Posted by: will | June 27, 2007

Band Interview – Up Up Down Down…

Continuing the Up Up Down Down theme of SAL lately, here is an interview I recently did with Steve Poponi, mastermind of the band. Thanks to Steve for being so generous and not getting too annoyed at having to exchange so many emails with me over the last few weeks. You can check out my review of the band’s latest album, Worst Band Name Ever here or check out the sweet contest we’re running for lots of free Up Up Down Down stuff here. And you can even check out some of the band’s tunes and lack of tour dates at their myspace page here.

There has been one constant in UUDD and that is yourself. What does the project mean to you?

Over the last 2 years the band has kinda become what I always wished it was….because there is no touring to limit who can be in the band I was able to get my “dream team” of players. Before when we were touring alot we weren’t as concerned about people’s writing styles and general musical vibe, we just needed to have someone play guitar or whatever for the tours. Once we decided that touring was a lost cause for us I was able to get all the guys that I had worked with in the past to become full time guys with the band and start writing songs where everyone is on the same page and there are virtually no conflicts within all of our styles, I guess thats how some bands start out but that’s how we ended up. So this band to me is a perfect fit, it started out as something completely different and has finally settled into something that comes very easily and has very little ego involved except mine.

It seems that your songs seem to be getting shorter and shorter. Worst Band Name Ever is 10 songs in 21 minutes. Has that been a conscious decision or one that has just evolved naturally?

When I was younger and in bands I remember playing shows and songs that were not great and I can clearly remember playing and in the middle of a song feeling like I was bored of what I was playing so I can only imagine what people were thinking when they watched us. To me, there is a standard of song length that the world likes and I don’t really worry about it. If it’s good who cares right? There is a repeat button on your cd player for a reason.

Your lyrical style seems very conversational…be it serious, humorous or self-deprecating. Where does that come from?

I have no idea, I have struggled with lyrics for my entire songwriting life and I think I just kind of gave up on trying to be artistic with them and just started writting about stuff. The song “Dear Erica” kinda made me think about the little stories that I had and how I could use them in songs. I have had so much wierd stuff happen to me with friends and relationships that was totally untapped because I didn’t know how to write lyrics that were personal to me but still listenable to others. I think over the course of Girls Names and this new CD I have really figured out what I like about writing lyrics and have found a way to not dread it like I used to.

You have your own studio and produce bands. How has that influenced Up Up Down Down’s songwriting and style?

Man…….I don’t know if I could answer that……I have always had a studio and always used it to write so I really don’t know where I would be without knowing how to record. For me, songwriting happens in the studio, I have not sat down with my guitar and tried to write a song in probably like 7 years. I generally noodle around on my guitar and record it and then start layering it with other noodle stuff until I get something and then I do the same with the vocals….I just kinda brainstorm for a bit and then start singing. Who knows what we would sound like if I didn’t have a studio, we would probably be way better.

Your last few releases before Worst Band Name Ever have been offered for free on the band’s website. Talk about that decision and why it was made.

The indie rock record label rat race seemed kinda silly for 5 older dudes. If a label had not picked us up yet it wasn’t gonna happen, so we decided that we would take our music and defy all that the music industry (indie and major) told bands they were supposed to do. The thing that is unique about the 2 EPs being free is not just that they are free but that we wrote and recorded them both with the sole intention of making them free. It wasn’t to sell older records or promote a new record, it was to give people music for free. It’s the thought that counts right?

I remember having a conversation with you back at Macrock a few years ago about not touring anymore. That’s why the song “Boise” cracks me up so much. Talk about the decision to not tour and that song as well.

When Up Up first started playing there were 2 types of indie bands (in my mind), there were the touring bands and the local bands…..lots of local bands were trying to act like the touring bands but in reality they played 6 times a month in their hometown and most of those bands were just taking shows that fell into their lap. To be a touring band back then (1998) you had to be really motivated, there were about one tenth the amount of promoters in the states and you still had to do most of your shows at bars or VFW type places, no booking agents for smaller bands and no myspace, oh and for the most part, no email.. As the internet got bigger and playing in a band became more of a hobby for people (hobby meaning that you chose being in a band over playing soccer in highschool) the market started to get flooded with “indie” bands and DIY promoters and the line between touring band and local band got real blurry. We were watching the whole indie scene explode and we were getting swallowed up in it. At that point in our career we were (and are) still virtually unknown so for people that were just getting introduced to our music we were just considered part of the new flood of bands and that sorta freaked me out since I knew how hard we had worked to get even the small amount of popularity that we had and this wave of shit was about to take that away. I think identity is ultimately the cause of our reluctance to tour. We want an identity and to some people that means getting out there and showing your face and playing shows and being part of a community of people who are doing the same thing. To me that used to be true but now every goddamned band has the same press photo and tour itinerary, I don’t want my band to be part of that. It’s boring and I am bored of it…haha. We are not like those other bands. Of course we are exactly like them but it feels good to say we are not and try to rebel.

Anyway….. We wanted to make sure that we were in control of how people viewed us and decide that laying low and letting the whole scene-a-rama thing die off would be better for us since we were already a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people (with a name like ours) and a glossy pic of us under a bridge wasn’t gonna help.

What do you see for Up Up Down Down in the future?

Right now we have no plans of any kind, some shows this summer to let people hear the new CD played live and that’s about it. Nothing past August. I know you mean “what do I see in the more distant future?” but I got nothing, no plans.

Any last words?

Nah, I need some lunch.

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