Plain White T’s Interview with De’Mar Hamilton – Nov 15th, 2007

These guys are probably the toughest band I’ve tried to track down for an interview since I started up Fazer. I had hoped to get a girl I know who’s a fan of the Plain White T’s an interview with a PWT band member and run it with some shots of them playing live. After getting tossed around Publicity people for the band in Europe, then Disney in the US, then the PWT’s label in the states and up to Universal Music in Canada – I wound up with a phoner, and I had to field the call myself. To boot – I pretty much knew nothing about the band. Not even the mega-popular ‘Hey There Delilah’ single. So, what follows, is my hapless attempt to glean some nuggets from the drummer over the phone, on a packed day of press-junket for the bands headlining set in Toronto on one of their day’s off touring with Fall Out Boy.

Mike: Hey man. How are you doing?
De’Mar: Good, good. Sorry for the delay.

Mike: Are you in Toronto now?
De’Mar: yeah, yeah. We just got into town a little while ago. I’m kinda groggy. Ummm… yeah, we are now in Toronto.

Mike: There is surprisingly little information about Plain White T’s on the web De’Mar. A little bit of bio stuff, and what’s on Wikipedia. But the usual fluff/PR stuff was very absent online. Do you mind if I start with some basic questions?
De’Mar: Sure man. Of course

Mike: Where are Plain White T’s from? City of Origin if you will.
De’Mar: Well, were from Chicago, Illinois. Yeah, we are all from the Chicago area, except for our guitarist, who lives in Santa Barbara California.

Mike: How did the band come together?
De’Mar: Well, the band formed back in 1997, when Tom and Dave met in high school. I think Tom met Dave, and thought that he looked cool, and they started to hang together, and worked on forming the band. So they recruited some other students and classmates, and then some of those guys moved on and quit, and that’s when I sort of came into the mix and then a few of the other guys, like Tim and Mike came on board. That’s basically how it formed. Plain White T’s have been a band for about 10 years, but I would say that the last four years have been when things have really started to pick up for us.

Mike: Chicago’s a great town for music, I really love it there. How does Plain White T’s material tend to come together? Do you guys tend to jam and put your material together live, or is it all piecemeal, and done individually?
De’Mar: Well, the last album – Tom would work out the backbone of the songs, he might record a demo or just do a rough recording of it. And then he will kind of present it to the band, and we’ll just all through our two cents into the mix and flesh it out y’know. I mean some of the other band members will contribute to the song writing, and bring our own ideas to the table, but I guess the bulk of it is Tom. But we do get together as a band and just jam, y’know?

Mike: How many years have you been drumming?
De’Mar: Umm, I’ve been playing drums for ever. I couldn’t even tell you. When I was a little kid, I’d just beat on stuff around the house. Countertops, pots and pans. It wound up progressing into a full blown kit.

Mike: Do you play any other instruments?
De’Mar: Yeah, I can play guitar as well.

Mike: The song ‘Hey There Delilah’ is a single that has been released a few times already, correct?
De’Mar: Yeah, it has. That song was actually written before I was even in the band, which will give an inclining of just how old it is. And uh, the song was released on a previous record, and then it came out on an EP, and now it’s on this record. You know, our label just thought that the song was getting a great reaction – and when it came time for a second single they were like ‘ We know it’s an old song, but it’s still getting a great response’ and they were suggesting that the track would do well if it was released on the record again. And they felt that if we just had faith in the track, things would continue to pick up, y’know? And I guess they were right, because it sort of happened for us right after that.

Mike: It’s kind of surreal that the song is that old, and it’s getting played like it’s brand new, and that’s the song the audience is waiting for when you play
your live set, y’know?
De’Mar: Yeah, yeah it is…

Mike: Based on what I found online, I’d say that your fan-base is pretty fanatical. There’s different chatrooms, blogs, message boards, fan clubs, and I know of two folks locally, who have tattoos of your lyrics tattooed up their ribcages. Is this the norm for the type of fans you guys meet and greet while you are on the road?
De’Mar: Yeah, I’d agree with what you said. We do have a pretty fanatical fanbase. I don’t think we’ve seen anything too out of the ordinary. Certainly nothing that other bands haven’t experienced along their climb to fame. I think our fans are great, and I think our fans are loyal to us. Certainly, they are excited, by our music, and to come to the shows and be a part of it, I guess.

Mike: Tonight is a special show for you guys. It’s a one-off show on your run of dates, allowing you to headline a gig on an off-night for the Fall Out Boy tour. Have you guys done many evenings like this while on the Fall Out Boy trek?
De’Mar: Not so many on the Fall Out Boy run of dates. Today is a day off from the Fall Out Boy tour, and we can squeeze the show in. I don’t think we’ve headlined Toronto before, and that’s kind of the point of this evening, and why we are in town, to do this one-off show as a headliner.
So, some of the days off we do a headliner. I think this will be one of the more exciting ones as far as we are concerned because it’s a place that we seldom play. At least, not on our own. The last time we were here we were with Panic! At The Disco a while ago.

Mike: Did tonight sell out? Do you know?
De’Mar: I dunno. I think it might be. It’s close. The venue holds a thousand, and I know were over 800 the last time we heard, and that was a while ago.

Mike: My co-worker’s daughter is looking forward to your London show. I’m calling in from London Ontario. She’s more stoked to see Plain White T’s than she is for Fall Out Boy.
De’Mar: Oh wow. That’s awesome.

Mike: Now, Plain White T’s is really on a trajectory right now. Do you find you are feeling pressured at all?
De’Mar: Not really. Frankly it’s really exciting. Everything is picking up for us, were playing bigger and bigger gigs, and it’s all really exciting. It’s exactly where we want to be as a band. It’s where we’ve always aspired to be, and if anything I think it’s going to keep pushing us to be even better.

Mike: How have things changed from your perspective De’Mar? If you were to look at your schedule say, two years ago, what’s different now from what it was back then?
De’Mar: Well, I’d say for sure that there was less things to do. Less press and interviews and that sort of thing, but that’s about the only difference. Now a normal day… well it depends. We’ve been on a bus now for about a year. And that’s been great. The whole stress of driving yourself is gone. Now an average day – you don’t really have to, much. In some ways it’s less than it used to be. More people to help out and all. But there are days where you do feel super rushed. Certain markets have more demands and there’s just more and more to do some days.

Mike: What do you find challenging about being on the road? Plain White T’s have been touring hard now for about a year. Is anybody in the band married?
De’Mar: Yeah, our guitarist Tim is actually married. So that’s a challenge for him on a personal level.

Mike: As far as audience expectations, do feel that as you continue to grow, that what your audience expects from you is changing at all?
De’Mar: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s changed much.

Mike: How about new material De’Mar? Are you writing new material already?
De’Mar: Oh yeah, yeah, we actually have like a little studio set up in the back of the bus and we’re kind of working on stuff, Tom’s been writing some songs, and we’ve been kind of taking the approach on this next record to do a little bit more collaborating. We’d like to, when this tour is done, is just go away somewhere as a band, where the only thing we have to do is just play music, y’know, and just figure out some material. But that’s a bit away yet. But there’s some good ideas being thrown around the back of the bus right now. There’s maybe about ten loose songs, and maybe two of them will make their way to the next record. You never know with this stuff at such an early stage.

Mike: Do you have a favourite drummer?
De’Mar: I really like Jason McGerr from Death Cab For Cutie, and this guy named Gunnar Olsen who played in this band called the Exit that I really loved.

Mike: How about bands? Who are guys jamming to right now?
De’Mar: We’re all pretty into the Kings of Leon. And we are all big Beatles fans. And, I’d say right now, there’s been a lot of Tom Petty going around.

Mike: What’s life been like on this tour with Fall Out Boy? Do you guys spill out on stage together? Have you been doing any jamming?
De’Mar: No. not really. Those tour dates are pretty busy. With the bands press and the stage set up and whatnot, their show is pretty intricate, and they have a lot more to do during the day than we do, so it’s kind of one day at a time on this round of dates. There’s never really any time to hang out and jam or anything. But we do get to hang out. We’ve been friends for a while now. And it’s just been nice to be out with them – on tour and everything. It’s been a really awesome time for both of us I’d say.

Mike: What’s the worst injury you’ve enjoyed since you joined the band?
De’Mar: Injuries? Heh, nothing big actually. You know, I get like blisters on my hands from playing the drums and whatnot. But I haven’t gotten even those in a while, which is kind of weird.

Mike: Nice. Well, I’m good De’Mar. Is there anything you need while you’re in Toronto? Directions to anything? A certain something? I can give you directions or something while I’m on the line…
De’Mar: No, I think we’re good. We’re doing press all day today, and then we are doing the gig and heading out tomorrow. Thanks though. 

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