Sexy pop-punk from Toronto
HI THERE THANKS FOR ANSWERING SOME QUESTIONS FOR US.
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF FOR US WHO ARE NOT FAMILIAR WITH YOU AND YOUR MUSIC AND TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF.
Hey there, thank you for letting me do this interview with you. My name is Julien, and I’m the drummer in a band called The Downcast. We’re a four-piece pop-punk band based in Toronto, Canada. And depending on when this interview is published, we either just released a new single, or are about to release a new single, called “Rough Love”. This is just the first of a few releases we have planned for 2021, and despite the fact we don’t know when we’re going to be able to play live shows again, we’re nonetheless hopeful that this will be a good year for the band.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR NEW ALBUM OR SINGLE?
So the new song is called “Rough Love”, and it will be the lead single from our upcoming EP “Time Doctor”. This album is being produced and mixed remotely by Alan Day, one of the guitarists and vocalists of the Boston-based pop punk band Four Year Strong, which we’re quite excited about. There is still plenty of work to be done, but the finished EP is going to have 5 or 6 songs, depending on what makes the cut. The songs are fast, fun, and hopefully catchy enough to have you humming them days later.
WHAT INSPIRED THE ALBUM OR SINGLE?
I just consulted with our singer and guitarist Matt on this question, as he wrote “Rough Love”. He said “the song is inspired by the feelings that come with being stuck in a relationship that you know isn’t right for you”. So there you have it, right from the songwriter himself! The “Time Doctor” EP deals with the general theme of getting older, while at the same time trying to hold onto things that made you happy when you were young.
CAN YOU SUM UP THE ALBUM IN A FEW WORDS?
Poppy. Punky. Exciting. Catchy. Maybe even a little bit sexy.
WHAT RECORD CHANGED YOUR LIFE AND WHY?
I feel like there have been a bunch over the years - usually, it’s something that opens my eyes and ears to a subgenre I didn’t know existed. Tool’s “Lateralus” album was definitely a big record for me. A friend of mine introduced me to Tool early in high school, and they quickly became one of my favourite bands. In fact, they still remain near the top of that list to this day. There were a bunch of things about Lateralus that grabbed me, with Danny Carey’s power and often tribal-sounding drumming being one of the main ones. But I also loved the way many Tool songs are carried more by the bass line than anything else, as I hadn’t heard anything like it before. With regards to something more in the pop-punk realm, Four Year Strong’s “Rise or Die Trying” was another game-changer album for me. If I told a younger me that I’d be in a band that would make music produced by one of Four Year Strong’s members, I don’t think I’d believe me. Anyway, I had listened to a lot of pop-punk in my early teen years, but then started listening to heavier music as I became more serious about drums, drawn in by more complex drum parts. When a friend showed me Four Year Strong’s song “Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die”, it was the first time I had heard a drummer use a double pedal in a pop-punk context, and I loved it immediately. Listening to our music, it’s probably pretty clear that Four Year Strong is one of The Downcast’s biggest influences.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE MUSIC VIDEO FILMED BY YOUR BAND OR ANOTHER ARTIST?
Even though I haven’t yet seen the finished product at the time of this writing, I’m pretty confident that our upcoming video for “Rough Love” is going to be my favourite by our band. We worked with a Toronto-based video production duo called Roadhouse Productions, and they were fantastic. We had worked with them before for our “Deep End” music video, but it was evident this time around that they had definitely upped their game since our previous collaboration. In terms of favourites from other artists, one of the first ones that comes to mind is Tool’s video for “Schism”. I remember seeing that one for the first time when I was 12 or 13, it has always stuck with me. In terms of something more recent, there’s an incredible Canadian metal band called Spiritbox that recently released a beautiful and emotional music video for their song “Constance” that is well worth a watch.
WHAT WOULD WE FIND YOU DOING WHEN YOU'RE NOT MAKING MUSIC?
Well, since my drumming hasn’t yet launched me into a career as a full-time rockstar, you can currently find me working as a web developer at least 40 hours a week. That said, I do enjoy web development work most of the time, and with everything that’s been going on as a result of covid, I’m fortunate to have a job that I’ve been able to work from home. Aside from that, I’ve been trying to get a daily workout in lately, since there’s not really anywhere to go. I’ve been playing a bunch of piano, mostly just trying to learn some easier pop songs, and train my ear in a way that doesn’t happen on the drums. I also enjoy listening to some podcasts, with Behind the Bastards and Worst Year Ever being the current favourites and watching tv shows on Netflix or whatever other streaming service. I don’t have a series on the go at the moment, but recent selections included The Boys, The Queen’s Gambit, and a Dexter rewatch.
DO YOU GET NERVOUS PERFORMING LIVE, IF SO HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT?
I don’t really get nervous before live performances anymore, but I certainly used to. When I was at Humber College for music, one of my courses was a drumming masterclass, in which we had to do a playing test every two weeks or so. I always found it incredibly stressful and nerve-racking having to get up there and perform in front of all the other drummers in my year. Mark Kelso, the teacher of the class and the head of the school’s percussion department, said that he specifically aimed to make those performance tests stressful for us, with the goal of making playing out in the real world seem less stressful in comparison. And what do you know, it certainly helped. I’ve found that the best way to deal with performance nerves is to just accept that mistakes will always happen. You have to learn to forget them and move on as quickly as possible, as opposed to letting them bother you, which can be distracting and lead to more mistakes. Often, something you perceive as a mistake might not even be noticed by the listener anyway, but they can be tipped off to a mistake if you react to it.
HOW DID YOU FORM THE BAND?
The formation of this band is a bit of a winding road. The first EP released under The Downcast name, “Trouble at the Surfcomber”, was actually written and recorded before the band existed. It was
essentially a solo project by our singer and guitarist Matt Rennie, although he always intended to assemble a band from there. Matt later recruited his roommate (and my schoolmate) Chris Bray, who also plays guitar and sings. Although Chris is no longer with the band, he played a crucial role in the development of the band’s sound, and helped write an earlier version of “Rough Love”. Matt and I met after I had been recruited to join a short-lived cover band that he was a part of. He showed me some of the original music he had written, and though I really liked it, at the time I wasn’t able to commit to being in another band. Luckily for me, the next drummer they recruited didn’t last very long, and I was able to join The Downcast for real a few months later. Our original bassist was Hayden Crocker, who went to Humber College with Chris and I. But when he got too busy with his main band Parliament Owls - they’re great, check them out! - we turned to the internet and found Arthur Cunha, who’s been crushing it ever since. Arthur introduced us to his friend and guitarist Leo Mariante, who became our second guitarist mid-2020. We actually haven’t yet played a live show with our current lineup, so we’re looking forward to that.
HOW DO YOU WRITE? - DO YOU HAVE A KEY SONGWRITER, OR DO YOU ALL WORK TOGETHER?
Our guitarist and vocalist Matt Rennie is the primary songwriter of the group. He’ll pitch us some ideas - sometimes just a guitar riff, sometimes almost a fully-finished draft of a song - and we’ll collaborate as a band from there. When Matt sends a song idea that already has some drum parts programmed in, I’ll often end up keeping the vibe of the finished part fairly close to that. But I’ll sit with it, play the parts, and work on making them sound like me, while still doing my best to serve the song. Travis Barker is a big influence on me within the pop punk genre, as he’s a master at writing really creative and interesting drum parts that don’t get in the way of the song.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Watching other drummers is definitely what inspires me the most. Some of my current favourite drummers include Matt Garstka of Animals as Leaders, Matt Halpern of Periphery, Jay Postones of Tesseract, as well as session drummers Alex Rudinger, Anup Sastry, and Travis Orbin. Watching these musicians constantly raise the bar on the drums is incredibly motivating for me, and makes me want to become a better drummer myself. Listening to music is also inspirational for me, so I try and stay on top of new music releases as best I can. Even though 2020 was overall a pretty terrible year, there were a lot of great artists releasing fantastic albums. My favourites last year included new releases by Caligula’s Horse, Protest the Hero, Plini, Loathe, and Dance Gavin Dance, to name a few.
WHAT IS NEXT?
“Rough Love” is the first of three planned singles we’re going to be putting out ahead of the release of the full “Time Doctor” EP later this year. We’re going to be filming a music video for each of these three singles as well. We’ve been tracking this EP from our respective homes one song at a time, and we’re currently in the process of figuring out which song we’re going to release next, once “Rough Love” is out there in the world.
PLEASE TELL US ANY SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS SO WE CAN SHARE.
Sure thing! You can find us here: