Posted On 28 Jun 2017
The group met while studying classical music composition at New York University where they played together on various projects ranging from classical ensembles to rock bands. Their strong writing chemistry spurred the formation of Upright Man. Combining elements of alternative, psychedelic, roots rock and classic rock with complex harmonies and time signatures, the band seamlessly intertwines influences like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Crowded House, Little Feat, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and XTC into a unique sound all their own.
Upright Man’s dynamic self-titled debut is due out on August 18th. The album’s ten shimmering tracks were produced by Marc Copely (Roseanne Cash, B.B. King, Billy Squire) and Zev Katz (Jeff Beck, Hall & Oates, Aretha Franklin) and engineered by Bruce Sugar (Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh) at Avatar Studios and Sear Sound in NYC and at Blackbird Studios in Nashville.
Upright Man has crafted an exciting, ambitious, formidable album that immediately captivates and holds tight. The magnetic songs boast the hulking riffs and spacey twists of the eponymous “Upright Man” while the bombastic tribal beats of “Animals” and “Checked Out” throw you into a hypnotic frenzy. “Three Easy Pieces” mesmerizes with propulsive piano-driven swagger, “Agorognostic” paints a lush soundscape via sharp lyrics and vibrant instrumentation and “Designer Mind” and “Say What You Mean” offer sultry distortion-drenched stomps.
(All Photographer credit: Sloane Morrison)
Upright Man social media links:
Learn more about Upright Man in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What have been some highlights over the past year for Upright Man? How is 2017 treating you all?
Max: Traveling to Savannah, GA for Savannah Stopover was definitely one of the coolest things we’ve done as a band. 2017 is halfway done but it feels like it just started. I think I’m still waiting to wake up.
Aidan: The highlight for me was the recording of the last half of the record this past winter. We came into the studio a lot more confident of who we were as a band. It was a lot of hours of work and exhausting, but it’s the type of work that is addicting in a certain sense.
Nick: Finishing the record was the big one for me. I love being able to keep moving creatively. There are a lot of artists who will tinker with something in an attempt to reach perfection, when greatness lies in imperfection. I say, get it done, make sure it gets the point across, and keep creating!
Nick: we all met in our various music composition classes there. We had a weekly meeting of all the comp students where we would share music and talk about comp related stuff. We actually all started playing together on a project Aidan was working on of some very difficult process based long form “classical” stuff that we played on electric instruments with drum kit; the sorts of pieces that took a year to write and eight months to learn. Needless to say, eventually we decided to write some songs and discovered it was much more fun.
Max: Aidan, Nick and I were in the music comp program together. Aidan and I wound up playing in a couple groups together, one of them was a group of original tunes I was writing. Then Aidan brought Nick and I in on these heady ultra modern jazz tunes – really through-composed and interesting stuff. After realizing how much we dug playing with each-other, and how tenuous a career as prog jazz musicians would be, I think we settled on writing rock tunes.
Aidan: We all met at NYU in the music composition program. After collaborating on all sorts of weird educational and modern projects in school, our relationship as musicians grew stronger and we stuck together to form a rock band. We wanted to play more music that came naturally.
How did you come up with your band name? What other names were you considering?
Nick: I was pushing really hard for The Queso.
Max: Other band names we considered were “The Bubble Bath Assailants, or the BBA’s for short”, “The Novemberists,” or maybe “Jón Jón Jan.”
Aidan: I think we had some ideas like “Sleepyhead”, “Pomegranate Starfish” and probably a lot more embarrassing ones that sounded good at the time.
I am always curious to know about a band’s sound and really their dynamics has been influenced by the city they all live and write their music. How do you think NYC has affected the group?
Nick: I’ve used this question as an engine for bad jokes in the past, but I think the serious answer is this: New York is a very diverse city – living here exposes you to a lot of people from a lot of places and a lot of different circumstances. As a result, you – consciously or not – take a lot of different input. Writing music is like lucid dreaming, most of what happens is a manifestation of the subconscious – in terms of generating ideas – you can consciously influence the direction, or make conscious choices about what ideas you have, but what floats into your head, that comes from somewhere you can’t control, and unfortunately, you can’t close your eyes and spin around three times and find yourself with a whole new song.
Aidan: The city is a hectic place and you can’t stop it from affecting you. Where you live and the culture you are surrounded by definitely has an effect on your mood and general outlook on life. Who knows what we’d be writing if we all moved to a monastery together.
Max: We write about people, possessionism, daily struggles and optimism. This city is filled with all those things.
Let’s talk about your self-titled debut album that you will be releasing on August 18th. What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you at all about the process? How long did it take to put it all together?
Nick: The way we did this record was actually something I’ve wanted to do ever since I found out Elvis Costello writes and records 3 or more songs for each track slot on a given album of his. I always admired prolific writers, and I’m not generally one when I write alone, but with these two, we seem to get a lot of material done in a short time and it feels great. We wrote and recorded some 24 songs and are releasing 10.
Aidan: The process took about a total of two years from the inception of the band to the recording and release of this first album. It has a been a musical journey from the hyper intellectualism of our college days to something a lot more organic that is still evolving now.
What was the inspiration for this album?
Aidan: The constant inspiration we experience living our lives as well as playing and writing together. Every song has a story behind how the lyrics were written.
Can you pick out a few songs on the album and elaborate on the creation of them?
Nick: “Alaska” is an interesting one from a process perspective. I had actually written the lyric as a completely different song. Aidan and I were hanging out one day, when he started playing the guitar part for the verses, and in a flash, it occurred to me that the song I had written the night before would not only fit the chords he was playing, but be way more interesting than what I had written under it. I didn’t even change the melody, it was really remarkable how they just fit together.
Max: “Three Easy Pieces” is one of the earlier tunes that got written for Upright Man, and it’s somewhat of an outlier. Aidan and I had talked about writing songs away from the guitar, which is how we wound up on piano. The instrumental part was something that just kind of happened when I sat down; it’s an amalgam of the “touchy-feely” piano music that I’d dig on travels. We wrote the lyrics pretty quickly as well. It was an easily reached compromise between taking about some harder personal experiences, and more of a vague description of what we want in life versus what we need. Maybe three easy pieces are all you need. Pieces of what… You tell us.
How would you describe your sound to someone that has never heard it before?
Aidan: We were calling it space rock for a while. That seems pretty accurate to me.
Max: It’s like “Aaaaaahhhhh”, then “kkrrssshhhhhhhwap!”
Nick: Liquid Jesus.
I see that you have some shows coming up this summer. Generally, what are Upright Man shows like?
Aidan: You get extra points for dancing. We’ll take you from I wish I could go to one as an audience member and tell you what it’s like. For me, it’s exhilarating to play and sing with the band for a crowd and push the boundaries on our live show.
Nick: Chocolate Jesus.
How do you keep up with your social media pages? Have you been able to connect with a lot of new and old fans that way?
Aidan: Social media has been a great way for us to stay in touch with friends, fans, and people we have met on tour. I can’t say any of us would be using social media much if weren’t for the band, but we have fun with it.
Nick: They’re necessary at this point, having to take our energy away from the music isn’t our favorite thing, but what’s the point if there’s no audience, right?
Who are you all listening to these days? What artists have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
Nick: I listen to a lot of XTC and Radiohead and Crowded House, I think Andy Partridge, Johnny Greenwood, and Neil Finn are definitely up there for me in terms of people I’d love to get to work with. I’ve also been listening to a Taylor McFerrin a lot recently — those Brainfeeder people are up to some awesome stuff, it would be really cool to work with that camp too. They all seem like very musically open minded and forward thinking people.
Aidan: I know Radiohead is a big one for all of us. For me, a recent influence was studying with a guitarist named Jim Campilongo. Learning old country tunes by The Texas Troubadors, Chet Atkins, Ernest Tubb and more had an awesome indirect effect on my writing for Upright Man.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
Nick: Enjoyment? I think everyone relates to music differently. It’s hard to say what listeners will take away – I just hope it makes them feel good and want to listen to more of it.
Max: Take my wife, please!
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourselves and your music?
Nick: Liquid Chocolate Jesus.
Catch Upright Man on the road:
7/20 New York, NY @B.B. King Blues Club (w/ The Fabulous Thunderbirds)
7/22 Boston, MA @Cabot Theatre (w/ The Fabulous Thunderbirds)
8/17 Ocean City, MD @Fager’s Island
8/23 New York, NY @Bowery Electric