E.C. Beats

Exploring the sound of local artists. This week: FMDown



Local rock band FMDown was created in 2010 in response to the “bad” music being played on the radio.

A few late night meals at Heckel’s restaurant and karaoke sessions later, two Eau Claire residents decided they wanted to make a change in the music scene.

It was there that they concocted the idea to create a band and play music that was “more genuine than what was on the radio.”

“We weren’t exactly satisfied with what was being played on mainstream radio and what record companies were passing off to the general public as ‘good,’” said Will Wall, vocalist and guitarist for the band FMDown. “We set out to accomplish the antithesis to that.”

Wall and Andrew Liss, currently a vocalist and keyboardist, were karaoke DJs at the time the band was created in 2010. In the beginning, it was just the two of them overlaying guitar, keyboard, drums and vocals.

Liss said he did not have a lot of experience in a band or playing many instruments, so he ended up teaching himself to play the piano for the band.

After working as a duo for about six months, they added a bassist and drummer who left for personal reasons. They later replaced them with their current members Greg Kernkamp on bass and vocals and Joe Gunderson on drums.

The name FMDown was selected because Wall said it is simple, memorable and it reflects their mantra — that there is more out there than what is played on FM radio stations.

Comparing their music to early Foo Fighters songs and more recently The Killers, Wall said they do not like to pigeonhole their music but if they had to pick a genre they most resemble, it would be rock with a twist.

Wall said when it comes to writing their music, they acquire inspiration from the music they listened to growing up. He said he is a “reformed punk rocker” while Liss said he grew up jamming to soft pop.

“Every time Andrew wants to go down with something, I want to go the other way with it,” Wall said. “So it’s a very odd push and pull but it makes for very interesting dynamics.”

Liss said the band’s mix of musical tastes can be heard in their latest EP, “Select All Delete” with the beginning songs echoing the hard rock side of Wall and the ending works leaning more towards Liss’ soft pop mindset.

Much of the group’s music starts with bits and pieces written by either Wall or Liss who then present it to the rest of the band and the other parts are added on from there. Wall said in addition to creating their music from scratch, the band self-records each of their albums.

“It is like having a child and entrusting somebody you don’t know with caring for your child,” Wall said. “It is a little bit of a complicated process mentally but as of late I am micromanaging less.”

Already releasing a few EPs and singles, the group practices once a week for about three hours each session, sometimes more before a performance. With two children and a wife at home, Liss said this is when he gets his “guy time.”

When he moved to Eau Claire after living in Westminster, California for 20 years, Liss said his relationship with music started to dwindle. For the earlier part of his life, he said music played a big role so when he lost touch with that form of expression, he lost part of himself.

Liss said he first gravitated toward karaoke as a way to get involved with music again. Now, being a vocalist and keyboardist for the band allows him to reconnect with his musical side, he said.

“I can escape from the quote, unquote ‘real world’ for awhile,” Liss said. “This is a chance for me to kind of create again. This is a chance for me to get back into what I love.”

FMDown’s music is available on Spotify, BandCamp and their website.