SPOTLIGHT SOUNDS: UGLY NATE
Nate Herrera has been releasing music under the moniker Ugly Nate for years, but the name now stands for five members instead of one.
Ugly Nate was brought together in April of 2022 to perform for UIC Radio’s “Battle of the Bands,” a student event which brings musicians and music enthusiasts together for a night of expression. Prior connections via friendships, media platforms, and earlier jazz bands brought the group together, which added to their dynamic and musical expertise.
Their jazz background has led to an interesting spin on their already unique sound. When it comes to live shows, their drummer Japneet Chhabra exclaims how they love to improve sections on stage. “If we’re doing some transition between songs, which we do a couple times, Zach will play a couple chords and Cole will come in with the bass and Matthew will play the keys. I’ll be like oh let’s put this drum beat on this.”
Matthew Aggari, who plays keys for the group, adds that every time they play a show it’s never exactly the same, to which Cole Burrell, the bassist says, “If you’ve seen Ugly Nate once, come again. It’s gonna sound different because we like reflect with the crowd.”
One way that Ugly Nate showcases this is by transitioning their songs into hits by other artists like King Crule to amp up the spirit of the crowd.
And listeners have certainly been coming back. Since the birth of Ugly Nate in the beginning of 2022, the group has performed roughly 15 gigs and more to come. According to lead singer Nate, “We played like every week over the summer.” With the immense amount of growth in outings, they’ve felt equal amounts of growth as a team. Nate believes that their synergy has made an evident evolution. Japneet agrees stating that during the battle of the bands they were still figuring out things like how to stand, but now their overall showmanship has increased. “I think it comes with like more experience on stage we become more comfortable.”
They mention how playing more has not only prepared them in confidence, but also shown them how to keep the show rolling through unexpected obstacles.
“The more we play the more we run into sort of unique situations that kind of force us out of our comfort zone. There’s been a couple shows where my keyboard stops working, and so for my songs I just sing and it forces me to try moving around the stage,” Matthew remarks.
The vibrant antics of both sound and performance of Ugly Nate gives way to a promising future, which the musicians within the gang can all acknowledge. “I see the potential,” remarks Cole, “I’ve been in bands where I don’t feel respected as a musician or I don’t really like the vision. But literally like the first or second practice with these guys I was like ‘nah I see the potential here and I see where we’re going.’ I see the vision of everyone, I see the talent of all of us and I think it could really go places.”
One of their biggest sources of confidence also comes from the bands around them.
“My favorite is when like when someone from a band that plays really good is like ‘Yo you guys like killed it’ and I just listened to them kill it,” Nate explains. Fellow bands like Sweet Hudson “really look out for us.’’
As Matthew elaborates, “When I’m like playing stuff live and I’m thinking of other places to like draw inspiration from lowkey like sometimes I just look at like other bands we play with and I just like draw inspiration from them.” The other groups they’ve played alongside serve as inspiration as well as encouragement.
Fans of Car Seat Headrest, Foxtide, and Alex G might be drawn to the band with their aspects of rock, use of warm summer-y sounding scales, and a hint of nostalgic electric elements. For new listeners, catchy tracks like “Heartline” and “Feelings Hurt” off of their most recent album Dream Sequence, help encapsulate the overarching themes of their music. As for the band’s personal favorite tracks, Nate explains that “My favorite wouldn’t be one I want them to start at.” Aimed at songs like “Requiem” which is experimental but well loved by its players. Cole gives input on the song saying, “I also like “Requiem” because it’s a 7 minute long song and when venues are like ‘one more we don’t have much time left one more’ we’re like *hand clap* ‘alright we’re playin this one.’”
Overall, Dream Sequence takes us by the hand through a playful mix of soft lullabye-esque melodies and blocky percussive beats. A sweet tie is formed between lighthearted innocence with the mellow tone of growing up. All elements are blended together through smooth soothing vocals, bass, and synth keys which lay a soft bed for the shining drums and string plucks. It surely lives up to its namesake with a wide dynamic. Those tuning in will find themselves in whimsical theatrical states through songs like “For You” and “Counting down the days” only to be dancing to the buoyancy of “Heartline,” and “Feelings Hurt.” A mix of both can be found within the intense builds and fullness of “Comforter” and “Manic Pixie Dream,” and later finishing the experience with a summary from “Requiem.” Ugly Nate truly holds something for everyone.