Interview: Brandon Hardesty of Bumpin Uglies is an ‘Underdog’

A lot of bands came out of the pandemic with really unique projects that they probably wouldn’t have put together if they didn’t have so much free time on their hands. For ska rockers Bumpin Uglies, that project was Underdog: The Acoustic Sessions, a collection of acoustic recordings of their greatest hits and some new songs that just sound better in an acoustic session, out September 8 from Controlled Substance Sound Labs. The album is a personal and intimate portrayal of a band that’s been working the grind since 2008 who took the opportunity to slow down a little and focus on something special.

The band’s frontman, Brandon Hardesty, sat down with New Noise to talk about the new acoustic album and Bumpin Uglies’ plans for the future.

So you have the new acoustic album, Underdog, coming out on September 8, a combination of old favorites and a handful of new songs. What made you want to do an acoustic album right now?

It’s just something I’ve done a few few other times throughout my career, and it’s always really well-received by the fans. The way I like to do acoustic stuff is, I will go into the studio and record it live. And the way I did the other two records, it was way earlier in my career where I was way, way more pressed for time and money, so I had to do it really quickly. Both sessions were was done in, like, four hours, and I had to take what I could get. Whereas this record, I did it over the course of three sessions, while COVID was going on. So I was off the road; I had nothing but time. And I was really able to be a bit more methodical for it and get the performances that I liked to make a record that I felt like was going to age well and came together like that with all that time off the road. And I feel really good about it.

For the songs that were re-recorded from previous albums, what makes a new version of these songs something special that fans are going to want to hear?

I think the live acoustic version gives everything a whole different energy. Everything else is recorded with the band, and it’s recorded in a traditional studio format, which is you multitrack it, you do each instrument separately, which is great for that style. But I think when you do something live, especially acoustic, it just has a whole different energy. So, in my opinion, it’s almost like it’s an entirely different song.

And you’re released two singles so far. You had the title track and “Spinning Plates.” Can you tell us a little bit about what the songs are about?

“Underdog” was the song I wrote about when I was going through a transitional period in my career. And I was realizing that I was never going to really fit in to the existing mold in my particular genre and the scene that I’m in. There’s just a way that that people like to do things, the way they like to make music and the way they like to put on shows and whatnot. It’s kind of like a cool kids table. And there’s not a lot of place for like deviating from that particular format.

It’s just not something I’m interested in doing. And I had tried everything I could do to get a seat at that table without compromising my principles and it just wasn’t working. So I had to make my my peace with the fact that (I) couldn’t have my cake and eat it too. Ultimately, at the end of the day, my principles are more important to me than fitting in. So I had to make my peace with the fact that I was going to stick to my principles and that might have certain consequences, but that’s okay. Because I’m making music the way I want to make music. And that’s, that’s the most important thing.

“Spinning plates” is just really about anxiety and overthinking and the idea of staying as busy as possible so you don’t have time to think too hard about your own self loathing.

On the video or “Underdog” you focused on a lot of footage from your live performances. Why did you want to focus on that?

It was just easier. We have a touring videographer, and we needed content to promote the track so we had a lot of B-roll of me playing the song. We tour a lot. We were on the road about half the year. So that doesn’t really leave a lot of time for filming music videos and stuff. If this was all filmed live, going back and recreating a music video for that was going to be challenging. So it was how we were able to create a music video without doing too much extra work, essentially.

And then just before this interview, they sent me the link for the video for “Spinning Plates.” It’s an animated video. How did that come about?

Same kind of concept, (we) wanted something to promote the track and we got linked up with a cool animator. I thought it would be fun to do that, that sort of change of pace.

I think a lot of bands really fail to appreciate how important the last song on the album is. But you ended this one on something really special for the last song. Can you talk to us a little bit about “Jerry’s Song”?

For me, the last song in the record, that’s the conclusion. That’s the one that a lot of people, it’s their final taste of it. And for me, I’ve always tried to sneak an acoustic song onto the full band records. And then, for this one, that was a really special song for me. I lost my dad a couple years ago. And it’s my first parent that I’ve lost. There’s really no feeling that compares to that. And I’m a songwriter, so part of my grieving and processing that was writing a song to commemorate those feelings. And that’s what that is.

You’ve got a lot of tour dates scheduled for this year. How excited are you to be touring with the Expendables?

I’m really excited. But we were supposed to do a tour with them in March of 2020, and we were actually on the road with them for the first week in Texas when we got the word that COVID was shutting everything down. So that tour never really happened. This feels like a mulligan for that. So it’d be nice to see that through to fruition. And just on top of that, we don’t really get to go out with a lot of other bands. We’re usually going out and headlining and bringing our friends, which is cool because we’re playing to our fans. But I’m excited about getting in front of another bands audience and doing our thing and hopefully growing up as a result of that.

And I know it’s still summer but can you talk a little bit about the Ugly Sweater Bash you have coming up scheduled for December?

Yeah, that’s our annual hometown show. It’s just a no-brainer, Bumping Uglies having an ugly sweater party. We do it around Christmas. It’s in Baltimore. It’s at Baltimore soundstage. We got our friends Joe Samba and Howi Spangler on the show, and it’s always a ripper. It’s one of our biggest shows of the year, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.

Is there anything else you have planned for for Bumping Uglies in the in the near future?

We’re just finishing up another record right now. So we’re just going to keep doing the damn thing. Just keep writing, recording, and touring.

Follow Bumpin Uglies on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for future updates.

Photo courtesy of Burger Snaps.

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