Demonic Sweaters is the musical project of Justin Wierbonski. What started out as a solo, one-off music experiment made from old cassette tapes and 8 bit computer systems, turned into a full blown experimental music career with over 20,000 subscribers on YouTube, more than a dozen albums, and a live duo consisting of Justin Wierbonski and Jon Michelson.
Even though it is quite eclectic, Demonic Sweaters’ music could be described as a mashup of Cyberpunk, 80s Horror Themes, Metal, Chiptunes, Indie, Experimental, and even Grunge music. Or, as Sound Engineer and Musician Jay Demko says, “90s Indie meets Japanese Prog Metal-ish Electro Synth Rock”.
The band started with Justin rummaging through a box of his old 4-track cassette tapes after moving to NYC. Many of them were not labeled of various recordings he had made over the years. He decided to take bits and pieces of them and make something unique out of them using a vintage PowerMac G4 computer while mixing in only in 8bit. After the project was finished, he haphazardly wrote the name ‘Demonic Sweaters’ on the finished CD-R.
The band Justin was playing with at the time had broken up, but they already had a show booked at a warehouse party in Brooklyn. The booker had heard about the Demonic Sweaters CD, thinking it was an actual band, and asked Justin if ‘they’ could play in place of the recently defunct band. Justin reluctantly agreed, not even really knowing what he would do live, and that day Demonic Sweaters was born.
“That first show was crazy, I hooked up all this MIDI hardware, and floppy disc sequencers, it was completely impractical and complicated. At home when practicing, it worked pretty well, but one thing I didn’t prepare for was the total lack of light at the warehouse, so I couldn’t really see what I was doing, haha. One thing though, people seemed to really like the name, so after that I started naming everything I did ‘Demonic Sweaters’, including my YouTube Channel. Demonic Sweaters became my musical ‘brand’. A brand that stood for something technical, kinda weird, but also a lot of fun!” – Justin Wierbonski
After improving his setup to something more functional, Justin played a lot of shows alone around NYC from 2014 to 2019, such as Brooklyn Low-Level Festival, several Pulsewave events, Make Music NYC, and a residency at Pianos. After the pandemic, he decided it would be more exciting for people to see Demonic Sweaters play if there was more than one person on stage. Jon Michelson came onboard for live shows and the presentation really started to take form.
Live, Justin handles playing the drums and sequencing backing tracks in Ableton Live, while Jon handles playing the guitar and synths. The use of technology allows the duo to sound incredibly full for only two musicians. The duo has options as to how they can perform. “If we’re in a rock venue that is accustom to loud music, we can use our full setup with acoustic drums and play at rock band volumes. However, if the venue cannot accommodate such volumes, we also have a fully electronic setup including electronic drums, that give us 100% control over volume which could be played loud, or as quiet as a headphone concert!”