Hailing out of Austin, the Ugly Beats have been making their garage rock-inspired racket for a little over a decade. In that time, they've released four killer albums, the most recent being Brand New Day. The band's unwavering dedication to '60s rock and '70s power pop is both commendable and convincing.
Speaking from his home in Austin in anticipation of the Ugly Beats visit to the Doublewide on Friday, founding member Joe Emery spoke to DC9 at Night about why his band stays so true to its roots and how the Austin music scene is doing just fine.
DC9 at Night: You're playing the Doublewide on Friday. Is that the perfect venue for the Ugly Beats?
Emery: We come to Dallas probably twice a year. We typically get a good reception there. We've played the Doublewide the last two times we've come to Dallas. We are looking into playing some other places. We've played The Foundry and we are hoping to play Three Links and some other places. I love the Doublewide though. It's a great place. We've had really fun shows there for years. I am happy playing anywhere in Dallas, going anywhere people will come see us.
The Ugly Beats are often referred to as a revivalist band. What do you think of that term?
I don't mind it because most of what I listen to is from the '60s. I have a lot of CDs of garage and folk rock type stuff. We do a lot of '70s power pop, too. There's not a lot of modern music that we listen to. I don't mind that label, although I don't know how we fit into the traditionalist definition of garage or power pop.
Is there a danger of being pigeonholed into one particular style?
You know, I don't mind it because people know what they are getting when they come to see us. We do a pretty rowdy show. We try to get people dancing and up on their feet. Whatever they want to call us is fine as long as they are having fun and shaking their tail feathers or tapping their feet at least.
For folks who are unfamiliar with the band, do you think the name might suggest a hip-hop or electronica act?
Yes, we kicked around a bunch of names when we formed. We are big fans of all the beat bands like the Easybeats and the Beatles and the Mercy Beat sound. We are also fans of the American '60s garage stuff that can be snarly and nastier. We thought the name fit when someone yelled it out as we were going back and forth.
Interestingly, since everyone in the band sings, the vocals are actually quite smooth.
Maybe I like to pretend that we are tougher than we really are. We are also big fans of the folk rock stuff like the Byrds and the Beau Brummels. We like the folk rock stuff along with the angry stuff. We covered a Tim Hardin song on the new album. I guess we kind of go both ways.
Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter" is a very iconic folk song that a lot of people have covered.
The version that we modeled ours after was the one done by Johnny and June Carter Cash. We worked it up and it just fit in.
What is it about that song that draws so many people to cover it?
It's a really great love song. The song's message is that you do not have to have a lot of money to be happy. The love comes first before anything else.
Bands like the Seeds and the Byrds are obvious influences. Is there another band people are missing?
We're big on the '60s music period. There is a ton of great music out there. People have been mining the obscure, '60s garage band for years. There seems to be no end to it. The Easybeats from Australia was like discovering a whole new Beatles that you didn't know about. The Ramones are an influence. Garage rock from the '60s and power pop from the '70s just seems to get people moving. It's just a lot of fun to feed off the crowd's energy.
Brand New Day, the new album, came out in June. What's the biggest difference between it and your previous three releases?
We had a bit of a lineup change about four years ago. A couple of guys left. Our guitar player is now playing in the Black Angels. We got a new drummer and a new guitar player and this is the first full-length with the new guys. That definitely had some impact on the sound. The new album is a little more rootsy at times. Otherwise, we kind of approach each record the same way. We keep writing until we have enough good songs to put a record together. We don't try to change our approach or anything like that.
The band has been together a little over a decade. How has the Austin scene changed over that time?
The Austin scene has always been great. The clubs kind of come and go, so it is sometimes hard to find a place to play. The city is growing so quickly that they keep putting condos next to clubs. The people in the condos get mad. The scene right now is great because there are so many great bands in Austin. There are tons of great bands to play with. You can't go wrong going out to hear music. Sometimes you have to make a difficult choice.
Is it too competitive?
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I don't think so. It hurts the scene a little bit with so much talent down here. There can be too many great shows on one night.
Many people have bemoaned the fact that Austin has grown too much.
The city still has its funky culture. Maybe that has been pushed farther out to the fringes. We still love it. And we love playing in Texas. We have great shows in Houston and San Antonio. The other big place is Spain. We've played there before and we are going back soon. There is a love there for rock and roll, especially garage bands from the '60s. We get to go over there every now and then and do a little 10-day tour. The shows are always great, always well attended and well received.