Australian band Waking Ugly is proof of a long-theorized but never quite validated notion that great art arises from challenging circumstances. Not necessarily such trenchant trials as incarceration, drug use and warfare - which have their place as motivational vectors in modern music to be sure - but in the quiet yet conscientious adherence to a philosophy of creative integrity. It is this integrity which serves to rebuff the the inexorable tide of normalcy that can erode people, wearing them down until they have little left to talk about other than reproduction or retirement. Waking Ugly has survived these circumstances, emerging artistically stronger and more wonderfully complex than ever. Independent reporter Andrew Edwards recently caught up with the group to talk about the long years spent developing their current sound, the success of their new single (which has a hilarious video about a problematic romance between an alien and a zombie to go with it), and their plans for the future.
ANDREW: When did you first discover your love of music?
WAKING UGLY: I’ve been addicted to music my whole life! I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember and when I was five or six I composed my first song, ‘I’m Gonna Be a Rock Star’, which in retrospect may have been appropriately titled, albeit badly-written.
ANDREW: Your song ‘You Know You Wanna’ is receiving a positive listener response on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
WAKING UGLY: It was extremely surreal. We had both been writing songs for so long that to finally have a single out there - knowing other people were listening to it (and enjoying it!) - was such a thrill for us!
ANDREW: What was the inspiration behind your debut radio single?
WAKING UGLY: It’s actually a really special song for us, because it’s about following your dreams despite the obstacles that come your way. I think it resonates with a lot of people because everyone has moments where they are too overwhelmed by fear or doubt to pursue what really matters to them. It’s good to be reminded that life’s too short for that and it truly is up to you to create the kind of life you want for yourself.
ANDREW: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as ‘You Know You Wanna’?
WAKING UGLY: They all broadly fit into the pop/rock genre, but we made a conscious effort during the production process to give them each a distinct feel depending on the lyrical content of the song. ‘You Know You Wanna’ is definitely the most anthem-like track, ‘Zombies’ has a bit of a punk vibe to it, and we gave our break-up song, ‘Guess It’s Over’ a bit of a country treatment. So they all have their own flavor, but ultimately sound like us.
ANDREW: How would you characterize yourself as an artist? (Ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
WAKING UGLY: When it comes to our careers we’re pretty serious, I guess. Other artists we talk to are often surprised that our lingo is very business-oriented. But as to the music (and life in general)... we love having fun, interacting with the crowd while performing, and trying out new sounds in the recording studio. We try not to get too caught up in politics or drama, but we do stand up for what we believe, which is essentially being true to yourself even if people expect you to be, do or say something complicit.
ANDREW: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
WAKING UGLY I actually come from a fairly non-musical family. Thankfully, my parents have always supported my artistic endeavours.
ANDREW: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist? What do you find most challenging?
WAKING UGLY: It is such a gift to have something you are truly passionate about. At low altitudes of life music was sometimes the one thing that kept me going, gave me a sense of purpose. It's also enriched my existence with travel, interesting people, new challenges and new skills. I never, ever get bored because there’s always something to do! The most challenging thing about being an artist is the disparity between what you’re doing and what everyone else in the 'real world' is up to. Most of my friends are getting married, having kids, buying houses and so on. It’s hard for us to relate to each other sometimes. I’m very grateful that Darren and I are sharing this journey together, because even when nobody else gets it, we can still understand and support each other.
ANDREW: Who are your role models in music?
WAKING UGLY: I grew up in the eighties, so I’m very influenced by that era. I think Pat Benatar would have to be one of my favorite artists because she’s a great writer and a brilliant vocalist. As far as contemporary artists go, I’m blown away by Taylor Swift’s ability to write super-catchy melodies over and over again. She also has sweet vocals, gorgeous looks and meaningful lyrics, so I think she’s raised the bar for pop artists everywhere. I really like Pink, too. Pink might just about be the coolest person ever.
ANDREW: Describe your best or most memorable performance.
WAKING UGLY: Our EP release party was probably the best because we were so nervous before our set it was almost like being on stage for the first time again. There was this huge rush of adrenaline, followed by joy and relief that the show went well. Then we got to spend the rest of the night partying with our fans. It was one of the best nights of my life. We created a great atmosphere with a drag queen MC, and free drinks and door prizes, including an iPod. People still talk about it to this day.
ANDREW: Do you have a music video for your hit single? If so, what can you tell us about it?
WAKING UGLY: We do. The video shoot was a lot of fun and the final product got nominated for an award. We wanted to create the story of a romance between misfits, so the main characters are a zombie and an alien. We definitely learned a lot from the process and there are things we would have done differently. But it’s still a fun video that’s easy to watch and we’re happy about that.
ANDREW: What advice would you give to young, aspiring artists out there who are unsure and need guidance?
WAKING UGLY: Be prepared to work hard and have very little time for anything else. This path is extremely time-consuming, so you will need to be willing to sacrifice things like TV and hanging out with friends just so you can get things done. Also, you should be learning all the time! The more multi-faceted your skill set, the better equipped you’ll be as an independent artist. If I knew then what I know now, I would have spent my youth developing my expertise in media (film, photography, animation), business (book-keeping and marketing) and I.T. These are all essential! The rest of my time would have been spent developing my craft as a musician (playing instruments, writing music and lyrics and training my voice). Most importantly, you need to enjoy doing these things, because it’s all about the journey. If it sounds too difficult or boring, you should probably get a full time job and keep music as a hobby.
ANDREW: What's next for you as an artist? Is there a new single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
WAKING UGLY: We have completed all the production work for our debut full-length album, which is scheduled for release in October this year. So at the moment there is plenty of work for us to do in regard to that (new photos, video, artwork for the cover, etc.). The next single we’re planning to release from the album is called ‘Three Simple Words’. It’s about knowing someone cares for you and trying to get them to admit it; the three simple words being 'I love you'. It’s got a really catchy chorus and a fast tempo with an early Avril Lavigne feel to it (think Sk8r Boi).
ANDREW: Thank you so much for speaking with us about your music and plans for the future. We're certain that this year will bring many exciting milestones in your artistic journey!