Band Q+A | Upstairs Downstairs

As you probably know, the SF Zine Fest is having a terrific Benefit Show this Thursday at Amnesia, with some great indy bands contributing their time, energy, and musical awesomeness to the Zine Fest cause! Just as we've been been highlighting our amazing exhibitors in a series of Creator Q+As this month, over the next few days we'll be giving you a peek into the lives and thoughts of these great musicians. Today we're checking in with Tory Ford and Kyle McGraw of Upstairs Downstairs! Stay tuned for more, and we'll see you at the show!

Q. What inspired your current musical project? Influences?
TF: I think overall, it's inspired by a desire to participate in something I love. As far as influences go, if we're talking about writing material, it's a wide, wide range from disappointments and failures to successes in my life and those of others. Musically, again it's a wide range, from Erasure to Black Flag to the Carter Family; Go Sailor to the Wu Tang; Johnny Cash to Juno. For example, two people I would cite as influences, James Mercer and Slick Rick, can tell a damn good story. I'd love to achieve that level of prowess.

Q. What is your all-time favorite band/album/zine/etc (by someone other than you)? Who is your DIY hero?
TF: Sorry, I have a few...in the band-land, I have a rotating cast of 5 to 10 favorite bands and albums and it just depends on the situation. For example: long drive/problem-solving situation all time favorites are Built To Spill's "Perfect From Now On" and Juno's "This is the Way it Goes and Goes and Goes." But, let's say I'm just walking home from BART, I might need to rock Tilly and the Wall's "Wild Like Children" and sing along. As far as DIY heroes - Calvin Johnson is up there and so is my friend James. His work is super amazing.
KM: Outlaw con Bandana and Simon Joyner are my favorite, both are my DIY heroes as well.

Q. Do you have a personal connection to the DIY/small-press world? Did you ever do a zine or similar project? Can you describe it for us?
TF: We're in the midst of a DIY project at the moment - our album packaging - and it's pretty much done!! With the help of my buddy Kellie McCool, I silkscreened all of our CD packages. It was super fun and rewarding, but man, you don't know how many 400 of something is until you print two colors on each and every one.
Also, My friend John Trippe runs Fecal Face dot com which started out ten years ago as a zine and became a website. He and his awesome wife Jessica now have a gallery and giant website and a cat named Poo. Success! I had attended a lot of his FF Arty Parties and there were always amazing zines, mini-comics and works of art to enjoy.
KM- my good friend Pod in Portland has the best skateboarding zine called Sauce.

Q. If you have been to the SF Zine Fest before, do you have a favorite memory?
TF: Last year during SF Zine Fest, I saw my friend Ric Carrasquillo (SquilloIllo) do a visual comic reading at the Cartoon Art Museum and was completely blown away by his prowess. I've seen people read from novels, I've seen people's art, graphic novels and comics, but this was all that in one plus a stand-up bass player.

Q. What would you like to see more of in the indy-music world? What similarities do you see (if any) between the music scene and the small-press world?
TF: I'd like to see more house shows...and more free time! As far as similarities go, it seems like the one thing most of us have in common is that we are all pursuing these things in addition to maintaining a "real" job. That shows dedication. There are those who have been able to make their passion their "real" job and I'm super impressed.

Q. If you could give advice to an aspiring musician or other creator, what would it be? What advice do you wish you had gotten when you were starting out?
TF: My advice would be to work as hard as you can, then double that effort. I can't say I always follow that, but when I do, awesome stuff happens. Also - don't be afraid to ask others for help.
I think I DID get the advice I needed when I was starting out in creative pursuits - basically it is "fail faster: " Don't be crippled by your attempts to create something perfect your first try...or ever. Don't be afraid to fail or make something bad, the sooner you get through those "failures", the sooner you'll arrive at something satisfying.


Q. In addition to the kind of music you will be playing at the SFZF Benefit Show, what other creative pursuits do you have? Hobbies? Passions?
TF: I used to do a lot of drawing and painting and would love to free up some time to get back into it someday. I also snowboard and surf...not so great at the surfing though!
As for the rest of the band's hobbies and passions, all 3 of the guys skateboard (I try to sometimes), one is a major record collector. There's also a lot of sound recording and photography awesomeness.

KM- I record bands and photograph things.


Q. What are you working on now? What are you gonna do next?
TF: tshirts! We're trying to get them done in time for the show on Thursday! I'm hitting the Mission Grafica tonight. Long-term, we're just writing some more songs and trying to keep the momentum going. Doug's other band AM Magic is working on a new album. They are rad. And Kyle and James are working on some new material in their other band They Drive By Night so stay tuned for that.

KM- writing songs for a project of mine that james and I are working on.