Downhere In just a decade, Downhere went from one of Canada’s favorite faith-based acts to one of America’s most talked about treasures. Much of the reason stems from the group’s endless evolution and increased penchant for pop sensibilities, along with members’ unmistakable harmonies and consistently thought-provoking lyrics. Catch co-front man Marc Martel’s take on Downhere’s development and its latest long player On the Altar of Love (Centricity). CCM: What type of musical style and sound were you going for throughout the new record? marc martel: you’ll notice some instrumentation peppering the songs which hearkens back to our more recent history, like fiddle, banjo and accordion. Altar is our lightest-feeling album. It still has the big epic ballads we love to perform, but without the heavy finger-pointing, which I believe has its time and place. The themes on the record did slightly guide and inform our sound decisions. we’re going back to basics and foundational things that we hold as true, and that the church has held as true since its birth, [even during] a time when the most crucial tenets of our faith are being challenged daily. CCM: Downhere has always been a critic’s favorite, but this record seems to have a lot for radio as well. How do you strike that balance? martel: Out of necessity! It’s inherently difficult to write songs that connect with a radio audience when, as a music listener, I find myself gravitating towards music that is not necessarily “radio friendly.” That being said, yes, we worked hard to write songs that would appeal to a larger audience because we do believe we have an important message to share, and not keep to our artsy little selves. CCM: now that Downhere’s been going a decade strong, what have been the group’s biggest learning curves and most treasured accomplishments? martel: I think our most treasured accomplishment is our communication and love for each other as a band of brothers. we cheer on each other’s accomplishments and do life well together on the road. Our learning curves have been the business end of this career choice. It’s a weird world that weird people get degrees in. we have learned to surround ourselves and are very, very thankful for those weird people. — Andy Argyrakis roCk highlights the Act: Matt Hammitt the site: the sound: Modern rock the Buzz: He may be best known as front man for Sanctus real, but come September 13, vocalist Matt Hammitt drops his solo debut Every Falling Tear (Sparrow). The collection takes a contemplative tone punctuated with his most personal songwriting to date, which often times talks about being the father of a child born with a congenital heart defect. the Act: Icon For Hire the site: the sound: Hard rock/Modern Pop the Buzz: On August 23, the Decatur, IL-bred Icon For Hire drops its national debut disc Scripted on Tooth & Nail blending ferocious instrumentation and piercing vocals with an undercurrent of infectious pop sensibility reminiscent of Paramore or Flyleaf. the Act: Switchfoot the site: the sound: Alternative/Modern rock the Buzz: The wait is almost over for Switchfoot’s first album in two years, Vice Verses, which hits streets September 27 armed with a goal of addressing “the polarity of the human experience,” according to front man Jon Forman. CCM 43