There was so much going on at this show at The Knitting Factory that I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s see…Tom (fellow journalist for P&W) and I arrived at the venue early on July 17th so we could interview the lovely band members of the Ugly Club. I’m sure they get this a lot, but they were all far from ugly. The minute I got there it was like meeting up with old friends. Not only are they all talented, but also very personable.
Wolvves was the opening act and I’m not going to lie. At first, they scared the crap out of me. The lead singer came out with her face covered in this white sheer cloth that looked like a couture bee keeper’s mask. I consider myself to be a very open-minded person, so I got past the red lights and whispers and actually got into their dark, electronic sound. They undeniably know how to grab your attention and widen your eyes. They’re entertaining and if you’re into that intense experimental type of show, I say go check them out live!
It was finally The Ugly Club’s turn! Their confidence was radiating and they have this impeccable mixture of indie-rock and groovy funk kind of sound. They have this one song “Under The Great Waves” they performed that can leave you feeling mesmerized. With Ryan Egan’s (lead singer) high notes that give you goose-bumps, Taylor Mandel’s (keyboard and vocals) raw emotion and fiery passion, Rick Sue-Poi (bass) mysterious look and cool moves, Ryan Mcnulty’s (drums) perfect timing, and most importantly lyrics that tell a story you want to keep hearing over and over again. I am now a new fan and trust me; you should be too if you aren’t already.
Jersey based band, New York City rockers, and of course all round nice guys. Yes The Ugly Club may hail mostly from across the river in New Jersey, but there’s nothing that stinks about these guys. There’s also nothing ugly about them either. Not sure where I’m going with this… Anyway I recently sat down with the four members of the band before their show at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. Ryan Egan (guitar/vox), Rick (bass), Ryan McNulty (drums), and Taylor (keys, horns, vox) to talk about how far they’ve come since their 2012 album, You Belong to the Minutes, how they feel about their progression as a band, how they’ve adjusted to the current state of the music biz, and what they’d like to buy after their first big pay day. CHECK IT!
We sat down with the guys from The Ugly Club for a few questions, here is the interview;
P&W: So, Ugly Club
Ugly Club: So Tom
P&W: For someone who has never heard your music, how would you explain to them what your sound is like?
Ugly Club: Drugs
(More awkward silence)
Ryan E: Dancy, alternative, psychedelic rock.
P&W: Any bands you’d like to consider your contemporaries?
Rick: My Morning Jacket maybe. Radiohead but not quite as serious
P&W: Radiohead pre-’98 or post ‘98
Rick: Post ‘98
P&W: How do you guys feel you fit into the LES/Brooklyn guitar scene?
Ryan E: I feel like most bands find that question complicated. There isn’t really a tight knit scene. I feel like out sound is accessible in a lot of different settings. So it does allow us to play Glasslands but also play Pianos and bounce around all the different LES and Brooklyn Venues. It seems to work in most environments, so we’re trying to keep it that way. Not too poppy, not too punk, we want to keep it somewhere in the middle where it’s just right.
(Smiles all around)
P&W: Let’s talk a little bit about You Belong to the Minutes. It came out two years ago, what were you guys like as a band at the time and how do you feel you’ve grown or changed since then?
Rick: We’ve come a long way since then
Ryan M: We’re kind of always changing. It got to the point where we had kind of found out sound at the time.
Ryan E: At that time three of us were living together. We were actually a five-piece at the time with a lead guitar player, who isn’t with us anymore. He passed away actually…
(Smiles all around)
Ryan E: It was almost a year in the making with all these songs where it was the first time we accomplished this tight sound we could call our own. I mean it was our first full-length, we had a lot of awesome people collaborating on it- from the engineers to the album design, there was just a lot of good momentum that we haven’t had since. We’re probably just getting to a point now where we’re back in that comfort zone of being confident in what we’re doing and approaching a release. Also the team has changed, we’re a four-piece now so we’ve taken the past couple months to redefine the sound and work on new material. There’s always phases, so we had our album phase then after that we coasted for a little bit, had a dip downward, and now we’ve picked ourselves back up and we’re releasing some new music soon!
P&W: Do you think the sound of that album really defines what your band is?
Ryan M: I think it was kind of a step to get to our actual sound. That record certainly has a sound to it and a lot of influences. Where we’re at now is a little more defined.
Rick: With our new record don’t expect to hear the same thing again. It’s going to be a tighter Ugly Club sound.
Ryan M: I feel it’s a little more honed in now to what our sound is supposed to be, which isn’t necessarily all over the place, but a little looser.
P&W: What would you attest that change to, maturity as musicians/songwriters or the way you go about your work as a band?
Ryan M: I think a little bit of both. Losing our guitarist at the time, to us was like ‘oh my God what are going to do?’, but at the same time allowed us to write more songs that came a bit more natural. Now it’s more of a simplistic version of song ideas.
Ryan E: We’ve just come into ourselves more as songwriters. There’s a lot of ego aside at this point, we’re all a bit older and you can step away from our material enough to make it good. The main focus is bringing these songs to their full potential and nothing else. Our band is the perfect example of a collaborative band.
P&W: At this point are you really in a rush to get a new album out?
Taylor: We’ve had that discussion recently as far as how we want to go about releasing material and churning stuff out. I think the conclusion we came to is that an album release, as great and satisfying as it may be to put one out, is just not beneficial for the group moving forward. So we’re really just attacking a tune or two at a time. We have a whole batch of songs we’ve been working on and we want to release those separately, like the single we’re about to release. So we’ve got all our eggs in that kind of basket right now… That’s the direction we want to go in and we’re going to see if it works. If it does work we can adapt and adjust from there.
Ryan E: We’re making an effort so that material is constantly coming out as opposed to putting all our effort into one single project like an album. Now it turns into let’s release three songs over six months and see what that does. It’s really just trying to adapt to the modern industry. We’ve got a single coming out in September and it’s way easier to get some support behind it since it’s only one song. We’re able to produce it at a high quality on a low budget and even adding a music video to it. So we’re able to do a lot more by releasing music like that. It would be different had we tried doing all that for lots of songs on one album.
Taylor: It really comes down to quality of quantity. We could put out twelve songs and stress for a year. I personally don’t listen to albums all the way through so how many consumers are honestly out doing the same?
P&W: What are some other ways you’re trying to evolve the band while fitting into the mold of the current music industry?
Ryan M: We like to try and make the most out of what we have whether it is time or money. If we’re going on a ten-date tour, we’re going to be taking advantage of our time not driving or playing by promoting ourselves.
P&W: What do you feel is your best asset that helps you stand out?
Ryan E: Honesty. It’s different if you’re a band who has a gimmick or something that makes you in a way, dishonest. By staying honest to what we know we can do and what we like to do it helps us stay patient.
Rick: Our ability to be on the same page with each other and going forward one step at a time.
P&W: When you’re on the same bill as other bands, do you feel a sense of competitiveness out there? In a sense you’re all trying to get to the top of the mountain, only a few of you will be able to make it. Is there ever a feeling of ‘I don’t want that person to be in the spot I want to be in’?
Taylor: I’m definitely competitive, absolutely. Even with friendly bands. We have a lot of groups we’re friends with a love to play with, but we’ll see them do something really well that is clearly working and it forces you to say ‘Oh look, they’re doing this really well now I have to step up my game and do that as well’ and just stay on par with the competition.
Ryan E: It does keep you in check, having other bands that are really good. If we see a band that really has something on us it allows us to see what we need to do to get better.
Taylor: You want to know whom they are though, especially playing on the same bill as them. If you were running a race but couldn’t see anyone else you wouldn’t be able to tell who’s winning.
P&W: What’s your favorite part about playing with one another?
Rick: Now that we’re a four-piece it’s a little more tightly knit. I feel like we’re all real close both personally and musically now.
Ryan M: Every show is an intimate experience for us. It really doesn’t matter where we’re playing.
Ryan E: I think what separates musicians is that there are some who can be performers and some who can’t. Obviously we’ve played these songs enough that we know how to perform them for people. We’re in a band because we are performers. Taylor: I love locking eyes with Ryan (McNulty) while playing, it really sends me to another place.
P&W: What would you like on your perfect concert rider?
Ryan E: Full body massage, every night
Taylor: Nah there’s gotta be something much better… I don’t know
Ryan M: Xbox for me
Rick: An assortment of whiskey
Taylor: I would love a keg on tap anywhere we went. Preferably Natural Ice.
P&W: After your first six-figure paycheck, what would you buy first?
Taylor: Well that’s lower than I imagined but…
Ryan E: Our own space, a legit rehearsal studio
Ryan M: I’ll buy a spider farm
Taylor: I’ve got a wish list of keyboards I’d love to buy. I’d definitely hire some guys to carry all my stuff around.
Article by: Kayla Klein
Interview by: Tom Shackleford