Commitment is messy. After five releases that swayed between plaintive indie-punk and the pull of alt-country, Downhaul has finished their decision dance. PROOF, the Richmond-via-Greensboro quartet’s sophomore LP, definitively steps towards a sound tangled in the dense mystery of the South rather than trailing the anthemic reaches of their contemporaries. Commitment is messy, uneven, and difficult—but commitment is a clear choice. With PROOF, Downhaul has chosen to be without equals at all. It’s a distinction you can prove.
Vocalist Gordon Phillips (he/him) has always existed in his own lane, delivering lines with a sharp drawl that punctuates Downhaul’s repertoire of self-reconciliation. It’s here that the band—bassist/vocalist Patrick Davis (he/him), guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Robbie Ludvigsen (he/him), and drummer/vocalist Andrew Seymour (he/him)—finally shapes the surroundings to match. PROOF was worked through twice in demos before it was brought to the studio, and moments like seven-minute opener “Bury,” with its hymn-like pacing and post-rock dribblings, benefitted from the extra tweaks. Even “Standing Water,” where Downhaul 2.0 tries to match its earlier indie-rock heights, feels sturdier and more lived-in despite any switchbacks Phillips rattles off with a sly smile. PROOF’s leaps forward in focus — coming through sharpest on the sweat-choked shine of “Circulation” and the fingerpicked sparseness of “The Ladder” — are met with returning producer Chris Teti’s (TWIABP, Fiddlehead) understanding of the band’s core ethos, tying tracks together with seamless and evocative transitions.
Downhaul’s a group aware of its own history. PROOF’s sauntering closer, “About Leaving,” takes its name from their 2017 EP, when Richmond basement shows crafted their swerving beginnings. Because of that internal knowledge, their compass keenly points to a clear future, where the naturalistic terror of growing older meets the pavement over which most of us learn to move on.
Bio by James Cassar
05. Standing Water
07. The Ladder
10. About Leaving