One-on-One with Peter Demakos of Blimp Rock

Blimp Rock (Peter Demakos is second from the right)
Blimp Rock (Peter Demakos is second from the right)

by Michael Thomas

Peter Demakos enters Northwood, a Toronto coffee shop and bar, wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses and a scarf wrapped around half his face. He explains that he’s often recognized as the lead singer of Blimp Rock. I take it to be a self-deprecating joke, but I’m proven wrong, maybe, a short while later.

Demakos was born in London, Ontario and moved to several southern Ontario cities before settling in Toronto almost three years ago. He was not part of the typical “musical family,” though he was quite inspired just by listening to the radio.

“My dad would play EZ rock stations. I always felt this guilt in enjoying it so much but I always really enjoyed it,” Demakos says. “I remember this memory where my dad…We were at a gas station, he went to pay for the gas, and then as soon as he was gone I was singing [Bryan Adams’] ‘Cloud Number Nine’ so loud and I was so happy.”

He didn’t start really writing music until he arrived in Toronto, however.

“I’d always wanted to make a record, I had a bunch of songs working towards a record,” he says. “And then I realized that a lot of the songs were about blimps. And I’ve always been interested in blimps, airships, zeppelins and that form of travel. So I put the two together. It became a stronger force.”

He’s always had a passion for alternative transportation, he says, and he believes the biggest misconception about blimps is that they’re still fueled by hydrogen, the highly-flammable gas that caused the Hindenburg to blow up. However, blimps now run on helium, a much more stable gas.

He goes on to explain (with visual aid from a PowerPoint he brought along with him) that his friend Owen Nowlan owns a company called Blimp Rock Enterprises. Before he can continue, however, a woman approaches the table.

“Sorry to interrupt, but are you the lead singer of Blimp Rock?” When Demakos confirms he is, she continues. “Oh my gosh, I love you guys! I listen to you all the time!” She says it’s an honour to meet him, apologizes again for interrupting, and then moves to a different spot in Northwood.

Demakos continues with his explanation. Nowlan founded Blimp Rock Enterprises, he says, in order to fund a music festival to be held on a blimp over Lake Ontario. The band Blimp Rock, he explains, is a marketing tool to spread awareness of this upcoming festival.

The plan to fund this festival is apparently called 3.T.E.P.F.F. (Three-Tiered Ecomonic Plan For Finance) and consists of marketing (Blimp Rock), economics (making graphs) and investing. The latter involved buying vintage office supplies.

“The idea, and I’m paraphrasing for Owen, the CEO, is that vintage is really popular in fashion and vintage things like records, so office supplies is a totally untapped market,” Demakos says.

The festival will include fancy mix drinks (including the introduction of Lake Ontario Iced Tea, which uses real lake water), as well as several cover bands, including Courtly Love (Shakespearean interpretations of Hole songs) and, a band they’re in a bidding war for, Sheezer.

“We’ve received reports that Jian Ghomeshi is also trying to host his own blimp party in the sky, on the Q-Blimp,” Demakos explains. He wants to do this sort of thing and broadcast Q 24/7 from this blimp. Rumours are it’s going down in Downsview Park, he’s making the preparations. We’re in the bidding war with him over Sheezer. Whoever gets Sheezer, it’s probably gonna get green-lighted.”

Before he gets to finishing off the explanation, two more women recognize Demakos and one of them produces a Blimp Rock CD and asks him to sign it.

The band’s self-titled record took three weeks to record with James Bunton, and was released earlier this year. Demakos recruited Robyn Letson (Sweet Homewreckers), Claire Whitehead (Forest City Lovers) and Emma Tollefsen (Rouge), and Blimp Rock became a band.

The sharply-witty record echoes The Burning Hell, a comparison Demakos is happy to hear. “I think Mathias [Kom] is a very creative songwriter. Very inspiring.”

The album ranges from songs about what Lake Ontario lifeguards get up to when not on duty to an ode to Toronto’s highway, and Demakos explained the stories behind a couple of them. One particularly poignant song is “Monogamy Blues,” a song about a couple’s relationship boredom.

Surprisingly, Demakos says the song is partially based on his relationship with his partner Claire Whitehead, who’s also part of the band. “We’ve been together for three years now, and it’s kind of like a dramatization of what goes on in our relationship,” he says. “I think everything is based on something that either happened or could happen.”

The album ends with the Joe-Carter-referencing “Oh Baseball,” a song that also extends to the ability of organized sports to bring people together.

“I’m not the hugest baseball fan, to be honest,” he admits. “I’ve always been obsessed with the ’93 world series. I don’t know if it was like because my family was all excited. I remember it very clearly.”

Demakos figures that the band will be together for some time, considering the estimated date for the blimp music festival and the income the band has brought in so far. (He explained how so far the band has made about $140 so far of the $763,500 goal).

“The blimp rock party, with the current financial analysis, it’s scheduled, projected for around 2060, 2075 if we keep going the way we are,” Demakos says. “That’s a little while, we’ve got some time to make records.”

Blimp Rock is planning to record another record in March, which Demakos says will be called Sophomore Slump. He adds that it will probably not be as good as the first one.

To look back on that interview, it seems unlikely that three fans of Blimp Rock would all happen to be sitting in Northwood during the course of a 20-minute interview. It could be a setup, or it could be Blimp Rock Enterprises’ marketing tool working better than they could have imagined.

Help fund Blimp Rock Enterprises’ music festival by catching the band tonight at the Tranzac, as part of the venue’s big New Years Eve party.

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