Though trained classically, Aidan Dolan, Nick Katz and Max Yassky are currently focusing their collective creative energies on the genre-bending classic-rock-jam-alternative fusion sounds of their latest project, Upright Man. Dolan (guitar, vocals), Katz (bass, vocals) and Yassky (drums, backup vocals), who met while studying classical music composition at New York University, have taken up a number of projects together all leading up to their latest collaboration which, just earlier this month, saw them opening for Robert Randolph & The Family Band.
We recently spoke with the band’s members, where we discussed gear preferences, songwriting processes and performing live, the lattermost which the trio will most certainly be doing in support of their self-titled debut album, Upright Man, expected to drop later this summer.
Laurie Fanelli: Congrats on your forthcoming self-titled album. What aspects of the release are you most looking forward to sharing with fans?
Max Yassky: Thanks. I’m probably most excited to share the songs.
Aidan Dolan: Definitely the songs by far. I’d much rather hear how our songs affect other people than say how I intend it to affect them!
Nick Katz: The tasty riffs.
LF: Can you tell me a bit about your songwriting process? What comes first, the music or the lyrics?
MY: Music or lyrics; that’s the chicken or the egg question of the music world. In the end, they both go good on sandwiches.
AD: For Upright Man, I’d say the music comes first more than 90% of the time. But it’s usually just a small musical idea that inspires us to go back and forth between the lyric and music writing until were finished.
NK: What they said.
LF: You have a unique, immense, all-encompassing sound. Can you talk a bit about some of your favorite gear that you use to help shape your music?
MY: Wow, thanks. I would’ve settled for “we have a sound.” A friend of the band’s, Jake Benton, lent me some great Bosphorus New Orleans model cymbals that I used on all the tunes. I also threw on a Joey Waronker-style resonant-headless 12″ tom between the 13″ rack tom and the 14″ floor tom. It was heavily muted and made the drum set-up feel more like a percussion section than a normal kit.
AD: I’m a big fan and heavy user of Eventide and Strymon pedals. N’s Big Muff fuzz pedal is a beast and we used that on my guitar on quite a bit of the record. I usually record my guitar in stereo, coming out of two different amps at once. I use an old 335 and Tele, but my most unusual guitar and most used on the record is a 1966 Guild Polara. It has a kickstand built into the back of it!
NK: I generally play a Lakland Jazz Bass, but I also have a 64 Guild Starfire Bass and a Silvertone Dolphin Nose. Can’t be spilling all the secrets.
LF: Is your writing autobiographical or do you take more of a story-telling approach to song-writing?
MY: We’re all writing ourselves into the songs even if we’re writing about something foreign to us. It’s like David Lynch’s cameo in Twin Peaks. He writes, directs and acts in it, but it’s not autobiographical.
AD: We definitely don’t go for very literal lyrics or storytelling lyrics most of the time. We’re a big fan of imagery that gets a feeling across and occasionally lyrics that can be self-reflective.
NK: We just make stuff up.
LF: Do any of you have “a tattoo that says ‘Alaska’?”
AD: Nope, but we know someone who does.
LF: Since you all met while studying classical music composition at NYU, I would love to hear some of your favorite classical artists, who you would recommend to rock fans.
MY: Anton Bruckner’s “8th Symphony, 2nd movement.” Also, Krzysztof Penderecki. That dude can make some f*cking amazing noise.
AD: I’m a sucker for [Sergei] Prokofiev, [Olivier] Messiaen and Leo Brouwer.
NK: [Dmitri] Shostakovich, [Igor] Stravinsky and [Alexander] Scriabin.
LF: How about some rock bands that you would recommend to classical music fans?
MY: Don’t know about rock bands, but if you mean “has drums that play loud”: Radiohead, Fela Kuti, and Steely Dan.
AD: We have been listening to Gentle Giant as band for a while. They are pretty mind-blowing and have a strong classical / medieval musical influence. I think classical musicians could dig it.
NK: Definitely Gentle Giant. Punch Brothers… but they’re not a rock band.
LF: You will be touring in support of the release – where can fans see you perform live?
MY: In your house, in your yard, we don’t care.
AD: We have NYC shows coming up at BB King’s on June 26th [opening for NRBQ], at Bowery Electric on August 23rd and others. There are more summer dates coming up for us and you can check them out on our website.
LF: Is there anything else that you would like to share with Eponymous Review readers?
MY: If any of you want to teach me how to weld, hit me up.
AD: Keep an eye for our pre-release tracks leading up to our debut album release on August 18th.
Upright Man Tour Dates
June 26 – New York, NY – B.B. King Blues Club (w/ NRBQ)
July 20 – New York, NY – B.B. King Blues Club (w/ The Fabulous Thunderbirds)
July 22 – Boston, MA – Cabot Theatre (w/ The Fabulous Thunderbirds)
Aug. 17 – Ocean City, MD – Fager’s Island
Aug. 23 – New York, NY – Bowery Electric