Reno’s Andrew Martin began writing songs when he was 16 and achieved regional acclaim with the folk-Americana band Buster Blue. For seven years Buster Blue toured, released albums, and charmed fans with music that was suited for late night sing-alongs around a campfire in the desert.
But in late 2013, Martin felt a shift in his musical output and began writing songs that didn’t fit the Buster Blue sound. He amicably parted ways with his bandmates to follow the new direction his music was taking him.
Up Is The Down Is The is Martin’s new vehicle to navigate his musical journey.
In a conversation with Tahoe Onstage, Martin revealed the concept of Up Is The Down Is The is to use looping techniques to create minimalist sonic textures that rely solely on vocals, guitar, percussion, and any vocal or guitar overdubs. His new approach to music even influenced the title of his project, as Up Is The Down Is The is a looping phrase.
“I wanted to keep it very self-contained,” Martin said. “I’m going to have these types of sounds with this type of instrumentation and I am going to stick to that. I put a barrier on myself to try and be as creative as I could with these components.”
Martin released in February 2014 an EP, “An Arrow Shot From A Distance Will Always Pierce The Skin…”, as a way to experiment with looping techniques and try to pin down exactly the sound he wanted to convey. With a better understanding of what he wanted to achieve musically, Martin began writing and recording songs in immediately after the release of his EP. His year of work culminated in the self-produced album “Mantra,” which will be released on Feb 28.
Though he started with plenty of ideas for the songs, Martin kept whittling away at them until all that remained were the songs’ most basic and important elements. “The songs are based around a hook or simple phrase, rather than telling a story. I wanted to strip it away to its bare bones to get that across,” Martin explained. He worked to get the songs to a point where he could enjoy listening to them over and over again without being critical. He also hopes that for listeners, the songs are “intimate things you put headphones on and listen to.”
Martin pointed out that the single, “Time Will Tell,” is a song he is particularly proud of because it was one of the first songs he played live as Up Is The Down Is The and is the basis of everything he wanted to with this project. The song highlights Martin’s falsetto voice and is driven by a steady acoustic guitar riff with light percussion used throughout. The melody of the song certainly achieves earworm status.
Through the process of making “Mantra” and continually tweaking his looping techniques live, Martin believes he has become a better musician. “Working by myself, there is no one else to rely on. I have to stay focused”, he said. He also noted that he did not immediately recognize the benefits of playing these looped songs live, but has come to appreciate the ability to change the feel or phrasing or tone of a song based on how he or the crowd is reacting during a show.
Up Is The Down Is The is performing live at the Holland Project in Reno on Saturday Feb.28 as an album release show for “Mantra.” It also will also at Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho in March, with an expected tour of the Northwest and West coast during the summer.
Looking ahead, Martin said he wants to begin recording songs for a new album in about three months and believes the song will have a more dance and hip-hop vibe to them. After all, Up Is The Down Is The can’t be playing the same music forever.