+ Handcuff

The Hug and Pint, Glasgow, GB

Entry Requirements: 18+
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Upchuck are experiencing a moment. The Atlanta punk collective just came off multiple tour runs with their good friend Faye Webster. Their Ty Segall-produced second album Bite The Hand That Feeds, with all its buzzsaw guitars and high-speed rippers and headbanging sludge, arrived in October. Later this year, they’ll make appearances at multiple festivals including Coachella. In the midst of relentlessly barreling ahead, the band and their label Famous Class are taking a beat to revisit how they got here.

After working with Segall on Bite the Hand That Feeds, the band floated the notion that they wished they could hear what their collaborator could do with the songs on their 2022 debut album Sense Yourself. Holed up in his studio over Christmas with COVID and nothing else to do, Ty Segall began toying with Sense Yourself, sifting through folders of unlabeled stems to find the best guitar parts, emboldening the drum sound, and bringing greater clarity to KT’s vocals, all while bolstering the urgency of the band’s overall attack. With Segall’s new mix, Upchuck’s intense and righteous debut now impossibly overflows with even more fuzz and fury.

Despite all their recent success, Upchuck would like to disavow you of the notion that they’ve reached a new echelon. “I’m still poor every day of my life,” says frontperson KT. “I'm still working at a club and barely making it—like not eating out, barely being able to support myself financially, but I’m also having people come up to me at work being like ‘You're playing Coachella, right?’” They’re still grinding every day while their friends’ houses get raided by cops. The brick on the exterior of their mold-riddled practice space was painted white; they’re still in disbelief that such a nasty house sold for a mint. Some songs from Sense Yourself have been part of their live shows for six years now, and even as the band have gained more visibility and a larger audience, they don’t see these songs as coming from a different era of their lives. This shit is still happening right now.

KT shouts “see my kind/we’re not safe” while detailing a depressing daily cycle of unchecked violence on “Upchuck,” a scuzzy dirge that picks up speed and aggression as they cement how there are no consequences for literally murdering marginalized people. The five members of this band wield their collective power, an appropriately tumultuous setting for KT’s screams about not being able to make a living wage, living under the thumb of yuppie fucks, and the horror of unexpected loss. This is a band that lost friends and family, have lived through so much fucked up stuff, and are currently seeing their friends get raided and labeled extremists while living in the Cop City era of Atlanta. “Even in high school, like Trayvon, it's still the same shit—shit’s not switching up,” KT says. Their collective power at shows is riveting for audiences, but for Upchuck, it’s a space to circle up with this community they’ve created.

In Segall, they found a kindred spirit whose studio approach made sense for just how hard they wanted this music to hit. “When we first went to record with Ty for Bite the Hand That Feeds, Mikey and I walked into the guitar room and Ty said, ‘Don’t touch the EQs.’ We looked at the amp and everything was on 10 except the master volume,” Hoff said. Previously, the band had been encouraged to capture the unvarnished sound of the studio. They’d toured with Segall’s band Fuzz, so everybody had the same goal while recording together: Capture the electricity of their intense live set.

The band’s shows have a reputation for coming unglued, and there’s no greater document of that than Sense Yourself’s iconic album artwork. With no text, it’s a candid photo of a moment from a show shot on film without editing: blood streaked across KT’s face as they shout into the mic. In the middle of their EP release show, KT was in the pit as a fan started crowd surfing inside a shopping cart. A loose piece of metal near a wheel caught the singer right near the eyebrow and blood was everywhere, an instant piece of iconography snapped by probably every camera phone in the room.

It’s not the gnarliest photo in existence of KT’s condition at the show. The singer didn’t realize how bad it looked when they got back onstage and kept performing as their bandmates and friends checked in. “Our fans are just built different, like no way you’re carrying a shopping cart with this skater who’s like six feet tall, built as hell, and they’re passing him around? That don’t make sense,” KT recalls. “But they did it somehow, and then they beat the fuck out of the shopping cart!”

When Hoff revisits the message of this first album and Upchuck’s first songs, he thinks back to the year before the band even started when he and KT were hanging out. “We were sitting around talking for eight hours like ‘fuck, that's fucked up, that's fucked up.’” Upchuck became a vehicle for these five people to process how fucked up everything it is—to digest these formative hours-long conversations and put them to bludgeoning, intense rock music. The music is also fun as hell, and that’s part of the point. “There's a lot we need to do as people and a lot of things we need to fix in society but also like come on man like have your fun, wild out, have your drink,” KT says. “But be on your shit at the same time. Check your folk.”

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