Down With Webster Gears Up To Break Out

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Every band hopes to have a successful career marked by great moments but, without a doubt, the first moment where the band is offered the chance to shine is one of the most exciting. Many onlookers would assume that moment comes when the band is asked to sign on the dotted line of a major label record contract but that's not true; a record contract is a legally binding document, it's business. That moment when a group is asked to step out of the shadows and take a headlining slot on their own tour is where the real excitement lies. That title, 'headliner,' indicates a few things, but most importantly it shows the band that the label they're calling home believes in their ability to draw consistent crowds and it shows belief that the band can overcome the potential cost incurred by a longer outing. Simply said, the offer of a headlining slot on a tour indicates a record label's belief that the band in question is growing up and is able to stand on its own; casting its own shadow rather than requiring another larger name as a shield. It's a very big moment – the moment that Toronto-based progressive hip hop outfit Down With Webster is staring down the barrel of now. “This is our first major headlining tour and we're not cutting it short – we're really excited about it,” says DWW singer/songwriter Cam Hunter. “We're doing it all the way across Canada and then we're dipping down into the States for a bit when we have some dates with Timbaland, and then we keep going all the way out to Vancouver. It's a big deal for us, this is the first time we've ever gone out as the band that is headlining the thing as opposed to the opener. We're so used to opening for people that it's cool to be the actual act on top.

“It's been really cool to see the advance online response to the announcement,” exclaims the singer. “Twitter and Facebook have been completely blowing up on all fronts so it's been really good. We're getting a really good response and it's looking like we're going to have some really good shows in front of us.”

The acclaim is made all the sweeter because Down With Webster is clearly only getting started. The band's major label debut, Time To Win Vol. 1, was released on October 6, 2009 to favorable reviews and Hunter says that his group used that reception to get in front of as many people as possible but now the game has changed on the most basic level; the stakes are higher now and, when they're on stage, the band knows it was them that the crowd came to see. That knowledge means that some changes to how the band was doing things need making. The band is being cheered for Time To Win Vol. 1 but, even playing the seven-song mini-album from start to finish, its' total run-time is a hair less than twenty-five minutes which, it goes without saying, does not an hour-plus-long headliner time-slot make. The transition from opening act (which does not leave the possibility for an encore) is a tenuous one but, in speaking with Hunter, one gets the impression that such a potential worrisome predicament is only a minor detail; he says that Down With Webster has some tricks up its sleeve for this tour that will thrill fans. “We have an insanely long backlog of songs,” promises Hunter, with a reassuring tone that removes all doubt. “We've all been writing and performing since we were about fourteen years old so there's a ton of stuff that we have ready to go. Before this release, we did a full-length album [the album was self-titled and released in 2007 –ed] that we just released ourselves before we had a record label behind us. We had that out and were selling it for about a year and that has all different songs on it so we've got that one and the mini-album we released through Universal Motown last year, and we tend to play some stuff that we've only just written in the past few months and some stuff that we plan to have come out on the next record. We have the tracks that we want to go on the next one, it's just a matter of continuing to write and, when the label tells us it's time to put out the next one, we'll just decide what we have from there. In addition to that, there's a ton of stuff that we do for each show that we just practice out and get new things together so we can make the show cool; we do have a bunch of stuff that we play but we've never recorded and just do live.

“Our thinking has always been, 'If your music's good, it speaks for itself and, if you're good on stage, people will remember that and want to see it again.' That has always been the mindset we've taken and, so far, it hasn't let us down.”

Listeners won't be let down by Down With Webster either. From the opening crash of the title track, Down With Webster explodes with a cocksure sucker punch that will leave listeners reeling but crawling back for more as Hunter, Bucky and Pat [last names were not available -ed] lob the microphone at each other, taking turns to spit come-ons and kiss-offs before hot potato-ing the mic to the next singer in front of a mammoth and imposing wall of sound that combines elements of rock, hip hop, punk and pop but doesn't exactly play any of them straight. It's impossible to pin down, but if one were to imagine Kid Rock and Twisted Brown Trucker being consumed by a massive explosion that also took out a record store and a Top 40 nightclub, you'd be on the right track.

So how's that happen? Even with the manpower in the band and obviously different sensibilities in place, how does Down With Webster manage to put together such a disparate assemblage of musics and not have it just come spilling out as a great big, glittering and volatile mess? According to Hunter, in Down With Webster's case there's no chance of too many cooks spoiling the broth; everyone gets their hands dirty and everyone has a say in how a song gets put together and has to meet everyone's satisfaction before it goes any further than the first 'idea' step – usually. “Making a record is actually a strange process with us because we record and produce all of the songs ourselves with our friend James Robertson,” says the singer as he attempts to explain his band's unique writing and recording processes. “James has been our producer for years to the point that he's almost a member of the band. He has a home studio where we do all of our recording and, even before we go in, the writing is always extremely collaborative. Usually, one guy will come up with an idea and there are seven of us in the band but five of us do the writing so there are always lots of people throwing in ideas. It's cool – someone will come up with an idea or shoot an email off because everyone kind of produces as well. So they'll usually send out an email and we'll shoot back and forth about what we think about it and, if we think it's good, we'll book a studio day at James' and try to get it done.

“There have been other times where we'll have almost nothing and we'll just want to go into the studio and make it up while we're there,” continues the singer. “It'll have the basics, but none of the finer points – like the sounds for the drums or the extra effects that we want to add will be ready – and we'll just pound them out in the studio when we get there. Sometimes it will just be a really basic idea like a lyric and maybe a guitar part and drums. Then we'll have to go back and fill in the other things that make it into a full-on Down With Webster song. It's all usually pretty relaxed – we sit around and talk it out and when we've got it where we want it, we just go with it; when they sound good enough that we can play them for people, then we take them to a proper mixing house or mastering house and get that done when it's time to put out another record.

“Because of the way we work, we constantly have freshly recorded material so it's really cool,” says the singer warmly. “That's been working out really well so far and for somebody that likes to make a lot of music, it's really gratifying to be able to go over to your buddy's house on a Friday night, party and then you have an awesome song at the end of it as well.”

With such a working procedure and presentation in place, it suddenly becomes understandable why Down With Webster has attracted the attention of listeners and supporters in staggering numbers including Kiss' Gene Simmons – who recently relaunched his label, Simmons Records and openly expressed a desire to sign the band – and Timbaland, with whom Down With Webster will be sharing the stage when this current tour dips into the US for six dates beginning on January 17th. Of course, the expectations and trepidation are high – this tour promises to be a touchstone moment so Hunter feels pretty confident that he speaks for everyone in the band when he says he wants to make sure it goes perfectly. In the same breath though he's also confident that he and his band mates can make it happen. “With us, it has always been a matter of winning people we've never played for before over,” states the singer, flatly. “That's been our mentality for the last little bit; we've believed that all we've needed to do is get in front of people and they'll like us. I think that's the approach you have to take right? Get out there, play before people that have never seen you before and build it to the point where you yourself are able to headline a tour. This tour will be a little bit different in another way too – because we know that a lot of these people that come out will be our fans and probably have heard our record and we're not used to that; but it doesn't mean we're not going to go all out or give it everything we've got. We know how big a deal this is.”



Down With Webster – "Whoa Is Me" – Time To Win Vol. 1


Time To Win Vol. 1
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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