Welcome back to another interview! This time we caught up with the Aidan Dolan (guitar/vocals), Nick Katz (bass/vocals), and Max Yassky (drums/percussion/background vocals) from the rock band Upright Man. Read on as we discuss all about their latest self-titled debut album, working with producer Marc Copely, meeting over classical music, classic rock song that impacted them, dream stage they wish to play on, and more. We hope you enjoy the interview and make sure to check out a live performance by Upright Man when they stop in your city or a city near you!
MWN: Hey Y’all! Thanks so much for thanking the time to answer these questions. Let’s dive right in to talking about your self-titled debut album which was released in August. Now that’s been out for a couple of months and you’ve had time to reflect on it even more. How do you feel about it now? How did it feel to finally unleash this album you worked so hard on?
Nick: Honestly, I’m just glad the people who listen to it seem to like it. This album was such an experiment for us, it’s fantastic to have it be as well received as it has been. Are there things I’d do differently now? Sure, but if there weren’t, I would be worried.
Aidan: It’s a good feeling. As an artist, it’s so tempting to stay in the incubatory phase, where we grow through creating, locking ourselves up in a room till we come out better and with something to show for it. After enough of that, we finally had enough recorded songs to pick and choose, putting together a record we felt was unique and represented us. It’s time for us to move into a new phase of playing shows, making merch, and bringing Upright Man out to the world so we can grow in a different way.
Max: It feels more solid and real now. When we were in the studio working, we were focussed on capturing certain aspects of our performance and nailing the vibe. Then we wanted it to sound a certain way in mixing. Now it’s printed and it feels the way only dried ink on paper can feel.
MWN: On this record you guys got to work with producers Marc Copely and Zev Katz who have worked with incredible artist such as Roseanne Cash, B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Hall & Oates, Aretha Franklin. How was the dynamic in the studio with them?
Nick: Well, Zev is my father and we’ve all known Copely for years, so it was definitely a mentor to apprentice kind of vibe; they provided a lot of guidance.
Aidan: Nothing short of hilarious, but at the same time, efficient. I had spent a lot of time in the studio with Marc on a different project, so we were very much on the same page and trusted each other from the beginning, which is the best thing for creativity. As a band we really respect Marc and Zev and know that they will push us to play and write some good shit.
Max: And Bruce Sugar! He’s engineered countless of music’s legendary participants. All of them, Bruce Zev and Marc, pushed us to work in a unique way. A lot of the record’s sounds and a chunk of songwriting decisions reflect their wisdom, hopefully.
MWN: So you guys worked on the record at Avatar Studios and Sear Sound in NYC and at Blackbird Studios in Nashville. Those are big cities with a lot going on. Did the “noise of the city” influence you guys at all?
Nick: I grew up in New York, the city is what I know, it’s part of who I am, so anything I do has that. Speaking only for myself of course.
Aidan: Once we were in those studios and recording, we might as well have been anywhere, or nowhere, because there are very few windows and we get so sucked into every aspect of the record the outside world is a distant place. No one wants to miss out on any part of the creation of something that is so permanent. Considering im so used to the city, im probably not aware of how it might have affected the music, but i know that travelling to other places definitely did influence me.
Max: Hopefully not when we were tracking. Those legendary studios have some thick walls.
MWN: So you guys meet while studying classical music composition at New York University. I know a lot of rock artist such as Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Steve Clark have a foundation in classical music and believe it to be very influential in their music. How did classical music keep influencing your music?
Nick: Classical music is exploratory almost to a fault at times. That outlook definitely has an influence on us, I think we’re stepping away from it a bit lately, but classical music will always have an influence on western music because it is classical composers who established so many of our idioms.
Aidan: I agree with Nick that studying classical music can push you to a level of theorizing and intellectualism that is unrelatable to most people. Once i got tired of pushing my own boundaries of intellectualism, partially because it was stressful, i found it more fun and equally challenging to write great songs. Still we can’t help ourselves with the odd time signatures. The biggest aspect of classical music that has lasted into our current rocking is the construction of phrases and odd times and unusual song forms.
Max: I didn’t know that about Jimmy Page, cool. I guess classical music is a lot of different things to different people, but mostly to me it’s a language (theory) and a repertoire (pick your poison, Berg or Montiverdi). Mostly for us as a band we use it to explore certain musical ideas.
MWN: I am bit curious as to what influenced you guys to want to start a rock band?
Nick: My dad being who he is, I’ve always been around rock music. I started playing bass at 11 because I wanted to be in a rock band with my friends. All music is worth exploring, restricting yourself based on genre only weakens your overall musicianship.
Aidan: It was sort of coming full circle for me. After I graduated NYU, I went on the road with another band, playing mostly acoustic guitar and singing folk/Americana tunes. I sort of reverted back to my 14 year old self and the aspirations of being a guitarist/singer, but with a lot more tools and skills. Upright Man was born about a year later.
Max: Just a bit? I’ve been banging the fuckin’ drums forever. I’ll be banging on the walls of my coffin so it only makes sense to do something with it. We all get turned on by each other’s playing I think.
MWN: Did you guys discover anything new while making this record in terms of your sound or yourself as musicians?
Nick: Absolutely. That’s a difficult question to answer specifically, but we’ve all grown from working together.
Aidan: Oooooh yea. Upright Man was my real introduction to using pedals on electric guitar. Our first round of recording, I used our producer’s pedal board. He would often dial in sounds and hook me up stereo into two different amps with different effects routing to them and things like that. By the time we recorded our last batch of tunes, i had a pedalboard of my own and a much stronger sense of how to use my guitar as an instrument of sound and spaaaaaceee.
Max: Personally, I wouldn’t use the word discover. Did we grow? Yes, it’s unavoidable.
MWN: If y’all don’t mind I’m going to ask a couple random questions. So that the readers can get to know you guys a little better! Do you remember your first recollection of live Music?
Nick: Probably watching my dad play at the Bottom Line when I was a kid. I’ve been around so much live music my entire life though, it’s hard to pinpoint the first.
Aidan: I think I went to some Z-100 radio show concert at MSG with my brothers and Dad and fell asleep. I can sleep anywhere.
Max: Probably Tanglewood.
MWN: Dream Stage to play?
Nick: I’ve always wanted to play at The Royal Albert Hall. I sang there in a choir as a kid and since then have wanted to play the stage with my own project.
Aidan: MSG or Red Rocks.
Max: Massey Hall would be cool, I’d love to get filmed in black and white there.
MWN: This one is a bit hard but what classic rock song would you say has made a big impact in your life?
Nick: There are so many, the first that comes to mind is “Sexy Sadie.” That groove is just so fat.
Aidan: “She’s a Woman.” I think my chicken pickin’ version is wearing on the ears of the band and everyone around me.
Max: “Jack & Diane” by John Mellencamp.
MWN: Last but not least, thanks again for answering these questions! Just one more thing is there anything else that you guys would like to add or say for the folks who are going to be reading this interview?
Aidan: Thank you! We are releasing a music video for our song, “Ecstasy” during the week of December 11th leading up to our music video release party at the Mercury Lounge in NYC on December 17th.
Max: Thanks for checking us out. If you dig the music, cool.
MWN: Well thank you so much for taking the time to sit and chat with us!
Interview By: Maria Limon & Allison Wyrsch