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Columbus, Ohio, United States | INDIE

Columbus, Ohio, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Pop


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"Downplay’s newest album gives pop-rock scene fresh sound"

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Downplay's new album A Day Without Gravity sounds like Three Days Grace deconstructed Maroon 5's love-struck lyrics to give an edgier sound to today's pop-rock genre. Surprisingly, the Columbus-based band pulls off a raw but professional-sounding album that most seasoned musicians are too jaded to produce.

Lead singer Dustin Bates opens the album with "The Stain," a distorted, raspy intro that instantly hooks. The lyrical trend throughout the album examines the rich celebrity culture and the female heart-breakers who reflect this growing fad. "Edge of the Universe" and "Filthy Voodoo" maximize Bates' rock vocals with a complex instrumental edge.

"Queen of New York City" holds the album's core as Bates sings about an unobtainable girl who he can't walk away from. It is the perfect blend of angst and pop that could make this a mainstream hit. If the producers of Gossip Girl got hold of this song, the band could be on the road to national success. The band maintains enough rock to keep its male fan base and enough heart to swoon its female audiences.

While the term b-side may have negative connotations as being less-than-average, Downplay breaks that notion the second the guitar intro begins playing in its song "B-Side." The song reflects the emotions of having a close friend die. "We live on the B-Side now because you are gone, but we'll see you on the other side." The rock-ballad reflects true passion, which may be a product of the band losing its close friend in a plane accident.

The only low point on the album emerges with "Fade Away," which examines how fame changes people. Lyrically and instrumentally, the song is weak because the vocals are difficult to understand and the music is not catchy enough to keep one's attention. The song should have 'faded' onto the cutting room floor because it spends 3 minutes and 23 seconds asking too many questions: "Are you happy with what you have become? /Hey yeah did your dreams just disappear one day? /Did the real you fade away? /Celebrity, what are you famous for? /Do you like being the camera whore?"

The album takes a mellow approach toward its end with "Maybe" and "Back For More" clinching the heartstrings of listeners without losing rock credibility–a feat that can be difficult to balance, but one that Downplay pulls off exceptionally well.

A Day Without Gravity is a diamond that is waiting to be discovered outside the rolling hills of Ohio. Downplay proves it's ready to take on the mainstream players and has the potential to explode into a nationally successful band. Downplay will be giving seasoned musicians a reason to care about music again, instead of falling into the pitfalls of blindly producing records to fill the shelf.With albums like A Day Without Gravity, Downplay finally brings real (and much needed) competition to the pop-rock scene. - The Post (Athens OH)

"Downplay CD Review"

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Busses

"We started to build a name for ourselves as the crazy party band that could put on shows as long as six straight hours," says Downplay lead singer Dustin Bates of their early days at Ohio University where the band began with the current member line-up. "But we still weren't a full blown original band in my opinion."

That happened when the band released their first full-length CD Saturday in 2005, a year that also marked their move from Athens to Columbus as their new home base.

"I think the local Columbus music scene is great," says Dustin. "There's a very strong indy and heavy metal/hardcore scene especially. Tons of really good bands, like Embassy, For The Drive, Sighlo, Lovesick Radio, Bullet Jones, and Philo. This is definitely not an all-encompassing list -- I can't possibly list every band that I've seen and like. And I'm sure there are sweet ass bands I've never seen."

Downplay's second full-length, A Day Without Gravity, was released in November via True Anomaly Records -- a label started by Dustin and business partner Rich Vertanen in late 2006. The album has already gotten some East Coast exposure on Undiscovered Radio Network where Downplay was ranked in the top five "Bands You Need to Know."

A Day Without Gravity benefits from Downplay's four years together. The playing is tight, the songs lean, and the vocals are very nearly impeccable. The CD mixes alt rock, power pop, and a touch of metal into a combination that's tough to nail down into a single easy-to-label sound. And that's just fine with Dustin.

"Not that we are the best band of all time," he says, "but the press tends to label us as pop rock in their listings. I don't care if they call us the shittiest band of all time, as long as they don't just throw us into some generic pop rock bin."

I agree. Though the pop rock label may be somewhat understandable, given the general need of many to stuff bands into a neat and tidy little box, it shows a decidedly superficial examination of the album. The driving "15 Minutes," the rock riffs of "The Stain," and the metal-tainted "Down To Zero" are strewn amongst the more alternative sounds of "Edge of the Universe," "Sleep," and the infectious brilliance of "Average Unknown." In the mix, too, are the straight-up rock of "Maybe" and the closer "Back For More."

All together, it might be expected that A Day Without Gravity is a schizophrenic mess -- on the contrary, it's a tight, well-balanced album with tracks that stick with you. Granted, not every song is a winner -- "Queen of New York City" provides little in the way of something different, sounding very much like, well, a B-side -- but by far the majority of the twelve tracks are quality work.

Lyrically, the songs are creative, insightful, and pieced together with incredible precision. Dustin paints a lyrical picture that manages to place the listener in the center, creating an added layer of depth. The musically lacking track "B-Side" is unabashedly rescued by its well-crafted, melancholic lyrics alone.

Bottom line: Downplay's A Day Without Gravity is an exceptional CD of alt/rock/powerpop/etc. songs that are memorable and listenable. After spending a week with the disc, I definitely recommend it.

Here's the song-by-song rundown:

The Stain
Okay, I have to admit the intro grabbed me. Not everyone sings about Ohio, let alone be brave enough to include it in the opening words of the opening song of a CD. Though the verses of the song are an up-and-down vocal and lyrical simplicity that I found somewhat bland, the music to this song is good and the chorus is a catchy foot-tapper that makes you want to revisit the song. On a minor note, the bridge is really good -- flows perfectly out of the song, then back into it, without disrupting anything.

Edge of the Universe
Dustin's voice is the highlight of this track, effortlessly sending the lyrics weaving through the arrangement of guitars, drums and bass. This is a standout song -- the lyrics are clever, memorable, and the music blends beautifully into them.

Like "The Stain," the chorus stands out, while the verses take a an unfortunate backseat. But, again, it's such a damn catchy refrain (and the clever lyrics -- "You're the reason I gotta take pills to sleep" -- get easily trapped in your head), that it's forgivable.

15 Minutes
A nice rocker that takes a bend or two that you don't expect, this track can't help but be a fan favorite at live shows. It's danceable in a testosterone-filled, head-bobbing sort of way, while the ladies can jump around and wiggle to it. Again with the good lyrics.

Queen of New York City
My least favorite track and one I just wish wasn't included. Not that it's completely unlistenable, but it doesn't come close to matching the quality of the rest of the tracks. This is one of the few songs where the lyrics don't work for me. Though they do work well with the music -- for what it's worth anyway -- but the wit and depth that are evident in other tracks are lacking in this one.

Average Unknown
Easily my favorite track. "We've been walking on egg shells just to please you..." are lyrics that grab you, even though the beat and music have already snatched your attention. The refrain is brilliant, danceable fun, without the wit of the lyrics letting up. This is a song that's extremely well-built, with everything working well together, creating a clever, pop-rock track.

Filthy Voodoo
I really didn't want to like this song. Like "Queen of New York City," the lyrics on this one aren't up to what Dustin shows he's capable of writing and at first it was hard to get past the somewhat corny line "...the filthy voodoo you do." But the music on this one is well done and pulls you back into it. You do have to be willing to overlook some of the lyrical content -- though there are the occasional bright spots ("...we're all addicted to the glamorized, get on your knees and glorify...") -- in order to enjoy this track.

Okay, this is an odd one. The music on this track is definitely a yawner, fairly standard stuff that really doesn't offer anything new. But this is a song that's rescued out of the pit of mediocrity by its brilliant lyrics. Not an easy thing to do. It's so lyrically well-crafted you can't simply dismiss it, even though you initially want to. Take the time to actually listen to this song and you may feel the same way.

Down to Zero
This is another guitar-driven rock track. Piecing together standard rock-song lyrics with some more witty, Downplay-like wordcraft makes for a radio-friendly, highly listenable song. I wish it had a bit more of a rock feel, though -- it teeters on the brink of being a cool, musically harsher track, but pulls back before actually reaching it, as though they were trying to make it heavy, but didn't quite succeed.

Fade Away
The guitar opening to this track is intriguing and draws you in, then it bursts with a harder edge that features some creative drum work. Downplay chooses not to beat you over the head with the tune, but instead injects just enough musical subtlety to create some depth.

This is as close as Downplay comes to a ballad. It begins much like "Fade Away" with a pleasant, subdued sound, then belts out a chorus that's infused with loud guitars and pounding drums. The sound is built very deliberately and the vocals match it very well. Once again, the lyrics work.

Back For More
A lot of really drawn out notes in this track, which I'm still undecided as to whether it works for it or against it. It's a pleasant enough song, but lacks a bit of originality. I would have preferred a stronger close to the CD -- perhaps swapping the order of this track with "Maybe."

You may or may not like the genre of alternative pop that Downplay's A Day Without Gravity falls into, but I don't believe this release deserves to be quickly labeled and neglectfully pushed aside. For the most part, the songs are well-built, creative, and stand out lyrically. And throughout all these tracks -- like them or not -- Dustin's voice is spot-on. - Life on the C-Bus


A Day Without Gravity (2007)
Songs Played on Radio from this album:
-Edge of the Universe
-Down to Zero
-15 Minutes
-Filthy Vodoo
Stations that have played these tracks:
XM-43/XMU (XM Satellite Radio)
WSTB 88.9 Streetsboro, OH
WXTQ 105.5 Athens, OH
WBZX 99.7 Columbus, OH
WNCD 93.3 Youngstown, OH
WHBR 103.1 Parkersburg, WV
WTFX 93.1 Louisville, KY
WAQX 95.7 Syracuse, NY
WEGW 107.5 Wheeling, WV
WAMX 106.3 Huntington, WV
WBZT 96.7 Greenville, SC
Undiscovered Radio Network

Saturday (2005)



*FiveFest - May 17th - Athens,OH - 13,000 in Attendance.

*Ribs-N-Rock - July 11th - Salem (Youngstown), OH w/Candlebox - 2000 in Attendance

*Woodshock - August 8th/9th - Bellefontaine, OH - w/Filter and Bobaflex - 6000 in Attendance.

Formed in Salem OH (Near Youngstown) in 2003. Shortly after the band moved to Ohio University in Athens and changed to current lineup, retaining two Salem members. First album was released in 2005 and second album "A Day without Gravity" released in 2007. This second album helped to grow the band's popularity throughout the region with moderate radio success. In early 2009 the band showcased for Kim Stevens of Capitol Records and added Ken Cooper, formerly of Sin-O-Matic, and the outcome of this is still pending. Third album tentatively scheduled for release in late Summer 2009, possibly on a major record label.


*Showcased twice for Kim Stevens (Matchbox 20, Saving Abel, Collective Soul, 7 Mary 3) of Capitol Records - outcome still pending.
-1st Showcase - Salem, OH - 450+
-2nd Showcase - Columbus, OH - 1400+

*New manager - Ken Cooper (Sin-O-Matic - Atlantic Records, President Rust Records)

*Sold out the Newport in Columbus - 1400+

*6Fest - OU - 15,000+ in Attendance

*Palmerfest - OU 2,000+ in Attendance

*ICF MMA show in Cincinnatti

*Numerous other large shows - including -
*Played with Taproot, Days of the New, Jimmys Chicken Shack

*Working on new album

2008 - Downplay is enjoying radio play on over 10 major radio stations nationwide, including XM radio. Downplay has played a number of major festivals with a number of national touring acts.

Show Highlights:

*PalmerFest - Headliner - May 10th - Athens, OH - Annual Student festival. 1000+ in Attendance.

*Jimmy's Chicken Shack - August 14th

*Rock on Riverwatch - Headliner - Sept 6th - Tailgate party outside the OSU stadium for OSU vs OU - Thousands in Attendance

*Halloween Block Party - November 1- Athens, OH - Over 10000 in Attendance Last Year - 2nd largest attended block party in the US behind Marti Graas

- 2007 - Downplay returns to the studio, this time at Cleveland-based Jungle Recording Studio. Around the same time Dustin Bates of Downplay, with the contribution of loyal friends, establishes an indie rock record label (True Anomaly Records, LLC), and signs Downplay to the label under a one album contract. “A Day Without Gravity,” was released late-October 2007. The cost of the 2nd album: approx. $16,000. Since the release of the album, the band has had at least 5 tracks played on at least 10 radio stations (and many other internet stations), with two being played in regular rotation on at least one station. The band's music is on Pandora and iTunes.

- 2006 - “Saturday,” released. It includes “bonus track,” a spoof hip-hop song about an OU frat bar "The Crystal"; a student/bar favorite (over 3000 downloads). The band moves to Columbus around this time.

- 2005 - Downplay reorganizes as an original band and begins recording a first full length studio album on a $1,000 budget at Ohio University’s student ran audio production studio;

- 2002 - Two of original band members enroll at OU, where the band becomes a popular cover band for large outdoor festivals (I.E. PalmerFest)

- 2001 - Downplay formed. Originally a cover band in the Youngstown/NE Ohio area, the band generates a large fan base in that area, playing venues all over NE Ohio.