A few months ago, Jessica introduced us to a band that formed a few years ago at her college. We promptly fell in love with their single “Lonely” (which was even featured on an MTV Spring Break commercial) and that’s why introducing today’s Real Life Glam feature is so exciting. These guys are seriously talented and have definitely been making a name for themselves in the music industry, from opening for Bon Jovi in Times Square to playing at the 2014 MS&K Grammy Party in Los Angeles. We caught up with one of the members, Andrew Root, to get his and the rest of the band’s perspective on success, their future, and more. Without further ado, here are the DownBeat Keys:
Ryan Calabrese, Andrew Root, Kadahj Bennett, Baldwin Tang and Jared Schneider
GLAM Life Blog: Tell us a little bit about yourselves and how DBK got started.
DownBeat Keys: DBK happened totally spontaneously, which is kind of the spirit of the band. We were all students at Hamilton College when Cal, Baldwin, and I decided to form a hip-hop group with live band instrumentals a la The Roots. We were working with this rapper from Hamilton at the time and heard there was a big show happening on campus, so we decided to audition for the headlining spot.
We showed up at the audition and the rapper wasn’t there, so we all started freaking out. Then Baldwin spotted Kadahj who was also auditioning and knew that Kadahj sang and rapped, so we asked him to get on the mic and freestyle. I had never even met the kid, but he was onstage with us. So Cal, Baldwin and I dropped this funky hip-hop beat with no idea what was going to happen, and Kadahj opened his mouth and effortlessly the DBK sound was just immediately there, and it sounded good. Good enough that we’re still into it six years later.
GLB: What does DownBeat Keys mean?
DBK: Wouldn’t it be great if the name meant something really deep and profound? Nope! Kadahj and Baldwin are the coolest members of the band, so we said, ”Come up with something cool.” They had a quick conversation, decided DownBeat Keys had a nice ring to it and that was that. Plus, it shortens to DBK which sounds awesome in rap verses.
GLB: How would you describe your music to people who haven’t heard you before?
DBK: The lame way is to say we’re like a cross between The Roots and Maroon 5. The cool way is to say we sound more awesome than a bald eagle dunking a basketball while simultaneously playing “Run To The Hills” by Iron Maiden on electric guitar. With its beak. Think about it.
GLB: How do your new songs on [memory.chrome] differ from some of your older material on Summer on Saturn?
DBK: Summer On Saturn was our third project and kind of the culmination of the original DBK Hip-Hop/Rock sound. We felt like we really crystallized that rough around the edges, high-energy, ruckus vibe on that record, and it was time to move in a new direction.
When we were thinking about where to go next, we realized that one of our most popular songs ever was “I Don’t Remember” off our first project Invisible Ink, and it had this tight, up-tempo dancefloor feel that we all really enjoyed. We started writing some songs in that vein with a little neo-soul thrown in, and really liked where it was going. Turns out audiences did as well, and as soon as we released [memory.chrome] with three dancefloor tracks, we started getting a lot more attention.
GLB: Do you guys have any rituals that you do before you perform?
DBK: Nothing formal, but there are definitely things that seem to happen pretty consistently. Eating for one. We usually have a big meal together before the gig, although we had to institute a strict “No Burrito” policy for obvious reasons.
GLB: How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
DBK: We don’t make mistakes. Ever.
GLB: How would you define the word “success?”
DBK: Making great music. As a band trying to be world famous, get signed, tour the world, all that good stuff, it’s hard. You spend so much time focusing on the business side of things, it’s easy to forget that the whole point is to be able to make music all day, every day. That’s the true goal; it’s really that simple.
We’ll be in the studio for like 20 hours straight, exhausted, sick of each other, and then we’ll add this one layer that brings the whole song together and everything changes to euphoria, dancing, singing, high fiving. That’s success. That’s always what we’re after. Getting famous and getting signed and all that stuff is just a vehicle to have that feeling more often than we do right now.
The cover of [memory.chrome] was a “collaboration” between DBK and an artist, Jerkface, from Street Art Live.
The band smashed the keyboard with a rock for ten minutes and Jerk painted for two hours.
GLB: What’s next for DBK?
DBK: We spent the entire winter writing and in the studio, and we just finished up three songs that are absolutely on a whole different level than anything we’ve ever done before. Better yet, we’re in the process of shooting a new music video that is going to be mind-blowing. We’re talking green screens, slow motion cameras, the works. We’re going to drop the video and song early this fall, then follow up with other new tracks shortly thereafter. Get ready DBK nation, after a year without any new music, you’re in for a treat.