Sunday, February 28, 2021

A Very Candid Conversation with Demitri Lerios



Demitri Lerios had music ingrained in him since he was born. His father Cory Lerios was a member of soft rock band Pablo Cruise. When Demitri was nine, he started playing drums. His brother Michael played guitar, and eventually they formed a band together. That band would not last, so they formed a new band called Fox Wilde. The name “Fox Wilde” came from an alter-ego concept that Demitri had come up with. Demitri had thought about this calm, ultra-confident person named Fox Wilde. In addition to drums, Demitri sings and plays guitar, bass, and piano They have a wide music range that goes from dance pop to arena rock. 

Demitri and Michael wrote and produced all of their music for Fox Wilde, starting in 2017. Their music caught immediate attention. People magazine did a feature on them in 2017. Throughout 2018 to 2020, before the COVID lockdown, Fox Wilde did a lot of concert shows. In addition, they starting writing background music for TV, including a documentary by Demi Lovato called Simply Complicated.

During the COVID pandemic, the Lerios brothers focused on writing songs for a new album. In 2021, Fox Wilde focused on material for their upcoming debut EP Killer. In addition, they plan to record another EP Desire.  Both EPs are material that will come together for a full-length album called A Psycho Killer with Desire, which will be released at the end of 2021. Demitri has suffered from alopecia since he was sixteen years old, and he has come to terms with it recently. His struggle and resolve with alopecia will be reflected in the upcoming music.

In this candid conversation, we cover the beginning of Demitri’s musical career, his past and current work with Fox Wilde, writing music for the Demi Lovato documentary, and his struggle and resolve with alopecia. I want to thank Nichole Peters-Good  of Jensen Communications for setting this interview up, but mainly I want to thank Demitri.

Jeff Cramer: So what got you interested in music?

Demitri Lerios: I have always been around music. My family just always had music around, so I think naturally it's something you just gravitate to. When I was nine years old, I woke up one morning and told my dad I wanted to play the drums. He kind of looked at me and was like, “You don't know how to play the drums.”

So being a good dad he took me to a store, just to kind of get my drumming out. He was  just kind of like, “Oh, we'll go look at drums.” I guess I just sat down and I started playing. It was so natural. And my dad was like, “Okay, I guess we'll actually get you a drum set.”

So that started my musical journey. My older brother, Michael, who is also in Fox Wilde, played guitar. I think why I wanted to play drums was because he played guitar and I kind of wanted to hang out with him all the time. And he didn't want to hang out with his little brother, so I thought, “What does a guitar player need?” They need a drummer. That started our musical journey together and where we're at now. 

JC: Talk about the musical journey.

DL:  It stemmed from us just jamming. We started to love the same music and have the same aspirations. We just continued to grow together musically just by working together as a bunch. 

We originally started another band, which was a really great education for us. It started this fire in us to write and produce, which I had never done. I was just the drummer. And we were fortunate enough to be in the room with some really incredible writers and producers and just soaking up every single bit of information that we could about this business and everything. 

JC: Who were the incredible writers and producers you spoke with?

DL:  Right. Well, I was fifteen years old when I met Desmond Child [songwriter of major hits for Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, KISS, and Alice Cooper] for one. I was just kind of soaking things up. When you sit in the room with Desmond, you start to see the genius at work by how meticulous he is about a song title. Desmond said, “Do you have any titles?” We must have thrown out fifty titles and he said, “No, it needs to be better,” to every single one of them.

And he sat there until we actually got it. But the interesting thing about it is once we got the title, the song suddenly starts to write itself. It suddenly starts to just form because you can write. The title of the song is everything. 

Another mentor is Andreas Carlson, who also wrote NSYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye,” Backstreets Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” and tons of just awesome songs. We went to Sweden with Andreas and he took us to meet a lot of awesome songwriters. Everybody has a little bit of a different way of approaching a song, but there is this commonality between all these people where it's like, “Oh, the song title.” The song title must be really important if everybody keeps talking about it.

JC:  What happened with the original band and how did it become Fox Wilde?

DL: The initial band kind of fell apart, but then Fox Wilde was born. That was really the outlet I think we were looking for to put all of our creativity and put everything into it.

The last band was just a little bit more manufactured. It wasn't really us. We weren't really spearheading the operation. We were just a part of it. So Fox Wilde really became the outlet to discover what we could do creatively, and there were kind of no limits to it. 

JC:  How did the name Fox Wilde come about?

DL:  I was driving one day and I wanted to create a character that was the antithesis to what I was at the time. And I was like, “Who is this confident, daring character? What's his name?” I liked the name Fox for some reason, and I thought “Fox Wilde.” I don't know where Wilde came from with the e, but it just made sense.

JC:  Let's talk about the beginning of Fox Wilde with your first single “Soap.” 

“Soap” single by Fox Wilde

DL:  "Soap" was the perfect kind of beginning to what Fox Wilde could do. I think that really was a test if Michael and I can write songs.

So we sat down and it happened. It was really a test on how we could kind of just create a song from this funny title, “Soap.” How can we make that interesting? How do we be ironic with it?

And it just came together really quickly, actually. I put a track together. Michael came in and we started singing melodies. From there, we were bouncing off each other and there was the lyrics, “I want you close. I'm on you just like soap.” (To watch the video for “Soap,” please click here.)

 JC:  You really took the lesson of song titles from those great songwriters to heart. First there is “Soap.” Then the next interesting song title is “The Lonely Inn.” I’m thinking, “How exactly can an inn be lonely?”

“The Lonely Inn” single by Fox Wilde

DL:  That's true. “The Lonely Inn” was actually the second song we wrote. I was flipping through these old Esquire magazines from the 1930s, and I saw this thing called “the Lonely Inn.” And I was like, “What is that? That's so cool.” It was this place where lonely people go. They go to this place to find somebody to love. That was the irony in that. One of the greatest lessons we've learned about writing is irony. Irony is key to having a song. (To hear “The Lonely Inn,” click here.) 

JC:  There’s an interesting track you did in 2017 called “Life.” I mean that song is an anomaly because all of your other songs sound like they could be in a dance club. Yet "Life" wouldn’t seem appropriate for a dance club. Can you talk about that one?

“Life” single by Fox Wilde

 DL:  Fox Wilde was maybe entering into a more mature way of writing. "Life" was actually the first song that actually had a truth and meaning behind it. And it wasn't that “Soap” or “The Lonely Inn” didn't have truth or meaning—it’s just that those were fun songs.

I had basically the front line of like "Woke up this morning, felt so incomplete." And then the chorus of "What is life? What is life? It's not time to say goodbye.” I showed Michael that lyric and it just connected to Michael because his best friend and his best friend’s brother passed away in a car accident.

JC:  Oh, that's terrible.

DL:  I think it touched Michael in a different way that I didn't really realize at the time that I wrote it because even though  the song’s sad, there is a hopeful sort of “It's not goodbye, it's I'll see you in a little while.” That’s how we end the whole song. So that's kind of the story of that song.

I think it was something that we needed to release. It was just like we needed it out there. We've heard from people who listen to it and go, “Thank you for this. This song means a lot. It's helped me.” (To hear “Life,” click here.)

JC:  I’m curious, you were very prolific with a bunch of songs in 2017. But from 2018 to 2020, it’s only one or two songs a year. Why only a handful of songs a year going forward?

DL:  Great question. In 2017 there was a lot of experimenting and just trying to figure out what Fox Wilde was.

And in 2018 to just up until 2020, we were playing a lot of shows. So it was really heavily geared toward the live show. That's kind of where "Strangers on the Run" came from. When  we play that song live, there is so much energy behind it, and it just brought the show around. 

JC: Talk about “Strangers on the Run.”


“Strangers on the Run” by Fox Wilde 

DL: I had that piano riff. I had woke up one morning and just played that main riff, and had lyrics as, “She's dancing, dancing on her own tonight. And he's driving on the highway ride.”

And I told Michael, “I don't know what this is. Let's try to form it together. I don't even have a title, but I like the idea that this is about two different people who don't know each other, and they’re living life. If we were to capture this in a movie, it's at the same time at the same point but just they're in different parts of the city or something.”

Michael came up with, "How about the title ‘Strangers on the Run’?” And it just was like, “Oh my, that's perfect.” That's exactly what this is. So it was kind of this seventies-eighties rock kind of anthem in a way. And so yeah, that's the story on that and where that came from. The piano part was the key element to that.

And it's still one of my favorite bridges. It's such an eclectic bridge. It's got a little bit of Elton John in it. (To hear “Strangers on the Run,” click here).

JC:  You’ve mentioned playing piano and drums. How many instruments have you played or composed with in Fox Wilde?

DL:  Any type of instrument I can get my hands on, that's the instrument I play. I play drums, piano, guitar, and bass. All the key instruments to really move around and compose.

And the same with Michael. Michael plays the guitar. The guitar is his main instrument, but he can play piano, drums, bass . . . you know. So it definitely helps in the composition process because whatever idea is kind of sitting there it's up to you to just try to execute. When you’re sitting there day after day trying to write and produce, it kind of natural to start picking up these other instruments. 

JC:  I understand you have written music for Demi Lovato.

DL: We actually entered into composition for film and television. So that was where we started writing things for Demi Lovato. A lot of her documentaries she had done. We've done ESPN documentaries. So we kind of entered into a new world, which was actually pulling the lyrics back and no titles and it was all about the music. We were going for John Williams and Hans Zimmer scores. (Both John Williams and Hans Zimmer are major movie composers.

There is something so magical about the marriage between music and picture, and without music, the picture wouldn't have any sort of life to it. What would that opening scene to Forrest Gump be? It would just be a feather just floating without anything. 

JC:  Yeah. Cool. So I understand that you're coming out with a new EP Killer. I’ve heard the two singles that will be on that EP: “Dangerous Thing” and “Bad For You."

Both tracks fit this pop-dance genre, but it seems like there is more use of synths and less of the basic musical instruments such as guitar, bass, piano, and drums.

DL:  Yeah. So I think the core element in all the previous songs were the guitars. With this new sound, the guitar is still heavily prevalent, but I think there is  more with synths now because I think in past when we wrote a song, it was like, “Can we play this live?” In some ways it helped us, but it also may have hindered us in our creative exploration in some sense.

And then COVID happened and it was like, “Live is no more.” It kind of freed up the creativity process. But I think we were still looking for what was the next iteration of Fox Wilde. What do we sing? And it wasn't until COVID that we had the feeling that we had when we first started Fox Wilde. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, there is now purpose. There is now a point to this again.” There is meaning now, and I think those past years it was trying to discover that meaning and figure it out.

You don't hear a guitar very much anymore, but this sound definitely has more creative explorations with it.

JC:  I understand Killer is part of a future concept album you are doing. Can you explain what the concept album is about?

DL:  I was sixteen years old and in high school when I was diagnosed with a disease called alopecia. Not life threatening or anything, but all my hair fell out when I was sixteen. I was incredibly shocked and didn't know what was happening, especially at that time. It was overwhelming to say the least.

I was ashamed of having no hair. I was ashamed of being bald. I couldn't stand it. And this was really where I kind of hid from the world. I just stayed in my room all the time, and that was where I really found music. It wasn't until that point where I really fell in love with music because it became the only thing I had.

Flash forward three years later and that was where Fox Wilde was created. It's suddenly three years later I was like, “I need this confident persona, this character that I can get into.” It wasn't until COVID where it became this full-circle thing for me. Everybody is saying, “Oh man, I'm stuck inside. I'm in quarantine, like I'm in my room all the time.” I was like, “I've been doing this almost since I was sixteen. I've been in my room forever.”

The first time I was hiding. The first time I wasn't trying to conquer my fears of being the bald person or being the kid who lost all his hair. It was like I was hiding from that. Now this time around I was facing it. And I came to this realization that this whole thing—this whole ruse that I was on—I didn't need to be on it. So we started writing the concept album of this Fox Wilde character, who actually ends up killing off his old self, and that's what I was doing. I was killing off my old self, the person who was taking over my true self and taking over my life.

It's not this person who is wearing a wig and hiding from the world. It's actually me. It's the real me. The person who I thought I needed to escape from became the person that was always in me. And that's why the meaning of Fox Wilde completely shifted.

Once we had this new meaning, it was kind of like all bets are off. We could write about anything. The meaning of the songs had more truth now.


“Bad For You” by Fox Wilde


"Bad For You" sounds like a love song, but it's actually just me talking to myself in a lot of ways. The lyrics, “I'm so bad for you,” or, “I was this midnight cowboy kind of on the run with a gun.” I'm trying to get away from myself constantly. (To hear “Bad For You,” click here.)

So that's really where the concept for our concept album became so clear. It was like telling the story of me kind of killing off these demons to discover my true self, and discover the character who lives inside each and every person. That it's just a matter of facing those fears.

JC:  I notice on the cover for the singles “Dangerous Thing” and “Bad For You”  you go without the hair now. It's showing you as you are.

Dangerous Thing” by Fox Wilde

DL:  Yeah. It was a big step. I hid for seven years and I didn't tell anybody. I was really a recluse. I was really ashamed. I think tapping into this Fox Wilde character allowed me to accept who I was. When I announced that I had alopecia, people who were following Fox Wilde started reaching out, saying, “Oh my gosh, I struggle with the same,” or, “ I have the same issue,” or, “I know somebody who has this.” (To hear “Dangerous Thing,” click here.)

And the Fox Wilde name now has been given a new meaning. It has even more meaning than I think when it first started. That's what I want Fox Wilde to be about. It's about owning your flaws and finding the art in your pain. That's what I discovered in quarantine. So finally being on the cover—just being me and being bald—became the statement of the new era of Fox Wilde. 

JC:  So far there are two songs off the album. When can we see more stuff coming with this album? What's the plan with it?

DL:  We have two EPs coming out. One will be titled Killer and the next one will be titled Desire, and then the whole album will be titled A Psycho Killer with Desire. I think about every month and a half, we'll have new music.

We have a lot of music, but there will be a story, a thread throughout all of it. The song we didn’t mention, “Looks to Kill" is part of this batch.

“Looks to Kill” by Fox Wilde

"Looks to Kill" was the starter of the whole world, and that song was really actually me killing myself off. We did a video, and you see me running from something. It actually seems as if a girl is killing me off, but then it’s revealed that the new character is me. (To see the video for “Looks to Kill,” click here.)

A lot of the visual aspect that you'll see is me facing me. A lot of this is staring at myself, looking at myself, and facing my old self. I think a lot of people battle with that. I think a lot of the things we battle with in our lives are our internal demons and internal kind of issues. I know that's what I was going through. So that’s what this whole world and album is about.

JC:  Is there anything you want to say about this whole musical progression of Fox Wilde from 2017 to now? It took a few music directions along the way. What are your own feelings about the journey you took?

DL:  I think this now is where Fox Wilde has always meant to be and supposed to be. Fox Wilde always had the foundation there. The meaning of Fox Wilde was to be bold, to be daring, and to be confident. But it was this kind of switch where the meaning now has much more meaning. It wasn’t that I needed to conform to it the way other people should see me, or I needed to be bold in order to do all of these things. It was like, no, no, no, Fox Wilde is bold and daring because it's owning yourself. Owning those demons. And for that progression, it took iterations.

Getting to this place became everything I think we wanted to do musically. I think it’s everything we've wanted to do in a storytelling fashion. And so this progression took a while for sure. It was just discovering what we could do musically. I think musically, we came more in tune with ourselves and lyrically and melodically. It was putting in the hours to get to where we're at.

It's like trying a lot of things and COVID made us reflect and slow down since we can't play live, so I guess we're really going to actually have to focus on this next phase, which is an album, which is music, more music. That next step of creativity and really focusing in 2020 was a culmination. It was just like the perfect concoction of all these things happening in life, and A Psycho Killer with Desire is our answer to all of it.



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