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Talking cassette culture with the Down House

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PRESS TO PLAY Casey Colby (second from right) says tapes are DIY necessities.
  • PRESS TO PLAY Casey Colby (second from right) says tapes are DIY necessities.

Things have never been better for Santa Rosa indie band the Down House. Especially considering the band's ill-fated first gig.

Guitarist and vocalist Casey Colby formed the darkly new wave–inspired post-punk band with his partner, guitarist Sarah Davis, in 2013. "We booked our first show before we wrote any songs or anything," Colby laughs. Undaunted, the pair scraped together a set that covered musical influences like Echo & the Bunnymen. "All our amps fell apart, it was terrible," he says. "But you knew it could only get better."

Things did get better. Over the last four years, the Down House have caught a lot of attention for their addictively rhythmic rock and roll singles and 7-inch splits with other bands, culminating in this weekend's unveiling of the band's first proper full-length album, Our Mess, via San Francisco label Broke Hatrè.

If you want to hear it, though, you'll need your trusty tape player, as Our Mess is being released on cassette only.

"As much as I love vinyl, I have more fun when I can go about things a little faster," says Colby. The problem with the recent resurgence of vinyl records in the last decade is that they take time to press. In addition, major label acts like Taylor Swift want to release vinyl to their masses, meaning independent bands like the Down House are left on the waiting list as the too-few pressing plants get more and more backlogged.

The good news is that you can still get a good, working tape player at Goodwill for about 5 bucks. "Tapes are really inexpensive. Our tapes took less than three weeks to make, packaging included, which is awesome," says Colby. "I think [tapes] are definitely a DIY necessity."

Colby also acknowledges the novelty aspect of cassette tapes is stronger than ever for the generation who grew up buying them at Sam Goody stores. "We come from the dark era of vinyl—like, I never wanted Blink-182 on vinyl," he laughs.

The band's current lineup includes drummer Connor Alfaro (OVVN), keyboardist Anthony Killian (Spirits of Leo), guitarist Derek Nielsen (the Illumignarly) and bassist James Ryall (Brown Bags) backing Colby and Davis.

Our Mess sees the band adding several layers of atmospheric guitars and mixing up their dark and droning punk sounds with psychedelic splashes and new instruments, such as tambourine and trumpets. Still, the band keeps the heaviness intact. Our Mess is the Down House's biggest, most emotionally charged and most electrifying record yet.

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