PHOTO by BEN LINDBLOOM, WORDS arranged by CATIE YOUNG.
We had a chance to talk with the man behind Ugly Hussy (umm, so to speak …) at Treefort this year. He makes expansive guitar loops that sound exactly how Idaho looks. But he’s not from Idaho. And he’s more than just pedals and a guitar. Here is what he had to say:
Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been doing this? Were there other projects before Ugly Hussy?
I started Ugly Hussy in my senior year of college in upstate New York. My roommate (and bandmate) at the time had a large array of guitar pedals set up in the living room where all of our music gear was stashed. I would always come home from class to hear full-blown guitar pieces blaring in the living room only to find out that it was just my roommate building loops. One day, while he was in class, I sat down to give it a shot, which resulted in 4 of the earliest Ugly Hussy compositions.
You aren’t from Boise. How has it been to be a band here? What have you taken from your hometown and what will you take with you from your time in this city?
I doubt I would have had the same opportunities as a “band” here in Boise as I would in a city like New York. The biggest benefit is being able to practice and play music in my apartment without having to rent out a practice space. There are also a lot of opportunities to perform with bands coming through town. It’s pretty remarkable that I can just e-mail Eric Gilbert asking if there are any show openings and he puts me on the bill with one of my favorite performers. Who does that? That doesn’t happen anywhere else.
I’m also continuously inspired by Idaho’s ruggedness. I think my compositions have morphed during my time here to somewhat reflect the scale of my surroundings. The sequencing of the songs in my current set (and my album) reflect this kind of drastic topography, which I think is equally as evocative in musical form as it is in nature.
What are your plans for Ugly Hussy? Would you ever add other members to this band?
My immediate plans are to finish my first LP, Host, which will be put out on Aloe Music later this year. I’ve been sitting on a lot of these compositions for a while now, so a majority of the work I’ve been doing the past few months is learning how to record and produce my own music, which has been daunting. It’s tricky not having any bandmates because I can’t really bounce ideas off of someone else, but luckily the people that run Aloe Music are my oldest friends, so it has been a pretty unique working relationship.
As of now, I have no real plans of adding members, although I am always open to playing and collaborating with other musicians. A lot of the Ugly Hussy catalog spawned from a time of peak collaboration with friends, so it’s definitely an important part of my creative process.
After this record, however, I definitely want to move on from guitar-centric music and more towards experimentation. I don’t want to be limited (or pigeonholed) by the fact that I am building music from one guitar and a pedal set. My first forays into playing music came from learning classical guitar and piano, so I definitely want to incorporate those instruments and that skill set into new things.
What is your tone row? Figuratively speaking. Like things you feel you draw from regularly or that continually show up in your music.
I like to think that a lot of my music is directly inspired by a lot of classical, expressionist music. I am in no way comparing it to the complexity and difficulty of a lot of composers, but I definitely draw from a lot of superficial aspects like length, tension and release, mood study, and dynamics that are at the forefront in that kind of music. Similar to length of the songs, I consciously wrote them all to be in similar or relative keys, to give a seamless feel to them at the end of the album or set. This makes each song less like an individual piece and more like a movement in something bigger.
I draw a lot from imagery as well. Sometimes, I see an image that I think perfectly encapsulates a mood or tone, but I can’t quite verbalize it. I think that’s where musical expression speaks volumes—for me, it’s more reactionary to other art mediums than it is an art form itself. Words fail, dude.
What have you been listening to?
This was your second year playing Treefort, correct? How do you feel about it?
Treefort, much like Boise itself, is truly unique. The only goal it has is for it to benefit the community. While it provides a cool festival-going experience, at the end of the day, Boise wins. It also gives a lot of local bands—myself included—the opportunity to play on a big stage with bands you’ve been listening to for 10+ years. It’s a nice way to not feel complacent with your musical output—whenever Treefort comes around, you know it’s time to step it up.
Ugly Hussy’s first LP, Host, will be released on Aloe Music later this year. People who go to space are going to listen to it.
And here is a tune from 2013’s Moonrock Harvester EP:
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