Interview & Photos by Keira Zhou
When did you start playing music?
Ray: We started playing music two and half years ago as a band. But we were all in school together and we were in the school band. I was on a road trip with one of my friends, we just kept on talking about the songs we are listening and saying “I would cover that song!” You start to put together a set list in your head. Then I came back, I didn’t play my bass in high school; I just had it. And I was like I should play that bass. Then I ran into Varun when I was registering classes at community college, but I hadn’t seen varun in 4 years. And we were chilling, Benji came back from school, and I was like “I’ve been finally playing this bass I’ve had all these years, thinking about starting a band”. I talked to Benji cause he always played guitar. We always find ourselves at a party, in a corner, talking about music. I was like “I want to trick them into joining in a band”.
Benji: When Ray texted “Do you want to get together with Varun and jam?” It was like of course this should happen.
Ray: We spent all summer learning a cover set, and we played one show we put together at this local art gallery and our friends came. But then we all went to college and it just stopped for a while. But then Benji moved back, that was when it got serious.
What are the music you all like and what songs were on that cover list?
Varun: We have so many influences from electric dance, jazz, rock, so our first cover set was just a blend of all the artists we grow up listening to.
Ray: So the official set list is Robot Rock by Daft Punk, Blue Orchard by The White Stripes, Party of Special Things To Do, which is a Captain Beefheart cover from The White Stripes, This Is It by The Strokes, Perhaps Vampire Is A Bit Strong by Arctic Monkeys, Meet Me In The City by The Black Keys, Going Back To Memphis by Soledad Brothers, Clint Eastwood by Gorillaz, Get Lucky by Daft Punk, Touch The Sky by Kanye West.
Varun: we just got really into Kanye West recently and he’s been influencing everything we are trying to write.
Could you tell us more about the EP you just put out?
Varun: Yea we had an EP out that we released fairly recently on Oct 4th. We had our EP release show to promote that. It was at Berlin Under A. That was a long project, took a while, but we are glad that it’s out. It took us a year and a half to really flush it out and release it.
Benji: It was perfect as how we wanted it to be. I can’t imagine it having gone better.
Ray: Because it took so long and it was stressful when we had these dates of when we want to put stuff out. But when it did finally come out, we were in such a better place than we were before. We wouldn’t have had a sold out release party at Berlin if we hadn’t waited.
What are the songs about?
Ray: A lot of it is about growing up in the place we grew up in, the shared experience of that, sometimes how awful it was, and romanticization of some things we did. It kept on going into later in our lives. After we moved away from home for the first time, we were experiencing lives as young adults, like dealing with relationships and stuff like that, figuring yourselves out.
Benji: It was cool cause when we think about our lives growing up and recently, it’s kinda like this collage of things that we all experienced, we all went through. Maybe Ray wrote the lyrics, but it was like “I was there too”. We can totally relate to all of it as well. It’s nice because the lyrics and music are pretty diverse in terms of the songs but also totally cohesive.
Varun: One of my favorite things about the album is that I think there’s one song for everyone, at least. Each song is dynamic in its own nature and I feel like everyone can have their favorite. And it can be totally different from another person’s.
Do you have any fun memories from recording the EP?
Ray: I’ll never forget the first day we were in the studio, when Benji and Varun went to get food. And I was doing the bass line. We are finishing up this one song, the first single we put out, called Landlord. And we just got this nice bass tone dialed in. I was playing it and I was like “I can’t even believe that I’m here right now. This is so sick. And I was like Benji and Varun are gonna love it when they come back”. And they just walked in and be like “What the f* is up down here?” It was awesome
Benji: It was the beginning of realizing that this is actually going to be way better than we could’ve imagined and it kinda inspired the whole new standard for our sound and song writing.
The Down & Outs have two shows for the rest of the year. They have Dec 7th at Our Wicked Lady and that’s a Bloodless management showcase show, and it’s Ray’s birthday show. They are playing again Dec 21st at Trans-Pecos!