[caption id="attachment_86008" align="alignleft" width="640"] Credit: Facebook[/caption]
We don't know about you, but we're pretty much over thinking about all those records that came out in 2013 -- after all, 2014 is just a few hangovers and blackouts away, so we might as well start looking forward as our memories of this past year fade into sweet, dancing oblivion. And what better way to look forward, friends, than to a new record from what is certain to be your favorite band of 2014: Big Ups.
If you've had the opportunity to take in a show from this New York-based punk band during this past, rapidly dying, year, you'll understand why we're pretty sure these dudes will wind up on myriad end-of-year dealies when 2014 also expires. Driven by a kind of manic energy supplied, in part, by frontman Joe Galarraga's exorcist-worthy undulations, Big Ups rip apart a room just by being in it. And, come next year, they're primed to rend asunder rooms across the nation when they drop their debut LP, Eighteen Hours Of Static, in January.
At a bar across from their practice space in Bushwick, the guys take a break from a spirited debate about whether the pine frond in the vase on the table is, in fact, real or fake to explicate a bit on their sound.
"I feel like recently the term 'sludgy' has been attributed to our music," Galarraga told Hive. "It used to be much more really old-school punk like Descendants or something like that. Now it's definitely more grungy. Like the Melvins or something heavier."
According to the singer, the first iteration of Big Ups used to be a kind of lighter affair -- for one, his throat-ripping vocals are relatively new. "I used to do the vocals like I was an 8-year-old boy," he said.
The guys also used to perform -- at New York standbys like Otto's Shrunken Head and Don Pedros -- kitted out in dresses that they purchased at the maternity ward at Kmart -- years before Brad Oberhofer dragged it up, mind you.
"When we first started we had, like, three songs Joe wrote that were about high-fives," drummer Brendan Finn said. "We had a song called 'High Five.' We had a song called 'Down For Pizza.'" (Take that, Pizza Underground.)
All members of Big Ups met in college, having attended the music technology program in NYU where they studied under the tutelage of, they say, the man who invented the digital clock. Bassist Carlos Salguero -- who now works on the Google Glass project -- met Galarraga in a class where they dubbed over anime, and Galarraga, impressed with Salguero's sense of humor, recruited him to play bass in his newly formed band, which already featured Finn.
"I was like, 'I don't know how to play bass, but I'll lie and say OK,'" Salguero recalled. "I played guitar, so I was like, 'How hard can it be?'"
Not that hard, it seems, as it was Salguero's bass-playing that helped the band find its sound.
"'Fresh Meat' was kind of the turning point. And that was Carlos," Galarraga said, referring to a song off of their debut LP with a driving bassline that recalls "Jaws" -- or at least that shark-in-the-water feel.
"We were just in practice and Carlos was playing this bassline and then we just wrote that entire song in like 10 minutes. And it was like, 'That's what we want to do -- I want to do more stuff like this. This is my favorite song that we've ever written even though we just wrote it in 10 minutes.'"
"Fresh Meat" is an ominously simple song, building from the aforementioned thrumming bassline to almost metal-like guitars to Galarraga's spittle-splattering wail, garbled lyrics about a man and his dog -- a dog who's hungering for "fresh meat."
The record, on the whole, careens between simple, stark jams like "Fresh Meat" -- a song that's basically the aural equivalent of looking at one of those "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark" illustrations -- and more meaning-laden songs. There's childish, but cutting, songs like "Little Kid," which basically replicates a kid having a balls-out tantrum, as well as jams like "Justice," which goes a little deeper.
Galarraga got into a head-scratching conversation about that song at a down-and-dirty bar in Memphis while on tour this past year. "It's this kind of 'why is the world messed up?' kind of thing, 'why is there so much imbalance?'" he said of the song. "There's no answer. [But] I had all these people come up to me and be like, 'You know what man? You're a socialist.'"
Political assignations aside, though, the record certainly does delve into that barebones punk ethos found on early records like Black Flag's Damaged and most of the stuff by Minor Threat. There's anti-consumerism ("Disposer"), anti-religion ("Atheist Self-Help") and just plain disillusionment ("Wool").
"It's not all super dark morose 'we're all gonna die' stuff," Galarraga said. "There's a lot of 'we're all gonna die stuff,' but it's also just, like, life. You take the good, you take the bad."
The album's title, however, is a little less entrenched in life -- at least life on earth. It's a reference to the Jodie Foster flick "Contact," and was chosen, according to the guys, after smoking a lot of weed and watching the space-themed film at 3 a.m.
"We had all these really bad ideas for the name of the record and this was the one that seemed like the least bad and that's why we stuck with it," Galarraga said. "And that was kind of it. It was all stupid stuff about balls and stuff. It was like, 'We can't call our record Balls.'"
"Space is never not gonna be cool," Finn added. "Even people who think they're too cool are like, 'Yeah, space is really cool.'"
Although the record has yet to come out, the guys -- much like us -- are already looking forward to the next project, having played most of the songs on the disc at shows for more than a year now.
"It feels cool, but at the same time we've also been working a lot on new stuff, and I think we're all kind of excited about that," Finn said of the record's impending release. "Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to play to a lot of people -- different people in different places. But I also like the direction we're going."
Best Music of 2015, here they come? Perhaps.
BONUS: In honor of the band's upcoming album, we -- after more than a few whiskeys -- also chatted about all the dudes' New Year's Resolutions. Check 'em out below.
For the band, I just want to on tour more. I just want to play more shows on tour that aren't New York City. I love New York City, but I want to see other places and play shows in other places and just, like, run around and be irresponsible -- but not, like, totally irresponsible, but just, like, explore and have fun and hopefully play music for people who like it.
Personally I want to try to play drums a lot more. I'm gonna try to get really good at drums, because I'm not that good at drums. I'm gonna eat more green things. 2014 is gonna be the year of the green. What else... Be open-minded and don't be such a reactionary asshole. And call my mom more.
Band resolutions -- get a new bass. Get my bass fixed. I love it, she's done me very well, but it's just falling apart. I also wanna replace Brendan at drums. Maybe he wants to play bass.
Personal -- try and remember birthdays. I've had Facebook for a while, and you know that point where you're an adult and you're supposed to remember people's birthdays? Write them down and send them cards and things? Be a better human that way. I dunno. Play more drums.
My New Year's resolution is to not let Joe or Carl play drums in the band. Revision, to not let Carl plays drums.
Eighteen Hours Of Static drops on January 14, 2014.