This episode of our Song Spinners series, which takes you inside the hearts, minds and hands of local musicians and their creative process, reveals the story of "Live in the Moment" by the band Hands Down.
BIO: You've seen this formula before, from the Beatles to the Beach Boys: high school/neighborhood pals + rock music = fun. In the corridors of East Lyme High School, guitarist/vocalist Cody Waites and his brother, bassist/vocalist Alex Waites, were playing metal together until they realized they, ah, sorta didn't want to go in that direction.
Cody started jamming one day with guitarist/vocalist Jack England, and that quasi-gelled with a more commercial flavor. Aaron signed on and, though initially reluctant, drummer/vocalist Aaron Maddux was persuaded to complete the quartet. After playing together for two years, Hands Down began writing original material in earnest under the guidance of Addison Station members Jeff Kenniston and Trent Gerbers.
SOUND: Polished, driving pop-rock, as per their newly released, six-song EP, also called "Live in the Moment."
In an electric mode, the band shoots for aggressive guitar sounds with the dropped D chord voicings - a technique where the low E string is tuned down a whole step; it's a metal-dude sound that adds an aggressive, heavy tone - but they keep the melodies poppy and catchy.
As Cody says, "Hopefully something that sticks in your head."
For purposes of the "Spinner" episode, Hands Down walked us through the tune acoustically.
Sonic signposts for Hands Down's music might include All Time Low, May Day Parade, Train, Matchbox 20 and the Fray.
HOW THE TUNE CAME ABOUT: It was one of those fairly magical creative situations where music came together very quickly. Jack and Cody were in the band's rehearsal room, waiting to go to Guitar Center. Cody was playing cool harmonics on his guitar, but it didn't quite fit the progression they were evolving. So he tuned one string down half a step, and in about five minutes - presto.
"This one really stuck," Jack says. "The chord progression is just really catchy, and it's simple, too. It's something anyone can remember once they hear it."
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? The next day, the whole band finished arranging the tune, and the lyrics, which are typically written by Cody and Aaron, were added. As with a lot of their songs, the whole band will play through the instrumental arrangement, then sit down and ask one another what the music makes them think about.
In this instance, Alex, who would have a motorcycle if Mom would allow such things, suggested a free-spirit, cruising-down-the-highway-with-abandon aura. The lyrics came together from that image.
AND IT ALL MEANS ... ? Cody says, "It's about a kid who does what he wants whenever he wants to and doesn't really think about the consequences. At the same time, it's about how living in the moment (can be) bad for you. It's kind of a statement saying you don't have to be someone you're not in order to have a good time; you can still live in the moment and be who you are."
Jack adds, "We sort of like taking something that sounds positive or happy and making it a little deeper than would meet the eye or that you'd expect."
WHAT'S NEXT? There's a disc-release party for "Live in the Moment" from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Christopher's Cafe, 958 Poquonnock Road, Groton.
There are also plenty of shows lined up for summer, and the band's also working on a video for a new song called "Goodbye Baby." In the fall, while Alex, 20, will remain in East Lyme, college beckons for the others. Cody, 18, will attend the University of New Hampshire. Aaron, 18, is headed for Plymouth State, and Jack, also 18, will start at UConn.
All four say they hope the band stays together and that modern technology makes it easy to continue to write and work on material, even from four different places.