We set the timer and snuggle in with our favorite new bands in the Impound’s version of speed dating with a killer-diller soundtrack.
San Francisco’s The New Up infuse the term “modern rock” with visceral presence, moving it many yards away from just another corporate record label sub-division header and pointing it arrow straight towards the horizon.
The hustle & bustle of contemporary life jostles inside their music. One feels the rush of things, the creeping cynicism of the now struggling with hard-won faith in things larger and more truth-packed than what we see with today’s eyes. There’s more than a little of the zeitgeist tapping character one encounters in Radiohead and Muse to The New Up, though this S.F. quintet oozes more raw sensuality than either of these forebears, merging classic rock’s wide-legged strut to contemporary sharpness.
While still primarily known out west, the band has toured nationally several times, building a budding DIY network around the U.S. with likeminded young bands, exhibiting an active engagement with all aspects of what it takes to get a new group in front of fresh ears. With The New Up there’s always multiple hands reaching out, seeking connections, even as they keenly pinpoint all the fractures out there.
In terms of pure musicianship and forthright charm, it’s hard to beat ES Pitcher (vocals, guitar), Noah Reid (guitar, vocals), Hawk West (flute and automation), Dain Dizazzo (bass) and Drew Bertrand (drums), who collectively ooze cool whilst attacking their songs with a pleasant possession, their craft a cause they pursue with knowing grins and irrepressible energy.
While last year’s Gold album showed the band moving into ever-more mature territory, the feeling with this bunch is there’s still way, way more to come. It’s for this reason and many others that Dirty Impound asked The New Up to play at our one-year anniversary party at the Boom Boom Room this Saturday, June 4th. We snagged lead singer ES Pitcher for a brief chat before the show.
- Why do you think you’re a musician?
- Mostly because I felt like I had to be. I love music so much and I identified with it at such a young age that I felt that I had to be inside of it. I wanted to explore it from the inside-out and have that intimate relationship with it. I started that path a little later than some but it’s had more of an impact on my life than anything else. I just knew I needed to explore it and roam around within it.
- There’s a lot of downsides to being a musician. What keeps you going and thriving as a music maker?
- Generally speaking, it’s writing new material and challenging myself to get out of my box and what’s familiar to me. Essentially, that pushes me in all directions – mentally, spiritually, physically. When I’m writing a song that seems to overflow in all other areas of my life and being. And I’m encouraged by performing when I’m connecting with the audience and I feel like there’s not a separation between us, when it’s not really about me being onstage but about being a conduit for something bigger than me. It’s a pretty incredible moment.
- Something I’ve meant to ask you for years is what is the OLD up?
- [Laughs] We’re still figuring it out ourselves. People like to say, “What is the old DOWN?” The Old Up just gives me an awful image [laughs]. Amazing how that one adjective will change the meaning completely.
- It makes me think of seniors having sex.
- The Old Up or Down is bad like maybe they’re trying to get it up. My mind went to that place very organically. Not that I have anything against old people! I love old people but maybe don’t want to see them naked or in bed.
- A camera doesn’t need to be anywhere near that. So, I think The New Up is a great name because it doesn’t refer to anything specific [though it is lifted from Radiohead’s “Down Is The New Up”].
- There’s many bands with “The New” in their name but it’s usually followed by a noun. Using an adjective immediately differentiated it. And I like that our name has the quality of an action to it.
- The imagery of the name fits the music that you make. It has a snap and modernity that suits your sound.
- There’s certain people that I know about whom I think, “That name really fits that human being.” And there are other people who really grow into their name, which I think we’ve done. With pulling it from Radiohead and Radiohead pulling their name from the Talking Heads, we wanted to go the route that two bands that have been influential to us followed. We’ve grown into it and it feels like an old family name at this point.
- You bring up Radiohead, who I’ve brought up a number of times when writing about your band. I break down rock into pre- and post-Radiohead. Pre-Radiohead bands draw on the lingering 1960s thing, and I don’t pick up on a lot of that in The New Up. I don’t hear much Kinks, Stones, etc. in what you do.
- We’re always trying to evolve. That’s something I love about Radiohead – just look at The Bends and then look at Kid A. For another example, I remember when people were up in arms when U2 did Zooropa and Achtung Baby, which I appreciate. As long as you sense integrity in a new direction, it’s clear these bands just want to explore. I was raised on The Beatles, Stones and lots of classic rock, but I appreciate the kind of evolution in Radiohead more. It’s more significant to my sensibilities. We’ve written about 30 new songs and we’re only picking the ones we REALLY love. And it sounds a lot different than our last album, Gold, but it’s where we’re at right now. [Radiohead] is influential in the way they inspire us to take new directions even if they sound strikingly different.
- Many bands in the 60s & 70s had that attitude, that openness to difference and change, and somewhere along the way it got lost somewhat moving into the current era. Today, there’s general discomfort about evolving in ways that make one’s first album and their latest one almost unrecognizable as being from the same band.
- Exactly! I’m really interested in that dynamic. The difference is that in that time you had a huge audience that evolved with you. It’s riskier in this day & age because we don’t have that, but it’s what we need to do. Sometimes it’s hard to play what’s in your head, and we feel like we’re getting to the place where we can do that now. We’re not afraid of the changes that brings.
- So, what’s usually going through your head right before you go onstage?
- The Capricorn part of me is thinking of all the practical nuances – the lighting, the technical aspects of the show – but really what I’m trying to focus on is breath and really getting into myself so I can abandon myself…and connect with the people I’m onstage with and the audience. Focusing on my breathing allows me to go there instead of the Capricorn, logical aspects.
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