DOWN FROM UP
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DOWN FROM UP

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"The De-Evolution of Down From Up"

Their current chemistry is the end result of more than a few lineup changes

By Leslie Wylie

Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Downside up: Down From Up celebrates the release of its new CD,From Ashes to Empire, with a show at the Valarium.

Downside up: Down From Up celebrates the release of its new CD, From Ashes to Empire, with a show at the Valarium.
Down From Up

Crowded around a table in an Old City pizzeria, the members of Down From Up look the part of a cooler-than-thou rock band: sunglasses, chains, enough black to dress a funeral procession. The aesthetic is a reasonable reflection of the band’s sound—dark, brooding lyrics draped over a cacophony of double-kick drums and death-by-shredding guitars.

Then, they open their mouths. “Eh-low?” says guitarist Andy Wood in broken English, doing his best Borat impression into the digital recorder. His bandmates, who look as though they haven’t had a good night’s sleep since the late ’90s, dissolve into laughter.

“The only time we’re serious is when we’re playing the music itself,” Wood says. “You can’t joke around when you’re playing 32nd notes. Sixteenth notes, maybe. Thirty-second notes, not so much.”

In addition to Wood, there’s drummer Andy Campbell, frontman Matt Brewster, and bassist Matt Reynolds. “The name was a big part of the audition to get into the band,” Brewster explains to more laughter.

Joking about underage groupies (“We’re really popular with the K-8 demographic,” says Wood) and mock-insulting one another at every opportunity (“Boy, to be in this band you have to have tough skin,” Brewster says), they come off as four guys who are in it for a good time. It’s just that they’re talented enough to make a decent living while they’re at it.

Their current chemistry is the end result of more than a few lineup changes—up-and-coming local singer/songwriter Erick Baker, an original member, fronted the band until last year—and a comfort level that allows them to shape-shift as the band grows musically.

“When you limit yourself to one fixed idea of what you are, you start repeating yourself, saying the same thing over and over again,” Wood says.

By any account, the band is a far different beast today than it was when it started. A handful of years back, the band was a fixture on the local college rock circuit, playing melody-driven pop-rock numbers. Since then, they’ve grown some chest hair, ditching emotive balladry for deeper, darker fare.

“I think what happened is, early on, we were just playing music—it wasn’t real clear where we were going with it,” Brewster says. “We had maybe one or two harder songs, and those were the songs that fans really responded to.”

As a result, the band’s songwriting began to mutate, starting with the 2007 album A Terrible Beauty. Harder songs gradually replaced the slower ones. Down From Up’s new album, From Ashes to Empire, is a zenith of sorts, combining the technical dexterity of a complicated math equation with raw, unfiltered emotion.

Thinly concealing his amusement, Brewster takes issue with such an assessment. “We try to play with absolutely no feeling or soul or emotion—just as many notes as we can cram into a measure,” he says. “There’s plenty of people doing the ‘Let’s play with feeling’ thing. Plenty of people have got that, so we’re trying to take our music in a different direction.”

Making an argument against the band’s musical ability, on the other hand, is significantly more challenging. Wood was Guitar Center Guitarmageddon National Champion, and Campbell was a regional finalist in Guitar Center’s Drum-Off. Naturally, they downplay such achievements.

“With the last top-20 dudes, there is no ‘better,’” Woods says. “It could’ve gone 20 different ways.

“I was just the best looking,” he adds with a smirk.

To further sweeten the pot, From Ashes to Empire was produced by Travis Wyrick and mastered by Tom Baker of Precision Sound in Los Angeles. In addition, two tracks were co-written by Keith Wallen of local band Copper and Brian Vohinh of 10 Years.

As the interview goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to decipher between fact and fiction, original quotes from one-liners culled from late-night infomercials and Spinal Tap. There’s a lengthy discussion about whether quoting from YouTube clips would be considered plagiarism, and if plagiarism is even the right word.

“All of our deep, heavy lyrics—nobody’s going to take us seriously anymore after this,” Wood says with a sigh. “Three-hundred thousand notes and lies.” - Metro Pulse


"Andy Wood: TC Electronic's G-System completes the picture for world-class guitarist"

It's fair to say that anyone who wins the biggest electric guitar competition in the United States is something of a prodigious talent, especially scooping this celebrated award in one's early 20s. But then for Andy Wood, playing stringed instruments has long been a way of life...

Mastering the mandolin at a very young age, the 16 year-old Wood walked away from the world championship mandolin contest in Winfield, Kansas with second prize. It wasn't

long before he transferred his talents to electric guitar, and in just four years went on to beat over 3,400 competitors to take top prize at 'Guitarmageddon', the biggest electric guitar competition in the USA, if not the world. A notable success for anyone, let alone at 22 years old. Yet despite this monumental success, Wood still considers the mandolin his first instrument.

Shortly after Wood became a founding member of the band Down From Up, who have just released From Ashes To Empire, their first long player. But it's not only as a founder member of the band that Wood gets the chance to showcase his considerable skills - he's constantly in demand on the live circuit, already touring with various acts, including country artist Billy Dean and metal artists Disciple. "I'm currently putting the final touches to my first instrumental record. It has several really cool guests on it, including Jeff Sipe (Aquarium Rescue Unit), Stu Hamm (Joe Satriani, Steve Vai), Adam Nitti (Steven Curtis Chapman), and Lester Estelle Jr. (Pillar)"

"As far as the main tools I use to get my sound, they include a stack of great gear - Suhr Guitars and Amps, Anderson Guitars, Diezel Amps, tons of different stomp boxes and, of course, TC Electronic's G-System."

"I remember the first time I saw G-System - the first guys I saw using it were mainly sidemen for other artists, and they were getting great results. One day I saw a G-System in Corner Music, Nashville, so I tried it and immediately fell in love. And shortly after that I placed my order."

"So I'm using G-System both live and in the studio. Live, with my Down From Up rig, it's incorporated as the control center, changing channels on my Diezel Herbert via MIDI. It's also controlling three pedals stored in a rack drawer as well as supplying all my time-based effects. I also use the Wah and volume controls with two expression pedals, so as you can see it's really the hub of my guitar rig's effects set-up. And it's just great to step on one button and have all the different pieces of my rig change instantly - and with no lag! But it's not all about live playing. In the studio it's a bit different - I run guitar straight into the amp and then add all the effects at the post stage."

"Initially I got G-System because of the simplicity - and that it did everything I wanted in half the rack space of traditional effects/switcher combinations. But let's not forget, of course, that the effects in it are the finest effects I have come to expect from TC Electronic. G-System has really changed the way I perform. It's kept me from doing the whole 'tap dance' thing live. Now I'm free to run around the stage and not worry about stomping five things at the same time!"

"In terms of features, G-System is pretty flexible. You have all of the different routing possibilities. And it can change to fit any rig or situation I might need, including all of the loops, inputs and outputs… And that's before you consider all of the great effects in there. For me I think the delays are amazing - so rich and warm. Basically TC's G-System has been really well thought out from the guitarist's perspective. You guys rock!" - TC Electronics Profile


Discography

A Terrible Beauty (2007)
From Ashes To Empire (2008)
EP (late 2009/ early 2010)

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Bio

After practicing their craft for years in Knoxville, TN, Down From Up climbed to the top of the regional rock scene with their debut album, A Terrible Beauty. They've undergone a number of transitions since its beginnings and since enlisting additional players and changing names, the band has become more elaborate musically and is often recognized for its top-notch musicianship. The individual credentials of its roster have long been the band's claim to fame, but with a new album. "From Ashes to Empire" hitting the shelves, the group has a new accomplishment to boast collectively. The new album fuses Matt Brewster's melodramatic anthems with stadium-ready guitars to create a fine collection of rock for a new generation of fans. With standout tracks like "Wasn't For the Rain and Victim" the music of Down From Up appeals to rock fans and non-rock fans alike. Sit back, put on your seat belt because this is the album you've been waiting for!