Photo by Zack Bennett
It's been a big year for Connecticut band Little Ugly. They released their first EP, Where the River's Born, in July of 2013, were named "Best in Connecticut" at the New England Music Awards and recently wrapped their first tour. Previously, Little Ugly won "Best Indie Rock" at the CT Music Awards, were name "Best Musician/Band" by Hartford Magazine as well as "Best Rock Band" by the Hartford Advocate.
We recently caught up with the band fresh off their tour to talk about what it's like to be an aspiring band in 2014 and much more.
Please introduce the band:
- Michael Day - Vocals/Guitar/Ukulele/Banjo - Originally from Plainville, CT, classically trained guitarist.
- Nick Dickinson - Drums/Percussion - Originally from Manchester, CT, classically trained percussionist / aspiring recording engineer.
- Kaia Pazdersky - Vocals/Violin/Keys - Originally from West Hartford, CT, prior to joining Little Ugly was a professional dancer in NY.
- Andrew Decker - Ergo Bass - Originally from Collinsville, CT, owner of Downright Music and Arts in Collinsville, CT
How did Little Ugly come to be?
Little Ugly started in a basement I (Michael) was renting the basement in Bloomfield, CT in 2008. I was spending all my free time writing music but had no idea that would eventually become Little Ugly. I thought I was writing songs for myself to help pass the time in a room that had no windows and a concrete floor. That cold room definitely helped shape the early music and direction of the band; hence the name Little Ugly. Eventually Nick and Kaia joined the band and things really started to take off. The recent addition of Andrew on bass has helped complete our Ugly family.
What's the best thing about being in a band and making music?
The opportunity to share our music with the fans. It's such a joy to be able to play music together and when we get to play in front of a live audience the experience is indescribable. It's by far our favorite thing to do.
Having to become business men/women. This industry changes all the time so we constantly have to adapt and keep up with all that's going on. It's a full time job trying to do all the behind the scenes work. Then on top of that you have to find time to write, rehearse, and play the shows. We love it all but would obviously prefer to be able to concentrate all our energy on the music and spend less time on social media promoting it all!
Video via YouTube, produced by Zack Bennett
You just embarked on your first tour. What has that experience been like? What has surprised you about traveling as a band?
It's been amazing! We had the time of our lives on the road. Day after day we were able to pick up our instruments and just play music together. Either at a show or at the hotel/van, we focused on the music and it really payed off. The road is beyond inspirational.
I think the biggest surprise has been finding out how well we get along on the road. We are truly a family and this experience has solidified that for sure.
How do you describe your sound?
We've been described as a lot of different genres. We've even tossed around a few name combinations ourselves like "Orchestral Folk Rock". One reviewer described us as running the “gamut of what 'Americana' could possibly be and yet remaining something so unique”. We try to incorporate as much music that influences us as possible. Everything from folk, indie, rock, and bluegrass. We use acoustic instruments but we are really a rock band at heart.
What bands are out there right now that you are listening to?
Right now in the tour van we've been listening to The Avett Brothers, Alabama Shakes, Mumford & Sons, Bright Eyes, Wilco, Bon Iver, Pearl Jam, and a few bands we've encountered on the road like The Mallett Brother's Band and Sarah Borrello.
It seems like today there is only a select group of music that makes it to mainstream media, be that radio, MTV or even the front page of iTunes. What are the biggest challenges you experience trying to build awareness of Little Ugly? How do you go about building a fan base?
The biggest challenge is probably time. There isn't enough time in the day to be a part of everything that's out there. Every day I send our music out to radio, I sign us up for a new music sharing site, I post to social media, etc etc. At the end of the day it may not amount to much but if just one person hears us it's worth it. Mainstream isn't really the goal. It's just to be heard by people who appreciate what we are trying to do.
Building a fan base is easy… PLAY SHOWS!!! And not just in your home town. Get on the road and bring your music to the masses. Best decision a musician will ever make. Don't get us wrong we love where we are from but in order to really have fans you have to play out as much as possible. Touring is key.
Photo by Sara SJ Johnson
How has the internet helped you in terms of gaining an audience?
Same as every band I suppose. We utilize social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube mainly for us) as much as possible. Then on top of that we have littleuglymusic.com and things like iTunes and Bandcamp where people can find our music. Pretty much most music sharing sites you can name we can probably be found on. So it's helped in making us very easy to find online.
What websites or technologies do you use to build your audience, and how do you use them?
We use our website and social media to help connect with our audience as much as possible. We are pretty goofy people and I think that comes across in our posts, pics, and videos. We want people to know who we are and where our music comes from. I think that makes us more approachable and people really appreciate that.
What surprises have you encountered using the internet to promote your band?
Probably the only surprise was just how many bands are out there. It's amazing how much music you can find on just one site. I get to listen to countless new bands every day just by working on promoting our music. It's wonderful.
Little Ugly is known for putting on a great live show. What obstacles do you face in trying to translate that experience into your recorded work? How is performing live different than recording an album? Do you think it will ever be possible to bring the live concert experience into a home, or will music fans always want to see bands perform live?
We try not to view the advantages or limitations of the studio or live show as obstacles but rather as ways to express the songs differently. In the studio we are able to use all the instrumentation we want so our songs get to go in a much more orchestrated direction than they would live since we are a four piece band. On the other side of that when we play live the songs take on a whole new life. We play with A LOT of raw energy so each song is expressed quite differently. Depending on the night a song might take us in a more mellow direction… or most likely it will call for us to rock out and head bang till we can't stand any longer. All depends on the song and the audience.
We know tons of artists who are starting to do more private shows in people's homes while they are on tour. Basically people put up the artist and provide a crowd in exchange for a live show. We think it's incredible and can't wait to set some up for our next tour in August. Other than that I hope people will always want to see live music outside of their homes. There's nothing like it.
You funded your EP through Kickstarter. What was that experience like?
That experience was touching to say the least. To have such an outpour of support was unbelievably inspiring. We knew that our fans believed in us but this went above and beyond that. People really came out and showed us that they wanted us to take our music to the next level. They not only funded our recording process, they also proved to us that we are doing exactly what we should be doing. Our UGLY family is amazing!
We recently wrote about Neil Young turning to Kickstarter to fund a new high-definition digital music player. What do you think the future holds for bands turning to their fans to help fund projects via sites like Kickstarter?
Hopefully people see it as a way to pre-order music or any art or invention. With music if the artist has more rewards people enjoy then they will pay for more than just the album but what it comes down to is that everyone who donates is saying, "I would like to own this and I would love to be a part of the process in helping make this dream a reality". I hope websites like Kickstarter continue to help those who need help and continue to allow fans the opportunity to be a part of that process.
Video via YouTube, produced by Zack Bennett
With the music industry going through some turbulence, it seems like upcoming bands have more responsibilities than ever. How does having to not only come up with great music, but figure out recording, booking, promoting etc all for yourselves help or hurt you as a band?
It all comes down to time again. We manage to find the time to do all that but obviously some things suffer. Sleep for one thing! But also the more time we spend on business the less time we spend on music. It's too bad but it has to be done. We always find the time we need to write and perform though. At the end of the day if you love what you do then every part of the process is worth it.
Is there any website you think every band should be using, or does it depend on your needs as a band?
This probably won't blow anyone's mind but YouTube is a must. We finally started to really use it very recently and absolutely love the feedback we are getting. We just released 3 videos in a series directed by Zack Bennett called "The Downright Music Sessions" and the response has been fantastic. We are actually just shot a music video with him at Arch St. Tavern in Hartford in front of a live audience and cannot wait for people to see what Zack and us have in store. For us it's really a way for people to see what we have to offer in a live setting. Being able to share that with anyone anywhere at any time is a great opportunity that every band can benefit from.
Right now is an interesting time to be a musician. On the one hand you can reach a worldwide audience with little up front cost. On the other hand its so easy that there are more artists than ever vying for attention. Do you see a return to the days when record labels (or something like them) are responsible for introducing new acts and sounds, or do you think Facebook likes, Twitter followers and whatever comes next will become be the way new acts reach a mainstream audience?
I think right now artists are trying to take the control back. So many bands do almost everything themselves and are reluctant to give that up. Everywhere we go we meet artists who are just taking their music to the road. We are trying to do the same. Sure sites like Facebook help with promotion but none of that matters if you aren't accessible to an audience. People need to hear you. No website is going to do that for you. Nowadays not many labels are going to do that for you either. It's up to us to make sure we are heard. So that is why you will hear Little Ugly at a venue near you very soon.
Little Ugly will continue touring this summer with shows scheduled around the country. Check out the links below to learn more about the band and to follow them on social media.