“The people who throw [Peaches & Scream] are old-school, hardcore Downright fans,” DeVine says, speaking by phone from his Birmingham home. “They called me up and asked if we would play their party this year. I called Steve at that point to see what his schedule was – he’s busy touring with some different bands up there. He happened to have the weekend open, so we bought him a plane ticket and we’re going to ship him down here to play it.”
Although Downright has not played since August 2008, DeVine assures the Peaches & Scream attendees that the band will sound as good as they always have.
“We’ve had some rehearsals with and without Steve and we’re going to have some with him a few days before the show. We played it so much back in the day, it’s second nature to him,” he says.
Actively recording and touring from 1999 to 2006, Downright was a fixture on the local and regional music scenes. To date, the band has released three studio albums and one live album and will soon release four songs at www.downrightmusic.net. These days, DeVine fronts Matthew DeVine’s Incestet and holds a steady gig in the house band at the Ross Bridge resort. Lewis performs with a number of acts – most notably King Wilkie – and has appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien with singer/songwriter Jaymay. Though DeVine did not opt for New York’s bright lights like his partner, he enjoys his place in the local music scene.
“From a business perspective, Birmingham has always seemed like a place that’s an in-between market. A musician with some degree of ability can actually make money with their craft. The circumstances may not always be ideal, but it’s not like Nashville, New York or L.A. where you can’t make money playing music — no matter how good you are — unless you’re in this tip-top echelon. Birmingham has enough opportunity that you can actually make money doing it. I like Birmingham because it operates on this level in a lot of ways – there’s enough of the big city aspects to enjoy it, but not too much enough of it to make it a rat race. There’s a cap on what you can do here career-wise, but there’s also room for experimentation,” DeVine says.
Like other bands that formed at the turn of the 21st century, Downright found itself in an era greatly influenced by technology. Outlets including iTunes, YouTube, MySpace and satellite radio allowed bands easy access to listeners and the ability to maintain greater control over their creative destinies. Though these outlets can foster greater clutter in the marketplace, DeVine is optimistic about the current state of the music business.
“I feel like the cream will rise. The power is in the hands of the people again – I had no idea that I’d ever see that in my lifetime. In the ‘60s and ‘70s – although people were making the final decisions on who would cut through to the next level – it seemed like they were making pretty good decisions. In the final days of record label rule – which was around the late ‘90s – I didn’t agree with what was going on. Now, the playing field has leveled and people see through the B.S. again. I don’t buy the argument that there’s too much music being made because the person who can sit in their house and make music with computers often times won’t sound very good live. Putting people on a stage in front of an audience and saying ‘Go’ is a totally different scenario,” DeVine offers.
While DeVine enjoys the improvisational nature of his craft, he has come to appreciate the discipline and self-motivation that is essential to success in his art form.
“Jazz allows you to instantly rearrange and make things fresh in a way that pop music doesn’t,” he says. “With that being said, most Western music is made up of the same building blocks and song structures. If you can’t embrace that and realize that the whole thing is a bit bigger than you, then I don’t know if you can be a professional musician. You bring yourself to it in a fresh way, not necessarily expecting the music to be fresh. I’ve learned that lesson pretty well in the last couple of years – it’s your job to make it fresh.”
Backed by the Damnittohell Horns, Downright performs on Saturday, Oct. 31, at WorkPlay, as part of the “Peaches & Scream” Halloween celebration. Find ticket info and more at (205) 380-4082 or www.workplay.com.