On Friday, September 30, Demo Division released their debut EP, “Wish You Were Here.” The punchy, pop rock debut arrives just four months after the group released their first single, but don’t let the current, cohesive sound of these four tracks fool you — this record was actually seven years in the making.
The songs on “Wish You Were Here” were written in 2015 by lead vocalist and guitarist Carlos Jimenez and drummer Geovanny Zavala. Jimenez and Zavala have been playing music together since 2010 when they were in the eighth grade, but they struggled to find other musicians that would commit to consistently practicing with them. Without a full band to flesh out and finish their songs, the pair shelved their music before it ever had an opportunity to be heard.
That all began to change when Jimenez started playing guitar for Habitats, a Chicago emo rock band, during the summer of 2021. Jimenez credits joining Habitats for giving him the momentum he needed to finally record his songs that had been in the works since 2015.
“As soon as Carlos joined Habitats and saw their work ethic and how they practiced every week, he started taking himself more seriously,” said Zavala.
“I just needed an extra push,” added Jimenez. “Louie [bassist of Habitats and Demo Division] helped with that since he’s been through the process a lot of times. He pushed me, and Eric [lead guitarist of Demo Divison] became the cherry on top because I needed a guitarist who was better than me.”
With Jimenez on vocals, guitar and bass and Zavala on drums, the duo recorded three of the tracks on “Wish You Were Here” — “See Through,” “Free Smoke,” and “Fake It” — with Joe Scaletta at Word of Mouth Recordings. Then, they used the recordings to recruit the two other members of Demo Division.
“When I first heard Carlos’s songs, I caught whiffs of Basement and Superheaven which are bands I love, but his songs had their own unique feel to them, too. Demo Division is chill, but still punchy and poppy; it’s just a fun project to be in,” said lead guitarist Eric Centeno.
Convincing bassist Louie Flores to get on board was a bit more of a challenge than recruiting Centeno. In addition to playing bass in Habitats and hardcore band Si Dios Quiere, Flores had recently started a tattooing apprenticeship at Art Spirit Tattoo. He was hesitant to commit to a third project — and unsure if he’d even have the time to — but he offered Jimenez a deal: if Jimenez was willing to make the band his priority and act as its primary leader, Flores would join him on stage and in the studio as the bassist of Demo Division.
After more than 10 years searching for dedicated musicians to play with, the addition of Centeno and Flores meant Jimenez and Zavala were finally ready to hit the stage as Demo Division. The band played their first show on June 10 at Subterranean, just two weeks after they released their first single, “Free Smoke.” Their set went smoothly until the very end when they closed with the new single and the crowd erupted.
“We played our set and everything was cool, then ‘Free Smoke’ was the last song and everyone sang along,” said Flores. “It was surreal. It was our first show and people knew the song and sang it with us.”
“I didn’t even write the words and I got goosebumps,” added Centeno.
Hearing fans sing back the songs you’ve been waiting to perform for years might feel triumphant or cathartic, but it might also feel emotionally vulnerable. Zavala says that when he and Jimenez started recording songs for the EP, he felt a bit uncomfortable about using old material.
“I felt vulnerable and nervous. I didn’t know if people would like the songs, and I almost didn’t even want to record them; I just wanted to start writing new songs. But hearing them now, I’ve fallen in love with them more and more,” said Zavala.
The band is already headed in a new, slightly heavier direction as the four members shift to writing new material together, but the tracks on “Wish You Were Here” stand as an energetic time capsule that blends rock, pop, and punk. In addition to the three songs recorded by Jimenez and Zavala, the EP includes a fourth song, “My Head Fell Off,” that was recorded by the entire band.
Demo Division will be playing an EP release set and selling tapes and merch (designed by their own Louie Flores of Mind in Chains) at Wilson Skatepark on Saturday, October 15. Get all the details for the show as they’re announced by following the band on Instagram. Until then, listen to “Wish You Were Here” below, or on Spotify.
Header image by Zeltzin Vazquez