sit down with Jarvis, I couldn’t have been any more excited.

Among other things, we discuss what makes a good live album, Jarvis’s sleep paralysis and why they recently chose to release an extensive series of singles.

To learn more about Night Demon read my discussion with Jarvis below as well as visiting here, and here.

Joe:
What have you been up to the past year, considering the circumstances we will find ourselves in today?

Jarvis:
Quite a lot, I guess. Night Demon put out five 7″ singles last year. We started a podcast that’s been running for almost 40 consecutive weeks. Cirith Ungol put out an album last year, which was their first album in almost 30 years. I was able to play on that. Now, I’ve been in Northern Ireland for 100 days as of today. So, just waiting out the pandemic here and finishing up the new Night Demon record. We’re kind of taking a bit of a break from touring. I mean, I guess we’re kind of forced to. But our podcast goes on every week. That’s something that’s keeping it alive for now.

Joe:
I know you were saying you’re working on a new record. Is there anything you can tell us about it?

Jarvis:
Not really. I’m sorry. Not too much. I can say that the music is done. I’ve got a little vocal studio out here and I’ve had some time to work on that stuff. So, that’s been cool. That always takes me a long time, that process. As far as it being released, I mean, I don’t know yet. We’re just waiting till we know we can go back out on the road and support it honestly. Releasing these five singles last year was already planned. They started rolling out on April 3rd of 2020 and then every five weeks thereafter. We were supposed to be on the road. We didn’t know that there was a pandemic that was going to happen, but it still worked out okay. I feel like we’re a band that tours a lot. We need to be touring when we have a record out.

Joe:
I know you guys have two other proper full records. How do you think that they compare with each other?

Jarvis:
Well, from our first studio album, Curse of the Damned to our second, Darkness Remains, we have a different guitar player. So, as a 3-piece band, that’s the biggest difference. Our guitar player Brent [Woodward], who was originally in the band, he and I co-wrote a lot of the songs going into the second record. So, there’s that cohesiveness between the albums. But, Armand [John Anthony] is just a much different player. He’s amazing. So, I think going from Brent to Armand would probably be the biggest difference. Also, I think we felt a lot more comfortable playing in the correct tempos as we recorded more in the studio. The thing is we record our records live in the studio, so no click tracks or backing tracks. A lot of times we listen back to the older stuff that was recorded and realized we just kind of played it slower than we would ever do it live.

Joe:
There are a lot of Metal and Punk bands that play their songs faster live, and it always seems a little more right to me.

Jarvis:
We’ve been known to play our songs too fast live. Sometimes I listen back to stuff and I’m like, “Whoa, man.” But that’s how it is when the adrenaline is pumping, and you know the song well. Another thing that a lot of people don’t talk about is when a band makes a record, it’s still new to them. You’re not getting the best out of them on those songs. Go listen to a band that’s been playing a song live for 20 years and they know how the song goes. They’ve worked it out. They’re very comfortable playing it. When you’re playing it in the studio for the record, you’ve just kind of put it together. You’re trying to do it right. When we write songs, we’re always thinking, “How would this go over live.”

Joe:
Night Demon has a double-LP live album called Live Darkness. I thought it was great and captured that raw, energy-driven, kind of sound you are looking for on a live album. There are tons of terrible live albums. What do you think goes into making a good live album?

Jarvis:
Fixing all your mistakes, no just kidding. [Laughs]. We really tried to minimize the mistakes. There were some things we did to fix a few of the mistakes. On “Screams in the Night” Armand’s guitar went out, so we had to redo the song. What makes a good live album is if you can capture the audience. We put a lot of microphones in the room to kind of get that vibe. Those mics gave us the ability to have the sounds that make you feel like you’re actually there. That’s what was best about our live album. I think that’s better than the sounds that we got musically, which I also thought were good.

I think it’s really important to capture the energy of the band. Every band wants to make a studio album that captures that live energy. It’s just so hard to do. I don’t know if it’s really been done. So, when taping a live show, you have to capture the energy, and sometimes that’s not easy to do. I’m not going to say we got lucky because we put a lot of preparation into it. But it was one show. We had one shot. The tracklist on the album is just the setlist in-sequence. A lot of bands might record over the entire tour or at least record over multiple nights at the same venue. We just didn’t have that luxury, so we just went for it. And that desperation, you can hear it on the record.

Joe:
I know you were saying you released a string of singles this past year. Can you tell me a little about those? What was the decision to release them as singles as opposed to an EP for example?

Jarvis:
We got the idea to do the singles about a year and a half before COVID. We were writing songs that that weren’t super cohesive and experimenting with some different things. We didn’t want it to just be this total schizophrenic record. Each song has its own vibe. I also liked the idea of seeking separate cover art to match the vibe of each song. We were able to work with different artists for the cover art on the singles. On top of that, we wanted to work with a lot of different producers. If you just say, “Hey, we want to come in and do one song for like two days.” A lot of producers will say something like, “So, I don’t have to spend 3 months of my life with you trying to make a record. Come on in!” It’s fun and easy for them plus its work. We worked with Matt Hyde, who did some Slayer stuff. We worked with Steve Albini in Chicago and Flemming Rasmussen in Denmark. It was an amazing experience to work with big producers like that. We have a series on YouTube called Behind the Song, and we’ve captured those studio experiences. We documented them and they came out really good.

Another thing we realized is that people’s attention spans are getting worse and the lockdown definitely compounded that. It’s way worse. It’s crazy, myself included. Night Demon puts out a record every few years because we tour a lot. We’re about the quality of what we do, not necessarily the quantity. I feel like when you see a band announce an album everything is so drawn out. Three weeks later they’ll announce the preorder for the album and then it’ll come out like three or four months later. I’m finding if I hear an album announcement on a Friday that by Monday, it kind of feels like old news. So, we decided to experiment with these 5 singles. We’re putting them out on 7″ vinyl plus digital. We’re not going to announce that we’re doing this. We’re just going to drop them on people every five weeks as they come out. The vinyl will be available right away. You can click and have it in your hands as soon as possible. They sold out all within a day every time we did it. That’s the world we’re living in. Instant gratification. You can just get anything at the touch of a button. People’s attention spans and patience are gone. I’m not judging either. I just thought this business plan fits the modern world and it’s tied into our artistic vision. So, there you go. Luckily, the sales were great. So, it was a win-win. It was a good experiment.

Joe:
So, I know you were saying that before all this happened Night Demon toured a lot. What do you miss about touring? What do you not miss about it?

Jarvis:
I don’t miss the travel, It sounds stupid because you have to travel, right? That’s what it is, it’s traveling. I like playing on stage, but the other twenty-three hours of the day are rough sometimes. You’re in a new place every day. Before 2020 we had done six hundred shows in four years, all over the world. I think that after what’s happened recently, I will never take another show for granted. I’ll never take another day on tour for granted. I think when we get back out there, I’m going to see some more of the world around me. I’m going to make an effort to do that. I’ve been all over the world, but I pretty much see the inside of a venue and a dressing room. If I played the same venue three times, I’d be familiar with maybe that street. It’s nice when you’re in a place to go experience it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to make time while on tour. But I think it’s worth it to take some time for that, even if it’s an hour. So, that’s my goal.

Joe:
Tell me a little about how you guys came together as a band?

Jarvis:
Initially, it was just our love for the new wave of British Heavy Metal. We wanted to do that kind of style, but we grew up in that Hardcore Punk scene in Southern California. We didn’t have an audience for what we wanted to do. We just wanted to make a four-song EP and call it Night Demon. Just have that for us. That was the idea. We did that and then we didn’t do anything with it for a couple of years. Our friends that heard it kept saying, “You guys should really put this out. It’s good stuff.” So, we did, and the response worldwide was pretty immediate. We just decided to go for it. Now, it’s been ten years since the band got together in 2011. Our first EP came out in 2013 and that’s when we really started doing things. But, as far as meeting and getting together to play it’s been ten years.

Joe:
How did you guys come up with the name Night Demon?

Jarvis:
I suffer from something called sleep paralysis. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. It’s a thing that happens sometimes where your body will fall asleep, but your mind doesn’t. It’s a pretty scary thing. Upon reading about sleep paralysis, people described it as a demon that would sit on your chest and look down on you during sleep. They referred to it as the “Night Demon.” I thought that was super cool and it sounded Heavy Metal. There was also the same number of letters in each word. I thought that was cool for design schemes. Plus, I had been in over thirty bands before this, so I had learned some things about the right way to find a name that works. For example, try not to put a color in your name because that can kill design schemes. “Night Demon” was perfect for us, and we just kind of went with it.

Joe:
Current day, Metal seems so much bigger in Europe than in the states. What are your thoughts regarding this?

Jarvis:
Because Europeans are generally smarter. [Laughs]. I’m joking. Well, maybe they are. I don’t know. They have better taste in music at the moment. [Laughs]. It’s an interesting thing. The U.S. is so big, it’s so large. That’s got to be understood. It’s such a large place. I think Metal is big in Europe in certain countries, and it’s dominant in those countries. It shines in those countries, and it shows. The people really support it.

The thing is, you can’t support Pop or Rap in the same way that you can support Rock or Metal. You can’t really have a big Rap festival and have it draw. It’s weird. It won’t draw as many people. It really won’t. The merchandise thing doesn’t exist the way it does for Metal. I think it’s probably the band thing. There’s a band and not an individual solo artist or influencer or somebody that’s all about themselves.

There is something about Rap culture in the U.S., especially right now. There’s a lot of young kids involved in Rap and Hip-Hop. It’s the same thing that Rock had for me when I was a kid. It’s rebellious. They’re having beefs and wars with each other. There’s something there that Rock doesn’t have anymore. Rock and Metal fans used to get a reputation for being evil or being Satanists. There was a mystery behind them. Young kids that were rebellious against the system were attracted to that. At the same time, it put the Metal and Rock community on the defense for a long time. We just said, “We’re normal people. We have families. We have friends that we care about. There’s no violence at our shows. Nobody’s getting killed at our shows. There’s no threat of that. We’re tired of being stereotyped and labeled because all of our songs are about war and death and Satan. We are responsible, have jobs, and contribute to society.” It seems to finally be accepted as the truth about it. For example, I have read articles that say metalheads have been studied and their brains are more advanced in some ways. Obviously, those aren’t the things that a young kid attracted to mystery and rebellion wants to hear. You got to put it into perspective like that. You got to think about that.

I just turned forty years old, and I’ve been in this band for 10 years. The age I started this band at used to be the age that you would quit Rock or Metal music. At least that seemed to be the case when I was younger. You would be an old guy at thirty, but Rock is no longer a young man’s game. When I was young, I thought I was born too late. I was born at just the right time, and it all works out. It is what it is. That’s my analysis of it. They’ll always be those kids that love Rock and Metal because they identify with it. I would much rather have die-hard, awesome fans that get something from what we do than have ten times the number of fair-weather fans. I think that’s important.

Joe:
Where do you see the band going in the future? I know you mentioned you were working on a new album.

Jarvis:
One of the rules we have is that we don’t talk about those things. I mean, we just don’t. We’ve always had a plan. We’re about to draft up an actual plan for the next phase of the band in writing. It’s kind of weird. You get to this mark as a band and try to figure out what to do. Do we keep going or do we take a break? This COVID thing has made us take a break recently. I think we’re revamping some things. We’ve got a couple more albums left on our record contract that we’re going to fulfill. Then we’ll probably see what happens. But we’ve got tours planned for the fall for the U.S. and Europe. The same for next spring. We have some summer festivals in Europe as well. We just don’t know what’s going to happen regarding touring. If you asked me today, I would say there’s a good chance that our fall tour in the U.S. will happen. That’s going to be from the middle of September to the middle of October. And that’s with two other bands. I can’t say who it is yet but it’s two other three-piece bands. We’re going to tour the whole country. It’s going to be epic. The European thing is supposed to happen after that. The way that this vaccine rollout is happening in European countries, I mean, it just doesn’t look good for foreign bands going over there. It just doesn’t look good to me. I hope that is not the case, but we’ll see.

Interested in learning more about the artistry of Night Demon? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Records, Roots & Ramblings, by Joe O’Brien, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/records-roots-ramblings-archives/

About Post Author

Joe O'Brien

Joe has always been a huge music fan. Growing up on Long Island, NY, USA, Joe did chores and dumpster dove for bottles with his best friend Andrew to trade bottles for money to buy vinyl. Joe is a Registered Nurse in the ER by day, and a life-long music lover by night. Having been an avid consumer of all things music since he was a child, Joe’s diverse collection of over 3,000 vinyl albums, plus several hundred tapes and CDs, tells the story of a man who simply loves music. Joe’s goal is to write about what he is most passionate about and share new and exciting music. Joe lives on Long Island, NY with his beloved dog Scarlett.
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