For examples of synesthesia, all we have to do is look to MTV and classic cinematic moments. It’s nearly impossible to listen to “Stuck in the Middle with You” now without also thinking of the Mr. Blond-torture scene in Reservoir Dogs. Or try listening to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” without zombies dancing through your head. I bet you can’t even listen to the Psycho theme without wanting to do the stabby stab-motion. These examples are more than just connotations; they’re images that are so ingrained in our minds that they’ve become innate when we hear the corresponding audio trigger.
Demons rely on this phenomenon to create what they call “visual music.”
During Hurricane Katrina, Steve Kenney retreated to Michigan, abandoning his beloved Pro One synthesizer in the weather-ravaged New Orleans. Upon returning, he found that his synth had become a moldy buzz-machine. But the horrible noise proved too intriguing to be dismissed and Kenney decided to keep the broken machine to utilize the variety of new sounds that it could now produce. Kenney’s friend and Wolf Eyes member Nate Young liked the new sound machine so much he decided to get one for himself. Meanwhile, friend and visual artist, Alivia Zivich found the pair’s droning sound to be the perfect soundtrack for her video collages.
“A few years ago I was living in L.A., and I saw this visual music retrospective on a variety of artists,” Zivich says. “There were just a ton of abstract animations, from guys painting on glass and the very types of analog computer animation. I thought ‘this is incredible!’ I couldn’t understand why this wasn’t still happening.”
Playing under the name Video Madness, Zivich would forward her love of abstract animation by projecting crude, analog images and manipulating them in accordance with the music that Kenney and Young would give her. It wasn’t long before the demand for new music was so high that they just integrated Zivich into their live performances and Demons was born. As one of the few bands that have incorporated a live image-player, Demons truly are the “visual musicians” they pride themselves on being.
“We thought that that would be an interesting idea for a band to have a visual element rather than just watching two guys sitting there turning knobs,” Zivich says. “Visual music is such broad term but mainly it’s a crossover for your brain. It describes the sensation when you’re hearing a piece of music and you close your eyes and the song becomes more expressive that way and you use more of your senses. We’re trying to bring that experience to you.”
Zivich’s complex system of manipulation includes two TVs, one is sound reactive and the other displays video feedback. She then uses two cameras pointed at these televisions that project on overlaying plastic and Mylar. To top it off she has a homemade video mixer to provide her with as much control as technologically possible. “Really, what I’m doing is listening very intently while translating the sound into something visual. Obviously, I can’t control stuff like oscillation and feedback, but the mixer allows me to reign control on pretty much anything else,” she says.
“What we try to do is something different than 99 percent of the bands you normally see,” she continues. “You’re not looking at people, but rather looking at imagery that’s created by the sound. It’s like a moving painting. It’s more pleasurable for your sense of sight and hard for your mind to wander. It’s just one step more engaging.”
DEMONS @ Red Light Books, 179 E. Broadway, Sunday Nov. 11, 7 p.m. All-ages, 355-1755