Ugly Kids Club Can be Happy, Sad, Nostalgic, or Downright Dirty

PHILTHY (in addition, to Philly) is a well-documented friend of Nashville. Some of our favorite people come from “Music City”: Nikki Lane, Those Darlins, Tristen, Lindi Ortega, Heavy Cream,...

PHILTHY (in addition, to Philly) is a well-documented friend of Nashville. Some of our favorite people come from “Music City”: Nikki Lane, Those Darlins, Tristen, Lindi Ortega, Heavy Cream, The Ettes… And we’ve recently befriended yet another Nashville act, yet they’re pretty much miles away from anything garage or Americana (And we’re more than okay with that.) They’re Ugly Kids Club, a duo comprised of vocalist Aliegh Shields and producer Steve Wilson. They first came together in 2011, bonding over a shared love of lo-fi noise pop duos. However, their sounds are certainly sunnier and more traditionally uplifting than any of the anti-thums shouted by the likes of Alexis Krauss and Alice Glass. Their self-titled debut EP dropped in 2011 and their follow-up EP, Head Games, is set for a September 30th release. While the album rings most profoundly of a blend of synth pop and club ready, R&B-influenced ’90s pop, it also embraces elements of epic rock balladry, the coy bite of the most elegant kinds of punk and hip-hop, and a few subtle references to electronic transgressors. Ugly Kids Club are one of the few bands that I like that I actually think I could get my students to listen to (Hopefully that doesn’t offend them.)  And Aliegh and Steve recently took some time to tell me just exactly what Ugly Kids Club is all about.

Izzy Cihak: You first came together in 2011, which wasn’t all that long ago. What have been the highlights of the band through your first few years?
Aliegh Shields: I think some of our highlights have been after our first EP came out. We got a lot of traction from some really great blogs and got played on Sirius XM. Making it onto Music Connections Magazine’s Hot 100 list was also a really cool moment for us. But I do think the biggest highlight for us is the new music we’ve been creating for this new EP. It’s really been a wonderful experience pushing ourselves to keep improving and doing everything the best we can.
Steve Wilson: I agree. The new EP is my favorite thing we’ve done, but I’ve loved the journey leading up to now. I think we spent some good time figuring out what kind of band we wanted to be, and I think we’ve really landed on something that feels like us.

Izzy: And is there anything that you think is especially important for fans and potential fans to know about you as musicians and your process of creating together… or is it all in the music?
Aliegh: It’s all in the music, really. With this new EP we really wanted to create something that people could immediately connect to on some level. We hope our fans can really feel something from these songs, whether it’s happy, sad, nostalgic or just makes you wanna get downright dirty.
Steve: Now I’m feeling dirty, ha. I think a good bit of what we write is inspired by personal experiences, but we also pull from other ideas/stories to expand beyond just the world we know. I hope we are creating for fans and potential fans a soundtrack that will make their day or days a little brighter and/or make them dance just a bit.

Izzy: So, I’m curious because you’re based out of Nashville, where a lot of my favorite acts currently reside, but you’re doing something quite different from all of these artists (but something that I quite like as well): What are your thoughts on the city’s music and arts scene? Do you have any favorite local peers?
Aliegh: Nashville’s arts scene is amazing right now! It’s growing so fast. So many people are moving here specifically because of the art scene. It’s nuts to watch it grow like this. The direction we’ve been taking our new stuff lands more in the pop world, which is definitely lacking here, unfortunately. I do think that things are brewing under the radar for pop here though and we hope to help get that started. It’s pretty exciting! Some of my personal favorite artist in town include Wild Cub, BASECAMP, Tesla Rossa, Chancellor Warhol, and Future Unlimited.
Steve: I’ve been in Nashville for over a decade and it has been amazing to witness the growth of our great city owning up to its moniker of “Music City.” Though the scene does seem quite diverse, I do think there is still a predisposition to earthy, analog-y, bohemian overtones whether that be in Rock and Roll, Folk, Alternative, etc., all of which I love, but I hope to see more recognition and growth in hip-hop, pop, and electronic music. Some of my favorite local artists are Five Knives, Wild Cub, Cherub, and Coin.

Izzy: Your new EP, Head Games, is set to drop at the end of September. What were the album’s most significant influences?
Steve: For this EP I was inspired by where electronic music is, and the way I see it infiltrating into pop and allowing the idea of pop to be expanded beyond the limited genre I think it was several years ago (think: Britney). I’m really into Drake, Sia, M83, Grimes, Haim, Zedd, and Sky Ferreria. I think all of these artists are pushing boundaries and all had an influence on our new material.

Izzy: Not to detract from the music, but you each (and also collectively) have a really great fashion sense. What does that draw inspiration from… if that’s even the kind of thing you think about?
Aliegh: Weellllll thank you 😉 It’s absolutely something I think about! I love fashion! I’m really eclectic with what I wear. I have some really great fashion forward friends in town including other artists, models, and fashion designers, so it’s easy for me to pull from those friends here in Nashville. I’ll admit… I probably look at way too many fashion blogs though, hah!
Steve: Wow, well thanks. I think we’re just inspired by what we think looks cool. We like a little bit of mystery. Also things that remind us of space. Like Buck Rogers.

Izzy: And what are your plans for the immediate future? Any chance of some upcoming live dates? If so, what can be expected of the experience?
Aliegh: We have tons of plans that will unfold here in the near future. We start playing next week on Tuesday the 26th at the Hiwatt in Nashville. From there we’ve got tours planned around our second single release and our EP release and then we’ll be heading up to CMJ in October. All in all we just really want people to have a blast when we play. We want our live show to be more about giving the people a truly fun and exciting experience. Hopefully something that keeps them coming back for more.
Steve: Well said. Thanks for having us and composing such thoughtful questions!!!


Band InterviewsMusic

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.