Since forming in 2002, psychedelic rock band The Upsidedown has embarked upon a musical journey not unfamiliar in the music industry.
Since forming in 2002, psychedelic rock band The Upsidedown has embarked upon a musical journey not unfamiliar in the music industry. Their first release, Trust Electricity, was regarded as a successful imitation album, primarily paying audibly pleasing tribute to the ghosts of indie-psych-rock past. Their sophomore album Human Destination took nearly four times as long to produce with a critical response worth the effort. It marked the beginning of a much more original aesthetic for The Upsidedown, who is now in the studio working on their third album, which promises to continue the progression of creative juices.
“Although recording can be frustrating sometimes I think what we just did last week was probably the most satisfying feeling,” said bassist and vocalist Tristan Evans. “After coming out of two days spending 12–16 hours there a day and being so tired by the end of it, we all got together to listen. Everyone was so excited.”
Despite the success of Human Destination, the members of The Upsidedown prefer a less polished approach to songwriting and recording. With two albums recorded in varied time periods, they seem to have found an ideal balance for the future.
“I think it’s always good to go in and record things real quick,” said Jason Anchondo, the band’s floating percussionist and guitarist. “My previous band took two years to make a record and it was such a waste of time. You keep going in and trying to fix things, you think about it too much and you’re going to make some clean pop record that no one really cares about. It’s better to just let the elements go on their own, make it a little dirtier.”
Clean pop band they are not. Their sound breaks pop molds by putting primary focus on the music over lyrics with little to no apparent concern for mass appeal or market conformity. It is not uncommon to catch an extensive guitar solo or pithy vocal line in any given tune. The songs nevertheless maintain an impressive balance, aided by the weighty strength and grit of frontman Jason Atoms’ vocals.
“It starts out with the instrumental and the lyrics form after that,” Anchondo said. “The songwriting is the same in almost every band. Someone might have an idea where they have lyrics kind of written out, but they change them all around by the time the song is finalized. You start hearing a different story that hadn’t already been established.”
There is also an environmental significance to the band’s authenticity. Anchondo, a veteran of the recording process, has developed an appreciation for charm over glamor.
“If you’re in a place that just doesn’t feel right, it’s gonna bum you out,” Anchondo said. “For instance, you go into a studio that costs $3,000 a day and they give you a bagel that’s $50 and it just feels really phony. Then you could go into really old studios with pegboard on the wall and tile on the floor and it reminds you of being in grammar school music class. There’s just a nice feeling and somehow you can just slam [songs] out that way, as opposed to being in a fake Hollywood studio that’s got paisley on the wall and oriental rugs.”
A fast-growing number of bands are drawn to the organic feel of a smaller studio and for The Upsidedown, it’s proven a worthwhile tradeoff. Since signing with the Dandy Warhols’ label, Beat the World Records, The Upsidedown has had songs featured on television shows Sons of Anarchy and Trauma (which has since been cancelled). Additionally, they were brought in to work on the soundtrack for the film Waterwings. These sorts of gigs have fit perfectly with the sparseness of their lyrics, a style that allows the music’s intensity to form an ideal frame for live action.
“[The Upsidedown] is a success as long as everyone can continue looking at it with such positive light and nobody gets bummed out or feels like they’re missing out on anything musically,” Evans said. “I think that’s a lot of the reason for the success of the band: that everyone is looking at it as one creature not five people. It’s just about the whole thing. It’s been successful because we can think about things holistically.”