Steve Poponi (Up Up Down Down, Gradwell House) has died at 48

Reports are coming in that the South Jersey/Philly music scene veteran Steve Poponi has died at age 48. Steve sang and played guitar in the influential, cultishly-loved Haddon Heights, NJ emo/math rock band Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start, and he also co-owned the Gradwell House studio, where he worked with countless bands, ranging from Into It. Over It./The Progress to Alex G.

Evan Weiss from Into It. Over It. and The Progress wrote:

You were the reason I pursued music. You were my biggest inspiration. Not just creatively but as a person. As a mentor.

You were the older brother I never had. Who taught me how to treat music with respect but also not to take yourself too seriously. Who taught me the fine art of sarcasm. The ability to “razz” in a way that is full of love and respect.

We met in 2001 in the basement of your house and you were there throughout the years ahead as my friends and I cut our teeth through our awkward years into you being kind enough to invite me into your band. My favorite band in the world.

You helped me form and develop The Progress and IIOI. Both projects do not exist the way they do without you.

I’m so happy you and I had a day recently where we got to really spend some real quality time together in Chicago.

I’m so happy you met Al.

Steve — I love you. My life feels a little less complete without you in it. Rooms everywhere are somehow darker without you in them — Always lighting them up. You burned so bright man.

You were the reason I pursued music. You were my biggest inspiration. Rest well my friend.

The Early November vocalist Ace Enders , whose work with Steve dates back to before Early November formed, wrote on his Instagram stories:

It’s hard to find the words for this one. This guy was a huge part of many of our musical journeys. Whether he realized it or not.. he inspired so many of us. And taught us how to be unapologetically ourselves in an industry that always wants you to be something else. I truly appreciate you and know that I wouldn’t be the same or where I am now if I hadn’t met you in the OG Gradwell basement in ’99. Thank you and you will be missed my friend.

Rob Wilcox of By Surprise, whose band is named after an Up Up Down Down song, posted a tribute to his Instagram stories, which reads:

My heart breaks for the family of Steve Poponi and everyone in the extended South Jersey, Philadelphia, and Gradwell House DIY communities.

Steve was someone to look up to, whether or not he wanted that responsibility. His songwriting over the past 30 years, while not nearly prolific enough, was impossible to match.

[…] His influence will be felt for years to come, and I will cherish my memories of him.

Watch a live Up Up Down Down video, stream their 2003 debut LP And Nothing Is #1, and see more tributes to Steve below.

Rest in peace, Steve Poponi.

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