Rotary Downs has undergone several changes in its decade-long history, from the ramshackle recording project that created the band’s first three releases—Rotary Downs, Long After the Thrill, and Quitters EP—to the polyrhythmic web of melodic guitars, keys, and trumpets that comprised Chained to the Chariot and, most recently, Cracked Maps & Blue Reports. Chained to the Chariot is considered a breakthrough album of sorts, critically and stylistically, with NPR heralding it as “a stunning collection of psychedelic art-pop songs”, and Alternative Press giving the record a four-star rating. Chained made many “best of” lists, and the band won “Best Rock Band” at GambitWeekly’s Big Easy Awards two years in a row after its release. The follow-up album, Cracked Maps & Blue Reports, garnered similar acclaim, winning “Best Rock Album” from Offbeat magazine and gained the band another nomination for “Best Rock Band” from GambitWeekly. Filter magazine described it as “Perfectly New Orleanian: both high and low, in and out, joyous and mournful.”
This evolution of sound and experience has led the band to its current mission: to make its finest album yet. With this goal, the band traveled to Lafayette in February to begin recording with Grammy-winning producer/sound guru Ivan Klisanin. The band expects the new collection of songs to be ready for release in late 2012.
Rotary Downs began with guitarist/pedal steeler Chris Colombo and vocalist/guitarist James Marler. In 2004 drummer Zack Smith and bassist Jason Rhein joined, laying the foundation for the group’s current sound. Matt Aguiluz (A Living Soundtrack) contributed key and trumpet lines to Chained to the Chariot, and Cory Schultz (Big History) and Michael Girardot (Big Rock Candy Mountain) did the same for Cracked Maps & Blue Reports. Vocalist/percussionist Tiffany Lamson (GIVERS) also contributed heavily to Cracked Maps, and she remains a part-time/holiday member. The most recent addition to Rotary Downs is multi-instrumentalist Alex Smith (World Leader Pretend, Mojave 3, and Neil Halstead). Rotary Downs is now Chris Colombo, Michael Girardot, James Marler, Jason Rhein, Alex Smith, and Zack Smith.
The band has played several consecutive years at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Voodoo Music Experience, twice at Bonnaroo Music Festival, and once at the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, California and the MIDEM music conference in Cannes, France. Rotary Downs’ music has appeared in two films (Sundance Channel’s “Architecture School” and the skiing documentary “The Ripple Effect”), and two Rotary Downs songs are featured in the Rock Band video game
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