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 scene. 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. and the neo-psychedelic trills of Jon Preece 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).

Like many bands these days, the two met on Craigslist — Anthony
finally finding collaborators who wanted to make the good time, high
quality sounds he loves to listen to and make, and Brandon eager to
add him to Down North’s line-up. “I want to have a body of work,”
Brandon says about their recent playing in the studio, “We’re going to
focus on short releases (EPs) of great songs; I want to release as
much as I can but it has to be high quality material.”

The additions of adroit players like Conrad and Jon to the new
recordings are game-changing, as the former stands up to his fierce
and sophisticated percussion hero Chris Coleman and the later channels
the swirling velvet chamber sounds of Ray Manzarek. Conrad may play
for several other successful Seattle groups, but you can tell he has
his heart set on taking Down North to the top. And Jon is a huge draw
for those attracted to the more progressive elements in the band’s
sound, using classically trained and odd-metered riffs to carry the
flow through the band and out to the people.

Down North’s introductory 5 song EP was recorded at Alien Crime
Syndicate’s Orbit Audio (which had previously been Duff McKagan’s
studio for when Guns ‘n’ Roses recorded Use Your Illusion l & ll). and
was  is available for free on their website, and gives a taste of how
tight and talented the group is (check out the intoxicating chorus of
“Stupid Man” or the roar of “Danger”). Down North’s new live shows
with the upgraded line-up may be a better way to experience what’s
really going on with them, as the band has gotten to a much high level
than when they started in 2008 — and the new EP is pure cake and is
due soon.

–Chris Estey