By Margaret Farrell
Identifying Mark Lentz’s music can sometimes be like trying to fit a square peg into a circular hole. It’s been described as clutter-pop, which Lentz agrees with, adding that he uses any instrument he “can get his hands on.". Upon a quick scroll through the SoundCloud of Lentz’s musical alias Henry Demos, it’s apparent that the Arkansas/Virginia native is fluent in genres as diverse as chillwave, pop punk, or folk.
His tendency to be a genre vagabond is fitting, seeing as Lentz is somewhat of a real-life adventurer himself, moving from America to Seoul five years ago to explore a new scene. Despite the thirteen-hour time difference, Lentz took the time to chat with Rare Candy about his personal history and musical approach.
Lentz’s early melodic cues come from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Django Reinhardt, the Beatles, and Miles Davis, who he was introduced to when his grandfather, a professional bass player, would take Lentz on trips to music shops and show him their records. “It might seem like standard stuff now, but at eleven this was mind-blowing shit,” Lentz tells me. “Shortly after, I was given a broken guitar with no strings and would sit and pretend to play it for hours. My parents thought it was annoying so they bought me a [real] guitar for my twelfth birthday.”
Now, eighteen years later, Lentz is performing as Henry Demos — a name that came about after Lentz sent an album he had been laboriously working on to a label. Instead of welcoming the LP with open arms, the label deemed it a collection of enjoyable demos and asked for Lentz to send the finished project when it was done. “I felt so hurt, like, those weren't fucking demos. So I took that name.” (Lentz also plays in a separate project called Nice Legs with close friend Lauren E. Walker, who herself performs as Lewtrakimou.)
Lentz moved to Seoul at age twenty-five after becoming enthralled with an album by Korean psychedelic-pop artist Itta. “It was so strange yet comforting. I convinced myself that I had to move to Korea then and there. Five years later, I'm still here,” Lentz explains. “The music scene continues to wow me. I mean, there are tons of bands playing every night of the week so it can sometimes seem over-saturated. But just when I think I know everything out here, some young kids come out of nowhere and destroy me. The music scene is incredible here.”
For Lentz, touring in Nice Legs with Walker is “the best thing on the planet. We are best friends on and off stage. We also help each other get over hangovers.” That being said, Lentz continues, “I love playing solo. It’s like petting a purring cat and killing an inner demon at the same time” — he then qualifies, as if self-consciously, “Not even sure if that makes any sense though.”
Lentz feels compelled to share the transcendence of this live experience beyond the borders of Korea. “I don't know why,” he tells me, “but I want to play remote youth centers in places like Greenland, the former Soviet Bloc or isolated towns and islands. I want to play concerts for kids who can't see concerts. Art and music are cultural weapons that we need.”
“I guess when I say music is a cultural weapon, I don't really mean it can help galvanize the troops and storm city hall. I just mean it has the power to change you deep inside. For me, Vashti Bunyan's Diamond Day is a musical razor. Every listen, I am torn up a little more. It is so haunting and humble sounding. A masterpiece. I want others to feel that too.”
Lentz clarifies that this emotional enlightenment is without pretension, and can happen with any performer or genre, “I want fans to know that somewhere out there is their very own Vashti Bunyan. Maybe it's Slayer, the Butthole Surfers or Justin Timberlake. It doesn't matter but it is out there. If I play to a thousand people and one of them is moved enough to find that beauty then I'll feel like a huge success.”
Despite his love of playing live performances, he admits that he spends most of his time writing and recording, turning out junk and treasure in equal parts: “I have made so many terrible albums. I make money doing odd jobs to keep it going too. I will definitely be making music and home recordings for the rest of my life.” Diving into his songwriting process, he admits his insecurities about songwriting, that he’s “really scared to write lyrics.” They “make or break songs,” he says, and “I'm a nervous wreck when it comes to singing. I always feel like it is either complete shit or perfect but I can't predict it until it is recorded.”
No matter what anxieties Lentz feels with his Henry Demos project, he is constantly creating and playing with ideas. He’s set for two releases on Cassette Store Day (October 17), one a self-described six-song sludge-doom-pop album Nihon Falcon Overdrive; the other, named Friends Inc, “about eight people I don't know who helped my friend Daniel Jun Kim pay his medical bills.” No matter what his prospective record label might have thought, Henry Demos is far from an unfinished trial run.
Listen to more from Henry Demos at his Soundcloud.