When Brooklyn band Big Ups hitch up to London for the first time, there’s an intense sense of occasion surrounding their live debut. It’s strange, given that ‘Eighteen Hours of Static’ is a couple of months post-release. Songs on their first record are some two, three years old too. But that’s how these things work. Even when releases are key and timing’s sacred, great bands get their moment eventually.
Fellow New Yorkers Parquet Courts are an obvious comparison, just in terms of how their self-released ‘Light Up Gold’ took some twelve months and a re-release before it became this vital, acclaimed debut. Big Ups’ take on things opts more towards post-hardcore than garage punk, but further down the line it’s easy to imagine the newly arrived four-piece making world tours a regularity, not a token novelty.
Sitting upstairs at The Old Blue Last surrounded by old decor - they sport a sound capable of tearing the scenery into shreds - Joe Galarraga (vocals) and co. couldn’t be much more relaxed. They joke to themselves about Kanye’s famous interview with Zane Lowe. They peer outside and chat about Oyster cards and the backwards-thinking New York subway system. Small talk turns to their sound, which they claim they’re still yet to fully “discover.” Someone needs to jolt them by the shoulders and tell them they’re one of the most talked about new bands going.
“We’ve always been motivated but when we first started all we wanted to do was play shows,” says Joe, getting down to the serious stuff. “We had all these small victories of playing at these places we’ve always wanted to play at. [But] our songs used to be really, really silly.”
Joe was raised in Baltimore before meeting bandmates Amar Lal (guitars), Brendan Finn (drummer), Carlos Salguero (bass) at an NYU summer class. Drummer Finn is the only member to have been brought up in Brooklyn. Together they admit it’s tough getting by in an expensive state (“If you’re not making money being in a band you have to hold down a job,”) and things just got a whole lot tougher, potentially. They just quit their jobs.
Well, technically they got fired. They cite a decision to go on tour as the reasoning. “That was a decision we sooort of made. It was a risk that we knew we were taking,” admits Joe, all smiles. Any knock on the head from financial strain doesn’t seem to be getting the band down. They’re on their first world tour, after all. “Now it’s definitely getting more serious,” Joe states. Judging by the show they later play, they’re on the brink of seizing something huge and they’re fully aware of it.
On stage Joe cries, creeps and commands. His performance is exactly that: A performance. Calculated but nonetheless breathtaking, he gets swept up by the songs. More often than not he’ll end up a topless skinny frame. “I’ve always wanted to be as entertaining as possible,” he claims pre-gig. “That’s sort of the point, so that when people leave they get their money’s worth.” We point out that tonight’s gig is a freebie. “But time is money!” he jokes in response.
The UK’s responded very positively to Big Ups. “It’s really satisfying to have people you’ve never met in a country you’re not from say that they like your music,” enthuses the frontman. Sometimes the band go off stage thinking they’ve “played like shit,” they collectively admit. “‘Oh my gosh, no-one liked it, you think,” says Joe. “You breakdown your gear and you’re hiding your face a little bit, but there are always two people going ‘Hey that was good.’ That’s the best feeling.”
It’s been a slow and steady process. Although not technically casual by any means, the guys only released an album in the first place when they found out Derek from Dead Labour records wanted to put out something of theirs. But even from the beginning, Brendan says, “We thought we played pretty well together, the four of us.”
Confidence is getting in motion. Attention’s turned to new material - and why blame them when a monstrous song like ‘Goes Black’ is three years to the good - where they’re being more “critical” of what they put on tape. “I’m trying to self-edit a little bit more,” Joe says. “I’m being critical of myself, instead of being like ‘this is done, let’s put it on the record.’ Maybe that’s a bad thing. Maybe it’s self-doubting.”
Even amidst this flurry of attention, this talk of them being one of punk’s new saviours and everything else under the hyperbole rainbow, Big Ups aren’t bigging up themselves too much just yet.
Big Ups’ debut album ‘Eighteen Hours of Static’ is out now in Europe through Tough Love.
Taken from the new, free DIY Weekly, available to read online, download on Android via Googleplay, or download on iPad now.