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Downstait have been keeping a relatively low profile in the Fort lately. Except for the occasional live show, you’d hardly know members of this local band, heard every week singing theme songs for WWE wrestlers on the USA Network, are still living in the area. According to guitarist Justin Call, though, members of the band are simply getting ready to take the next big step in its careers.
“We’ve actually been staying really busy since the last album,” Call said in a recent interview. “We’ve been on a couple of national tours” and the the band’s played a few of one-off shows like Milwaukee’s Summerfest.
“Lately, though,” Call continued, “we’ve just been writing a lot, getting songs ready for our new album. We just got the new album fully funded, and it’s the most money we’ve ever gotten to work with, so we want to make sure we write the best songs we can write before we get in the studio to record.”
The process is not as easy as you might think, as one of the band’s main writers, bassist Sean Arata, is currently living about three hours away.
“Sean’s in school right now, so we don’t get much time together,” Call said, “but we are still able to write music on a regular basis. We both try to write something every day. We then demo the material we like and send them back and forth” over the Internet, trading ideas and critiques along the way. It’s a long, calculated process but one that is absolutely necessary for a band seemingly on the brink of breaking big.
Given that they are still early in the writing process, Call said it’s difficult to describe the direction the new songs are headed.
“It’s really hard to peg it,” Call said, referring to the new writing. “I’d like to think we’ve learned a lot of things since the last album, and they are being applied. We are definitely trying to use that knowledge to write the best songs we can. We are our own harshest critics, but we just try to write songs that we as a band enjoy listening to. We ask ourselves ‘If I weren’t in this band, would I listen to this song?’”
If the answer is yes, the song is kept. If not, they move on. Ideas presumably get thrown out every day if they don’t fit the scope of what Downstait are trying to accomplish. That’s what is called “being selective.”
Luckily, Downstait are able to take the time they need for that crucial next album. “We’re not on a time schedule right now,” Call said. “Ideally we would like to have the new album out next summer. We’re still writing and we still have to take care of some legal stuff. After that’s done, we’ll take a month or two in L.A. to record the songs.”
For readers not up on their Downstait history, the band met in high school and quickly realized they shared a common interest in music. However, it was a Sevendust show the members attended that really sealed the bond.
“I’d like to think that show set a lot of things in motion [for the band],” Call said. “We enjoyed it so much we knew that was what we wanted to do. We all decided we wanted to write music we all enjoy and perform it in a way that complements it.” People want to see a show when they spend their money to see a band, Call added, and the members of Downstait decided they would work hard to give their fans the best show they could each and every time they hit the stage.
Downstait quickly gained a reputation as a highly energetic live band, with great songs to boot. They subsequently put out a seven-song EP, sold most of what they printed, then went back to record more songs to complete a full LP. Released as Separation Anxiety, those songs were later remastered and released nationally in 2010 as a self-titled album on producer and Ra frontman Sahaj Ticotin’s Sahaja Music Records.
“Stiller at the Bear was critical in putting us in touch with Sahaj,” Call said. “We went to Stiller for some help. He called Sahaj, and two days later Sahaj called us saying he had listened to our songs on MySpace and wanted to work with us. He has taken us through the whole process of artist development many labels ignore these days.” That hands-on approach allowed the band ro fine tune their image, music and writing processes.
The band gained the attention of MTV executives shortly thereafter, contacting the band to write a song for their series Bully Beatdown. That song, Call thinks, led to WWE calling them out of the blue and contracting them to write a theme song for WWE. The wrestling organization was so impressed with that first song that Downstait have subsequently recorded two more theme songs for them, gaining a new and expanded fan base in the process.
That leads us back to the present. Downstait have a few shows planned for the near future, including an after Thanksgiving show at 4D’s Bar & Grill on November 26 and a just-before-Christmas show at Piere’s December 23. Call wants to assure fans you will hear all of your favorite songs, but new songs are still being kept under wraps.
“We can’t wait to get this new album done and give the fans 10-15 new songs to listen to,” Call said. “We love our fans and appreciate their patience” while the new album is being written and recorded. Until then, catch the Downstait boys while you can, as it looks like 2012 is going to be a busy year for them.