The punks from the Prairies, Donway just released their latest record, Last Chance For More Regrets, on May 1st through Thousand Islands Records. This marked the band’s first new album in fifteen years and was a long time coming after the release of 2003’s split record with Belvedere. The Calgary quartet formed just about 25 years ago and enjoyed some consistent commercial and critical success right off the bat, signing a quick record deal with Hourglass Records, music videos featured on MuchMusic, countless tours and even an appearance on the Vans Warped Tour.
But then Downway broke up in 2003 and the group’s members moved on to other musical ventures. Fourteen years later, a reunion was officially on, as the band members decided to give it another go resulted in Last Chance For More Regrets. Fresh off of a tour of Eastern Canada with Hit The Switch, and a stop at Montreal’s Pouzza Fest, we spoke with guitarist Ryan Eagleson about how this reunion came about, the new record, and what it was like to record together again after such a long hiatus.
First off, how does it feel to be doing this band again 25 years after you initially formed? Did you ever envision taking Downway as a band this far?
Ryan Eagleson: I’d definitely say it’s better this time. At least in some ways, it is. When you’re young, everything is coming at you full throttle. You make decisions without any real idea what you’re doing or forethought. Now that we’ve all been through it all, it’s just more fun. I think we all took things for granted back then. Not just what we were able to accomplish as a band but our friendships. You create a unique bond when you pile four dudes into a van or RV and take off on a tour for two months with only 200 dollars in your pocket. I think we are all better friends now and definitely appreciate each other and our differences more. With the amazing adventures of youth and the travelling band aside, I think we’re cool with knowing we won’t be homeless if we don’t quit the band now. (laughs)
From our friends and partners, BlankTV, here’s a retro music video of Downway performing “Glory,” way back in 2007!
For those not aware, Downway first split up in 2003 before reforming in 2017. Take us through the process of how the reformation came about. Who initially precipitated it?
Eagleson: Well, I’d say we toyed with it a few times over the years. We had a reunion show and opened for Face To Face a few years back, but it wasn’t until (singer and guitarist Dave) Pederson’s 40th birthday party where we actually decided we would give it a real go. I had seen Pederson a fair bit over the years but (vocalist and bassist Dave) Holmes not so much.
We were all drinking pretty heavily that night and just like in our youth, it seemed like a good time to make some big decisions. You could say that it went down like the typical American movie where the boys are back in town for the high school reunion, meet up at the bar and talk about how rad it would be to still be playing football again… except we never played football and we actually improved over the years so… suck it high school sports, we’re firing up the band again!
What were some of the projects you were busy with in between the time of Downway’s split and reformation?
Eagleson: Pederson played in a band called Red City Anthem which put out an EP a few years later and I played in a band called Fallout Frequency for a couple of years with my first drummer Isaac and Sinclair from Belvedere. Holmes didn’t play in another band until after we started up again. I guess with all the excitement of playing again he couldn’t contain the outburst of songs he had and he wanted to experiment with some new sounds so he made Palliser, which is hard to describe other than really good.
For the most part, we all started our own businesses, had kids and tried to take part in the growing up process. Unfortunately, during the time when we were planning on getting Downway back together our brother and former drummer, Isaac Creasey, passed away suddenly. While tough for me to head at this without him, this was also the best way to honour him our friendship and bond we all had. Our newest member and drummer, Lyndon, was a friend of Pederson’s through these years and I met him at Pederson’s 40th. He could keep up with our drinking so we took a shot and gave him one too.
The artwork for Last Chance For More Regrets, released May 1st, 2019.
Now that we’ve caught up with some of the past, that brings us to the present and your new record Last Chance For More Regrets. It’s your first release since your split record with Belvedere in 2003, titled Hometown Advantage. What was it like recording music again together after being away from it for so long?
Eagleson: It was a great experience for once. I remember living in the studio for a couple of weeks in Vancouver when we did “Never Be Clever Again.” It was a cool studio but things were so different then. Having to bounce down the reels to a rack CD burner than trying to find somewhere to reference it seems archaic now. These days you can “Dropbox” it and go listen to it on anything and get a much better feel as to what it’s going sound like on the majority of players.
As far as the in studio time together, it was kind of like playing tag. Since we all tried to work and maintain somewhat normal lives, we mainly just scheduled out times for guys to do what they could when they were there. Which honestly was much better. When you record for long periods you end up glossing over things and missing important details. When someone comes in a few hours later with fresh ears they can almost always tell you just spent three hours doing it wrong… but maybe that’s just my experience…
Take us a little bit through the recording process. When did you begin and how long did it take to write and record?
Eagleson: We started over a year ago. We basically recorded it twice. First, we laid down most of all the tracks in Garageband and then mixed it in Logic Pro X so we could hear where it was all going. From there we spent three months on and off over 45 or more days to record it at Echobase Studio with Casey Lewis, here in Calgary. Casey was awesome to work with. Being an amazing musician himself he helped out a bunch with some ideas here and there.
With the mere fact, we didn’t put a time limit on it and with Pederson’s ”I like it but I think it could be better” production (style) it’s by far our best sounding album to date. For myself, I’d say the one thing that recording does is humble you. When you hit the record button it’s like staring into a full-length mirror. You feel like the pants are fitting but you turn around and you’re like yeah… I’m gonna need to tone that up a little.
For all the “Wild Ones” out there, here’s one of the big tracks off Last Chance For More Regrets.
I’m sure there are inevitably differences in the way you sound now, in 2019 as compared to 2003. What would you say is the main difference between new Downway and past Downway?
Eagleson: Hmm, I’d say we are much more honest with each other now. It sucks telling someone their song doesn’t work or it’s just not that good but taking that criticism is paramount to putting out a good album and inevitably making you a better songwriter. If I had to say what the main difference is between us then and now… I’d say maybe just maturity.
Pederson and Holmes spent a lot of time on writing lyrics that had some real meaning to them, which in my opinion goes a long way in how a song really holds its bite. As far as the overall musical sound, I’d say we sound pretty much like the old Downway just tighter and more polished. We’ve never been much of a crazy technical band I wouldn’t say. We’ve always spent more time focusing on songs we think people would remember and hopefully love.
I wanted to ask you about the Vans Warped Tour since you are “Warped veterans,” having played it in 1999, 2001 and 2002. It’s well known now that this will be the final year for the Vans Warped Tour. How does it feel to see these types of travelling festivals ending? Does it sadden you to see how the industry has changed so much since the first incarnation of Downway?
Eagleson: I wouldn’t say that it saddens me really. The industry has changed so much on so many levels. Firstly, maybe as a concertgoer, it kind of sucks because the Vans Warped Tour is like a one-stop shop to see most of all your favorite bands, but I would think, that another one will surface soon enough. There have been so many bands to reform and put out new records like us, that it seems inevitable that another one will come along.
As far as the industry goes, it’s always been a win/lose situation. I guess it really depends on how you look at it. Back in the day if you had weak distribution, the only time someone could get your “CD” is if they came to your show. Now people all over the world can hear a new song or album in seconds. I think my main problem with the way it is now, is that I literally forget within months about albums. I’m guilty of this for sure. For instance, you stream an album or add it to your collection and a couple of weeks later you’ve added fifteen more albums, forgot about the first one and then it kind of disappears on you.
That bothers me a lot. It’s not something that used to happen when you brought your 50 disk “binder” with you on tour. Instead of having your favourite fifteen to thirty albums, now you’re searching through a thousand bands? It’s a bit overwhelming and I think the listener sometimes misses out on the physical nature of holding the artwork and maybe reading along with the lyrics.
There is no Last Chance For More Regrets when it comes to music, so stream this album now!
With regards to touring, Downway toured Japan this past December. What was this experience like for you? Was it the band’s first ever trip there?
Eagleson: Yeah, it was the first time and probably not our last. Honestly, we can’t wait to go back. We’ve never had so much fun. The shows were great, the people were great and local bands were ridiculously good. The culture was so much different from North America it was super refreshing. It was like being on vacation and then playing a show every night. Oddly enough, the shows ended pretty early over there, so we would go out to a little karaoke bar just down the street from our place and make asses out of ourselves until we drank them out of beer… which I think we did three times. Asahi!!!!
We stayed for the most part in Shinjuku, which is pretty much in the middle of everything. There are thousands of tiny little restaurants and you can pretty much find anything you want to eat, drink or see there. I’d say that everyone should try and go there at least once. It was a great experience for us and really solidified the whole “getting back together” idea for us.
What can you tell us about Downway’s future plans regarding touring and recording? What can we expect the rest of this year, heading into 2020?
Eagleson: Good question. We want to support this album the best we can and still try and maintain a healthy balance with our families and businesses, which really is the most important thing to all of us. We just recently finished finish dates out in Ontario and Quebec with Hit The Switch from California. We played Pouzza Fest, out in Montreal, which we had not played till now. We have some upcoming shows slotted for September to play Vancouver, Victoria, and a few other cities, then we are going to take the summer off and plan for the rest of the year and 2020.
We do have a couple of recorded songs that I think we will release a bit down the road but we don’t have any real plans to record again yet. I do have a feeling we may though. We’ve all spent a lot of effort getting back at this again, so I doubt we will stop anytime soon. I’d say we are all just enjoying the moment and loving doing this again. Playing shows, getting back out there and meeting new bands and friends along the way is something I think we’re all not too quick to look past just yet.