Upright Man (Band Interview)
Today we chat to the members of Upright Man.
What’s the history of Upright Man?
Max: Their story began several millennia ago. The Upright Man, or Homo Erectus, was a species of human that lived during the Pleistocene Epoch from about 1.6 million years ago to 250,000 years ago. Now extinct, Homo Erectus was the first species of humans to master fire, and its remains have been found in Africa, Europe, and Asia. It is widely thought to be the direct ancestor of modern humans.
Nick: It pretty much resembles the opening sequence of “History of the World Part I.” (A good film. -Ed)
Aidan: We are all Upright Men, but as far as the band goes, we’ve been around for 2 years and friends/collaborating musicians for much longer. Over that span of time, we have taken our strong musical identities as individuals and somehow managed to get on the same page every once in a while to make some music none of us could make alone.
So what can you tell us about your début self-titled album due out August 18th? (Inspiration. Sound. Style.)
Nick: It’s heavy on the Hildegard Von Bingen. That’s all I can say.
Aidan: I guess you could call it psychedelic rock, or space rock. We always want to write great songs that will be relatable to everybody, while staying true to our development of our taste and nerdy musical tendencies.
How did you go about making it?
Nick: we played and someone hit record. Then we played it again and someone hit record again. Repeat until it sounds good.
Max: We have a general process for writing tunes. Once we have enough songs solidly together we call in our producer; a shaman that overseas an arduous soul-journey of ego shedding and peyote. This metamorphoses is colloquially known as “recording”.
Aidan: All of the basic tracking happened at Avatar Studios in NYC. With our task masters and producers, Marc Copely and Zev Katz behind the board, we worked ourselves to exhaustion everyday, trying to realize these songs we’ve written in every way we can imagine before settling on something. A lot of overdubs and vocals happened between Sear Sound, Blackbird Studios in Nashville, and mine and Marc’s home studios.
Anything you’ve learnt from making it as you’ve gone along?
Aidan: Everyone’s ideas matter when you get in the room with the right people.
Max: Keep Nick fed.
Nick: Duct tape Max’s mouth shut. Things get done much faster.
What sort of technology and instruments do you work with?
Nick: I tend to play a Lakland Jazz Bass through a Electro harmonix Bass Synth pedal, a modded DS-1, a 1980s Sovtek Big Muff Pi, TC Chorus, and the shitty amp cure-all Strymon Deco. I also play a Rheem Kee Bass on a few tunes.
Max: In addition to the collection of synths and pedals we try and put a couple interesting prepared instruments into at least a couple songs. For the bridge of one tune, there’s a piano being played with an aluminum shaker placed on the octave harmonics of the upper register strings. The lower-register piano strings are covered with tissue paper and pens to make a muted clicking sound.
Aidan: My main guitar for a lot of the record was a 1966 Guild Polara. On my pedal board I use a couple big Strymon pedals, an Eventide TimeFactor with lots of presets, fuzz pedal, distortion, Klon booster/distortion. Our producer has a crazy amount of obscure and old music equipment that he used to vibe out the record. I think we can all agree that we really dig old amps, instruments, and gear.
Any plans for upcoming live shows?
Nick: Nope. Never playing live ever again.
Aidan: We’re about to go out opening for Robert Randolph & The Family Band on June 6th, 7th, and 8th. We are opening for NRBQ at B.B. King’s in NYC on June 26th. On August 18th we are releasing our album and will have a couple local shows in NYC to give everyone a taste of what we’ve been working on.
What do you see as a musicians role in society?
Aidan: Make good music, not just make music. At least I see that as our role in society.
Nick: We’re dead useless. On a serious note, read Religion for Atheists by Alain De Botton.
Max: When I admit to my friends that I’ve decided to do something very selfish by being a musician, I’m usually kindly reassured that I’m providing the same inspiration to others that helped me through some tough times, and embellished some of my brightest experiences. It’s nice to pretend that I believe that.
Where do you stand on music videos? Do you see their value in today’s world?
Aidan: They sort of draw you into hearing and experiencing the music in a different way than you would if you were just listening to it. But they are awesome in their own right and sometimes the video brings the song to new heights of awesomeness. We’d love to make a music video that allows someone to experience our music in a different way.
Nick: I’ve never really cared for them. I’m an album guy. Always kind of felt like they were just a crutch for people who didn’t have the wherewithal or education or attention span to just listen to the bloody record.
Max: Love ’em. It’s honestly how I consume a lot of new music. But I’m an outlier; I can’t speak to why other people like them, I just know that when I listen to music un-aided by video, I get very fidgety. I want to turn it off and make my own music instead. Videos are great for me because they’re super distracting.
Nick: Aaaaaand case in point.
What’s your take on the “new” technology? (Bandcamp, Soundcloud, MP3)
Nick: It would be cool if people got paid.
Max: I’m a CD guy, but it’s for sentimental reasons, not because I think streaming services are ill-conceived. I don’t know enough about business to insist I know what a “good” means of conveyance for music would be. One that gets musicians paid well and spreads the music out to as many people as possible I’d think, but I really don’t know enough about that part of the industry.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Nick: The whole not paying the musicians thing. I can’t eat exposure. I heard a story that Nina Simone had to literally pull a gun on her record executives one time so they’d pay her. What’s up with that? It’s not like these dudes aren’t making money hand over fist. It’s so exploitive. It really brings me down and makes me feel like a lesser part of society – which is a stark juxtaposition with the reaction most human beings have to music. Like somehow my being exploited is fine because ya know, I only bring emotional satisfaction to people. I think it stems from a lack of understanding. We didn’t choose music. It chose us. I would go insane doing anything else. In all seriousness, I have a deep compulsion to create music to the point that I become depressed if I’m not. It’s like charging people for clean water…oh wait.
Max: Again, I’m a novice about this. I like the idea of having the public be more involved with music in a way that could provide some subsidized patronage for musicians but that’s too sloppy to legislate. Also, that would be socialist and I love America. Wait where are you taking me? LET ME GO.
Any advice for new bands?
Aidan: You have to enjoy what you’re playing and who you are playing with to weather the storm of actually making a band happen.
Max: Don’t try the veal.
Nick: Or the exposure.
Anything you’d like to tell our readers?
Nick: Pay for independent music. Go to small shows. Buy the merch. It’ll pay a musician’s health insurance premium, or their rent for their shitty studio apartment. I guarantee you that as glamorous as they may look, they’re hustling hard to keep it all going and every little bit helps. Oh and write your congresspeople about not cutting the NEA and NPR and not cutting arts education.