Down North masterfully mixes underground rock and party-fueling soul, regularly lifting up audiences that have been craving new soul sounds from the city that gave the world Wheedle’s Groove and Jimi Hendrix.
Down North’s upcoming new line-up debut will still feature the bold and sensual talents of lead vocalist/dancer Anthony “RenaGade” Briscoe, whose North Carolina-bred approach to making fans swoon has no equal in the Pacific NW. Raised on Michael Jackson and Sam Cooke, Anthony is as stylish and emotional as Prince in his vocal expressions. Co-leader Brandon Storms is an extremely versatile bassist-guitarist who writes much of the music and taps into his love for everything from Hendrix to James Jamerson in making tunes both infectious and substantial.
The recent additions of Drum Off! award-winning and crowd-amping player Conrad Real (drummer for Ayron Jones and The Way and Society’s Child as well) and the psychedelic-jazz trills of guitarist Nick Quiller make the band an unusual and extremely welcome addition to the regional music scene. Depending on whim (and the size of the stage!), Down North expands to a seven piece, integrating horns and other players to help deliver their dazzling grooves.
They’ll probably also transcend to higher level of acclaim very soon; early single “Danger” was played on MTV’s The Real World even before this killer line-up was settled on. Newer meatier cuts like “So What,” “Your World,” “Running,” and “Heartbreaker/Revolution” (which features the Black Rock psyche-outs of guest legendary axeman Jabrille) reveal the band moving in even edgier, sweatier musical realms.
“We want to be an opening beacon for this scene that’s happening now and not getting enough notice,” Anthony says. He loves to hang out all over Seattle, but the other night was blown away when he met two gals on Cap Hill “who had lived all their lives here and never heard of Marmalade.” He wants to open up the party to rock fans “who want to dance again!” and to those who have been craving fresh, warm, loving soul in the midst of a chilly indie scene. “The people that play in this band are excellent at what they do and we’re all here to play music for people who want to move and connect.”
Down North is part of the zeitgeist not only of bands mining a deeper, better played history, but also one that taps into the 90s music scene when anything was possible. “I grew up pretty sheltered,” Brandon admits, growing up in a small Washington town near the Canadian border, “and had my life turned around by feasting on albums like ‘Check Your Head’ — the fusion of all those beautiful sounds going on at that time.” Serious about his playing (like Anthony, they were raised in the church and really learned how to practice and perform music), he moved to Seattle, and enrolled in the Shoreline recording program. He joined some musicians which became the formative version Down North, and their first gig was opening for Alien Crime Syndicate before a crowd of 500 people. “I was playing in a soul band before I even listened to soul!” he says (and has truly grown into the role).
“I have a terrible sense of direction, so when I heard of Down North it was love at first sound. I clicked the play button and discovered an uplifting, punk, soul infusion roaring through my headphones. This is exactly what I needed to get my day started. Seattle has grown a new addiction, this four piece band. These guys have created a genre of their own and it’s damn good. You’ll hear the influences of Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix and Sam Cooke within 30 seconds of listening. I dare you to not fall in love with Down North, triple dog dare you.” JEFF ISRAEL, Sonicbids
“One of the most underrated bands in the Pacific NW, Down North is tough enough to be jam-it Afro-punk, stylish enough to buy your lady a drink with a smile you just gotta forgive, soulful enough to bring the spirit of Michael Jackson into your neighborhood church, and born to make you bounce into the crowd. What I love about them the most is that I could totally see them kicking ass in an East Coast club between sets of no wave bands and noise units, bringing the heat and the heart to the art school scene. Yes, they’re that smart and that on fire.” CHRIS ESTEY, Three Imaginary Girls
“I listened to this local funk band for the first time this morning (it’s somewhere at the beginning of the last month of summer), and what’s been said about them by Dave Segal (‘Super-competent players and singers all’) and Grant Brissey (‘These guys can bring the goods’) is actually as true as true can be. These cats are talented and have wonderful amounts of rocking energy. I’m really surprised it took so long to get with this program.” CHARLES MUDEDE, The Stranger
“Christening the stage was Down North, a Seattle soul punk act fronted by a peacocking Anthony Briscoe. The band fittingly played music that, in part, tips its hat to the EMP’s patron saint Jimi Hendrix … and the band churned through its funk songs, the bass punching me in the throat. The crowd of a few hundred approved.” MARK BAUMGARTEN, Seattle Weekly
“Local funketeers Down North got my Bumbershoot ’13 off to a throw-down start with a ferocious instrumental attack and frontman Anthony Briscoe’s killer pipes.” TONY KAY, The Sunbreak
“Down North were one of those Seattle bands that became miffed when The Stranger’s Megan Seling jokingly dissed funk, but their ire was justified: Down North—super-competent players and singers all—have mastered that taut, coiled groove science that marks much of the best funk, past and present.” DAVE SEGAL, The Stranger
“Funk is a medium best experienced live. Perhaps in recognition of this, local funk five-piece Down North will record their set tonight. Will this be the band’s—or Seattle’s—Live at the Apollo? This remains to be seen, but the scant live footage available suggests these guys can bring the goods. (Check the drum solo.) Either way, dudes are gonna need a crowd to break it down for—don’t leave ‘em hangin’.” THE CROCODILE
“Down North… my new favorite Seattle band. Just awesome. If you get a chance to see them, do so.” BOB RIVERS
“Funk! Without having to disguise it as soul or Motown to get me to like it? Dude sings like James Brown, with a tinge of Michael Jackson (RIP). He even nails those high-pitched hiccups—whoo! The bass is less slap and more groove. And that was a killer guitar solo right there! If this were playing in a bar, I would wiggle a little. Does this mean I like funk? Fuck. I might like more funk than I thought I did.” MEGAN SELING, The Stranger