BACKSTAGE: The Ugly Club
At the end of last year, we caught The Ugly Club for the "Dreamers Residency" at Pianos in NYC, which promises "the best live music and dance parties on the Lower East Side," which we were treated to by the band. After jamming out to their highly energetic set, we knew we had to learn more about the band...and also needed to know about lead singer Ryan McNulty’s paisley shirt. We met with McNulty and bassist Rick Sue-Poi after the show for an interview about their band, their fashion sense, and more.
Labeling Men: How did the band start?
Ryan McNulty: Well, the band that you saw tonight didn't start at the beginning. The best way to explain the beginning of the band is that it really did begin as sort of a club. We were all out of our current bands and we were used to operating in that way, writing with other people, playing shows and we kind of got together with other local guys in New Jersey to put together songs that we were writing on the side. So when we started, it was a different lineup, it was with the intent that we were going to make it very loose, making it a club, an interchanging lineup. Probably after a year is when we established a more solid lineup, we're playing shows all the time. Rick joined on bass for instance. It started as a club.
Labeling Men: And it kind of organically came together?
Rick Sue-Poi: Like he said, it was a collaborative project that ended up solidifying a group of guys. This can actually go somewhere, let’s take it somewhere, let’s actually focus on this and make something happen of this band.
Labeling Men: Want to make sure, you're Rick...
Ryan McNulty: Don't ever misquote Rick!
Labeling Men: Never! Noted [all laugh]. What sets you guys apart from other bands that sound similar?
Ryan McNulty: I think that there is a lot of...What I've realized is that because we are embedded in this New York area scene, we catch a lot of music and there is a lot of stuff that is uninteresting, trend-chasing, flavor of the week type stuff. But there is also a lot of great music...
Labeling Men: Absolutely!
Ryan McNulty: What would set us apart is being an honest band. Truthfully trying to make good music, trying to write good songs, make original music. I think the least interesting thing to me with a new artist is that they are unoriginal, sounds like the last artist that you've heard, and I think that we are a band that operates with the mindset of not being that.
Labeling Men: So how do you differentiate yourselves then?
Ryan McNulty: I think it’s easy to be original. We're doing our thing, we write all the songs, we listen to the music that we make, we come out of it with a completely clear head, we're not trying to be like another band that is hitting at the moment. I think that is the formula for not being every other band that you've heard.
Labeling Men: Anything to add, Rick?
Rick Sue-Poi: It’s still kind of a club, even though it is a focused group of four guys, we're still a club and everybody still brings in their own individual ideas under an umbrella, with how the club should sound like and that is what helps keep it original and different. Different styles in between the same song. It might be a little much for some people but that’s what we do! It just happens naturally.
Labeling Men: We loved the sound of your music. How would you label your genre?
Ryan McNulty: Psychedelic Alternative Rock. I'd throw in pop. Modern pop has a certain sound to it. Any way you look at it, we're making pop songs. I think the greatest artists that come in at any era - Nirvana to Beastie Boys to Rage Against The Machine to Taylor Swift – it’s all pop and that is what we are trying to do. It’s just under a different context.
Labeling Men: Tell us a little more about your latest single, "Passengers," that you just played.
Ryan McNulty: That song is actually a special song to us because it formed right at a crossroads with us. We had just lost our lead guitar player, he left the band and we were redefining our sound as a four piece and we were actually just playing with a friend who got on guitar and that’s how "Passengers" came about. Sort of a magical, improvised moment that created that song, whereas a lot of our songs come to the table as a pre-formed idea. Usually I'll write it on guitar, bring it in and we'll arrange the rest of it. This is a song that came out of thin air, so it was really cool and that’s what came to be the single.
Labeling Men: Awesome! We're going to ask you a couple of questions about fashion. We've been wanting to ask you since the interview started about what are you wearing today, especially the shirt [Ryan’s shirt].
Ryan McNulty: I can let you look at the label...What does the tag say?
Labeling Men: Tag says "Robert Graham."
Ryan McNulty: This is from a thrift shop...Thrift Shop! Macklemore! It’s kind of a crazy paisley, crazy paisley crazily design. Mixture of greens and red, I don't know [laughs]. Blue Jeans...
Labeling Men: Is this your normal stage attire?
Ryan McNulty: Sure, yeah. We all have different styles.
Labeling Men: So it’s what you guys all want to wear? The band doesn't get together and coordinate?
Ryan McNulty: Well, no cargo shorts [all laugh]. Well there is a rule that Rick has set for the band. It’s the three-button rule, so this shirt should be...this is the highest [unbuttoning his shirt]...
Labeling Men: That’s four buttons!
Ryan McNulty: It’s the three-button rule, but I'm breaking it!
Labeling Men: Rules are meant to be broken.
Ryan McNulty: That's the truth! [laughs] Try to wear something that is comfortable. I mean you're going on stage. People are paying to see you. There is the music side of things, like I practiced the songs on my guitar, it’s about the music you're playing but what you're wearing says a lot. If I was up there in flip-flops, I really don't think it does justice for the music for one, it’s almost disrespectful to the people that are in the room. They want to see something special, they want to see a performance, so I think that’s a good starting place for what you're wearing.
Labeling Men: Does your style differ from on stage to your day-to-day or day job?
Rick Sue-Poi: Every day is Halloween for me!
Ryan McNulty: I teach kids so...But I teach kids music so I don't have a suit and tie, I don't need to show off.
Labeling Men: Last but not least, let us know what to expect from you guys in the future.
Ryan McNulty: New single, new music video. I'm currently trying to figure out in my mind right now. It’s a constant struggle to figure out. We just recently wrapped up recording our next single, "Cocoon," that we will be releasing this summer. We aren't actually planning to do an album any time soon as an independent band and are really liking the process of recording and releasing singles throughout the year. As far as touring, we also do not currently have plans to do extensive traveling.
Inteview by Nisim Frank
Photographs provided by The Ugly Club