A Chat With: Upright Man
Blending elements of 1960's rock and roll and more modern alternative music, NYC rockers and college buddies Upright Man name everyone from Pink Floyd to Radiohead as influences. Listening to both the first and the newest singles "Upright Man" and "Animals," you can pinpoint snapshots of these influences threaded throughout their songs. Prior to the release of their self-titled debut album, the New York City trio chatted with us about the inspiration behind their creativity, their new music, and the best spots to catch music in NYC. The 10 track album is expected to arrive mid-August, and you can get ready by pre-ordering it and getting to know the upright men Aidan Dolan (guitar/vocals), Nick Katz (bass/vocals) and Max Yassky (percussion/background vocals) now!
ANCHR Magazine: You three actually met while studying classical composition at New York University. How do you feel that your background in classical music has shaped you as a songwriter and musician?
Max Yassky: It mostly helps us know what not to do. Not all classical music does this, but a lot of it focuses on expanding and developing ideas until they couldn’t possibly hold any more water. But in a songwriting context that kind of soundscape can sound cluttered. So we use what we learned to avoid landmines like over-development and brain-masturbation.
Aidan Dolan: I think the biggest influence that studying classical music has had on my and our writing styles is the use of mixed time signatures. I called up Nick and Max my senior year of college to play in my modern classical prog rock fusion trio, which was a result of the studies with my composition teacher at NYU, Ezequiel Vinao. The rhythmic difficulty of the pieces I was writing made us all feel like we could count anything and 7/8 became the new 4/4.
Nick Katz: I’ve been playing in rock bands since I was 11 - the classical thing was more of a formalization of what I’d been doing my whole life. I feel like people have this impression that we came to rock from classical music. That’s not really what happened, we all play rock and jazz and whatever else and have played that music, then we went to classical music as a bit of extra study and, yeah, it affected us as musicians, but it’s not our sole foundation.
ANCHR: Before meeting, what first got you into studying music in general? Was it a certain band or a family member/friend that inspired you?
MY: I wanted to go to Boca Raton to be a private investigator / high value transporter but my mother said she’d break my legs if I got shot in Florida so I went to music school instead.
AD: Music was always a hobby for my dad when I was a kid, so there were guitars lying around and a basic home studio to mess around in. My brother ended forming a band called TAUK with his three friends that is still around and doing well today. I always wanted to try playing, but when I finally heard The Beatles at age 11, I became obsessed. After taking an educational journey from The Beatles and classic rock to blues and jazz, I ended up at NYU for classical composition and sort of came full circle back to my roots with Upright Man.
NK: My father is a professional bassist with a list of credits longer and more prestigious than I could ever hope to come remotely close to. I’ve been studying music since I was four. It’s my life.
ANCHR: What can you tell us about Upright Man’s debut album due out August 18th? How did the writing and recording process for the record go?
MY: Well we didn’t have to threaten each other with Sarin gas so I’d say it went alright.
AD: We just kept on playing, writing and recording over 2 years until we felt like we had the right songs. Our most recent recording sessions leading up to the album release were a lot more focused and we felt a stronger sense of identity in our sound as a band.
NK: I don’t have much to add there, Aidan really hit the nail on the head with that one.
ANCHR: Which songs are you most looking forward to transcribing into the live setting?
MY: “Animals" is a lot of fun to play live; I’ve just got to work on my impression of a cockatoo.
AD: “Upright" Man”, the song, is probably the most fun song to play. We always play it at the end of our set and it can make you want to smash things.
NK: "Say What You Mean" is a real challenge. I like a good challenge.
ANCHR: Who are some artists that you’d love to share the stage with once you hit the road?
MY: Robert Randolph and The Family Band and NRBQ were awesome stage-mates. It was a blast playing with them. In a perfect world I’d love to open for a late 90’s Beck at Sessions At West 54th.
AD: Though it could be a stretch to put us on the same bill, I’d love to share the stage with TAUK. My brother is the bassist and I’ve known those dudes a long time, so it’s somewhat of a guilty desire to share some road time with those dudes.
NK: I would do terrible things to get an opening slot with Dr. Dog.
ANCHR: Are there any up and coming NYC bands that we should all know about?
MY: I heard this dink band Upright Man is pretty alright. Not too Berny but not too savage either.
AD: Nick plays in another band called Dirty Bird that has some great songs and vocal harmonies.
NK: JIL, Uni, The World All Around - all great friends and great musicians. Well worth a listen.
ANCHR: Where are some of your favorite spots in NYC to see live music?
MY: You can’t go wrong with Rockwood. Goldsounds in Brooklyn is also rad.
AD: Irving Plaza was awesome last time I went. I’ve enjoyed a lot of shows at Rockwood Music Hall. There are so many great venues in the city.
NK: I really like Rough Trade in Brooklyn. Also Mercury Lounge is a really great room.
ANCHR: What else is Upright Man looking forward to in 2017?
AD: I’m really looking forward to releasing the music video for our unreleased song, “Ecstasy”. All I can say is we built a giant spaceship set in an old barn and Nick and Max were inhaling a whole lot of silver face paint and hairspray fumes.
NK: Yeah, I definitely lost some brain cells on that one. Art necessitates sacrifice.
See all of Upright Man's upcoming tour dates below, and keep up with them on Facebook here.
7/22 Boston, MA @Cabot Theatre (w/ The Fabulous Thunderbirds)
7/23 Long Island, NY @Amityville Music (w/ Bad Rabbits)
8/17 Ocean City, MD @Fager’s Island
8/23 New York, NY @Bowery Electric
8/24 Sellersville, PA @Sellersville Theater (w/ The Fabulous Thunderbirds)