A Chat with Ugly Sun
>> Ugly Sun, a Rock band from Buffalo, NY, is comprised of brothers John and Harrison (Harry) Crook and their friend Trey Hollowood. They cover quite a few bases, genre-wise. With sounds ranging from garage rock to punk, alternative, and independent vibes, they are on their way to achieving their apparent goal of, “…[wanting] to make Rock and Roll ugly again.” Ugly Sun is perhaps one of the hardest working bands in Upstate New York. In fact, they toured so frequently in the past that they paid a minor price in the form of hiatus. Read about their trials, tribulations, and ability to find the groove again in an excerpt from Floated’s Adam Antalek’s interview with the band after they killed it at a local Buffalo show.
F: Where are you from? How did you get involved in music together? How did Ugly Sun begin?
U: (John) We have played music our entire lives. Harry is my brother, so I’ve obviously known him my entire life. Trey has been my best friend for like 15 years. We’ve been in a bunch of bands together, and then we took a four or five-year break. We just kind of worked and hung out and shit. We got burned out; We did a lot of touring. After that, we had the conversation of, “Do you want to give it a shot? Do you want to start writing songs again?” about a year ago.
F: What did you grow up listening to? How has writing music evolved what you listen to? How does that make its way into your music?
U: (John) We like a lot of different stuff. We listened to classic rock out of the gate. I liked the 70s and early punk rock. We love indie rock, I grew up playing jazz and my brother went to school for songwriting. You [to Harry] listen to a million different things, like hip-hop and 90s hip-hop. All of that influences what we do. Our songwriting has changed from maybe 10 years ago where we’d write very stylistically focused on exactly how we want to write a song to fit into some kind of box. Now we just kind of let it fall where it may. We write things that we like - that we connect with at the time. We trust our instinct trying to make it a certain way.
F: Can you touch on the song-writing process between the three of you?
U: (John) We all write separately, so we’ll figure out a couple of ideas or chord structures that we think are cool. Then we bring it to practice and we all flesh it out. Then we demo it to see if it’s the way it should be. Then we tweak or bag it. It’s pretty communal. It’s rare that we bring a completed song [to practice]. Harry’s a big structure guy. I write all the lyrics, ‘cause I sing. Trey does stuff. He’s got the scraps.
F: How has Buffalo shaped/molded your outlook on staying a band and on the music industry in general?
U: (John) It’s twofold; It was probably the reason we stopped in the first place and took such a long break. It’s obviously super frustrating getting noticed nationally when you’re not from a big market and you don’t know big market people and you don’t play where labels are. You kind of have to tour and be willing to do it for years and grind it out. Originally that was frustrating, but I think we really enjoyed it this time around. There’s such a tight community and everybody's really cool and lifts each other up, helps and tours together shares contacts.
(Harry) I think too because we’re older and there are other bands right now that are doing similar things to what we are, there’s a bigger sense of community that we didn’t know there was when we were younger. When we were younger, we knew we were supposed to make friends with bands, but it’s so much prevalent now that we’re older. We’re here now with our friends, playing this great show with Made Violent. We’re going out with Super American from Buffalo, who are our friends. We never had that opportunity before. You know how to capitalize and take advantage of that. You need that; You need another core group of people to have your back and believe in your music. There definitely is that right now in Buffalo.
F: Which Upstate bands are doing the coolest shit in your eyes? Who are you most grateful for?
U: (John) Made Violent is definitely the number one band around here. They’re directly our kind of music, we love the way they write songs, we love the way they operate. They’ve been super, super supportive of this whole project. We went to them and told them we were thinking of starting to write music again and they were all, “You gotta do it!” I kind of love all of the bands that are in Brooklyn now that came from upstate. Bethlehem Steel [of Fredonia], Level Up is originally from the area. The Traditional is great, Dream Beaches, Mutual Friends, The Slums (we’re doing a weekend with them). We’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of people that are pushing each other to make cooler records and better music.
F: What advice would you give to kids coming out of music and high school?
U: (Trey) Crash and burn! Just do it and die, and realize that you suck. Then pull yourself up from that and learn from why you suck. And continue sucking, but a little bit less as you go along. Trial by fire. I firmly believe in that.
(John) And don’t break up. The number one thing that held us back in our adult lives as musicians was giving something 2-3 years and then saying, “It’s not working.” Instead of saying, “This isn’t working,” start asking, “How do we make this work?” Dedicate yourself to it. If you truly love it, if you truly want to make music, then figure it out. A lot of people give themselves insane timelines, like getting signed in a year. Good fuckin’ luck dude. It’s all up and down.
F: Are you shopping for a label?
U: (John) We’ve talked about this extensively. Our next step is: do we shop? Do we do DIY? There are pros and cons to all of it. The biggest pro to us being on a smaller label is getting on the road. If we had an opportunity to be on the road and playing, that’s more beneficial to us than us having to book it ourselves. The more you’re out meeting bands similar to you, that’s going to help you way more. It’s more important to get tours booked and be out in the full U.S.
Ugly Sun’s indie punk is here to stay, regardless of their method to success. Check them out at http://uglysun.bandcamp.com, on Spotify or iTunes. All of their albums (Painted Post, The Pretty One Single, Burned Alive and the Cherokee EP) are phenomenal insights into their emotional groove, Each in succession is a testament to their ability to improve their sound and impress listeners everywhere. <<