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Thursday, September 16, 2010

The New Up: Sultry Psych-Pop Jams for the End of the World and Beyond

Posted By on Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 11:28 AM

Hey, remember Garbage? No no, hear me out. If you go back and revisit their first album, the one with the pink feathers, I think you'll find time has proven them right about a few things: a balance between heavy-alternative jangle and fetching lead melodies, the virtue of buzzing guitars and a rhythm section just a hint funkier than it should be, and the potential of noirish imagery conveyed by a honeyed female voice.

Anyway, once you finish playing "Only Happy When It Rains" on Guitar Hero, take a moment to meet The New Up, an Inner Sunset-based quintet who put the vamp in "extended vamping." They're releasing an EP called Gold in late October, the third in a trilogy with an ambitious narrative scope, and celebrating this Saturday at Cafe du Nord along with local bedfellows The Hundred Days and The Moanin' Dove. We chatted with vocalists and guitarists ES Pitcher and Noah Reid to talk about what to expect this weekend, influence versus inspiration, and the seduction of grammar. Well, one of us talked about that.

What's the story behind this release party?

ES Pitcher: The EP is called Gold, and the show is called "Glitz, Gold & Rock n' Roll." You're supposed to wear your most festive gold garb; there's gonna be a lot of gold and bling. We're playing with three backup singers, called the Golden Nuggets. We got Glitter SF, a design team, plus another designer who are going to transform Cafe du Nord, including the bar. We want to abolish the idea of the bar being disconnected from the rest of the venue--we're doing it mini-festival style.

Noah Reid: The way we're getting it out there is a celebration of the the themes of the album itself. The trilogy of EPs is kind of a metaphor, from the molecular level up to the universal, for a world that's headed down some scary paths, and what would happen if we kept going down that path. Broken Machine was about identifying those things that are broken and destructive in our world; Better Off dealt with the process of trying to shed those things that we don't need but cling to, because we think they help us when they actually hurt us. Gold is the celebration of the pain and agony of getting rid of those things. It represents the sun coming out for the first time after the apocalypse has run its course, which is what the cover art depicts.

So how does this event convey those themes?

The idea is that we're trying to remember and appreciate the importance of community. Gold is about surrendering things in order to rise above. We want it to be a celebration; we see a lot of music and often find shows to be kind of disjointed, so we brought in these other bands and artists and designers to create an event that embraces community, rather than, you know, watch band number one, go get a beer, maybe go watch band number two, and keep your arms crossed the entire time.

NR: The moment when the sun comes up is the moment when destruction ends and creation begins again. Bringing in all these different creative aspects ties in with the whole purpose of Gold. Even though we'll probably be destroying a couple people's hearing throughout the evening.

ESP: Or brain cells, with all the alcohol. Goldschläger is the special for the evening.

NR: If you want to go back to your high school days.

Who do you consider your influences?

All the members of the band have really diverse taste in music, but somehow we all like the same wide range of things. We talk about this a lot: we try not to call them influences, because people end up expecting you to sound like your influences, and we don't really sound like anyone. We don't have a choice about that--it goes through the New Up filter and comes out sounding like The New Up. It all gets jumbled up into our musical sensibility. But Radiohead is a big inspiration, and we all like Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age, the Talking Heads, the Beatles and Pink Floyd, Ween, John Coltrane. A lot of us like old-school hip hop, Nirvana, the grunge era. We even listen to comedy together to get inspiration.

ESP: My favorite singer is Billie Holiday, and I don't sound like Billie Holiday. That's why we try not to talk about "influences."

Then how do you describe your sound?

NR: Rock with an element of pop to it, a little bit psychedelic, with electronic elements. Each album is a new sound for us, but we have to categorize ourselves pretty much every day, so we usually go with "psychedelic indie-rock."

ESP: It's not polka.

What about more impressionistic descriptions?

NR: I'd call it polished raw emotion. Unkempt, in-your-face rock with a certain introspection and self-awareness. We're like a soft, rounded mountain that has jagged rocks all over it.

ESP: Our drummer likes to call it "Blondie with teeth."

What sets you apart from other bands with New in their name?

First of all, our "new" is kind of ironic in a way--it's like that pill, that new diet, that surgery that's supposed to improve your life but never actually makes your life better. It's also mocking ourselves as a band, like we're gonna be this new thing that nobody's ever heard of.

ESP: It usually ends with The New [insert noun]. Whereas we are... a direction.

NR: What sets us apart from any other band in general is that we're not trying to sound like anyone, and we have very little control over what we do sound like. But also on the business side, we're very involved. We look at the band and run it like a business, and we're not afraid to crunch numbers and make pie charts and find out how we're doing. We're very DIY, and we don't really care about being famous--we just want to make a living by making good music.

ESP: I guess if we were a Mad Lib, most bands would be nouns and we'd be an adjective. "Up" is an adjective, right?

It can be, but it's usually an adverb.

ESP: Yeah. But I imagine it more as an adjective.

Gold comes out domestically on October 26th, but you can preorder it via The "golden ticket" package, which you can enter to win here, includes an advance copy and a ticket to Saturday's show without service fees. "Get your golden ticket," urge The New Up.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown and @dlb

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Daniel Levin Becker


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