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Video: Local rockers fly to stardom

What do an electrical engineer, flight instructor pilot, account manager for technology consulting firm and a doctoral engineering student have in common?

They’re not all working on the next NASA launch, but they are hoping to soar to the top of the charts someday.

Ohio University alumni Nick Kiser, Brandon Hill, Chad White and Dustin Bates are members of the Columbus-based rock band, Downplay, who balance their careers with the demands of their band’s growing success.

“You do it ’cause you want to – ’cause you love it,” Downplay’s bass guitarist, White, said of balancing the band and his account management job.

The rest of the band agreed.

“I’d leave all of (my research) behind in a second,” said Bates, lead singer and doctoral electrical engineering student at Ohio University, who is researching navigation for the Air Force.

Downplay’s lead guitarist, Kiser, said it would be a relief to focus solely on the band rather than his 65-hour a week electrical controls engineering job in Columbus.

Hill, Downplay’s drummer, said he would put his Leer jet instructional flying career with AirNet aside if it meant hitting it big and playing a venue like Nationwide Arena.

Though Bates and Hill had a band in high school, Downplay originated in 2004 in Athens, Ohio. The band’s name originated from a former band member who preferred playing cover songs more than the band’s original material.

“He ironically suggested that Downplay would be a cool band name,” Bates said. “I agreed and it stuck.”

The band moved to Columbus in early 2006 and is steadily gaining recognition by playing venues such as Skully’s, Bar of Modern Art (BoMA), Flannagan’s and Park Street Patio.

Downplay’s rock sound has been compared to Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace and Foo Fighters.

Downplay released two albums, “Saturday” in 2006 and “A Day Without Gravity” in 2007. The band had little to say about the first album, they try to forget it exists.

” ‘Saturday’ was terrible,” Bates said. “Just terrible.”

“When you compare the two albums, it is a completely different band as far as maturity and professionalism go,” White said. “The quality of (Bates’) writing and how much more time and resources were put into it made a huge difference.”

Between a private investor, their own money and the money of a few close friends the band spent nearly $21,000 to produce “A Day Without Gravity,” selling more than 700 copies between CD sales at live shows and sales on Downplay’s MySpace page.

“Just to grow – that was the goal for this album,” Bates said.

And grow they have. Downplay recently broke out of Columbus, with gigs in Kent, Cleveland and Indianapolis, while receiving consistent radio play in Athens and Akron.

“The name’s definitely spreading,” White said of Downplay.

“Yeah, the fan base is getting really big,” Kiser said agreeably. “We have a great following at all of our shows.”

“It’s surreal to hear the crowd singing over Dustin,” Hill said.

Kiser agreed. “It feels awesome to hear people want to hear our music over the covers that they know we can rock out,” he said.

Downplay will be performing around 11:30 p.m. tonight at Skully’s. The event is for people 18 and older and the cover charge is $5 at the door.

Meredith Miles can be reached at miles.103@osu.edu.

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