This original four piece formed in February 1996 with an aggressive yet melodic feel in the town originally named New Berlin until the name was no longer politically correct at the dawn of WWII. Downshift's intent from the start was to turn heads in the music industry with their "Alternative" influenced music. Steve Hussey (drums), Mike Hodgson (bass), Skip (guitar), Jay Gawthorn (vocals), Mark Townsend (guitar) got the band on its feet. Their debut, Semi-Automatic, was released in 1999. Self-financed and produced by Graham Brewer, an accomplished engineer who had previously worked with The Tea Party, Sky and Serial Joe, Semi-Automatic proved to be locally popular, despite being controversial due to the cover picture featuring a child holding a pistol behind his back. The recent Alternative movement that swept North America in the 1990s influenced the sound heavily. They also received the opportunity to showcase their work at Canadian Music Week trade show in 2000. The complaints over their debut's artwork were easily rebuffed, and in no way restricted their ability to market the recording.