Photo by: Benjamin Lieber
Art by: Harper Fischer
How does one make the perfect rhythm section for a band? Well, having siblings filling in the roles of drums and bass can be a good start. It’s a formula that’s working for Buffalo garage rock band, Ugly Sun, with brothers John and Harry Crook running the show. Now that the band turns 5 this year and a new EP is on the way, I sat down with John and Harry to talk about their band, brotherhood, and Sheryl Crow.
The brothers had humble beginnings in music; John began playing drums at the age of 10 and Harry began playing guitar at the age of 8. With a 5-year age gap, the two were not very close growing up and on top of that, John left home at 18 to tour in various bands such as This Is An Empire and Mandy K. When John came home, he began a band called Arctic Death where he learned to play bass and Harry filled in on drums. 2 years later, Harry left for Berklee and post Arctic Death, the two of them became closer than ever and that’s when Ugly Sun was born.
I asked the brothers what the advantages and disadvantages were for being in a band together and they both agreed that there is an advantage in playing together. “I remember going to college and telling my roommates that I was in a band with my brother and they were so envious, Harry explained. “So I never thought about it up until that point, but we really do have our own language when we play together.” John smiled, “We don’t even speak anymore, we just make gestures if we think what we’re playing is good or bad.”
However, there is a disadvantage when it comes to writing. They figured with their stronger bond, they could write music together, but it just wasn’t working out. It wasn’t until these last three months that a better dynamic had evolved. “I think it’s because we’re getting out of each other’s way, John explained. “The biggest disadvantage is what was happening before when we were getting in the way. It is kind of uncomfortable because any creation we make is pretty personal, so it’s a vulnerable thing to do. So with someone you’re always making jokes and messing around with, it’s hard to show what you were emotional about.”
In Ugly Sun’s first year, it was very casual: the members would bring whatever they wanted to play to the table. “Our first EP wasn’t very cohesive and the singles we had over these last few years, didn’t necessarily help us, Harry said. “So now in our fifth year, we’re trying to hone our sound in and create music we think Ugly Sun should play.” The new music they are currently recording at GCR Audio, will include songs they’ve played live for the past 8 months. “We don’t want to call it classic rock, John said, “but our writing has been influenced by Sheryl Crow, ZZ Top, Radiohead, Joe Walsh, and plenty of punk bands.” Harry added, “Actually one of the songs I wrote sounds a little too much like Sheryl Crow, so I may need to change that.”