Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pat Downes Q&A - from 1/11/06 Mercury

What he got


Sometimes the best way to make your own music is to join a band devoted to someone else's songs. That's the case for Newport native Pat Downes, who quit his day job last fall to hit the road with Sublime tribute band Badfish, formed in 2000 by a trio of University of Rhode Island students. Downes' involvement in music started when he picked up a saxophone at age 9. He played in school bands from grade school into college and was a longtime member of Jiya.

When did you join Badfish?

Actually, it was the end of October, I was in another band out of Boston, Suspect, and we ended up opening for Badfish, and then they asked me if I wanted to come up and play a song. Then after that, they said "Hey, if you learn how to play some keyboards, too, we'll give you a job."

Oh, that's right, because you're a sax player.

Yeah, so, I didn't even know how to play the keyboards, but they said if I learned the parts for their songs, then they could give me some work.

Was Suspect another cover band?

No, it was original music.

What's it like to go from an original band to a cover band?

You find a way to put your own spin on it so you can still keep it creative and fun. Definitely the benefit is you can go to the show and everybody knows the words to the songs. It's weird. It's like you're just basically leading a big sing-a-long. Everybody's already into it and knows what's going on. So that makes it fun. But I'm still writing original stuff on the side, because that's part of the art, you know? I couldn't support myself on my original music when I was doing just that. This is my only job now.

So you don't have a day job anymore?

No. That's why I'm home right now. When we're on the road, that's all I do. And then when I come home I play three shows a week and then have the rest of the week off. I'm doing the whole singer-songwriter thing, so I play guitar and sing. I have my own stuff that I work on. I played drums for a while in a band, and I play bass.

What is the original material that you guys have been working on like?

It's pretty much under the same blanket as the Sublime style music. Just like a rock-reggae thing. We're trying to write towards what our audience would like.

Would you do it under the Badfish name, or would you do it under a different name?

That's still under debate. It's still early. It's definitely being thrown around a lot.

Were you a big Sublime fan before you joined Badfish?

Yeah, I knew all the stuff. I definitely wasn't listening to it as much as I do now, but I was definitely a fan.

I really doubt you saw them back in the proverbial day...

No I did not (laughs).

Can you describe your main audience? And what's your average draw?

For age, we don't play at colleges, but just college towns, it depends on the place. We play clubs that hold usually on average 500 or 600. They usually sell out. They do really well. The biggest show we played ... House of Blues in Atlantic City a few weeks ago, and that sold out. That was 3,000 people in New Jersey. We actually sold it out twice, once over the summer and once a few weeks ago, so that's our big show. It depends on the market, too.

Does it tend to be mostly college kids who are going to your gigs, though?

Yeah, for the most part. When it's an all ages show, we get a lot of really young kids, maybe as young as 14. Which is really cool, because they weren't around when the whole Sublime thing was going on. If we're playing somewhere like Lupos where the crowd's all ages, it'll be 14 to like almost 40. The 21 plus shows are a little more mellow. Not too many mosh pits, because that's all the young college and high school kids.

When you're not making music or playing out, what kind of music do you listen to?

It's everything. I'll go through listening to some real heavy stuff. I'm kind of into that band Avenged Sevenfold, like melodic metal, and anything like that to Jack Johnson and Ben Harper, that type of music. Just the whole spectrum.

Do your bandmates look the part and everything? I wouldn't imagine the singer would get SUBLIME tattooed across his back.

No. Actually, people that come to the shows do, though. It's crazy. People try to come up on stage and show off their (Sublime) tattoos. It's nuts. But I think that's another reason why people come to see us. We're not trying to imitate anybody. It's just us up on stage. The whole image thing, that was (Sublime's) thing. There are lots of cover bands that do that, try to look the part.

Like an AC/DC cover band that has the guitar player in the schoolboy outfit.

Exactly. (But) if you sound like it, you don't really need to do it.

Do you have any advice for younger people interested in getting into music? I think it's pretty remarkable that at age 23, you're able to make a living just playing music.

I was very fortunate, even in the bands that I go around in. The kids who are opening up for us, the local bands, are still very young, but most of the touring bands, I haven't really ran into anybody my age too often. A piece of advice? Just keep selling yourself, put yourself out there. Play where you can when you can, because that's the only way people are going to see you, the only way you're gonna get noticed.



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