Just Wonder-ful: De’Mar Hamilton (Plain White T’s)

hot Magazine, Issue 175, June 2011

Just Wonder-ful
Our little chat with De’Mar Hamilton from the Plain White T’s

By Sophia Goh

They won us over with charming little ditties like ‘Hey There Delilah’ and ‘1, 2, 3, 4’, so when we were offered the opportunity to have a chat with De’Mar Hamilton from the Plain White T’s, well, how could we turn that down?

Having been with the band since 2003, when he was still a teenager just barely out of high school, De’Mar, who plays drums and percussion in the band, has known little else in the last seven years. Not that he’s complaining or that he wishes it was any other way.

“I’ve been playing drums for as long as I can remember,” he tells us in this phone interview. “I kind of started playing in church when I was younger, in a Baptist church in Chicago. My parents were musicians – my mum sings, my dad plays the piano and he also sings. I don’t know, I’ve always grown up with music being part of my life. It was kind of something I’ve always loved to do.”

Who came up with the name Plain White T’s?
It was Tom [Higgenson]. Back when we started the band, we were looking for a band name. He was inspired by bands at the time like Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen. Those artists would play in plain white tees and, like James Dean, the plain white tee was an iconic piece of clothing. The name just kind of stuck.

Tell us about your upcoming album.
It’s called The Wonders of the Younger. We took a lot of time. We had the most songs written for it, about 50 songs. Everyone in the band contributed. We wanted to do something a little bit different, step out of the box, get outside of our comfort zone, and we had our theme, which was ‘wonders of the younger’. We just wanted to incorporate that as much as possible, from songs to our wardrobe to the sound, everything.

What were you guys trying to capture with that theme?
We were just trying to capture the sense of nostalgia and wonder and thinking back to when we were kids, when we were young and naïve. It kind of goes back to our childhood and remembering how that was. We wanted to look at that and remember those times, the feeling we got when we watched certain movies like The Goonies or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, you know, stuff like that.

How was recording this album different from the others?
We went with a no-rules kind of mentality. If we wanted to put a weird sound on it, we were going to do that; if we wanted to put some crazy thing there, we were going to try that; we tried everything. Usually with recording you’d do the drums first, I guess, [but] this is the first record where we did the drums last, which kind of allowed us to focus on everything else. The thing about playing the drums last is you never have to really settle, you can change things around and you can focus on getting everything else done. Once the drums come in, that’s it.

Can we expect the same style of songs from The Wonders of the Younger?
Well, there’re going to be a few tracks that’s a little bit different, songs that maybe you would not expect from us, but at the same time we’re still the Plain White T’s, it’s still our song-writing and we’re still the same band. It’s a little bit different; we kind of have a little bit more variety. I guess one of the themes in the studio was ‘art for art’s sake’, you know. Do it just for the sake of making art, not because we want every song to be a single. I think that makes it a little more interesting, a little more fun.

Do you guys worry that you won’t be able to top your previous albums?
I don’t think we’re worried; once you start to worry about that is when you start to mess things up. I mean, the best way to approach that is just keep doing what you do and keep writing songs and making records. I think the rest will come. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to top ‘Hey There Delilah’, which is okay because that was really good for us. That got us out there. Hopefully we come close to that. If we do, we do, and that’s great. That song was very, very brilliant but we don’t worry about that too much, we’re just trying to do what we do.

Can you tell us about the band’s dynamics?
[Laughs] I think at this point we’re a family. We’re kind of like brothers. We all get along very well for the most part. I think getting older has helped, and I would say that spending a little bit of time apart has also helped and, you know, we’re good. When we’ve been apart for a while, it’s very exciting when we get back together, to see everyone.

Is it really important for bands to be able to spend time apart from each other?
I think it is very important. And it’s not in the way that I hate this guy, I want to be apart from him, but you need to have space. After like a year or something with the same five people every day, you kind of need to separate yourself a little bit, just to get back to your normal self. I think that helps us. Being apart from each other, we were just writing on our own. I do, however, think that in order for a band to be successful, they need to be friends. We’re at a point where we are, which is great.

What do you think about the role of social media and Twitter as a musician?
I think at first it was kind of weird, like what’s the point of it, but honestly, times have changed and you don’t want to be left behind. You try to avoid it and say it’s stupid but that’s where we’re at now in our world and our culture so why not embrace it, you know. Kanye West has a Twitter and I was arguing about it last night with Tom. He was like, ‘I really wish he didn’t have a Twitter. I mean, he’s so annoying on it.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s so weird because that made me like Kanye more.’ It made me think, oh this guy is actually cool, he’s just a normal guy. It’s crazy how you meet someone and then an hour later find out everything about them. It’s a little creepy but it’s all good.

Going back to the part about being a family, who’s the big brother of the band then?
I’d say Tim [Lopez]. He’s the most rational and like, the most clearheaded. Which is kind of cool.

And where do you fit in?
I think I’m the younger brother. I’m also the youngest.

Do the others give in to you then?
No, not really. That’s okay, though.

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