New York City-based rock band Upright Man is Aidan Dolan (guitar/vocals), Nick Katz (bass/vocals) and Max Yassky (drums/percussion/background vocals). The group met while studying classical music composition at New York University where they played together on various projects ranging from classical ensembles to rock bands. Their strong writing chemistry spurred the formation of Upright Man.
Combining elements of alternative, psychedelic, roots rock and classic rock with complex harmonies and time signatures, the band seamlessly intertwines influences like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Crowded House, Little Feat, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and XTC into a unique sound all their own. Upright Man’s dynamic, self-titled debut is out now. Listen to “Ecstacy” embedded below.
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Sean Ritchie: Let’s start off with New York City. What makes it special to each one of you guys? Where would you send a first-time visitor?
Max Yassky: I’ll answer this one because I just recently took a first-time visitor through the city recently. We’ve all toured around with bands and then on our own. Something about New York just kind of stands out. There’s just something special about the way that it’s laid out. If I was going to take somebody visiting for the first time, I’d take them on a walk through Central Park and then to [The Metropolitan Museum of Art].
Aidan Dolan: I think one thing about New York too, especially if you’ve lived here for a long time, is if you go live somewhere else it’s just not the same.
Nick Katz: That’s true for so many reasons. My mom is from London and I spent a lot of time over in England, and New York is just easier to be in. Just from a living here stand point. It’s expensive these days, but you can get anywhere in the city relatively easily, and you can get a slice of pizza at two o’clock in the morning if you want it.
SR: I love doing all that in NYC. To transition a little into your back story, what was your first, real introduction into music? How did you eventually get inspired to create your own?
MY: I’m told that, apparently, I would bang on pots and pans as a baby. Or, like would smack around the inside of the womb. I was one of those kids that was germinated for nine months listening to Beethoven in the womb. Then, we had an upright piano in the living room that I would probably play most hours of most days. I’m sure at some point in there I would twist songs that I was learning into new songs. Most of the music I was writing then was me reshaping other music that I was learning to play.
SR: So, then how did Upright Man come into play? How’d you get together?
NK: We all met in college at [New York University] we were all composition majors. But, before that my dad had me in music school at the age of four. He’s a musician too. So, I was in music school for a while. The apple didn’t even leave the tree for me on that one. My whole live has been being a musician, which led to NYU.
Aidan and I had gotten to talking and became friends. Max and I didn’t really connect too much in the program, but then Aidan got us together to work on what he was writing for school. We just kept doing that kind of stuff for the classes together. I think, eventually, we all just kind of got tired of doing it. It was a lot of work. We sort of felt like we needed some relief from that, so we started writing music on the side together. It was just change from what we had been doing for two years. We all then eventually found it so rewarding. That was kind of the genesis of the whole project.
AD: I think we started to collect enough songs from all of that, and we formed an identity. We realized that the classical music, as much as you grow as a musician technically, wasn’t really the real world. We wanted to build something that we felt like was inspiring, and not some mountain to climb for the sake of climbing it.
MY: Just to weigh in on this transition from academia to our own music. I remember we would be working on something for school for a year, and then I would come back and we were suddenly working on rock and roll. If I had come back the next day and we were working on salsa music I would have been like, “Alright cool!”
SR: Makes sense. That’s really cool you had this central breeding ground for ideas, and spun off from that. To fast forward then, you just released your debut, self-titled “Upright Man” album in August. Talk about your vision behind that release and how it’s been received since it’s been out.
AD: I think the people that hear it like it, people that may be into the same influences we are.
MY: Just leave it at that, that people really like it!
AD: Yeah! We just need to get more people to hear it and that’s the hard part about the first record.
SR: I completely understand that struggle of getting people to see your work. I started SCP out of my bedroom six years ago, and it’s a grind every day to get it out there. But, I love it and made to do it.
AD: Yes! There’s just so much competition for attention.
SR: Transferring into travel, when you have some down time and are looking to get away, what kind of vacationers are you? Are you looking for a beach somewhere? The mountains? Or, in the center of a city?
NK: I prefer either wilderness or urban. So, I either get the cityscapes or I’ve been to the Cascade Range a bunch of times out west.
MY: One of the things I’m looking forward to is going to Connecticut, but it could just be upstate New York. I love the nature preserves, especially when it starts to snow. Just walking through there is amazing. There’s only as much noise there as you make. Recently, I went up to Peekskill in the Hudson Valley. Love it up there.
AD: I’m specifically into anything where there’s wildlife or immersive nature.
SR: Lastly, I usually ask people if they have three bucket-list destinations that they still have to see, but since there’s three of you guys, maybe one each?
AD: Mars! Well actually that’s not so far off right now. That would be ridiculously cool. You might be getting three answers that are Mars.