Joel R L Phelps & The Downer Trio

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JOEL R. L. PHELPS & The Downer Trio


Joel R.L. Phelps is from Billings, Montana. He started playing music in around 1982, co-founding a regionally infamous post-punk group, Ein Heit, in Missoula in 1983. Ein Heit suspended operations in 1987 and bandmates Phelps and Andrew Cohen then formed rock ‘n’ roll ensemble Silkworm in 1988. After 3 LPs and many barnstorming national tours, Phelps left Silkworm in 1994, perhaps due to the pressures of all the travel, and perhaps some unconscious musical prompting. In a split that can compared to a Buzzcocks/Magazine schism (except for the lack of fame, money or any musical similarities), both parties would go on to their finest works — Silkworm, having staked a claim as one of the U.S.ís most important bands, Phelps, as the nation’s most unique singer/songwriter. Joel struck out on his own in 1995 forming his own group, The Downer Trio. The Downer Trio feature William Herzog (Citizen’s Utilities, Neko Case, Sunn0)))), Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter) and Robert Mercer (auxiliary guitar and bass), musicians with a similar minimal sensibility who, in truth, make the music really work. With four albums, two EPs and two singles and some compilation appearances to their collective credit, the group has assembled an accomplished and formidable body of work: no matter what the self-effacing Phelps might tell you to the contrary.

JOEL RL PHELPS & THE DOWNER TRIO debut UK/European Tour 2014

(featuring Joel from Silkworm/Dama/Libra, Robert from Zebra Hunt/Treasure State and Bill Herzog from EARTH, Sunn O)))) & Jesse Sykes.

Sept 12 Sebright Arms, London, UK w/ Zebra Hunt/Lazarus Clamp/Former Utopia

Sept 13 ‘Long Division’ Festival, Wakefield UK

Sept 14 The Musician, Leicester UK
Sept 15 The Tin Music & Arts, Coventry UK
Sept 16 Avail

Sept 17 Forum, Bielfield DE

Sept 18 Slowclub Freiburg – DE

Sept 19 Club W71, Weikersheim DE

Sept 20 db’s, Utrecht NL

Sept 21 Incubate Festival, Tilburg. NL

Sept 22 Brixton Windmill, London, UK

Booking UK/Europe-email george (at) damnably(dot)com
or Germany Volker v (at) antistars (dot) de


Artist: Joel R. L. Phelps & The Downer Trio
Title: Gala

DAMNABLY028 - Joel R L Phelps & The Downer Trio - Gala
Release Date: 4th November 2013
Catalogue No.: DAMNABLY028
Format: [CD/DL]

1. The Nashville Sound
2. The Great Falls
3. So You’ve Decided
4. Blinding Light
5. Hold Fast
6. Gala
7. Goldentown
8. Universilty Gal
9. Exiting The Garden
10.Wind On Her Face
11.Thank You And Goodbye
12.Ursus (UK Bonus Track)
13.Sleepers Awake (UK Bonus Track)


The first new album from Joel RL Phelps & The Downer Trio since 2004′s ‘Customs’. Joel, guitarist/bassist Robert Mercer & drummer William Herzog have returned with what might be their most powerful work to date. There are very few songwriters on this continent that can rival the former Silkworm guitarist/vocalist Phelps, and his lyrical & instrumental prowess is as keen as ever.Released by Damnably in Europe
Released by 12XU in US (Vinyl)
Released by Triple Crown Audio Recordings in Canada

“Joel RL Phelps is indie rock’s best-kept secret” an article on the career and music of Joel Rl Phelps by Jason Heller The A.V. Club
Interview with Joel RL Phelps in NOISEY

a very welcome returnGideon Coe BBC 6Music
“...impressive blend of brooding post-punk, plaintive folk-rock and Crazy Horse guitar rock.” Don Yates KEXP Radio
Album of The WeekGary Wilcox
Morlands Radio“I want a way to break that Nashville sound,” Phelps sings on Gala’s lead off track, and though he can’t break that mold for everyone, there’s no danger of the Downer Trio lazily aping an aesthetic. Phelps’s fuzzy guitar is more gristly than meaty on this loud/quiet/loud track, and his voice is as oddly endearing as ever, resembling Stephen Malkmus or Jeff Mangum in the way he goes from a seemingly disengaged baritone to a cracked, spine-tingling yelp. “Put some shoulder in it, boys,” he implores, and the band complies.” Joel Oliphant Pitchfork

“This is a magnificent return from Joel Phelps…It’s adult music for the modern ‘indie’ listener.” Muddy Anti-Pitchfork

“GALA, an album that ranks with his finest work…is among the best records of the past quarter century” Carl A. Zimring

“the most direct and rock-like work since his contributions to Silkworm.” Dusted

“it’s crushingly sad and an absolute corker” Collective Zine
Radio play also on Bob Harris (Gideon Coe sitting in) BBC Radio 2,Duyster on Studio Brussel Radio, Varity Mix on KEXP, Midday Show KEXP, Jon Solomon WPRB, Ken Katkin’s Trashflow & Ally Gourley’s Art School Dancing on Castle FM.
Vish Khanna Interview with Joel RL Phelps on Kreative Kontrol here

7.1 Pitchfork for Dama/Libra debut

Dama/Libra album Album Streaming on Stereogum