The Bumping Uglies
An Iowa rock blowout featuring The Bumping Uglies and friends takes over Gabe’s this Saturday at 10 p.m. The Bumping Uglies’ Dan Butler (formerly of Iowa City, now based in Austin, Texas) joins longtime friend Samuel Locke Ward, Fairfield’s Little Ruckus and Everybody Nose (featuring members of Iowa City punk band Lipstick Homicide) for a sweat-drenched night of pop, punk and rock.
For those who’ve been in town since the turn of the century, this show marks the unofficial return of The Bassturd — Butler’s popular solo act that ran from 1998-2001 during his school days here. Little Village caught up with Butler earlier this week over email in the midst of his Beauty of Ugly Tour 2015.
For those not familiar with your Iowa City roots, when did you live here?
I lived in Iowa City from 1998-2001. I used to do a solo act called The Bassturd. I really cut my teeth playing live during my time in Iowa City. Doug Roberson, (former booking person for Gabe’s, as well as a number of other IC venues), was a big supporter of my music early on. I served as Music Director at KRUI for a couple of years, and through that work, became very involved with the Iowa City music scene at the time. It was, at the time, a wildly eclectic scene, and was a very fun and supportive scene to be a part of.
When did you ditch the The Bassturd and take up Bumping Uglies?
The Bumping Uglies formed in late 2011. After Iowa City, I moved to the bay area for many years. During that time I continued performing and recording as The Bassturd. After moving to Austin in 2006, I continued that project for several years. In 2011, I decided to cease doing solo shows.
Shortly thereafter, I produced an album for my friend Mary. She had a handful of demo recordings of some really unique songs, and we worked for a few months tracking those tunes.
Throughout that process, we collaborated on a couple of songs. Once the project was completed, we both realized that working together on songs was super fun, and we decided to form a band. We asked a friend of ours named Carrie Clark, who plays in an Austin-based band called Sixteen Deluxe, if she would like to play with us. Much to our amazement, she agreed, and The Bumping Uglies were born.
Why did you move to Austin? How awesome is it?
My primary reason for moving to Austin was my attraction to the incredibly dense and diverse music community that existed here. Austin is unlike any other city in the United States. There are hundreds of live music venues, and the city relies heavily on live music as a means to attract tourists.
The drawback though is that the scene is saturated with bands. Unlike Iowa City, where there are only a few live music venues, and thus only a few options for shows on any given night, in Austin, you have to compete with hundreds of other shows every time you play. I think it forces bands in Austin to really refine their live shows to make them as engaging and enticing as possible.
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Tell us about your Beauty of Ugly tour. What’s happening?
This will be our second tour. We went out on a two week trek in 2013, and did very well. We got a great response in most cities we played, and we’ve been anxious to get back out and do it again. We spent two years working on our The Beauty of Ugly album, and thus didn’t have the time or focus to put together another tour. We have invested all of the money we’ve made over the past three years back into the band. We have a DIY light show, as well as a lot of hand-made merchandise, art, glow in the dark records, etc.
We’re very proud of the album, and we wanted a chance to get out of Austin and share some of these tunes with new audiences. In 2013, Carrie left the band [and] we ultimately decided to just continue playing as a two-piece, which has worked out well.
For this tour, we are bringing our friend Caleb to play bass. We’ve never played with a live bass player before, so we’re really excited to work out new arrangements and see what works. Having the bass will also give us the freedom to do some songs we’ve never really been able to pull off live. We’ve started working on a children’s album, and we’ve introduced a lot of those songs into the live show recently.
Audiences are responding very kindly to them, so our focus on this tour is to iron out some of those arrangements so we can get to work on recording that in the fall … We have so much material at this point, and have put so much work into the visual elements of the live show, that we think we will be able to deliver a very fun and unique show!
What are some highlights so far? Any other excitement?
One major highlight has been our annual UGLYFEST, which we have hosted for the past three years during the South by Southwest music festival. We’ve had some really cool acts play, (Yip Deceiver – featuring members of Of Montreal, The Pizza Underground, Mega Ran, Schaffer The Darklord — another Iowa City alumn, Hamel On Trial, Toby Goodshank — formerly of The Moldy Peaches, Jad Fair, and many, many others), and the festival has been a huge success.
Due to our work schedules, we don’t get the chance to venture outside of Austin that often. As a result, we have had the opportunity to meet, play with, and befriend a lot of amazing acts in Austin. There are so many great bands in this city. Toxic Water, Ouiness, Foot Patrol, Barf Bag, B. Knox, Attic Ted … just so many cool people. It’s been a real joy for both Mary and I to get to know the scene this intimately. We’ve gotten to a point where people invite us to play on bills, and they usually wind up being incredible shows. We’re very grateful for that.
As I mentioned, Austin is a tough city for bands, and we feel like we’ve been able to find a place in this very crowded scene that is welcoming and supportive. I feel like if a band can succeed in Austin, they can succeed anywhere.
Can you say something about the other bands playing?
On Samuel Locke Ward: I have known Sam since he was in high school. He started out in the late 1990s playing with a band called The Eggnogs. He broke off and went solo a few years later. Sam and I have done several tours together. He is a masterful songwriter, and an insanely prolific one as well. We share a dark sense of humor, which I think comes through in his music. He’s a great guy.
On Little Ruckus: I first met Dominic in Austin in 2011 [when] he was touring with the Ames-based band The Mumford’s. He and his brother were performing under the name Utopia Park. After the show, Nate Logsdon of The Mumford’s mentioned that Dominic had another gig in Austin the following evening doing a solo set under the name Little Ruckus. I went to check that out, and it blew my mind. His live performances are littered with hyperactive energy. He really engages with his audience, and he takes full advantage of his environment throughout his performance. He played at our first UGLYFEST and killed it!
On Everybody Nose: This is a new project featuring some members of Lipstick Homicide. Again, I’ve known Rachel since she was in high school. They are a hardworking bunch of musicians (maybe some of the hardest working musicians I’ve ever met), and they’re the sweetest people in the world to boot. They have finely honed their craft. I have not yet heard this new project, but judging by the line-up, I expect that it will be some super-fueled punk rock!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity