The Eastbound Downers were definitely a case of a band that moved swiftly with the times. They formed in Bangkok at the beginning of this new century and consisted of: Manond “Jan” Apanich (guitar, vocals), Dino Tarasin (guitar, vocals), Stirling Silliphant (bass, vocals), and Top Tarasin (drums). Jan was a journalist at The Nation, writing about the indie music and film scene at the time, while Stirling worked for the sadly now-defunct Bangkok Metro magazine, and the Tarasin brothers would go on to feature in amazing bands such as From The Makers Of Casablanca and Degaruda (both of which carry the distinctive sonic template of the Eastbound Downers in their band-DNA). The Downers’ first proper album “Deleted…” (Bangkok Alien Music Alliance, 2003) was a punk-influenced affair that the band would appear to later disown (e.g: “Dino can now be found scouring the bins of every CD Warehouse in town in a rush to destroy any surviving copies of this reminder that Eastbound Downers were – at one point – a ‘punk rock’ band.” taken from here), though it was reflective of the scene at the time, which included similar bands such as Adulterer and The Darlings (both of whom can be seen here). The Eastbound Downers’ second album “Broken Hearts & Paper Cuts” (Panda Records, 2005) was a more ambitiously crafted project (dare I say the words ‘concept album’?) but retaining the energy and heaviness of their earlier work.
At least several of the Downers, such as Stirling, were involved in the ROLLCALL gig guide email, and this included bringing an eclectic selection of other indie and underground bands to Bangkok from places such as Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia. Such diversity would continue to influence the Eastbound Downer’s overall sound, and nowhere is this influence more apparent than on their third and final release: “Voices – EP” (Panda Records, 2005). Here we find the band in fine form, constructing three elaborate and lengthy songs largely free of vocals and concerned more with a post-rock exploration of sounds and rhythms.
In this the Voices EP is both a product of the band’s own electric trajectory as well as an apparent statement of the political situation at the time in Bangkok. 2005 was the penultimate year of the increasingly authoritarian Thaksin Shinawatra government, whose actions such as the War on Drugs and the monopolization of political capital find their echoes in Eastbound Downers’ songs such as “Retribution” and “Power”. This is neatly summarised by the EP’s cover art, depicting a lone pedestrian crossing a Bangkok street while hordes of vehicles wait idly for the green light, ready to unleash mechanical mayhem.
In order, the tracks are:
- Retribution – This starts out with a carefully curated soundscape of chiming guitars which then rouses itself into a six-string buzzing noise-chainsaw, before returning to its roots and then a triumphant metal finale.
- Air – A low-key bass-driven jazz intro that grows more and more unhinged with each passing change of riff.
- Power – My favourite track and one of the best songs I think the Eastbound Downers ever recorded. This song is an epic journey through genres that finally sacrifices itself on an altar of speed metal. But wait! What’s that? There’s more? Yes, the final minutes of this song, with added piano, vocals and screams, contain some of the best music ever played by a Bangkok band. It’s uncertain, wistful, and a paean to political instability everywhere. If you were to make a very short documentary on the problems currently facing Thailand this excerpt from ‘Power’ would be the perfect soundtrack.