By Laura Shields, Arts and Entertainments Editor @LauraShields86
Down To Level are a five-piece alt-rock band from Belfast. In their younger years the outfit revelled in funk rock rhythms before honing their driving guitar riffs for a powerhouse sound. I met with Chris Byrne (Guitar/Backing Vocals), Stephen Cassidy (Lead Vocals), Sophie Loughran (Bass/Backing Vocals), Jamie Loughran (Drums) and Gavin Kennedy (Guitar) to talk about their musical progression and a new release.
Firstly, give us some background. Where did Down To Level begin?
Chris: We wrote our first EP [Bounce] 2 or 3 years ago now.
Gavin: Some of us were only 15.
Stephen: I remember sitting in the music hallway writing those songs.
Chris: We had our first gig and we decided, “Yeah, we need a name”. We literally had a full page of suggestions. Muse was already taken so we just narrowed it down to which sound[ed] the coolest so we settled on Down To Level. It wasn’t a great list to be honest.
Sophie: We had like 3 days to go so we needed something.
Chris: Desperate times call for…
Jamie: Desperate names!
Your latest song, “Chains On Me” has a different feel than those early Bounce tracks. Was there a conscious decision to change your sound or was it a natural progression?
Chris: It just sort of happened really.
Jamie: We are can’t write a new song and then go back on ourselves.
Gavin: I think it was due to our own influences. I was heavily in to Red Hot Chili Peppers so that’s maybe where the more funky stuff came from but now we as a band respond to different influences.
Sophie: Everything is much more refined now. We know what we are feeling and what we want to contribute.
So can we expect some new Down To Level release soon?
Chris: We are actually recording at the minute. We were down at the studio last week just putting stuff together. It’s our mate’s house. He runs a studio but he just so happens to be a mate as well so we are just going up to him. It’s in a garage with like pizza boxes everywhere. Me and Gavin have been writing loads of stuff lately. We have like an albums worth of stuff so as soon as we are done with this one, we will just be focusing on the next thing!
Gavin: This new EP will be a lot more defined. From the first song to the last song, you will know it is us. The Bounce EP has stuff coming from different areas but with this new one we are a lot more focused so we are really looking forward to releasing it.
So gone are the days of funky bass-lines and party tunes. Can you give us an idea of what the new Down To Level sound is?
Gavin: Our old stuff very riff-y. This one has different time signatures, different choruses so it’s really exciting. We are trying to mix it up a bit. I think this new EP will be a great taster for what we are really becoming.
Stephen: Lyrically I really like [unreleased track] “Hero” which will be on the new EP. I sat down and really thought about the lyrics with it.
Chris: Well that’s good to know! Hopefully we will have a launch late November/December all being well.
Sophie: Definitely before Christmas.
Jamie: Gavin, guess what you’re getting for Christmas?