Ugly are a four piece indie rock band from originally from Cambridge. They have an eclectic sound, with surf rock riffs, as well flamenco style rhythms. I talked with Samuel Goater who is the band’s frontman. Me and Sam met in a coffee shop, he was sat waiting with his legs crossed reading a slightly tattered copy of Stephen King’s It. It looked as though he had been cut from a lower Manhattan street bench and pasted into a Pret two minutes away from from King’s Cross. Sam was quite reserved, very humble, and instantly friendly.
Most members of the band met in sixth form college Sam says. “It was me, Charlie [Wayne], and Harrison [Jones] in the class, and it went on from there, quite gradually.” They then enlisted Brodie Weir to play bass, who left the band about two months ago. Sam explains. “He was never really like a musician, like we sort of roped him into playing bass because we needed a bassist”. Harry Shapiro now plays bass for the band Sam says. “He’s a really talented guy so we’re lucky to have him.”
There is no particular reason for the name ‘Ugly’. However, Sam does tell me how he thought it would be cool to be able to get up on stage at gigs and say: “Hi we’re Ugly.” Despite their name, they are a quite attractive band. Some of them regularly model, Sam is aware of the unintentional irony, but he isn’t phased by the modelling. “We’ve been quite lucky, just through instagram and all that sort of thing.”
Ugly hails from Cambridge and its surrounding areas. Their first gig, at the Portland Arms in Cambridge, got them banned from the venue. “We just invited loads of our friends, and we were like 17, so a lot of people were getting pissed and throwing up and all that shit.” The same thing happened at a different venue about a year later. Recently though they have been doing more London shows, Sam says. “Now we’re able to be a bit more selective about which ones we do, like which ones would be beneficial.”
Sam tells me how he feels as though there’s not really much of a music scene in Cambridge. He talks about youth movements towards the end of the 20th century. “I feel like with those subcultures it was put there in front of you.” He continues to describe what it was like for him. “in the early 2000s in a village it was more discovering it for yourself.” This means young, new bands, like Ugly, have access to a larger variety of influences and inspiration, and less pressure to stick to a particular style.
In terms of actual musical content and structure, Ugly sound quite adept. They sound like experienced musicians, but they don’t have a lot of formal musical training. They are mostly self taught, and this definitely shows in their music. Not to say they don’t sound good, but there is a DIY feel to their music which comes through very clearly, their music is full of tweaks and nuances plucked from various styles and genres.
Sam explains how when they first started out they were influenced heavily by King Krule. This was just a staring point, and they are now are moving away from that Sam says. “The singles we’ve released so far have been sort of from that time, so we haven’t had a chance to showcase new stuff as much.”
When I ask about his parents’ influence on his musical style, Sam tells me how he grew up in quite a Christian household. Alongside Simon and Garfunkel, he was exposed to a lot of christian rock. I ask him if that’s what influenced the idea for Ugly’s Sunday School. “I mean sort of, the past year or so I’ve been really interested in biblical stories, just because it was a big part of my childhood.” He continues. “The stories are already there, and you can sort of reimagine them, so yeah that’s quite cool.” Sam also explains the inspiration for Ugly’s song, “The Last Supper At The Regal Wetherspoon.” The Regal, is the local Wetherspoon in Cambridge. “it’s a bit depressing of a place, but its also a bit of a right of passage for like Cambridge 17 year olds, I thought it would be interesting to right a song about it, and put it in context with biblical ideas.”
In September most members of the band started university in London. Sam is doing Music Production at Westminster Harrow, Harrison is doing Art History at Goldsmiths, Charlie is studying Ancient History at King’s College, and Harry is taking a gap year and still based in Cambridge. Even though the band has been presented with various new responsibilities Sam feels as though this year it’s been easier for them to get together and practise. He also says even with university his priority is still the band. In terms of the future he knows it’s a steady progression, but he wants to continue to make music with the band, and get paid for it hopefully.
Words: Gabriel Hynes Pictures: Dave Monis – @hometownboredom