We scrape together as much as we can online, but it’s not working

By Tatiana Parkhomova

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j.demar’s musical journey has been shaped by tragic personal circumstances and an unwavering determination to create music against all odds. Under the band name meant.’ his sound has evolved into melancholy and nostalgia-infused electronic soundscapes. As a solo artist, he seeks to replicate the sound of a real band by drawing influences from a wide range of genres while exploring themes of difficult emotion, loneliness, and sorrow. The Tulsa-based artist is here to talk about inspirations for his music and his latest album release, ‘asleep on the Ferris wheel’. 

The concept of ‘asleep on the Ferris wheel’ seems intriguing and deeply personal. Can you share the inspiration behind the album and what listeners can expect from the overall theme and sound?

All my music is intensely personal, and ‘asleep’ is no different. The inspiration behind it is profound — I miss my son. meant. is a father’s broken heart recalling particular moments in life before it turned tragic. Thematically, this album delves into that liminal space in life where we’re unaware of and powerless against those larger forces that reshape us. As I reflect on my life, the people I’ve known, lost, loved, hated, and forgiven, it produces an emotional swell of energy that then needs to be released. Sonically, ‘asleep’ is a vast, genre-blending album reflecting my love and respect for music. It will pull listeners into themselves, challenging and rewarding them emotionally.

You describe your music as “flowstate vaporgaze and IDM layered sound collection of scavenged melancholia”. How did you discover this sound? 

I broke my hands and then learned to walk again! Work injuries and a complicated recovery after surgery left me permanently and partially disabled, rendering me unable to play the guitar anymore. So, I had to approach creating music differently, aiming to elongate the bliss moments that various rock genres are known for into entire songs. I combined my love for ambient, field recordings, and other electronic music genres. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of replicating the sound of a real band playing real instruments electronically, and with ‘asleep’, I believe I’ve achieved that most clearly.

In ‘this damned body’, you address the important topic of suicide prevention and awareness. Do you intentionally use your music to raise awareness and convey messages on social issues?

Absolutely. I intentionally use my music as a beacon of hope. Music is sacred, far more than a popularity contest or about how much money we’re making — or not making. Music has literally saved my life and kept me alive. I believe damn near everyone has a similar story of a band, a show, or a song that kept them alive too. I’ve had fans share with me that I make “life-saving music” and that they get “healing vibes” from my music, which always strikes me as very odd because the creation of this material is extremely painful, and it’s not pleasant. But my art is a cathartic process for me, so it does make sense, and it’s also humbling. 

The ‘raspberry mittens’ music video is visually striking and features family archive-like footage. Can you elaborate on the creative process behind this video and the message you intended to convey through its changing pace and musical shifts?

The theme throughout my work is the importance of family bonds. Loneliness, isolation, and self-harm are all on the rise today. We scrape together as much as we can online, but it’s not working, and it’s not enough. Most of my music videos incorporate a mix of free and personal content. Initially, I used stock videos to save money, but staring at these strangers’ faces made me realize we’re all becoming manufactured stock avatars. The changing shifts in the song’s pace reflect life’s tendency to do whatever it wants. I won’t shy away from stock videos; what the fuck is authentic about the internet, anyway?

Your music often has a dreamy 80s vaporwave feel. What draws you to this nostalgic and atmospheric sound, and how do you incorporate it into your creative process?

I grew up in the 80s, a child of 80s horror movies. The song ‘a blade in the darkoff of ‘never again, again is a Lamberto Bava reference, but it is also about getting stabbed in the back when you least expect it. Nostalgia is at the core of all my sound because my albums are not just music albums; they’re audio family albums. You’ll hear the voices of my grandmother, my wife, my son — they are the songs, and I am just capturing fleeting memories and moments in sound. I want to keep alive the memories of what and who I’ve lost, and the ceaseless yearning to reunite with them. These songs are prayers, and they are filled with confessions.

The description of your new album invites listeners to “be alone together.” What emotions or experiences do you hope your audience takes away from the album, and how do you envision them connecting with your music?

The album serves as an antidote to loneliness. We are alone, but we are together. My recent EP, ‘fuck your new normalis a repudiation of the zeitgeist. It’s about connecting with fans and friends from around the world during listening events on Bandcamp, where we are alone together. The quiet whispers on the screen, reacting in real-time, streaming into the chat, forging tacit connections, turning my soundscapes into breathing canvases. I know that I have impacted people with my art because they tell me I have, and I am forever grateful. 

Are there any projects, collaborations, or new directions you plan to explore in the future?

February began with the premiere of my first official remix and live on-air release with the non-commercial DIY radio station Hollow Earth Radio. I’m releasing four albums, one for each season, in 2024. ‘asleep’ is the winter album, a hibernation in memory. For spring, ‘disparate stars’ will be released on Epsilon Tapes in March, bursting with new life, short and sweet tracks spooled upon the tape of a cassette. At home here in Tulsa, the music scene is unreal. greyland and I are figuring out what a live meant. performance looks like — a confrontational, melancholic cleanse, relying on the tenuous connections of wires and satellites. I can’t wait. There is still so much more life yet to live and express.

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