Upright Man: A Band of Evolution

Upright Man performed at the Bowery Electric on Aug. 23, wowing the audience with a series of projected visuals on the walls of the venue.

Upright Man, following suit with the change its name implies, constantly evolves. The group — officially comprised of NYU Music Composition alumni Aidan Dolan, Nick Katz and Max Yassky and unofficially including Adam November — has been changing its sound throughout its entire career. Only three days after their debut record “Upright Man” was released, they spoke easily with WSN about having already recruited November to play guitar for live shows despite his not being a part of the album recording process. In fact, November has already been adding in his own sonic influence to the point where the songs no longer sound like the album version.

They began the recording process in early 2015. They had 17 songs already, but by the time 2017 came around, the band and the world had changed so much that the music was quickly outdated. Yassky, the group’s drummer, spoke about the contrast between Upright Man’s recording process and their usual lifestyle of playing gigs and writing songs.

“So much time has passed between the time we recorded — which is in itself this certain amount of time where you’re just hyper-focused and it feels like you’re in a different space,” Yassky said. “And then after that, you’re just back to play- ing shows. So the album being released kinda feels like, ‘oh yeah, that thing that we did.’”

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Upright Man was born when Dolan, the group’s lead vocalist and guitarist, asked during a Music Composition Program meeting if anyone was interested in playing drums in a group. Through mutual friends, he was connected with Yassky and Katz. November came along more recently when Katz was looking for a pedal specialist and was pointed toward November, who is also a Music Technology alumnus. Four years and a few graduation ceremonies later, the group had a debut album.

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The members each have varying opinions on what they learned during their time at NYU, and particularly what of that learning was useful.

“So much of the stuff that I learned at NYU was not stuff that they set out to have taught you or was not something they could have ever functionally planned to do,” Yassky said. “But it’s stuff you just learn by being around them. Dealing with NYU has taught me so much. But particularly it was learning to be disingenuous about what you want to do if you’re being a musician.”

Judging by the band’s album release show at Bowery Electric on Aug. 23, Dolan and his bandmates have still had trouble narrowing down what they want to do. Their performed music spoke to a vast range of musical influences. Jazzed-up chords filled out unusual time signatures and guitar solos shredded alongside softer vocal moments. At times heavy metal vibes played out, and at others the songs echoed The Beatles. All that is not even to mention the ambient visuals projected on the walls beside them — b-roll of lightning flashes, CGI-ed images of spaceships and eerie graphic designs added an ethereal layer to the performance.

Between all the sounds and visuals happening on stage, however, Upright Man’s set was more than just an impressive display of musicianship. The sonic influences and lyrical content were unarguably a product of life in 2017 — an echo of uncertainty, of questioning, but of resolution to keep on singing and do so beautifully.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 5 print edition. Email Hailey Nuthals at [email protected]

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