SAN JOSE -- London Down, an alternative rock band that rose out of the fertile college rock scene in San Jose, California, during the late 1980s, will release their first new album in three decades on Friday, Dec. 7.
The band reunited this past August in Nashville to record the 13-song indie album, “Gnashville.” The album -- available on CD and via digital stores -- features the group's signature garage-band grit, jangly electric folk and punchy rock grooves.
What has changed, along with some gray hair, is a depth the band could never have had when playing the Bay Area club circuit and opening for artists including Chris Isaak, Mudhoney and The Tragically Hip.
Lyrics written from the vantage point of a life more than half lived include subtle commentaries on social discord ("Burning Bridges"), the Parkland, Florida, shooting ("Molly") smartphone addiction ("Disease") and the West Coast housing crisis (“You Got Yours”), giving the album a depth of conscience.
College radio has already jumped on the release, with the album breaking the top 100 only a few weeks into a fall radio promotional campaign.
Two members of Luke Bryan’s band contributed to the project: Childhood friend Dave Ristrim produced and played pedal steel and guitar; bassist James Cook recorded, mixed and mastered “Gnashville” at his studio.
London Down is planning a record release party for Sat., March 9, at Art Boutiki in San Jose.
After reconnecting through social media over the past few years, the band members talked about reuniting for a one-off show in 2017 to mark the 30th anniversary of their indie album “Strange Places Unknown.” With two members now living in North Carolina and two still in California, they couldn’t make a reunion work.
So they recorded a single long distance, releasing “Carnival” on digital sites in August 2018.
The experience went so well it convinced founding members Chris Carbone, Phil Benjamin and Steve Hartsoe to meet at Ristrim’s house in Nashville and record an entire album at Cook’s nearby Studio on the Ridge.
With Steve's son Eli replacing his uncle Ken on drums due to the original drummer's unavailability, they met up in Music City, rehearsed a dozen songs over six hours then recorded them in three days.
“It was like we never quit playing together,” says lead guitarist Phil Benjamin. “We looked at each other from across the room at SIR Rehearsal Studios in Nashville and thought, ‘What just happened?’”
“We had not seen each other in more than 20 years, but sharing song ideas and making this album feels like we never stopped,” says Carbone. “The chemistry is still there, and the new songs sound better than we could have imagined. This whole experience has been really special. We look forward to continuing even beyond ‘Gnashville.’”