No strangers to success, veteran rock group downhere have been catapulted back into the spotlight with the release of their third studio recording, Wide Eyed and Mystified, the band's first album on Centricity Records. Read on to take a downhere look at the group through the eyes of bass player Glenn Lavender.
I was looking through your site, and you guys have really developed your web presence a lot more than other groups have. Can you share about why you guys have decided to take that route?
I think that's something that, from the beginning, our band was basically discovered by our website. A guy from Word Records in Nashville found our mp3 on the website, downloaded it, and signed us based on that, and after coming to shows and stuff, and since then we've really tried to keep our online presence pretty strong. And I think it kind of goes in part with the band name downhere, you know, we've tried to be a group that's really accessible to people, and I think we can do that through our online presence. Because we'll go play a show, we're there, and then we're gone the next day, you know, and through videos and audio podcasts, and our message boards and MySpace and all that, we can somewhat maintain relationships and at least be messaging with people, and hopefully help them feel more like they know what's going on with us, and they know us as people rather than just as a band. So yeah, that's been really important for us.
The videotaping, is that just a hobby for you guys?
Well, I'm the guy here that actually edits all of those videos, and the reason that I got into - we released a documentary DVD a few years ago about a tour that we did. And I worked a little bit with a friend of ours who actually was into documentary filming, and I thought it was just a really interesting process, nd from that point on, I just thought, "You know, I'm going to learn how to edit videos." And the best way to do it is to just kind of force myself to try to do at least one a month for our website and our fans and so, I've just been using it as a way to learn how to edit video and to shoot video and try to basically create some sort of interesting video from usually very cool footage (laughs) because we just have random people pick up the camera once a while, and I'll just grab all the film and go through it and it's like, "Eh, ok, I'll put this together, and this together," and that's kind of paints a picture of what went on this month. Once in a while it's a little bit more planned than that but not all the time. It's a good creative outlet.
Month of Marc was pretty fantastic.
(laughs) Yeah, he is pretty random, and I thought I would just go there in the video.
I know that the other three guys in the group met while they were in college. Can you tell us how you got involved with the band?
When the record deal was signed, Jason, Jeremy and Marc all moved to Nashville, and the current bass player or the bass player at the time stayed in school - I think he was a second year in college, and so he wasn't prepared, and he didn't feel like God was calling him to continue on with that. And I played in another band at the time based in the Toronto area and I knew (downhere), and really, just through a series of events that God orchestrated, it just made sense (for me), and it was an obvious thing for me to hook up with these guys. And my wife and I ended up moving down to Nashville. Are you familiar with the Experiencing God Bible study?
My wife and I were leading that study at our church, and kind of through there, we just felt like we really got Word from the Lord that it's time to let go of what you're holding onto here - the band I used to play in, it was more of my baby, and I was really holding onto it tight, so I felt like I had to be willing to give that up, and then that's when God told me that I didn't need to give it up. (laughs) So that's what happened, I gave that up, I gave up living close to family and friends, and moved in with these guys, and 7 with us lived in one house for a year and a half. So it was a pretty drastic shift.
Did you also attend Bible college like the other? And how long have you been playing bass professionally?
Heh, I was a jazz trumpet major in college, so I totally missed the Bible College thing. (laughs) But I just played bass on the side; I learned guitar in High School just well enough so I could play at the campfires at the summer camp that I worked at, and my dad had a bass guitar out, so I just messed with that a bunch, and ended up playing that with a couple of bands, and, anyway, I really got into it. There's a guy that I went to high school with who was an unbelievable bass player and I really looked up to him, and just kind of went with that. And I'm playing it now - I don't feel like a professional bass player at all, but I have a lot of fun with it. It's great to keep learning, and I think playing everything really makes a difference.
And as far as your faith, that's just since you were growing up?
Yeah. I grew up in a great home with Christian parents, and I don't feel like I ever had this time where I was ever rebelling against the church or my family or anything like that so I can't pinpoint a certain moment in my life where everything changed. It didn't happen that way for me. To me it's just been a series of well, let's just start by saying my summer camp - I'm mentioning camp again (laughs) but camp was a really important thing for me growing up; I met my wife there, and the guys who were my bosses at these camps were really mentors to me. And I think that's where my spiritual growth really kind of took off - I was away from my folks, and had to really figure out what this Christianity thing meant on my own, and that time in the summer is really when it happened. And now it's just a constant learning, and I know it's just going to be a journey that I guess, you know, it's not somewhere that you get, really, it's just somewhere that you're always going. So I'm really enjoying that journey - I'm reading lots and listening to pastors and sermons and stuff on iPods while I'm travelling around the country. And actually spending a lot of time with the guys in the band, they all went to Bible college, so I've got them to bounce things off of all the time, so it's really kind of cool.
That was actually going to be my next question - we've seen you guys share the stage together, and through the videos, some fellowship, and I was wondering what are the other ways that you guys share your time and faith together.
To me, people ask what the funnest part or what the best part of travelling is, and really it's sharing the time with these guys. You meet so many kids that want to play in a rock band and do that for a living, you know, and I think what it is that they're really after is the community that they get. And I don't know that they can pinpoint that, but when you see a great rock band like U2, or, to me, the Red Hot Chili Peppers was a great rock band, these guys are guys that were about being with each other. They stuck it out for so long, and to me that's just what I love about being in this band. The four of us are very close, and not to say that we agree on everything all the time, but we get along quite well, and it's just great that I get to spend that time with them. And I feel like it's been a really good sharpening time for me, and my faith has really grown since I've been a part of this band, and we really do sharpen each other. And many times, I'll come out with something from a sermon or book, or the Bible, or whatever I'm reading, and at times it's just like, "What is the deal with this," and we get into deep conversations every once in a while, and it's really good. That's the way that community's supposed to be. To be willing to just put everything, lay myself down before these guys, and things that I find is important, I need to be willing to give those up for them. Which is hard to do. Especially when you're working on a song and you've got this bass line that you really love or you really think that this chorus needs to change but there's 3 other guys that have their opinions, and you have to be willing to give up yours, and learn to love in every situation.
Do you guys share any musical influences?
We are pretty wide, as far as influences go. But everybody is pretty much a U2 fan, although I don't think that's our influence, you know. It's hard to say with influences, because Jason and Marc are the writers, and so if you're going to hear any influences, it's going to be from the writers in our songs. And Marc was a really huge Keith Green fan growing up, and he can play almost any Keith Green song on the piano and sing just like him anytime and he knows them all, it's ridiculous. And Simon and Garfunkel was an inspiration for Jason and Marc, especially how the harmonies operate, but we like listening to everything - Jason listens to film scores regularly, we listen to a lot of rock and a lot of British rock. That's pretty common in our players, but I studied jazz, so we're all across the board.
I was wondering if Marc was a Queen fan at all.
(laughs)He gets that question all the time. Definitely he is. It wasn't that he was ever trying to sing like Freddie Mercury growing up, but he can. (laughs) And I think when he figured that out, he became a fan pretty quick. And today he and I were just talking about George Michael as well. Do you remember the song Freedom?
I heard it on the radio the other day and we got to talking about that, and Marc can sing just like him too, hehe. Yeah, it's a lot of fun, being in the band with these guys.
If you had one word to describe each of the band members, what would it be?
Haha (clears throat). Oh boy I don't even know if I can throw one word, but Marc would be like a Jekyll and Hyde, Jason would be our philosopher, thinker. And Jeremy would be hmm, he's Mr. Left Brain. He's the guy who meets everyone and shakes hands and doesn't concern himself with the creative process a whole lot. It's pretty funny. Now that I look at it, we've got Jason on the far right of right-brainness, and then we've got Marc next to him, pretty close, but a little more left, a little bit more anal about life. And then you've got me, I think I'm kind of square in the middle. I like to write and stuff, but I'm also a fairly organized type of person. And Jeremy is far left. And it's interesting how we're able to make this all work together as well as we do.
That's great. I know that touring is really big for you guys, do you have any particularly memorable tour dates?
I think the most memorable would be Morocco that we did this past year in May of '06. Morocco is a total Muslim country, and we had over the course of 3 nights - I think they said 220,000 people, and they all basically walk or bike there or ride their scooters there. And the guys who set up Creation Festivals in the US here set up that one too, and it was just unbelievable. We weren't allowed to preach to them, because it's an Islamic country, but we could sing our songs, as long as the preaching lyrics were in the song, that was fine. (laughs) So that was definitely the most memorable. However, this next trip that we're about to do, we've got a tour in the UK and then off to Denmark and then Alaska, and so I think that this is going to be a memorable two weeks as well. There will probably be a video about that by the end of the month I would say.
That's awesome. Do you have a personal favorite song from downhere?
Oh boy It's always changing I think, depending on what we're playing. Umm, I'm going to actually go with our current single, surpisingly enough, called "Little is Much." It was the latest addition to the album, the last song that we decided to record, and when we recorded it, it was just like oh, wow, this turned out way better, and we self-produced it, so we get a little more extra ownership on that song, a we're little bit more proud of it, because we did that one all on our own. And that whole song is really - we've played it off small stages off in rural Canada, and we know that what God is after is really the small things, and that's just to be grateful with the small things that we have, and God makes that important. I really dig that song.
Amen. Definitely one of my personal favorites as well, especially with the message that God works and does great things even through the small things. Are there ways in which you've seen this message played out in your own life?
As far as my Christian walk goes, there have been a few people that have been pretty instrumental. I mentioned to you those two guys already who ran the camps that I worked at, and those guys were very instrumental in my life of faith. And then more recently, when I first moved to Nashville, I joined a small group on Tuesday mornings, and the guy that operated that was a real mentor, and still is. I don't see him as often now because I'm living in Canada. But I would say that those are the people that have really made a difference. And I think that finding a mentor is such am important thing that people need to do, and it can have a huge impact in their life. Right from the beginning, my church had this thing set up called the pal system, and basically, they put a kid in the church and paired them up with one of the seniors in the church -and it would really be somebody that we never would have know otherwise- and the idea was just to spend time with them and kind of learn from them, and that's what we did. And I had a few people, when I was younger like that as well. There was an older lady that lives in Amsterdam, she was this old Dutch lady that I really loved, and I'm going to visit her soon, and a lot of people throughout our lives will impact us, and those are the ones that have had an impact in my life.
Great stuff. My last question, on a lighter note - you guys have gone through some significant hairdo changes, any particular significance to that happening? You guys have gone through quite the metamorphosis I think.
(laughs) were you able to catch the month of Jeremy where he cuts his dreadlocks? That's in one of the videos.
Yeah, that was pretty amazing.
Hmm, well, Jason and Marc, I guess Marc shaved his head didn't he? Yeah, but Jeremy had those nasty dreads and all of us are glad that they're gone. We went surfing once where he had his dreads, and he got them full of sand, and you can't wash dreadlocks, so it's a little gross. (laughs)
How about that mohawk?
I had that for like 2 and a half years, and it just got to the point where I thought, "You've got to change your hairstyle at some point right?" But it's good. Jeremy wanted to make sure that I had the mohawk for his wedding. So I had it until the wedding and then I shaved it off.
Yeah, everyone looks really refined now, kind of a new image.
Well the thing was, the first album was like, that's what Nashville made us to be, and then the second album was more like, no, this who we are - we kind of rebelled against that, now that I'm looking at it. And then now, finally, we're who we really are, you know? We've kind of found ourselves here, and this is more of what we're really like. Not that the other ones aren't us, but just different sides of us. (laughs)