The Downtown Fiction Talk Storytelling, "Double E.P.", "Let's Be Animals" Tour, Muppets and More
Wed, 16 Mar 2011 16:14:55
The Rolling Stones Photos
The Downtown Fiction Videos
There's one important question that separates the men from the boys and that’s, "Who's your favorite Muppet?"
Without any hesitation, The Downtown Fiction vocalist Cameron Leahy chuckles, "Animal, for sure!"
His answer speaks volumes for a couple of reasons. First off, Animal is the best and most musical of The Muppets. Secondly, there's a raw truth to the character that's equally apparent in everything that The Downtown Fiction does. On their Double E.P., the band crafts emotional and engaging pop rock that's so vivid and vibrant it's cinematic. Leahy pens infectious, intelligent songs about growing up, following your dreams, relationships, surviving high school, and so much more. The band delivers each song with the perfect balance between sonic storytelling and punchy melodies, and they're one of the best and brightest young acts on the scene. However, Double E.P. is only a prelude to the band's forthcoming full-length, Let's Be Animals, which hits shelves this Spring. Don't miss them when they come to your town on the Let's Be Animals tour with He Is We, Cady Groves, and Amely too.
The Downtown Fiction singer Cameron Leahy sat down for an exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about telling stories in song, high school, his Great Gatsby song, and so much more…
Is it important for you to tell stories with your songs and paint visual pictures?
That's something that I think is important. Lyrically, it's difficult for me to convey emotion without setting the scene a little bit. That might be the writer in me. I've always liked writing short stories, poetry, and stuff. The more you can paint the scene, the more you're going to understand how that person is feeling. Most of the stuff that I wrote about lyrically is real and has actually happened. In that respect, it's really easy to paint a picture because I was there and there are a lot of visuals attached.
What fosters that visual sensibility?
Growing up, I always loved writing. That really translated well to writing songs. I do love movies, but I don't know if that has as much to do with it as appreciating the way any good short story or book is written. I like to set up the scene.
Do you have any favorite authors or books?
In ninth or tenth grade, I wrote a song about The Great Gatsby and played it in class. Everyone really liked it [Laughs]. It was called "A Song for Gatsby." That was back in the day.
What's the story behind "Where Dreams Go To Die?"
That goes back to high school again. I never really felt like I connected with the people who were running my school. I always felt like they never supported people who were interested in doing something outside the box or something that wasn't planned out involving college and resumes. I always wanted to be a musician, and I never felt like they supported that direction. I really didn't like high school, and I always felt like an outsider. That was a song for everyone who's about to enter high school or is in high school right now and is having a rough time. That song could be a message saying, "Hey, it's going to be over in four years. The better years are upon you and don't let a few really jaded people convince you that you can't do something extraordinary."
High school can be quite the catalyst for art though.
Unfortunately, there's so much pressure in the school systems nowadays for standardized testing to get everyone through. There's such a vast amount of people that they can't really foster any of those artistic or creative sensibilities. All they want to do is tell you what's going to be on the standardized test and try their best to get you through. At the same time, I had a lot of experiences with specific elders telling me, "You can't do this. You need backup plans. You need this and that." They never really supported those kids who wanted to do something different. That was always really upsetting. I almost felt like I had to use that negative energy to fuel my music and everything in my life. That's a bit of a bummer. You don't want to have to use negativity, but I was forced to I guess. The song was supposed to be helpful to people who were suffering with being lonely or feeling left out in high school now. I'm really happy with that song and proud of it. I think it has helped a lot of kids. I love hearing stories about how kids heard that song and it helped them feel like there's something beyond this awful place you have to go to for four years.
Was "Living Proof" originally written on an acoustic guitar?
It was originally recorded electric, but I think I wrote it on an acoustic. The song's essentially about infidelity. It's about being young and confused. Relationships are difficult, and it takes a long time to understand how you're actually supposed to go about being in one. It's not as easy as a lot of love stories make it out to be. The song is about learning from your mistakes and being in young love and how tricky that can be especially with how your life is constantly doing a 180 and you're going in a million different directions. It's not easy being in love while young.
If you were to compare Double E.P. to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
[Laughs] Not that we would ever compare our album to their soundtracks, but maybe movies like The Graduate or Almost Famous. I feel like the songs could fit well lyrically with those movies.
Which artists shaped you?
Since I was a kid, it's always been The Rolling Stones. That's pretty much due to my dad. He would always play Rolling Stones records and have Mick Jagger on the television screen, and I'd always be imitating him, dancing around. That was always my go-to band, and they still are.
Have you heard The Downtown Fiction yet?