Lead vocalist/guitarist Cameron Leahy and drummer Eric Jones formed The Downtown Fiction in Summer of 2008, and brought bassist/vocalist David Pavluk into the mix shortly thereafter. In the three years or so since then, they’ve been incredibly successful, achieving more than bands who’d been together much longer. The release of their first EP in 2009 spurred a snowball effect and they’ve just been growing and growing ever since. But how did they manage that?
Apparently, MySpace played a big part. “We started writing in the Summer of 2008, and we started putting our music online that Fall,” Cameron says. Many bands have used sites like PureVolume and MySpace to reach a wider audience, and this worked out well for The Downtown Fiction. They achieved a solid fan base home in Virginia, but also reached listeners around the world. But even so, getting your music heard is often not synonymous with getting it played.
“I have no explanation, and no way of understanding how it became what it is. We started making music because it’s what we loved to do, we shared our music online, and we put out a few EPs. We kinda laugh about it, how we’ve been able to sustain success and touring and how we’re now able to record our first album riding on just those few EPs.”
Their young, pop-rock sound impressively stands out among the rest in their genre, probably because of the band’s many influences. “When I’m writing songs, I draw from what I grew up listening to; The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Beach Boys. When I was around 12 or 13 I started playing guitar, and I discovered bands like Blink-182, Green Day and The Foo Fighters. I like that new blend of classic rock and pop punk.”
So do record label executives. The band signed to Photo Finish Records and will be releasing their first studio album, Let’s Be Animals, on April 26 with a headlining tour in support of the record to follow. Since getting signed, touring has been a lot easier, which is to be expected. “We didn’t really get to do much touring before, because of how difficult it is to book shows and have the money you need to get to them. But we’ve had a lot of great help from the label, we love touring and we’re just now starting to have a great time with it.”
Things are good outside of the U.S. as well. The Downtown Fiction has gained quite a following in Japan since visiting, and plan to head to Indonesia in May with A Rocket To The Moon and Hey Monday. “We’ve never been to Indonesia before, we’re pretty excited about it. We’re also trying to make the connections and get out to Europe and the U.K. too. I feel like going to Japan first has definitely made it easier on us, like we climbed the highest mountain first. The entire culture is different. I feel like if we can survive there, we’ll be okay anywhere. We‘re really looking forward to it.”
But it’s not all fun and groupies. Touring takes a lot out of a person. “I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far on tour is that I have to treat my body with respect. I mean, I enjoy partying and all that but sometimes I have to be lame and responsible and say no, I need to sleep tonight. I have to sing tomorrow, I need to be boring and go to bed early.” It’s a good time, but it’s still work, and Cameron thinks the band’s relative age has nothing to do with it. “I don’t think being young makes much of a difference. I mean, look at bands two or three times our age, still rocking. If you love music and love what you do, that energy is going to be there no matter what. I hope we have that same tenacity when we’re older!”
I’m not sure they’re going to have much of a choice. If their fan base keeps growing at the rate it has in the last couple of years, there’s no way they’re going to be able to fade away from the scene. But that kind of increasing popularity is a double-edged sword, as well. In a time where crazed fans can actually purchase their favorite rockstar’s address online, and websites like IsAnyoneUp update with nude photographs of musicians daily, making everything as accessible and interactive as they have can be dangerous. Cameron says they haven’t had any trouble so far though.
“I don’t like a wall between myself and the fans. There are boundaries, sure, but no one’s looking through my bathroom window yet so I really don’t see an issue. We have the online stuff, the Twitter, but it’s noninvasive. I have been able to lead a very content personal life, and being able to talk to the fans is very important. I don’t think bands should avoid it. It’s a vital resource. We’ve gotten feedback and great communication through networking, I’d never complain about that.” Being careful is key, obviously, but the boys don’t feel as though their privacy has been compromised.
In addition to the extensive marketing and tour schedule and recording, the band has also been receiving more radio play, as well as songs featured on some of MTV’s most popular shows. If you admit to watching Jersey Shore, you’ve probably heard “Best I Never Had.”The first radio single off of the new album will be “I Just Wanna Run,”their most recognizable and most played song yet. “We are thrilled about this record. We start a short tour in about a week to promote it, and we go on with it into early May. And then there’s Bamboozle too. We played the Bamboozle Roadshow last year and it was awesome, but this is our first time at the actual festival. So many friends and great bands are playing, we couldn‘t be more excited.”
As far as the future is concerned, unlike many bands these days, Leahy, Jones and Pavluk don’t like to look too far ahead. They just want to make art. They won’t set impossible goals and ridiculous quotas for themselves, as that tends to be the downfall of many artists. “You set yourself up for failure that way, and with goals and quotas, you compromise your art; your music. And that’s not right.” So how do they stay afloat?
“We live in the moment, we try to reach as many people as possible, and we hope for success. We’re doing a good job right now, I think. A lot of people will set goals and do things for the wrong reasons; we’ve never changed or tried to imitate something we aren’t, and we’ve gotten plenty of recognition all on our own.”
There is an undeniable shortage of alternative rock on the radio; most of the stations I grew up listening to now play country or pop. Cameron and the guys are not ignorant to this fact, and their mindset as a young, up and coming band is commendable. “We know the industry is unpredictable and the fame is fleeting, but we try not to focus on that and just do what we do. We hope for the best, and so far everything has been great. We hope it stays that way.”
Their first studio album, Let’s Be Animals, drops on April 26 and according to Cameron, you can expect a much more rock-infused sound. “More rock has settled into The Downtown Fiction, and it really comes through on the new album. It’s energetic and exciting and just like our live show; we tried to capture that essence. Our shows are more like events, we go all out and the audience is super engaged and it’s a big deal for us.”
The Downtown Fiction have tour dates leading up to and following their April 29 and May 1 Bamboozle sets. More info at thedowntownfiction.com.