The Down & Outs Take An Experimental Leap on new single “Cntrl Group”

A control group [is] a comparison group in a study whose members receive either no intervention at all or some established intervention. The responses of those in the control group are compared with the responses of participants in one or more experimental groups that are given the new treatment being evaluated.” — APA Dictionary of Psychology

Engineered by @connorpriest — Mixed by @corner_soul — Mastered by — Photo by @juliatarantino

In 1961 psychologist Albert Bandura conducted the first of his famous “Bobo Doll” experiments with kids in experimental Group 1 witnessing an adult beating the sh*t out of a punching-bag style inflatable clown doll without repercussion, whereas kids in Group 2 saw adults playing nice with the doll and a third “control group” not being predisposed in any way…

…and when kids from all 3 groups were set loose on a Bobo doll, the first group not only imitated the aggro behavior but ran with it—employing a toy gun for instance—whereas the other kids treated the doll more gently, thus proving that clown-beating isn’t genetically ingrained even when the clown is a creepy bowling-pin shaped doll that springs back up after being struck ready to be hit again

…but it ain’t easy finding a nice neutral control group these days seeing as we’re all bombarded by digital streams of behavior-modifying reinforcement online already including constant monitoring of others’ likes and shares, laudatory comments and aggro-style flaming and trolling not to mention good ol’ fashioned passive-aggressive ignoring of the perceived dweebs, all projected into the giant echo chamber of the Internet…

…so no wonder The Down & Outs new single “Cntrl Group” sees vocalist/bassist Ray Young repeating “I wish you were my control group” in mantra-like fashion with steady building frenzy over a pounding, echo-chamber-laden dub-inflected, spaced-out, techno-on-guitars beat to the point where if “Cntrl Group” were played in an empty room with a clown doll nearby it’d probably start off as a nice fun groovy dance party but by the song’s end you’ll likely be slam dancing up against good ol’ Bobo…

…none of which is meant to say the song is “about” osocial learning theory—we honestly don’t know what the lyrics are supposedly to mean—but a recent convo with Ray the other day (see below!) did focus some on these topics, not to mention The D&O’s control-group like tendency to strip all unnecessary variables from their music…

…in order to make it as stripped down and streamlined as possible as ably assisted by the lean, mean, trancey-hard-techno-played-in-a-rock-band-format-machine-tooled playing of guitarist Benji Watson (Struck Me Like A Chord, Abstract Voicings) and drummer Tom O’Donnell (Corner Soul, Couch Prints)…

…with one major takeaway being how tough it is today to remain authentic in the face of a music industry reliant on automation and algorithms, streaming stats & social media impressions which in part inspired The D&O’s to scrap (for now) several tracks recorded with a name producer that depleted their finances more than igniting their passions even if they’ll later make for solid album tracks, eading to a renewed resolution to work organically within their means and to stay engaged by disengaging…

…so don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe! (Jason Lee)


Edited excerpts from a conversation with RAY YOUNG on June 21, 2023:

The Down & Outs haven’t put out new music since late 2021. The band went into the studio last year. I thought if I just worked with a good, known producer they’d hear something I didn’t hear. But it ended up ruining us financially—me and my roommate are broke for the foreseeable future. The lesson learned was to work within your means and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Or it’ll lead to a lot of bad stuff.

We went back to the drawing board, working with some new people and learning how to get it done quickly. And on “Cntrl Group” it happened. It felt like the song we’ve been threatening to write for a while. We wanted to make this song painfully honest. It’s more of a techno song with guitar than a post-punk song with a dance beat. It’s the sound of us growing as a band, and me as a songwriter. We felt we needed to clear new ground, make it pay off and really be worth it.

To be clear, all those songs we left on the shelf are going to come out. They have their merits. The one we really like will probably be the next single, coming out next month. The other two songs will be released when we’re putting together a larger project later this year, or next year. They just weren’t singles, more album cuts. One of them is totally different than anything we’ve ever done before.

The ethos of the band—I wanna see how little I can do and still make a song work. Like writing what’s essentially a single-note, four-on-the-floor song. We tried other variations but this is the one that clicked. The song came out of a jam , playing together in real time and not out of the box. When you’re a band band you have to have that chemistry, the ability to communicate, that’s what a real band does.

This is the first recording our drummer Tom plays on. He’s been doing our mixing and our artistic production for a while. He mixes off headphones and a Bluetooth Bose speaker, and this shit definitely sound better than what a lot of people do with more typical studio gear.

Connor helped us with some of the production and cleaned it up. We kept the whole process “in house” as much as possible. I don’t need someone to tell me “this is how it should be.” And if we can keep it more insular and work with the right people, and do it with some of our friends, with the “scene” which is basically you and your friends who do some of the same artistic tasks, it means it’s all coming from the same ethos…


We all known New York City is ripe as fuck right now for a new scene to break through. All eyes are on us as a musical community and we are 100% looking looking to exist at the epicenter as part of it. But not as one of the faux-rock bands ‘cause a lot of them aren’t even real bands. They just want to straight up play TikTok music that sounds like something you’d hear an orthodontic office—like a standard four-piece of white boys who get hyped and signed to a label but don’t know what they’re doing.

We’re into crossing Manhattan rock with the techno/electro scene in Brooklyn. I wanna make something that a journalist has to come up with a new name for. Indie sleaze is a good example. It’s kinda cool and gets people good press and helps legitimate artists, but it doesn’t have anything to do with anything. It’s not even really a musical style. But still that “Girls” song by The Dare fucking rocks and helps continue on a certain legacy. I only wish them all the best of success.

Today “indie rock” is more a state of mind than anything, more about fashion than a certain sound. But if “sleaze” is really part of the equation you shouldn’t be drinking White Claws at a party more like tallboys. Debauchery and hedonism are sleazy if we’re gonna use this word. I think a better, more descriptive label would be the NYC Lorem scene or Pollen scene, since it’s all intertwined with digital culture anyway. That to me is more descriptive, while indie sleaze is more harkening back to the past.

And speaking of digital culture I also like how some people now are making music that’s “unreferential” to the past, like hyperpop, totally divorced from precedence. But still I’d like to see The Down & Outs be part of a new “NYC sound” or scene that’s inspired by the past, but not derivative or limited by it.

Whatever style you’re part of, when it comes down to it, nothing is sicker than having under 1000 listeners on Spotify or whatever other social media. What could be a more legitimizing project than to continue making music in a vacuum? That to me is cool. You have 17 listeners but yet you persevere and keep going. Low stakes means that you can exist in complete freedom. You really can make whatever you want. And then if it goes viral, it’s better if it just happens out of nowhere.

Fcukers are a good example. They have two songs out [one being a Beck cover] no videos and no press. But they sold out Baby’s All Right. The music is enough, but a lot of artists don’t think that way. The question is whether you want to have a legacy, something you can stand by on your deathbed, or did you just follow the standard industry game.