Last time most of us heard anything about local hard rockers Downplay, the band was being courted by major record labels.

Last time most of us heard anything about local hard rockers Downplay, the band was being courted by major record labels.

Reps from Atlantic, Mercury, Epic and Capitol came to hear them play at the Newport in February 2010. Ultimately, Epic was the only one that didn't shy away.

"It was definitely the most extreme rollercoaster," said drummer Brian Patrick. "These people come at you and you play for them three or five times, and then you never hear from them again."

Dustin Bates, Downplay's frontman and songwriter, chalks the band's contract up to luck and one ridiculously catchy song, "Sleep."

"That's the thing they look for first," he said of the labels, "not really for the look or even the style as much as, is there a marketable song?"

Bates has spent the past year writing material for a new album, which he expects will be out around August. The band spent several months recording and mixing the album - which will include "Sleep" - in New Orleans with producer David Fortman, who's worked with Evanescence, Slipknot and Mudvayne.

Bates knew exactly what sound he was going for with the new songs, and he isn't afraid to compare his output to music by other popular bands.

"It has some 30 Seconds to Mars in the intensity, the epic-ness of a Muse song, the guitar stylings of a band like Red or Breaking Benjamin, and then the melody and lyrical content that people have already heard in Downplay," he said, then added with a laugh, "with some Chevelle sprinkled over top."

It doesn't hurt that members of 30 Seconds to Mars and Red co-wrote some of the songs.

Now that things are winding down with the album, the band's busy preparing to take the stage at Rock on the Range for the first time.

"It means a lot to be playing such a big show in our area," Bates said. "To be able to do it at home where people recognize us means a ton."

The band hasn't played live since last summer, so this will be fans' first chance to hear music from the upcoming album.

"Just the simple fact to finally get on stage and play all these new songs will be cool," Patrick said. "Hopefully the fans will think it's great. That's all I can wish for."