Band of the Week: Total Downer

Group plays a release party on February 3 at Crobar

click to enlarge Total Downer. - Courtesy of Total Downer
Courtesy of Total Downer
Total Downer.
MEET THE BAND: Andy Schumann (guitars, vocals), Clay Reid (guitars), Arfil Pajarillaga (bass) and Dante Foley (drums)

IT’S OFFICIAL: The band first formed “a long time ago” when Schumann was still in his late teens. “I played with different people over the years,” he says. “But this iteration came together in October of 2021. I had put out a couple of songs here and there, but that’s when the group truly started. It was after I came back to Cleveland after graduating from New York University.” The group put out its first EP, Keep on Riding that Dirt Bike, in 2019. “That was with my high school buddies,” Schumann says when asked about the EP. “We got together one summer, and I had a couple of songs, and we recorded them in a day or two. This current version of the band, however, feels very official.”

GOT IT ON TAPE: Distributed by Cleveland’s Just Because Records, the band’s new album, Caretaker, will see a limited cassette release in addition to its digital release when it arrives on Jan. 27. The album will come out digitally on that day too. “We didn’t pitch to any other labels except for them,” says Schumann. “A lot of the bands that play at Happy Dog frequently are on the label. They’re punk-y garage bands making power-pop songs. I pitched it to them, and the label owner said he didn’t know if he wanted to put it out. He thought it was too poppy. He said it would have been his favorite album in high school, so he had to right by his childhood self. That meant a lot to me. I wrote these songs thinking about what I would have wanted to hear thematically and in terms of the energy when I was 14 or 15.” Indie bands such as Joyce Manor and Charly Bliss inspired the songwriting. The label will sell only 80 cassettes, five of which have been dubbed on “old sermon tapes” featuring “wacky old Cleveland preachers” (they’ve already sold out). “I got a huge box of tapes of Cleveland preachers from Facebook marketplace,” says Schumann. “They’re pretty intense.”

DOLLY DOES IT: Printed on Gildan heavy cotton, the band’s new T-shirt features a drawing of Dolly Parton. The group also has a song called “Dolly Parton” too. “I love Dolly Parton,” says Schumann. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I wrote this song that’s a fantasy about if Dolly Parton was this absolute monarch of the world. In one sense, she’s a tyrant, but everyone is okay with it. I just think it would be funny if somehow Dolly Parton ruled the world. It’s kind of a satirical song. A lot of the songs are about the idolatry of celebrities.”

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: Earlier this month, the group released the first single, the pop-punk tune “Taylor Lautner,” a track that features hiccuping vocals and an undeniable hook. “[Lautner] was 16 or 17 when he starred as Jacob Black in the Twilight films,” says Schumann. “I always thought he was way older than me. He had a six-pack and girls were going crazy over him. I saw this article that said he was only 16 at the time he was cast and was asked to keep taking off his shirt. The song is about feeling this weird duality. I wish I was as strong and jacked as Taylor Lautner, but then, I also realize that the way he became a sex symbol is pretty messed up. They were asking a kid to take his clothes off.” With its loud/quiet trajectory, “Star Rek’t,” another album highlight, has a Weezer-like vibe and shows off the band’s sharp pop sensibilities.


WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: Total Downer performs at 10 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2, on WRUW Live and with Uniity and Antrevian at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3, at Crobar.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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