Q&A with Cameron Leahy of The Downtown Fiction
After a two-year break from releasing new music, The Downtown Fiction are back and better than ever with their dreamy new EP, Alligator Tears. Although short, Alligator Tears is packed to the brim with themes of isolation, self-discovery and adventure, from the beautiful album artwork to the meaningful lyricism. The Downtown Fiction have honed in on a very specific theme and message for this release, and one that many fans will easily relate to. Vocalist/guitarist Cameron Leahy talks about the creation of the album, his own personal journey and plans for the future below!
Interview by Shannon Shumaker
You just celebrated the release of your new EP, Alligator Tears in February. What does Alligator Tears mean to you?
It’s very encouraging to see fans react positively to something we’ve self-produced. Having that freedom to work at all hours really motivated me to obsess and experiment. I think it represents the band’s desire to continue pushing our boundaries—we always want to surprise ourselves.
The EP is The Downtown Fiction’s first new music in two years. How do you feel you’ve grown between this release and your 2014 release Losers & Kings?
We really challenged ourselves with the last record to hone in on what made us tick as a band, to take bold stances on arrangement and song choice. Alligator Tears is a real continuation of the creative desires that fueled Losers & Kings—its helped us arrive here, I think. I’m proud to say we’ve always been cognizant of the need to stretch your own definition. I chase that feeling I had the first time I wrote a song that I felt exceeded my own expectations.
Was there anything you wanted to be able to accomplish with Alligator Tears?
I’m a listener first, so first and foremost, I just wanted to create something I could feel proud listening to.
You’ve mentioned that the EP has a very positive tone and message - can you tell us a little bit about the story behind it?
The songs began as demos in my home studio, mostly on the insomniac schedule I keep, so it does have this surreal yet comforting sense of isolation, all while being surrounded by millions of people. It’s the kind of feeling you get in a subdued city at night. Thematically, it’s what the album became about, modern nihilism and disconnect, about losing heroes and having to look inward. We hint at that detachment with the album artwork—this river of tears, an eye onto all of us. I designed the cover with Annahita Kianpour, a talented artist & friend, using old-school collage style and, in the process, covering the entire room in a thin layer of confetti-like magazine clippings.
There’s one line from the second-to-last song, “Is This the End”: “Our rivers flow/Into our time/We’re parallel/Side by side.” Part of what I’m trying to say is, we live in an era where increasingly more people are tapping into the same stream of information, yet we feel more isolated than ever, which only makes us more the same.
Were there any events in particular that inspired Alligator Tears?
One of my personal heroes is my grandfather, Dr. Russell P. Sherwin, MD—from whom I get my middle name. He was sharp as an axe, quick with an apropos joke—for which he seemed to possess a bottomless arsenal of material—and was well-respected within his own field of lung research. He’s actually responsible for designing the first film camera to capture living, moving cancer cells, for which there's an article in an old issue of Time magazine circa-1960’s with Jackie-O on the cover. He held a research position at USC for several decades and continued working seven days a week until he was 89 years old. He was a work horse, a constant source of motivation and example for the whole family. Losing him had an impact on my own sense of responsibility, about where I come from, what we’re all capable of doing with a clear sense of purpose. He always encouraged us to pursue equanimity but never to be content.
What would you like listeners to be able to take away from the EP?
Whether it’s looking at the artwork while you listen to the music or just closing your eyes, I’d like Alligator Tears to feel like a little world, an inviting place where you can return. That’s my favorite kind of album.
With Alligator Tears out now, do you have any plans to hit the road anytime soon? What’s next for The Downtown Fiction?
We love hearing from everybody who’s been mentioning wanting us come to their area—we're looking to make the stars align with scheduling and can’t wait to play these new songs more live. And we’re always chasing after the next spark, happy to be creating. Can’t wait to share the next surprise.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for having us and a huge thanks to all our fans for picking up the new album. Keep sharing Alligator Tears and hope you enjoy the new "Hepburn Shades" music video! Stay tuned!