Downfall - those long-serving purveyors of rock speak to Andy Roberts on the hiatus surrounding their latest release, perfectionism and The Music...
It's sad to say, but not all the bands on the local scene are destined to go the distance and develop any longevity. Sounds and cliques change, bands split and reform, influences take musicians in different directions. But despite all that there's not that many acts out there that can fondly remember treading the boards at the much-missed Duchess of York. Despite their age, emo/alt/punk-rockers Downfall are one of those notable exceptions.
I last caught up with Dunk (Guitars and vocals), JP (Drums) and Dan (Bass) two years ago when going to University or concentrating on the band were decisions that were weighing heavy. So now with plenty of water under the bridge and the band excited about a new EP release plus a hefty UK tour booked it was definitely time for a catch up with Leeds' answer to Hundred Reasons. Only thing being that this time, they've got a different Dan...
Dunk explains: "Dan our old bass player called it a day when he went to University. The 'new' Dan came in and the sound of the band changed a lot."
"When I joined it was like an outsider's point of view. Until that time, they'd got caught in their own little writing mould. Things were sounding the same." Says Dan. "It's really strange because I remember reading a review of their EP 'Roadkill' in Kerrang! when I was sitting in my front room, penniless and freezing as a student and thinking 'cool, that band's from Leeds and they're in Kerrang!' Little did I know that a few years later I'd be in that very same band!"
Dunk: "We slipped right into gigging when Dan joined. Before that we hadn't played nearly as much in comparison. Within two months of him joining we were gigging so much and we haven't looked back since. Dan's a very organised guy and has done most of the planning for the tours."
Not only had the band got a new bass player, a little while before that, the whole dynamic of the band had changed. Being a four piece since 1997, the change to a trio was daunting but all three are convinced that they much prefer life with three in the band though it was strange at first:
"It was a quick decision to get rid of the other guitarist though we had a gig booked at Joseph's Well five days afterwards. I was very nervous about that gig." Says Dunk. "With two guitarists you feel a bit protected I think - you're out in the open with just one as a three piece. But that was a gig that really felt good. It was strange to find the third person for the band because up until then we just couldn't get the fourth sorted out!"
Downfall are very careful about what they do with their songs these days. Perfectionist even.
"We're so picky about our songs. We spend hours on just one little section of a song. No that other bands don't work as hard like that, but with us it's an obsessive compulsive thing!" Explains Dan.
"JP probably smokes about 15 cigarettes more a night because of me and Dan." Laughs Dunk. "He gets bored or stressed out with Dan and I discussing one chord or change in rhythm, whether you're triple picking this or that, we get down to that level!"
Downfall's obsession flawlessness did not however cause the lengthy gap between 2001's 'What You Will' EP and the forthcoming six-tracker 'Atrofeed', as Dunk explains:
"A group of students doing music production from Leeds College of Music offered to produce us for free, which to us was very enticing, meaning that we could spend more money on marketing the new record. So we did it and it just went on and on and on!
"It started in December 2001, then stopped for Christmas and then dragged on into 2002 and then their degrees finished in May. So then we decided to try recording with a guy called Andy who was an old mate of Dan's in his home studio.
"It was sounding alright so we re-recorded everything apart from the drums and re-recorded it over again. Then by the time it got to Christmas 2002 his computer was crashing and so it fell apart. So at the beginning of the year we decided to stop messing around and went into Sponge studios and recorded it in no time. By then the songs were so familiar to us and so tight we pretty much did them in first takes. So all the messing about was a blessing in disguise really."
Downfall have made two appearances previously in the forthcoming Bright Young Things competition organised by Leeds City Council though they won't be competing this year as they're "not bright nor young anymore". Though back in 2000 they finished in the runners-up slot to a band that became The Music.
"Funnily enough I was talking about this with someone today." Confides Dunk. "At the time when they won, they just weren't in my shortlist on the night. Even though it was my band I thought that we'd have a chance. I also thought Juxtaposition were cool, Itch who are a really great band totally flopped then, but I thought Insense (The Music) had no chance. That's not jealously at what they're doing now, that's just my honest opinion of how it seemed to me and I was completely gobsmacked that they won. Somebody saw something in them that I just didn't see, but I still don't particularly see it now either."
"They were younger than us at the time and now when you see them on the TV you just can't take it seriously." Continues JP.
Dan's convinced that there's at least ten bands in the area that could easily make it given the right backing, just like The Music. Itch, Brody, Catylyst, Mr Shiraz, Mr Dogg, four day Hombre, Her Alibi, Lorimer, les Flames! and Rubberfish are some of the names pulled out of the bassist under pressure, though he's at pains to point out he's never had any gripes with any bands that he hasn't mentioned. He sees it all as a big collective swapping gigs and useful numbers. "I like everyone pulling together rather than trying to become massive on your own. You need your mates."
Downfall's longevity is no accident, they're a talented and great bunch of lads who are now into the realms of having younger bands looking up to them for inspiration and signing autographs to wide-eyed fans. The next few months with the release of the new EP and their impressive array of 26 shows booked should move the trio to even greater heights.