Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Apr 14th 2010 5:30PM by Lonny Knapp
"Technically, we've been around for 12 years, but as far as having presence in the marketplace, I guess we are new band on the scene," Armes tells Spinner.
The genre-bending seven-piece formed as a hip-hop ensemble when the members were still in high school. Now in their early twenties -- Armes will celebrate his 25th birthday at the Junos in St. John's, Newfoundland this Sunday -- Down With Webster have already toured with the Roots, held a month-long stint on the Vans Warped Tour and attracted the attention of industry shakers such as Timbaland and Gene Simmons.
In 2008, the KISS bassist publicly courted the band, stating his intention to sign Down With Webster to his newly minted label, Simmons Records.
"It came out of left field. My phone rang and someone said that Gene Simmons was on the radio talking about us," Armes explains. "Later that night we were sitting in a greasy-spoon diner eating bacon and eggs with him. It was very cool and flattering, but being Gene Simmons it was all very over-the-top."
Timbaland, who hooked up with the band for an all-night jam session at famed Miami recording studio the Hit Factory, was equally taken by the young band. He called Down With Webster "the illest group I've ever seen live in person," invited them on a series of tour dates and offered to sign the band to his label.
In the end, Down With Webster turned Simmons and Timbaland down and signed with Motown Universal. Earlier this year Down With Webster released 'Time to Win: Volume 1,' a 7-track debut that features 'Rich Girl$,' a reimagining of the Hall and Oates classic. On a recent promotional tour, screaming girls lined up in suburban malls for a chance to meet the band.
"We are seven young guys and we attract a lot of females. We don't have a problem with girls screaming. It's a pretty cool thing," Armes says.
But he's quick to point out the Down With Webster is a serious live act that produces its own material. Early in their career, without the benefit of a video or an album, the band relied on extensive MySpace and Facebook campaigns to become one of the biggest draws in their Toronto hometown.
"When we started to sell out concerts the labels got interested," says Armes.
For Down With Webster, playing live is where it's at, and according to Armes the band doesn't spend much time thinking about industry awards or album sales.
"Selling records isn't an active thing you do," Armes points out. "If people like your music and it sells, that's great, but the proof that what you are doing is working is seeing people at the shows interacting with the songs you've written. That's the justification for it all."
Armes was in a dentist's waiting room when he heard about his band's Juno nomination. He said the news came as a complete surprise, but admitted the nod has triggered the band's competitive streak -- still, he's not getting his hopes up.
"It's totally bad-ass. But we've been so busy on the road and recording, it just wasn't on our radar," he said. "There's steep competition, but we've worked really hard. If it happens, it will be great. If not, we'll keep grinding it out and hopefully one day it will."