By Alexandra Hall
“In the five years I’ve lived in Denver, I don’t think they’ve ever made any improvements to the bathroom. But that’s what makes it great. That’s the venue I miss the most,” Alyssa Maunders of Down Time said.
The Hi-Dive sits in the middle of the Baker neighborhood, an area which is historically the hub of all-things-hip in Denver. As venues seem to be closing right and left, artists are stressfully watching their favorite places and avenues to spread their music close.
When asked why their venue was this beloved gem of the city, co-owner Curtis Wallach replied with a quote from a fellow Denver artist, Slim Cessna.
“The Hi-Dive serves as home base for me and countless other musicians. It is where we can experiment and grow and are always encouraged to do so…The Hi-Dive represents everything that has ever been good about Denver for the local music community. My hope is it will always continue to be.”
As described by Maunders, the Denver music scene is a reflection of the city– a place that is exciting and beautiful but one that’s difficult to find your footing. With an influx of new people every year, the scene feels perpetually “in transition” without any clear destination. Acts like Down Time make the scene a community. They offer music that feels timeless, sincere, and reliable. They make it known that the group isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Moving to the Mile High City with a handful of songs and a dream to start a band suddenly started to feel less glamorous when the group released their album, “Hurts Being Alive” about a week before the COVID-19 worldwide lockdowns of 2020. Talk about bad luck but a proper title.
The central themes of the record are even more coincidental and ominous when seen through the scope of a 2021 lens. “Doubt,” the second to last song on the album has the lyric “Flashback to a time when I had no fear/ Love was larger than mine, I could see it so clear.” This lyric highlights a major theme of the album: feeling stuck. “Despite,” harps on relationships that begin to feel distant and strained when carried out through a screen. There’s a melancholic tone to the song, despite its upbeat tempo. The song explores a feeling of sadness due to this technological disconnect and struggles with the feeling that although you’re not technically alone, it feels as though you are. There’s a plea for the relationship to feel real when the connection itself feels faux. “Star” showcases the typical symptoms of a case of the “mean reds”: plants dying around you and feeling stuck in your bed and head. “Blank Stare” even packs the punch, “It’s all the same when I’m at home.”
The fact that this wasn’t written during the pandemic reveals that the roots of a lot of our issues are not because of quarantine. We felt lonely and disconnected before the world shut down. We questioned the validity of our relationships. We felt stuck in our heads and suffocated by the day-to-day. We were like this before the pandemic, perhaps not as extreme, but consistent in our woes nonetheless. It wasn’t until the pleasure of divulging in those feelings was robbed by the pandemic.
“You never know what something is going to mean until time has passed,” Maunders said in response to the themes of the album.
It’s no surprise that releasing an album into a pandemic is like a mother bird sending her child out to fly and it being immediately eaten by a hawk. The group spent nearly two years crafting the songs on the album, and collaborated with another Denver band, Tennis for its production process. The release was supposed to be a strong debut for the group. It was for the release show… occurring the weekend before the shutdowns.
With all this downtime, the role that art plays in our life is becoming highlighted like never before. From binge-watching movies and old shows to making a few too many playlists for very specific feelings, it is clear that art is a crutch that people are heavily leaning on right about now. And yet, artists are still begging major music streaming platforms like Spotify to be paid at least a cent per stream.
Maunders went on to explain how easy it is to take things for granted, especially free music and concerts. Being a supporter of the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers, Down Time is just one of the thousands of smaller artists demanding reform in the streaming business (amongst other issues). Cultures rely on art to interpret the world around them at a specific time, and yet in the name of immediacy, we’ve severely undervalued those who create.
“I hope people will re-evaluate what’s important to them. I know I’ll never take a conversation with a stranger in a dive bar for granted again,” Maunders said.
Down Time has begun working on their next release, a collection of songs that have not been played in front of any experimental audiences. With their previous releases, the songs were performed with the audience in mind. Performing in front of an audience grants the artist the opportunity to get a feel for the songs, observe the crowd’s reaction, and locate kinks that need to be working out. But sometimes, this method can result in a sort of complacency that leaves the songs where they are with no further fine-tuning.
Working so diligently on “Hurts Being Alive” has prepared Down Time to head into their new songs with the production experience and a hearty objective to elevate their songs above complacency. They are trying to take their work to the next level while still maintaining their expertly woven lyrics and their harmony of digital and analog recordings.
“We haven’t really found our audience yet because we’re still relatively unknown. So we don’t feel a rush to release anything immediately. We’ll release a few singles, maybe music videos, and go from there,” Maunders said.
Even though it might be through a screen, visiting their songs feels like spending time with an old friend and noticing something new about them. A new phrase, a new style, a new scar. Down Time offers music that feels authentic and one that commiserates with the listener. Their sound resembles Her’s with sweeter vocals. Justin Camilli and David Weaver breathe life into the lyrics with infectious melodies and hypnotic rhythm, completing Down Time’s trio of talent. All elements of their songs seem expertly in sync and complementary to each other.
The group is on a steady path towards their next era as of now, working towards building the Denver music scene, honing their production tastes, and finding their place in the industry.
It seems as though their songs might even be able to tell the future. Let’s hope the next album offers some happier predictions.
Until next time,
Union of Musicians and Allied Workers: https://www.unionofmusicians.org/justice-at-spotify