In the loop
Up is the Down is The
Many fans of Northern Nevada music are probably familiar with singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Martin from his work in the long-running folk rock band Buster Blue, a perennial favorite group among local music fans.
But Martin left Buster Blue in December—on amicable terms.
“I love those guys,” Martin said of his former bandmates. “I still see them all the time.”
He left the group to focus on his education. He’s finishing up a degree in music education that he put on hold a few years ago so that he could focus on touring and recording with Buster Blue. He also now works as a substitute teacher, focused primarily on filling in for music teachers in Washoe and Douglas counties. (He’s originally from Gardnerville.)
And he’d been writing songs that didn’t quite fit with the old-timey moonshine energy of Buster Blue. He was writing songs with electric guitar parts, electronic loops, and complex, layered vocal textures.
So, he decided to launch a solo project called Up is the Down is The. It’s a solo project both in the studio and onstage, where Martin uses looping pedals to layer different parts. He’ll record and loop percussion, backing vocals or rhythm guitar parts to accompany himself.
The somewhat convoluted name is a reference to the loop-oriented nature of the project since the name itself, Up is the Down is The, forms a loop: Up is the Down is the Up is the Down is the Up is the Down is The.
He’s currently working on an electric guitar-oriented full-length, but he has already released an EP, titled An Arrow Shot from a Distance can Always Pierce the Skin, but Time, the Ever-Turning Wheel, Won’t Turn Back Again. That album title of Fiona Apple-type proportions is an entire verse from “Bows and Arrows,” one of the songs on the EP. Martin recorded all the instruments on the album except for some percussion by Buster Blue drummer, and occasional RN&R contributor, Fil Corbitt.
“I did it all in my secret studio, which is my garage,” said Martin.
He says his recent focus on music education has been a positive influence.
“It’s been a really good toward my view on music and songwriting, getting to see different levels of students’ perspective on things,” he says. “Some of them knew I was in a band and had seen me at shows, which is kind of weird.”
Martin also partially attributes his versatility as an instrumentalist to his teaching experiences. He’s equally comfortable playing guitar, piano, trombone and just about any other instrument.
“I think that comes from being immersed in the teaching world,” he says. “Being a music teacher, I’ve had to learn so many instruments. If you’re working in a classroom, maybe a percussionist is having trouble so you have to help them, so you have to know that stuff. … When you have the theory, you can apply it to what you’re doing, you can play anything.”
He’s thrilled by performing solo—building songs live with a guitar, looping pedals and minimal percussion, including a floor tom and a bucket that functions as a snare drum. He changes the approach for each song.
“What I didn’t want to do at all was have every song have the same basis—you know, ’I have to set up this percussion thing, and then I’m going to play a song over it.’ It’s, ’I’m going to play this next song, and there may be percussion on it. It may be just vocals.’”
Because he records new loops live onstage, rather than reusing the same backing tracks, every performance is a little different—with slight variations in tempo or emphasis. This approach means he has to think as a recording engineer, a musician, a vocal performer and a songwriter all at once during every song.
“Being in a band is awesome, but performing by yourself and having this kind of equipment, you can chose to arrange everything however you want,” he said. “You can play songs completely different and chose to do that on the spot.”