There was a moment in the evolution of California punk and hardcore when the music took a hard turn toward politics and DIY ethics. In the middle of this moment, the California band Downcast put out a few records, played almost 200 shows over four years with legendary bands like Born Against and Rorschach, and then was gone.
After Downcast broke up, the various members went on to form Not For The Lack of Trying, Jara, and Born & Raised. Now, the band, comprised of Kevin Doss, Greg Doss, Brent Stephens, and Sean Sellers is picking up where they left off. This time around, Ebullition Records teams up with the pioneering noise label Three One G to release Tell Me I’m Alive as recorded and mixed by Ryan Greene at Crush Recording and mastered at Oasis Mastering.
The album will be released on vinyl and digitally via Three One G Records/Ebullition Records on February 21, 2020 (preorder, here), but you can listen to their newest record, their first in 25 years, below. This is what Stephens had to say about it:
“We weren’t interested in a reunion. That was then and this is now. Instead, we were interested in making new Downcast music – the same values, the same stance, and the same willingness to put it on the line. Yes, there are changes to what we used to be, but the DNA is the same. It’s still Downcast and it shows.
“When we played in the past, we learned over time to love the contrasts, how heavy and light can work together, or tension and relief. This was the same with our lyrics as we mixed political critique with our private hopes for love and connections and a meaningful life. Anger and love can both come from wanting things to be better.
“We know that youth will always matter, and that new music made by young people will always take the center stage. It’s important that it stays this way, and it’s why we pay attention to new music as much as we can. But picking up with Downcast again and being committed to the basic values of the band, we also realize that our experiences bring a new depth to the music. When we sang about love in the song “Hope”, we were facing the future. When we sing about love in “Price” on the new album, now it’s enriched by the challenges of loving over many years. Its value to us is heightened by being years of being bone-tired, or by having to mourn the losses we’ve experienced.
“Tell Me I’m Alive, the title of the record, is one of the central themes of this record. On the first track, ‘From the Body,’ we acknowledge where we’ve been and who we lost along the way. We name the people we loved and who changed us because of their energy and talent. Sara Kirsch from Fuel and Mothercountry, Motherfucker, and Mia Zapata from the Gits, and Chris Hervey, who played drums with us and was murdered in 1996. To move forward, we had to look back in love. But we have to remind ourselves that we are still alive and as filled with potential as we ever were. We all have to keep building.
“Aside from being the album title, ‘Tell Me I’m Alive’ is also a line from the song ‘Hiding In The Limbs.’ This track is about the Pulse nightclub shooting, and we imagine these words – tell me I’m alive – being spoken by one of the young men killed in that tragedy. We want to honor the life in that space for gay and lesbian and trans people, the resistance in that community, the desire to be complete and and loved and in love.
“The record ends with ‘The World He Promised to Katherine,’ and this song starts as a lament. It’s about a young child in one of our lives who is now gone. More than any other song, this is where all the fury we feel about the ongoing loss of life, what we see all the time, is finally released.
“We’re so proud to have two heavyweight record labels with us on this journey. Ebullition was pivotal to our formation, not just because of the first EP, but because we all shaped our values together in a single community. And Three One G is an amazing platform for pioneering music. Both labels have such a strong identity, and we’re grateful to both Justin Pearson and Kent McClard for all the support. We’re also grateful to Ghettoblaster for their support, and to both new and old listeners for spending some time with us.”