There are some performers who come to music later in life. Then, there are folks who you can just tell were voracious students and consumers of music since before they could talk. Seattle / Los Angeles / North Carolina based quartet Down North fall squarely into the latter group. Trying to pin genre tags onto their unique brand of psych-infused punk soul is an exercise in futility. These creatives pick and choose just-right bits and flavors drawn from the whole of modern western music like painters with unlimited palates.
Front man Anthony Briscoe, bassist Brandon Storms, guitarist Nick Quiller, and drummer Conrad Real (who also plays with Ayron Jones and icons Digable Planets) were on a roll following the release of the No Retreat Volume 1 EP (2018). The record had been well received by the press, and extensive touring plans were in place. Then, the global pandemic brought everything to a screeching halt.
When other artists might have succumbed to despair, Down North strives to live their motto: No Retreat, No Return, No Surrender. “We tried to see it as an opportunity,” explains Briscoe. “We’ve been known as a great live band. This time we really wanted to show that we could capture that magic in our recorded music.”
Thematically, the record deals with the timeless subject of love. Though, in this case, the focus tends toward how often it just doesn’t go that well. For anybody. Ever. “My sister was a great songwriter and helped a lot” says Briscoe. “That was before she passed, a victim of domestic violence. She wrote the song “If I”, which is actually about domestic violence, but told from the man’s perspective.” The track hits as hard emotionally as it does sonically.
Working with rising producer Noah Althoff, the band tracked the record at Kaleidoscope Recording Studio in Lancaster, PA. “No offense to any of the Seattle studios, but we didn’t want to have the same sound as everybody else here” explains Briscoe. “A lot of the rooms in Seattle sound very similar, especially when it comes to drums.” In addition to the core band, the record feature performances by mountain soul keyboardist Tuck Ryan. “This record is something I’m proud of” says Quiller. “That’s never happened before. Boosh.”
The music that Down North has laid to tape on No Restraint Volume 2 is driving, crisply executed, and tight as all get out. It is funky - but it would be wrong to call it funk. Strong pop melodicism anchors searing punk energy. Brash technical virtuosity nods to Alternative rock. Funky gospel metal, maybe? Regardless of what you call it, this record exudes its creators fierce focus and determination. It is powerful, defiantly celebratory, and downright captivating. No Retreat, No Return, No Surrender indeed.