Downsview is my current addiction

Live Pic of Downsview By: Sheena Lyonnais
Feb 20, 2008

    Every since seeing Downsview rock the Horseshoe Tavern on February 18, their five track EP has been playing my iPod on repeat.  They have won me over with a combination of catchy lyrics, solid instrumentation, excellent stage presence and a good old combination of punk riffs and rock attitudes.

This could easily be thanks to the band’s exotic upbringings: singer Joel Richard hails from Saskatchewan, guitarist Mike Lebon from the Mauritius Island, guitarist Carlos Lopez from El Salvador, bassist Rawi Samman from Egypt and drummer Soichiro Koike from Tokyo.  Their diverse backgrounds combined with their previous band experiences have generated a solid band with an inarguably unique foundation, one that sets them apart from a lot of bands down this vein of music.

Joel Richard of DownsviewThey are currently working on recording their first full-length album, which includes new songs and remixes of songs released on a previous EP (one that comes in a paper bag!).  They run their band in a total DIY fashion, with Lebon being the engineer behind the recordings.

    “I try to mix it.  I’m trying to get it to sound decent,” Lebon said after their set. “Stuff will be changed around with added parts. It is going to be overall better.  We’re just trying to build upon that to get something really get good out for March.”

“We’re probably going to shop around for an indie label once we have everything recorded,” singer Richard said.  “We might use a company called Indie Pool, they manufacture it and also distribute it to stores like HMV.  It’s not bad if you’re not signed.”

The band is also in the midst of working on their first tour, which they hope to have booked for the summer.

“I’m from the west coast, my old band [To the Point] played a lot around the west coast, so I have but Downsview hasn’t at all.  The furthest west we’ve been was like Kitchener.  We’ve only had two out of town shows, Kitchener and Montreal so far, so we need to get out there,” Richard said.

But with touring comes money and risk.  There weren’t a lot of people at the Horseshoe show, but I’m sure that was more thanks to it being held on the Monday of a long weekend than anything else.  And without label support, touring can rack up a hefty bill.     

“We’re looking into if it’s actually going to happen.  You don’t want to travel the country and play to two people; you want to make sure that doesn’t happen.  With my old band a lot of shows were shit and no one would be there,” Richard said.

Toronto Band DownsviewWhat might work in Downsview’s favour is the fact they’re also a group of entertainers.  How often do you go to a show and hear the drummer randomly shout things like “let’s get drunk after the show!” or rant about how cool Japanese punk bands are?  I’m going to go with never.  It’s unconventional in the role of drummer, but just another aspect that makes the band fun to watch. 

In fact, drummer Soichiro Koike is an interesting component to Downsview alone.  While Lebon and Lopez met in high school, Samman was recruited from their friend circle, and Richard and Koike were found on music posting boards.  Koike moved from Japan specifically to join a band in Canada.

“I saw his post a few times.  I saw it like seven times.  For some reason no one wanted this kid in their band,” Lebon said.  “I met him and he ended up being awesome for us.  He’s a great guy and we’re really lucky to have him.  He’s making a huge effort to improve, and it’s nice to see someone as dedicated to his instrument as he is. He stays because of Downsview.   He stays here because of Downsview, which is why I think he is the most dedicated member.”

Rumour has it Koike was actually influenced by former pop punk heroes Sum 41.  Pop music is very big in Japan. 

Downsview will also be featured in an upcoming punk documentary called Bought The T-Shirt, due out in 2009.   According to their manager Daisy MacLean, they were actually the inspiration for it.  In a radio interview they were asked if they were punk, to which they responded they weren’t because they were never part of the punk era, which got MacLean thinking.

Downsview“It’s a documentary about Punk music and politics, going around finding bands from all decades,” said MacLean, who is fronting the project. “They’re trying to find out where punk tied into politics came from and why an artists who is a punk artist has an obligation to kind of be associated with major issues that come up like being vegetarian, being vegan, if you’re a punk artist you have to be against Bush.  It’s looking at the first bands like the Ramones that weren’t political musically. It’s going to include a bunch of bands.”

Toronto band Hostage Life was also interviewed in the documentary.  Although Downsview didn’t comment on their stance in our interview, we look forward to hearing it when the documentary comes out.  Don’t be surprised if by 2009, Downsview is one of the names that sells the film.

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