From faith and science to the role of society, Big Ups aren’t afraid to mull over great big, polarising issues. Now – four years on from their debut, ‘Eighteen Hours of Static’, and two years on from second album ‘Before A Million Universes’ – they’ve taken yet another leap forward with their new record ‘Two Parts Together’. Fuelled by growing up in a world that’s both crazy and unpredictable, this one sees them tackling the unknown.
Hey Joe, what have you guys had going on since your second album, any major life events?
Yeah, a lot has changed for all of us. Brendan [Finn, drums] got married a few months ago. Carlos [Salguero Jr., bass] and I have decided to go back to school. Amar [Lal, guitar]’s getting his immigration sorted. He’s been working on a lot of records. It’s pretty shocking how much can change in two years.
How would you describe the current mood of the band?
We try our best to enjoy the present, as hard as that may be. It sometimes feels like the world is so crazy and unpredictable, but for us, this band is something that the four of us can do that makes us feel right in some ways. We’re happy to be doing this now.
You’ve said your new album often focuses on “unknowability”, do you think that’s a symptom of the socio-political climate, or more where you are in life right now?
I think the “unknowability” that we focus on throughout the record comes from where we are temporally – so a bit of a combination of both. I became interested in the idea of liminality while writing a lot of these lyrics – being in-between and what lies on either side of that. I think that focus was a byproduct of ageing and growing, whether I was conscious of that or not.
Did you learn anything about yourself during the record’s creation?
I learned quite a bit about myself simply because it took over a year to make! A lot has happened, it kind of feels like a different era. So I think the process of making a record varies when the world around you is different, and you take different things away from that experience. This time around, I felt like this album was a lesson in perspective. We’re four people making music – very discrete statements over periods of years. It will inevitably change and grow with us. It’s nice to remember that it’s nothing more than that, sometimes.
What was the recording process like, when and where did the magic happen?
This process was unlike any recording we’ve ever done. We started these recordings in November of 2016 and finalised them in January of 2018. We recorded the majority of the songs at Gravesend Recordings in the back of the Silent Barn on Bushwick Ave. with Carlos Hernandez and Julian Fader from the band Ava Luna. We thought initially that these recordings were just going to be demos for us, but they came out so good that we kept them. Over the next several months, we added overdubs and layers at a number of different studios that we could gain access to through friends and Amar’s job, including Thump, Moon Studios, and Crew Cuts. Because we didn’t have much of a deadline or anything, I think we tried a lot more things than we ever had previously in terms of recording and mixing.
‘PPP’ touches on getting a glimpse of the future via a crystal ball, do you spend much time considering the philosophical or spiritual?
I’ve been thinking about art a lot recently, especially relating to music, so yeah, I tend to get pretty philosophical. Spiritual, too. Some of the lyrics relating to the aforementioned “unknowable” themes touch on things from a spiritual perspective – some pseudo-mysticism if you will.
Do you think it’s possible to make music that isn’t in some way political? How do you think that relates to Big Ups?
I don’t think it’s possible to make music that’s completely apolitical because you can’t strip the music away from the context in which it’s being made or exists. All things are in constant dialogue with each other. Even if an artist makes something without any political considerations, it’s political simply by that omission. I used to get frustrated when we would be presented by the media as a “political band” because I thought that summation of what we do didn’t actually say anything about the project. It’s the bare minimum analysis, really. Our music – more than being “political” in content – is existential, exploratory, and attempts to catalog a feeling about this place and time in the world. There’s a larger range of emotion than just anger or frustration.
Lyrical themes aside, what else did you guys want to explore with this record, and to what extent have you achieved your initial intentions?
We never really want to make the same record twice, but we didn’t have a set vision of how we wanted this record to come out or anything like that. The songs came about from us brainstorming and working in our practice space. We did a lot more in the studio than we ever have with overdubbing, experimentation, etc. when it finally came to recording the songs. We played around a lot with rhythm on this album. In terms of our “achievement” with this record, I think making records for us is an exercise in self-satisfaction; if we like the finished product, we have done something right. Working in any sort of rigid way doesn’t make sense for this project as it’s pretty collaborative through and through and we open ourselves to each others’ ideas. So the sense of “achievement” happens when we come out of the process with something that all of us made together.
It feels like your first three records all have fairly distinct vibes, do you know what you want to explore next?
I don’t think we’ll know what the next batch of music will sound like into we start making it. It’s always pretty organic and collaborative. Even if one of us has an idea for a specific kind of sound that we want to get, it’s always subject to change or interpretation depending on who is playing the part, mixing the sounds, etc.
What’s your favourite thing about ‘Two Parts Together’?
I like that it is concise. There are only eight songs, but there’s a lot of connective tissue that helps the album flow and create a feeling. To me, it’s more about how it feels than any specific story it’s trying to tell or anything.
What else have you guys got coming up over the next few months?
We’re excited to tour in Europe again; we haven’t been there since 2016. We also have a number of dates in the USA, too. We’ll be going to the West Coast for the first time in like three years. Who knows what else will happen!