Denver-based rock trio Down Time is releasing its debut EP, Good Luck!, on GROUPHUG. The five-track offering has its origins in songs singer/guitarist Alyssa Maunders was writing while she was living in Albuquerque.
There Maunders had been in the indie-pop band Cattalo. But she felt the smallness of the local scene too keenly, and in late 2015 decided to move to Denver.
Maunders's friend in Albuquerque, guitarist and keyboard player Justin Camilli, had attended Colorado State University, where he formed the experimental pop-group Cotton Keys; after graduating, he moved to Denver. The former members of Cotton Keys went on to form the core of the GROUPHUG imprint, including the bands Panther Martin and Super Bummer.
Denver bassist David Weaver had listened to Cattalo and was struck by Maunders's talent. “Then I heard Alyssa was moving to Denver. I thought, I have to be in a band with her somehow,” says Weaver.
That chance came in February 2016, when Camilli and Maunders brought to Weaver — who is also a recording engineer — two of the songs Maunders had written in Albuquerque. Something gelled between Maunders's more raw, spontaneous songwriting and Weaver's and Camilli's instinct for refining songs that led to a compelling set of material.
Maunders, who had studied concert violin in college, wasn't confident as a songwriter, although equally committed to the discipline. “I was kind of scared of music, like, 'No, I just read it,''” says Maunders. “Now I don't even like to play violin. I just play poor guitar, and I sing.”
Self-deprecation aside, Down Time became a different kind of band in a few critical ways. Weaver, who had a background as a drummer, wanted to play bass; as the group started playing shows, he decided to do both, playing the kick drum and the hi-hat with his feet and the bass with his hands. However, on the EP he says he plays “full-limb drums.”
"The full potential of the songs revealed them to us with the recording,” says Weaver.
Camilli describes the sound as “Grandma jams: The Velvet Underground meets Frankie Cosmos — maybe Courtney Barnett style too.”
Weaver engineered the album on his eight-track Tascam Portastudio 488 and could have done some fancy editing, but the band took a more analog approach, with most of the work done on the front end with effects added to the instruments before recording, rather than in the editing process. The result is a warm, spontaneous and fresh album.
During the recording sessions, Down Time didn't have a name for the EP until Weaver had to do some maintenance on his tape machine.
“I ended up buying a head demagnetizer online," says Weaver. “It came with the cardboard with the molded plastic on top, like it came off a pegboard at some point. It was so old the cardboard was warping off. But the design was nice, with 3D font for the letters. Underneath the demagnetizer itself was this pokeball-shaped thing that said, 'Good luck!' — like it was a surprise.”
The odd bit of retro graphic-design artwork inspired the title, "Good Luck!" as well as the packaging of the cassette designed by Camilli, which he describes as "Wes Anderson, kinda cutesy."
Down Time with Natalie Tate, Porlolo and Lillian, 8 p.m. doors, 9 p.m. show, Friday, June 30, Lost Lake, 303-291-1007, $8-10, 21+.