If their name is unfamiliar to you, make no mistake, Bumpin Uglies are a band you should now. And there’s no better time to get to know them since their new LP Keep It Together (Right Coast Records) drops today. They’ve toured the nation several times, playing shows wherever they can, while working tirelessly to build up a following. It’s earned them a dedicated throng of fans, and has them poised for their upcoming album release, which is their best effort yet, in my opinion. And I’m not alone in saying so–The Pier also praised the album as Bumpin Uglies best work to date. Keep It Together is out today, Friday September 9th, and it hit the iTunes reggae chart at the #2 position. Get yours on iTunes here. It’s also available via all major digital outlets and streaming services.
I spoke with lead singer/guitarist and song writer Brandon Hardesty about what sets his band and music apart, their work ethic and approach, and the new album.
Bumpin Uglies have been around for more than a little while now, but many people out there still need to discover you guys. For the uninitiated, can you sum up the band and what you guys are about?
As far as genres are concerned, I like to describe the sound as ska/punk/reggae with honest lyrics. As far as what we’re about, there’s no social initiative or grand message behind our music. We’re pretty much just three guys that found our purpose in making music so we’re trying to make that happen in our own way. If you like good music without any bullshit or facade than we’re definitely a band you can get into.
You’ve got a new LP “Keep It Together” coming out September 9 on Right Coast Records. Give us an idea of what’s coming in your words.
The Beatles have always been one of my favorite bands and Abbey Road is definitely my favorite album by them. I love how the B-side flows together like one long song and I always thought it would be cool to try and capture that vibe in our genre. To be clear, I am in no way comparing us to The Beatles, but I do think we did a pretty good job of creating that experience in our own way with the second half of this record.
This album is a bit harder than a lot of our earlier stuff but it’s undeniably the best thing that we’ve put out. The songs are more mature and I think we did a great job capturing what we’re all about as a live band. If you’re a fan of honest songwriting, the energy of ska punk, or the the ethereal vibe of dub reggae, than you will be an instant fan of these recordings.
You come from the thriving little scene centered in Annapolis, MD. How has the area helped shape you guys?
It’s kept us working. A big part of running any business is having steady income and the best way to earn as a band is by playing shows. Annapolis is a gem for working musicians because there are so many bars and small clubs that have bands as entertainment. I waited tables for the better part of a decade to subsidize a very humble lifestyle because we barely made enough money touring to cover the band’s expenses, much less our personal expenses. I was recently able to quit that job because of all the work I’ve been able to find around Annapolis playing acoustic shows while I’m home.
You guys have always followed a DIY path very much your own, and it’s always reminded me in ways of Sublime. Mostly that you write really great songs across a range of styles, but authentically. It’s the range you have, from funny to thoughtful to provocative, that is a signature of Bumpin Uglies. With that, you have visited every corner of this country, winning over fans one-by-one. Why do you think more bands don’t take that approach?
I think its the same reason there aren’t more bands that say ‘fuck it’ and hit the road on their own. Its scary putting yourself out there like that just like its scary really putting yourself out there with your lyrics. There’s themes in every genre of music that have proven to be well received by the audience consuming them. Country has trucks and American pride, rap has hustling and materialism, and reggae has good vibes and weed. It’s easy and safe to stick inside of those associations.
These days, it seems music, much like surfing, has become more accessible to the masses, which may be a good thing, but in both it seems like that gritty, DIY punk ethic that was inherent in both has deteriorated. How do you see the music landscape today, given that you still carry that ethic?
There’s a lot of bullshit. I feel like there’s a whole facet of the industry that’s more concerned with working out and dressing well than writing good songs and rocking a solid live show. It’s unfortunate but we live in a day in age where there are people who are famous for no other reason than because they’re famous, if that makes sense. As a result social media has redefined where a lot of people find value, and bands are not excluded from this phenomenon. There are bands out there that have more press photos than shows played and that’s a very sad reality.
That being said, there’s still a thriving DIY network for bands that are willing to put in the work. Now more than ever I think people appreciate authenticity, but you really gotta be willing to go out and spread the message yourself. That’s why we tour the way that we do and that’s why I’m proud of every accomplishment that we’ve achieved.
I was fortunate to get a sneak peak of your uncut video for “Stop The Fall”, which does a great job of capturing what Bumpin Uglies is all about. Who did you work with on the video?
Our friends at Stage 20 Media shot, edited, and directed the whole thing. We had a great experience working with them and I’d recommend them to anyone in the mid-Atlantic who’s in the market. I’ve always been wary of doing a music video because I was worried about looking like a tool and I think they did a great job in alleviating that fear.
Your live shows have gone to a new level in the last couple of years; the last time I saw you guys play, it was one of the best live performances I’ve seen, hands down. Tell us about evolving the live shows.
Thanks man! Wolfie and I have been playing together for almost 7 years now but it took us a long time to find the right drummer. TJ was the missing link. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a singer/songwriter first and a musician second, but my rhythm section is second to none. You can’t be a good live band without a good rhythm section and Bumpin Uglies has that in spades. Another part of it is the non-stop touring. When you’re playing 6 nights a week for 6 weeks straight, you’re doing something wrong if you’re not super tight by the end of the tour.