MY FIRST INTRODUCTION TO THE FIVE DOWN-HOME, TENNESSEE-BRED CHARACTERS THAT ARE THE SHOWDOWN WAS FROM THE VANTAGE POINT OF THE AUDIENCE, AT A SHOW. I DIDN’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THE BAND, REALLY, OTHER THAN THE FACT THAT THEY WERE METAL.
THEY TOOK THE STAGE … AND I HAVE TO BE HONEST … BEFORE THEY BEGAN PLAYING I EXPECTED TO BE PUT TO SLEEP BY ANOTHER OF THE ENDLESS BARRAGE OF WHAT HAS BECOME THE NEW, NU-METAL; THE BRAND OF HEAVY MUSIC THAT I HAVE DEEMED “SQUEEL-CORE” [I AM SURE YOU KNOW TO WHAT I REFER … THE BRAND OF MUSIC THAT EVERY LOCAL OPENING BAND PLAYS IN EVERY TOWN ACROSS THE UNITED STATES. THESE BANDS SOUNDED LIKE P.O.D FIVE YEARS AGO, BUT NOW THEY ALL SOUND LIKE NORMA JEAN]. BUT, AS THE SHOWDOWN APPEARED ONSTAGE AND DONNED THEIR INSTRUMENTS, A STRANGE, WERE-WOLFIAN TRANSFORMATION BEGAN TO TAKE PLACE.
The Showdown became superheroes right before my eyes. Not superheroes in the Batman or Spiderman sense. Not real-life, big screen superheroes. I am talking cartoon superheroes. Animated. Colorful. Almost too colorful for real life. Like vikings. And as lead vocalist David Bunton approached the mic – long sleeved flannel and all – he held his hand behind his back, hiding something. His blond locks waved to the beat of the double-bass as he prepared for his first moment to roar. As the band built into this moment I squinted my eyes, trying to figure out what character he reminded me of. I couldn’t quite place it. I thought for several moments about this as the instruments wailed.
Then, out of nowhere, just as his first scream began, he whipped out a foam metal fist (for those of who do not know, the metal fist is made by extending the pinky and index fingers while keeping your other fingers balled – more commonly known in fundamentally religious circles as “the sign of the devil”) that was at least three feet tall. It was like something you would see at a baseball game, except this baseball game starred metal vikings. I almost fell on the floor I was laughing so hard.
Then it came to me: Their lead singer was The Mighty Thor.
It was at that moment that I realized I loved this band. And it was also at that moment that I realized that The Showdown, southern drawls and all, were geniuses; They were as much entertainers as they were artists. Not only did they have some cool tunes which didn’t sound like the rest of heavy music today, but they portrayed themselves as rock n’ rollers should; they were caricatures, larger-than-life reflections of star power. I would find out later that the phrase “star power” is not only their definition, but it is their favorite catch-phrase as well.
I caught up with lead vocalist David Bunton and bass player Eric Koruschak recently to discuss their favorite catch phrases, their new album (titled Temptation Come My Way), and what it’s like to witness a drive-by shooting.
Schwab: So what’s the latest?
Bunton: We’re extremely pumped to get our new album out and go on the road. We have a tour that is about to start with none other than Pillar. We are so ready to get our tribal on, our mosh on, and our killer on. It’s the Pillar and Day of Fire tour; October 25 through December 17. We went out with Haste the Day and It Dies Today last June and did all the summer fests. Then we did some short headlining runs. We‘ve taken a little time off to finish mixing the record, now we are ready to tour like mad men.
Talk to me about the new disc. Why did it take so long to finish?
Koruschak: Basically, because we want everything to be perfect. We started writing in January ‘05, started tracking in January ‘06 and the record is coming out in February ‘07. We just didn’t want to go in and spit out another record. We have to give the best possible product. And to do that we pretty much had to go through hell and back … every single aspect of making this record has been a huge obstacle. The last record was basically a collection of riffs separated into songs. This time we wanted to focus on the overall songs instead of the individual parts. So we used all the elements of songwriting we ignored last time around; we stepped up the vocals, and spent a lot of time arranging. We all spent time in the woodshed getting better at playing our instruments. We focused on melody and dynamic, and we stepped out of the comfort zone to write something that still felt heavy, but that wasn’t frantic or overstepping its bounds. Heavy is about feel, and we know you’re gonna feel it.
You guys have woodsheds?
Bunton: Yeah, man. They are killer.
So, talk to me about your catch phrases…”killer,” “tribal,” “jammin’ for the Lamb,” “star power,” “high voltage,” and “777, 24-7.” What is being “killer” and “high voltage” all about?
Bunton: It’s a way of life, a mindset, kind of like giving 110%, 110% of the time. We absolutely tour to the extreme and we always tear… I mean, it’s all about how we roll. Even in our leisure time we take it to the tribal. We kick back in vacation time with dirt bikes, grills in our van, pickups, and smaller, gas-powered pocket bikes for cruising around the city. We try to take every opportunity to hang with people and get to know new people and hang loose. There are so many elements to it … it’s just … killer. We know there’s no promise of us doing this 6 months down the road. That’s why we take it the extreme.
Koruschak: We try to take everything we do, whether in the band or out of it, to the extreme and do it to the best of our ability. We took over a year to make this record. We want everything to be as killer, as extreme, as tribal as possible. We are still finalizing the art and it was due two months ago. We give as much as we can and try to have as much possible fun as we can. We try to ride go-karts at least 3 times a week on tour. I don’t want to say we slept in the van for 10 months on tour looking back.
Speaking of tour, what ranks as your most memorable moment on the road?
Bunton: One time on our very first tour we found ourselves broken down in Compton, California. It was, straight-up, off of FRIDAY. We met this awesome dude in the hood and he fixed our van and we stayed at this ghetto hotel – rent by the hour, crack, prostitutes. We were in a drive-by shooting when we were waiting to have our van fixed.
We were on the street and a black Lincoln roles up – and no joke, these dudes rolled up with machine guns. The shooting lasted for five minutes … guns going off just yards from us. They were shooting across the street, and there were a bunch of honest-to-goodness mountain boys hitting the deck. The most crazy part was that we were the only ones freaking out. Every one else around was like, “Yeah, that’s just the norm.”
I would have to say my second favorite moment was in the studio this past year. We grilled every single day, and we went to a 24-Hour Fitness every single day … escorted by our personal trainer, Andrew Hall. You CANNOT be high voltage without pumping iron and eating fresh. It’s impossible!
Koruschak: You have to take care of the machine.
Bunton: If we were in Compton and our reaction times were slow, we could have been killed.
Koruschak: You have to be solid in mind, body and spirit. By solid, I mean high voltage.
Bunton: By high voltage, I mean jammin’ for the Lamb.
Koruschak: By jammin for the Lamb, I mean 777.
(laughing wildly) I see…so, talk to me a little about about where you guys are at spiritually.
Bunton: As far as that goes, we are pretty, like, into it. I think that, for the most part, that’s why we do the band. All of us guys, we are just dudes and ol’ boys and rough around the edges, but the reason why we do jam is that we feel this is a mission trip. The way the band came together – it’s no coincidence how things have happened. It’s all God. I know every single person is owned by God. It’s easy to get in the motion of touring and lose focus, but it makes you think if someone is like, “I got saved listening to your disc.” That gets you right back on track. It’s just like … God is for real using the five of the most crazy dudes in the world who don’t deserve it … if you wake up in a ditch every day until the day you die, God will still be there for you. I think it’s crazy that our band is still together. That’s enough evidence for me.
Koruschak: Every person in our band makes it a point to hang out with the people at the show. It’s not at all important for us to give a message or an altar call from stage or tell someone why they are wrong, but it’s insanely important to have interaction with people at our shows. We don’t care what people are doing wrong, We just want people to see that we are just like those kids and the kids know we are on the same level. We have gone through the same things those kids have gone through, but at the end of the day none of that matters, because we have hope beyond any situation we or our fans are in. We want to be honest and let people see us for who are. We don’t have anything to hide. It’s been the hardest thing in the world for us to finish this record and everything has been a huge trial. We don’t want sympathy, but I can completely relate to the average kid who wants to give up. When you are going through hard times it seems so real, but we want to be light hearted and no matter what you do, no matter how many times you screw it up, the Lord is there…
Look for the new album from The Showdown, Temptation Come My Way, on February 20.