“Thank you Leeds. We are Drab Majesty. And we come from Los Angeles.” Two songs before the end of what is an entirely immersive performance, an intense throbbing groove of constant extraterrestrial sound, these are the first words that Andrew Clinco speaks tonight from the Wharf Chambers’ stage. It does help immensely that he has clarified where Drab Majesty hail from because observing Clinco and fellow band member Alex Nicolaou in their respective alter-egos of Deb Demure and Mona D it would be very easy to mistake both men and/or women as not being of this earth.
Dressed in matching silver suits and wigs, with their faces whited out and sporting huge black sunglasses their visual identity (or perhaps more accurately, the loss thereof) draws upon Andy Warhol, androgyny, anonymity, fine art sculpture and science fiction to the point whereby Deb Demure and Mona D are fully realised in alien form. And when first Demure and then Mona D flash us the Vulcan salute it throws their place of origin into even further doubt.
Their music also comes from another place altogether. Deb Demure’s fingerpicked guitar and the synthetic avalanche of Mona D’s old-school keyboard sound coalesce into a torrent of dark noise that lays waste to a fistful of musical genres on its way, goth, new wave, garage rock, and metal amongst them. It all makes for an incredibly striking audio-visual spectacle.
Bookending the show with the opening and closing songs from their third album Modern Mirror, and giving us a clutch of other tunes from the record in the interim – including a quite stunning ‘Long Division’ – Drab Majesty invest the studio versions with something that is infinitely far more rebellious, much heavier and increasingly more inventive. Modern Mirror assumes a totally different aesthetic when encountered in a live setting.
Wharf Chambers is absolutely rammed. Like every other date on this UK leg of their European tour, tickets had long since sold out and the ground floor of this austere Victorian former pork-pie factory has become a seething mass of heat and sweat, febrile conditions that merely serve to intensify the Drab Majesty experience.
Mention also needs to be made of SRSQ (pronounced ‘seer-skew’), the solo project of Kennedy Ashlyn (vocalist/keyboardist of the Bay Area dream-pop duo Them Are Us Too). The principal support act on this tour, Drab Majesty’s fellow American is a force of nature. With a voice not dissimilar to that of Elizabeth Fraser, SRSQ scales peaks in the higher register way above and beyond those of the former Cocteau Twins’ singer as she helms a tricky course through what you imagine are abject feelings of grief and loss. “I’m just barely holding on” she wails during ‘Only One’, but hold on she does for what is a monumental display of determination and power.
Photos: Simon Godley