I caught up with them to discuss the new album Snakes and Ladders and what the UK tour has in store.
This has been an interview and gig you have had planned for over a year now. Are you excited to be back bringing your music to a live audience?
Ceschi: Definitely excited to return to perform in the UK. The last time I had done a fairly extensive run of the UK was back in 2010 with Akil from Jurassic 5 & Louis Logic, I was playing 15 minutes a night. So this will be a long awaited follow-up tour for me. Ceiling Demons: We’re dead excited that this tour is finally happening after all this time! Our performances are often artful, intense exercises. Over this last year or so we’ve done the odd show but as a group, connecting with a live audience and the kinship of playing together is something we’ve all really missed. It’s unifying and cathartic on many levels
How did you all come together to make this gig happen? Who heard whom and what do you both think of each others work?
Ceschi: Ceiling Demons had reached out to me via Twitter long ago. At some point in 2019 they brought me out to a gig in Stockton which was a lovely experience. After that one we decided to try and do more. 2 years later they finally seem to be happening. Ceiling Demons: We’re big fans of Ceschi, his ethos and label – Fake Four Inc. Over the years, we listened to a number of songs and collabs that really resonated, like 2013’s Love Song for the Apocalypse, the 2015 album, Broken Bone Ballads left a huge impression on us as well! We connected online around this time and when it came to Ceschi’s follow-up album – Sad, Fat Luck, we were lucky enough to book him for a UK exclusive show in Teesside during the albums campaign in 2019. This show was hands down, one of the greatest performances we’ve ever witnessed so naturally we wanted to do more gigs together and bring Ceschi back to UK to perform to fans and new audiences across the UK! From 2019 (when the Leeds gig was announced) to now, the US has seen the rise of the pandemic, the horror of the George Floyd murder and the swearing in of a new President. For you as an artist and particularly hip-hop artist, have the world events provided you any lyrical inspiration or given you pause for thought as to what to say or formed your musical outlook in anyway?
Ceschi: Oh, yes. World events always affect my content. I consciously attempt to not be trapped in specific timelines with my music, the hope is that it can transcend & be appreciated beyond my lifetime. I’m not a journalist, so I try not to get too tangled in historical detail often but, continual murders by police, a near universal anxiety, depression & feelings of helplessness, have certainly influenced lyrics I’ve written since March 2020. Another consequence of pandemic lockdowns has been a deep sense of nostalgia and a personal romanticisation of simpler days. That nostalgia has also been embedded into my song-writing even with some sonic choices I’ve made.
Ceschi, your Sad, Fat Luck and Sans Soleil albums were conceived as a trilogy, assuming the pandemic held back any progress, when are we to hear the third act and was/is the plan to still retire once the trilogy is complete?
Cashi: Factor Chandelier, my producer partner based in Saskatoon, SK, Canada, and I had a long month of work planned for April 2020. We felt we were close to finishing part three already. Of course, all of that was cancelled. It became difficult for me to finish much of anything from afar. But, over time, I realized that I had written a ton of new material, four more albums’ worth. So, now that they’ve re-opened the Canada border in summer 2021, we are planning some sessions in person and hoping to mix, re-record & organize that heap of music into something fairly cohesive. It’s been a stressful task to do from afar.
Unfortunately, I can’t give a specific date yet. Vinyl manufacturing times are also extremely slow due to pandemic, in some cases it can take almost a year just to press a single record right now. When things are already ordered I’ll announce a timeline.
Given the dark, sombre narratives of both your work, have or would you consider a collaboration at any point on a track or album?
Ceschi: Would love to do a track with Ceiling Demons. That would make a lot of sense. Maybe we can find some time in person to make it happen.
Ceiling Demons: Definitely, we would absolutely love to create music with Ceschi at some point! To reference Joe Strummer, the future is unwritten.
For people who may not be familiar with either of your music, speaking of the dark overtones of your works, there always seems to be a lighter (albeit melancholic) message within. Stories of death, imprisonment (both physically and mentally) and loss of friends and youth mostly seem to coalesce with ideas of pulling through despite the trauma. There’s a positivity to the narrative it seems. Would that be a fair understanding of your music?
Ceschi: A friend of mine, Patrick Schneeweis, recently reminded me of that silver lining that seems to linger beneath the surface of melancholy and harsh truth in my music. I think it’s a fair assessment. Though, to some, I may seem to only be a sceptic & brutal realist, I fight hard to retain some kind of optimism in my heart. I think that goes hand in hand with strong revolutionary political beliefs as well. It’s easy for nihilism to swallow us, but deep down I want to believe in the potential of humanity and the future even if it never happens. It’s a different type of non-religious faith.
Ceiling Demons: Certainly, it’s almost spiritual in that sense. For us, our band became a vehicle to work through loss so those melancholic tones have regularly been a recurring element in our music however, as you’ve picked up, we frequently choose to sprinkle shards of hope into our songs. In a way, the process is somewhat alchemic and personally speaking, we’ve found that by embracing one’s demons you can begin to work through traumatic experiences. To choose love over fear is a powerful act and we feel that creativity, in whatever form plays a huge role in this.
During the pandemic, Ceschi, you and artists from the Fake Four roster were doing a series of streamed gigs online that showcased the wealth of talent within the Fake Four camp. Did you enjoy the unity those online gigs created and were you humbled by the positive response to them?
Ceschi: Yes, I have to shout out and thank Niki Anarchy who really made our Twitch channel happen. I was pretty hesitant at first because my version of live performance is very inclusive, usually floor level with the audience & based on human interaction. Still, after our first successful event, we decided to start doing weekly twitch livestream concerts with four acts from all over the map. Every Friday we would gather and chat and it felt like a really necessary connection for our musical community during that difficult time. Being able to curate those events also became this really unique way of sharing music that I had encountered on the road. Overall, yes, it was quite an honour that people would continue to support and pay attention to what we were doing at Fake Four.
Ceiling Demons, you have just brought out your second album after the much talked about debut, Nil. Where have you gone creatively with the album, what ways have you pushed yourselves musically and lyrically to go beyond the blueprint of the debut?
Ceiling Demons: Snake & Ladders is an album we spent several years crafting and it very much follows our previous album, Nil. Musically, it heavily expands on live instrumentation with the inclusion of several acoustic numbers, some electronic tracks, a couple prayer-like hymns as well as some folk-punk, post-rock and indie inspired arrangements throughout. It is the first record we’ve done which doesn’t largely rely on samples. Overall, we feel it delves into more interesting sonic territories than our last album. The collaborations on the record also brought a lot to the sound-pallet with contributions from celtic jazz violinist Andy Lawrenson, British folk singer-songwriter Zarahruth and even vocals from the legendary 85-year-old Jamaican musician – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry! Lyrically, we feel Snakes & Ladders shares similar esoteric traits to Nil but expands upon them in a progressive, mature manner. Mental health is a topic often present in our work and this album continues that tradition. There are also themes of spirituality, love, nature and the universe littered throughout with the odd referential nod to some of our influences. Metaphorically, the key subject of Snakes & Ladders is cycles and structures, these are songs about life, death and rebirth with a keen focus on the notion of freedom. Will we see more of you live in the UK in the future and are there any plans to take Ceiling Demons over to the US?
Ceschi: The US can be a complicated market, much like the UK, I’ve struggled to get gigs in your part of the world over the last 15 years of my music career. But I’d love to bring the brothers over for at least a simplified version of what they do at some point. That would be great. Serengeti may beat me to that, though. Ceiling Demons: As DIY artists, we certainly know that struggle! We’re ridiculously excited for this tour as it’s taken a lot of time and work to arrange, but is finally happening! We’ll be playing some more UK shows in support of Snakes & Ladders before the end of the year and hopefully into 2022. All going well, we would love to bring Ceschi back to these shores for some future live dates! The opportunity to perform stateside would also be incredible!
Ceiling Demons and Ceshi play at Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds on October 18.