Fronted by singer and songwriter Paul Hiraga, Downpilot are an American indie rock band who released several critically lauded albums in the U.S.
in the mid-2000s before finding European success in the early 2010s recording for Germany's Tapete Records. On albums like 2011's New Great Lakes and 2015's Radio Ghost, Downpilot's graceful, languid music is informed by elements of folk, slowcore, and modern psychedelia, with Hiraga's personal but impressionistic lyrics reinforced by the group's calm yet powerful soundscapes.
Based in Seattle, Washington, the band was formed by Hiraga with the specific goal of recording a handful of songs he had written for an EP, but only two songs into the project, he and his musicians became disenchanted with one another, and he was forced to complete 2001's Thrive in a Short Season on his own, playing nearly all the instruments himself. Hiraga soon put together a new edition of Downpilot; Jeff Brown, who had played drums on the EP, became the group's new bass player, Eric Eagle took over on drums, Anne Marie Ruljancich played violin and viola, and Hiraga sang lead and played guitar and keyboards. This second lineup dominated Downpilot's first full-length album, 2003's Leaving Not Arriving. It was produced by Tucker Martine, who would become a valued collaborator in the studio, producing and contributing percussion to most of the band's subsequent body of work. Bassist Terry de Castro served double duty on bass with Brown on 2006's Like You Believe It, and 2009's They Kind of Shine found Martine bringing Steve Fisk aboard to mix the sessions; Mike Musburger of the Posies and the Fastbacks played drums on the album. They Kind of Shine was also the group's first album for the German label Tapete Records; Downpilot would develop a loyal following in Europe that eclipsed their low profile in the United States, and Tapete reissued their previous releases. Hiraga opted to perform most of the music himself on 2011's New Great Lakes, and in 2015, Downpilot released Radio Ghost, an album inspired in part by Hiraga's father's childhood experiences in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. Again operating as more of a solo venture, 2018's This Is the Sound was engineered and mixed by Hiraga with Brown, Musburger, and de Castro helping out instrumentally in the early stages. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi