Bad(ass) Case of The UGLYS

The UGLYS have been a band for nigh on three years, yet they performed live for the first time this February. Just imagine … three years of crafting tunes, exploring the sonic palette, before any stage time. I wish more bands would give their songs that much time to incubate, to evolve, to become. The UGLYS are Zach Kane (guitar, drums, voice), Jared Kane (bass … and brother), and Victor Jadlow (guitar, voice).

TheUGLYSmidsize

Now, things have gotten too legit for The UGLYS and their fans as the band is due to release its “High as Heaven, Drunk as Hell” e.p. on June 26th. It was recorded by former Suicide Squeeze artist Tim Gerak (The Photo Atlas, InnerOceans) at Mammoth Cave Studios in Denver.

The UGLYS are a post hardcore stoner/punk band. I think that distinction is right on. There are too many tempo changes and heavy, heavy riffs to be punk in the Ramones sense of the word. How about this: If The Mars Volta, Screaming Trees, SOAD, Royal Blood and Rancid could somehow all parent one musical child, it might – might – sound a little like The UGLYS. That’s my take. I’m happy to hear something this aggressive that’s anchored by some theory chops. Keeps it interesting. I’m a fan.

“High as Heaven, Drunk as Hell” is a 20-minute blitzkrieg of styles in four blistering tracks. Zach Kane: “Our style is heavily influenced by the post-hardcore bands of the early 2000s, i.e. The Blood Brothers, At the Drive In, Underoath, etc., balanced with late 80s/early90s post-punk Fugazi, The Talking Heads, Liars. Then we threw in some stoner metal to seal in the mix (Sleep, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Bison BC).” Preview a couple of tracks here.

The Denver release gig is on July 17th at Hi-Dive. This is gonna be a serious knockout event. Whiplash warning: Don’t come to mosh without getting limber first. The beat’s too hot for your safety.

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Four Questions with The Devil Makes Three

[image by Meredith Powell]

BEHOLD: The Devil Makes Three is back in Denver, baby, with a killer live show and a musical fire in the belly. Hard to believe it’s been a year and change since they released “I’m a Stranger Here” to widespread critical acclaim (and the howls of derision from the bands who ape their sound). They’re going to put the new songs deep in ya this Saturday night. TDM3 is just about elbow-deep into a winter tour, putting their Ameripunkana spell on very willing audiences. They’re a long way from Santa Cruz living rooms now, but this band still gives a damn about the fans, the music, and putting on a wicked live performance.

In advance of the show, Pete Bernhard has taken a minute to field four hard-hitting (not) questions. I love him for it.

SS: Any standout memories of past touring moments in Colorado?

PB: Playing Red Rocks with Trampled By Turtles and Deer Tick and also playing there with Yonder. The most beautiful venue we have ever had the pleasure of playing! 

SS: What keeps touring and making music interesting for you?

PB: Writing new material and having musicians we love sit in with us. Getting to share the stage with people who are heroes like Willie Nelson. 

SS: Who are you listening to – musically or otherwise – at the moment?

PB: I’m listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” and Buck Owens. 

SS: What can the Denver audience expect to hear and see?

PB: They can expect some secret musical guests and to have their faces melted completely off by banjo fury.

The Devil Makes Three, with Joe Pug, doors 8 pm Saturday, Fillmore Auditorium. Age 16+

‘Treat Yourself’ to new e.p. by The Whiskey Treats

If the winter doldrums have you begging for a reason to boogie, keep reading. Denver’s own The Whiskey Treats released their debut e.p. “Treat Yourself” four days ago, and I testify that it’ll make you grab your partner, swing low, raise the roof, and even cause involuntary fits of (in my case, difficult to watch) jig dancing.

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For those unfamiliar, The Whiskey Treats serve up a bluegrass-punk fusion that might be the stepchild of Ricky Skaggs and Dropkick Murphys. Is this the true definition of farmcore? Who knows. But it’s a great listen and frankly a nice surprise. There’s plenty of traditional bluegrass in Colorado and scads of punk. Fuse the two with a beat that borders on ska, and you’ve found The Whiskey Treats. Great fiddle and banjo duels, upright bass, mando, and guitar with lots of shoutable gang vocals. Upbeat and then some. On the band’s bandcamp page, you can listen to and buy the whole e.p. (only $4, c’mon people!!) and watch a lyric video for “Best Day of the Year.”

The Whiskey Treats are rockin’ the Walnut Room on Jan. 23rd. Shine your boots, alert your pals, organize the taxi, and let the wild rumpus start! Supporting local music means something. When it’s as high-octane as The Whiskey Treats, you’re really getting the best of the scene.

Rough Age: Musical Boundaries be Damned

Let us now point our ears south down I-25 to Colorado Springs, a city whose music scene has been called many things but is never boring. As with any other reasonably big urban center, some COS bands languish in obscurity, some gain a regional following, and still others do exactly what they want to do, no matter who is listening. That’s what I think is happening with Rough Age.

“He’s at that rough age.” Get it? Pretty clever band name.

Rough Age flashed lean and hungry onto the scene two years ago, the collaboration of songwriter Nathan Archer with Tracy Santa and Michael Salkind (also a duo called Wild Hares) on bass and drums, respectively. The band’s full length debut, Before It Comes Apart, is available here and here.

It’s a very cool album, not what I was expecting, although it must be said I don’t know what I was expecting. I couldn’t pinpoint a central theme, so I made what I thought was a very levelheaded decision: ask the songwriter what it’s about.

Rough Age, two seconds before they jumped up, grabbed their instruments, and melted your face. (courtesy of

Rough Age, two seconds before they jumped up, grabbed their instruments, and rocked your face. (Image by Sarah Milteer)

“It’s much more of a collection of songs than a concept album,” says Archer. “The common thread seems to be portraits of people losing their shit or struggling in one way or another. A lot of those people are versions of myself or people I’ve known, like ‘Chemistry’ or ‘Tumbling Down’ and others are pure fiction, like in ‘Great Awakening’ or ‘Flammable Parts.'”

Speaking of Flammable Parts, let’s do a wee dissection of this tune. Gentle minor strumming, a touchy bass line sticking largely to root notes (thank you), and a very patient beat, some whistling, some organ. Sparse on lyrics, but they’re delivered in a pensive style that has to be compared to Elvis Costello, which should be taken as a compliment.

In over your head / But then you knew it from the start / She’ll tug and you will tear / Into a thousand flammable parts

In another life, this might have been a hidden track on King of America.

Archer readily confesses the Costello influence, but there are others that we would all be so lucky to have on heavy rotation. “I’ve always loved songs with a sense of drama and danger, however gratuitous – stuff like Nick Cave, the Toadies, and especially Richard Thompson lately,” he explains. “We all love that early punk/pub-rock era, too – Elvis Costello is a huge (and probably obvious) influence of mine – I actually played keyboards in a Costello tribute last fall. I like to think I picked up a little of his vocal delivery, or his ability to deliver edgy, bitter lyrics with a sweet melody.”

Before It Comes Apart takes its name from the lyrics to “San Gabriel.” Grant me this indulgence to be dredged out from my heart / Before it comes apart

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Archer: “I guess it’s both an accurate description of catharsis for me and an admission that some of the autobiographical stuff has been simplified in the lyrics.”

The album was recorded and mixed by a band friend, Dan Nelson, who runs Rainwerks Studios out of his house. Archer says more than half of the album (especially drums, bass, and electric guitar) happened live, much of it in one take. So if you’re looking for something as polished as your church shoes, keep looking. The mix is edgy.

I further asked Archer and Salkind how they would describe their music to someone who has never heard them, without making comparisons to other bands.

NA: “Smart-ass, catchy rock and roll with a touch of country.”

MS:  “A lot of power pop, some new wave (the non-synth variety), and some R&B by way of London in the late 70s.”

Another song from the album, “Al Jazeera,” seems to have some buzz. Acoustic driven, with a strum pattern that is part Sea Shanty, part Horah. A true head bobber about, well, I don’t know. It’s sorta cryptic. Holed up in your castle /You swear you’ll never leave / You’ll be replaced tomorrow with a new regime / Now, all around the world are shiny new facades / I saw it all on Al Jazeera

I’m a lyrics lover, and I am not satisfied with a song unless I know what’s being sung. In fact, I don’t appreciate the music bed as much if I am frustrated by not “getting” the lyrics. I like Archer’s writing. He describes his process: “It’s weirdly important to me that lyrics read well. I probably overthink them a little bit, but I want every song to have a setting, some kind metaphor or imagery, and some kind of narrative flow that directs the dynamics. A lot of these songs have several pages of backstory that never made it into the lyrics, which is why I can’t seem to write anything under three minutes. Too many verses. Hell, some of them have two bridges. Once I hit on a sound that really excites me, I’ll work backwards from it and think of a half-dozen stories I could build around it. It takes me a long time.”

The rock crowd will get into opening track “Adelita.” Santa has a rolling beat going, and there’s a dynamic shift late in the song that could easily free form into epic jam madness in concert.

“Achilles” is catchy as hell. It’s poppy. The bass and lead guitars compete to stay memorable, and they both win. Musically, this might be my favorite. There are numerous cross-genre moments on the album. You’ll listen to it a few times before you get a “sense” for it.

So where is Rough Age playing live? Next show is Aug. 31 at the Commonwheel Arts Festival in Manitou Springs.

I’ll give Nathan Archer the last word, and it’s about being in a Colorado Springs band.

“I think the local show experience sums up the good and bad pretty clearly: a bunch of great bands playing mostly to each other. I think we have a fantastic amount of talent here, but it does feel like there’s a pretty limited audience for original music. We’re probably better off than most; we’re not completely alien to the typical bar band and can play a few places the more experimental bands can’t. But there’s still this expectation with most people that a bar band should be playing classic rock covers and formula blues, and if you want to get out to where the ears are, you always have to fight it.”

(And fight it, they do!)

Folk Punk Photo Fusion

Tonight I went down to Seventh Circle Music Collective in Denver because a musical friend from Oregon, known to you as Self Proclaimed Narcissist, was performing. It was my first time visiting. Friendly, DIY, community-oriented retail outlet, rehearsal space and venue previously known as Blast-O-Mat. Folks should give it a look. Here’s my view from behind the lens. In the spirit of Seventh Circle, please use the images as you see fit.

Folk dancing

Folk dancing

What does this machine kill?

What does this machine kill?

Self Proclaimed Narcissist

Self Proclaimed Narcissist

The money rolled right in.

The money rolled right in.

Stepbrothers. Idaho punks.

Stepbrothers. Idaho punks.

Seventh Circle Music Collective, at the corner of Sure and Why Not.

Seventh Circle Music Collective, at the corner of Sure and Why Not.

Missing any drumsticks?

Missing any drumsticks?

Play me.

Play me.