Underclaire has been making music together for more than ten years. They have shared the stage with acts such as Sparta, Living Sacrifice, Local H, Candlebox, Saliva, Corey Glover (Living Colour), Attack! Attack!, and The Kicks to name a few. Consistently putting out albums and playing regionally, they have made a name for themselves as a Little Rock, AR mainstay.
After spending the better part of 2009 in the studio, they released MAKING SKY on January 1st 2010. This 3rd full-length album was recorded at Poynter's Palace with Barry Poynter (2 Minutes Hate, The Julianna Theory, Living Sacrifice, HBO, South Park, etc) filling in on the bass guitar in addition to his usual Engineer/Producer duties. A different approach was applied to this projectï¿½it is a concept album that is lush, layered and polished (in comparison with the indie-rockish, stripped, minimal-overdub arrangement of 2004ï¿½s SMALLTOWN X). It is the story of twin siblingsï¿½brother and sister whose lives and luck take a turn for the worst. The cover art was provided by Canadian artist, Socar Myles (www.gorblimey.com).
Mike Mullins-guitar, vocals
Edison De Leon-guitar
Lights Out, Cairo (1999)
That's What Chemicals Can Do (2002)
Smalltown X (2004)
Making Sky (2010)
Underclaire spends time on Making Sky
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BENTON — In less than 16 hours, Underclaire will perform two of their minimalist alternative rock tu...BENTON — In less than 16 hours, Underclaire will perform two of their minimalist alternative rock tunes from their newest album Making Sky — the start-stop rush of "Belladonna" and the bass-powered swing of "Las Muertas" — acoustical on 100.3 The Edge.
So the quartet — Mike Mullins on guitar and vocals, Edison DeLeon on guitar, Rob Brackett on bass and Bryan Baker on drums (and gut-bustingly amusing stories) — have gathered on a Friday night in Mullins' garage turned rehearsal space with its scrap-carpeted walls. Dimly illuminated by a solitary light bulb nakedly projecting from the ceiling and a string of blue Christmas lights, the space has an added wall in front of the unemployed garage door in order to better soundproof the room and prevent Underclaire’s sometimes fierce rock from disturbing the neighborhoods in this otherwise quiet, wooded cul-de-sac in a Benton neighborhood.
But acoustically armed, the outfit's decibel creation is less intense as they recline in a rough circle, with Mullins settled in a rolling office chair, bent over his acoustic guitar and busily keeping time with Baker's high-hat beat with a unremitting foot tap. Brackett stands, swaying with the beat, while an also seated DeLeon coaxes muted notes from his acoustic guitar and Mullins sings about "Let's finish this before I shoot to kill."
"We haven't practiced in a week, and we're not an acoustic band," said DeLeon after they finish a one-and-done rehearsal of each tune before switching to the heavy artillery of electric instruments, plugging in and offering guests earplugs.
Over the course of the next 120 minutes — including a break to discuss the band's music and the recording of Making Sky, and for Baker to deliver a chain of riotous anecdotes — Underclaire will charge through their current setlist, preparing for a New Year's Day CD release party at Sticky Fingerz. The series of tunes rely heavily on tunes from Making Sky such as the aforementioned "Belladonna" and "Las Muertas," and the funky New Wavish rock of "The Nightingale" and the ringing chords and rumbling drums of "Sin! Sin! with Mullins singing, "Sin you listen/Sin you speak," while also incorporating older tunes, such as the staccato rhythm of the title track from their 2004 sophomore album Smalltown X.
Underclaire’s music is smart, muscular rock, alternating between the sonic textures of DeLeon’s chiming guitar and thick chunks of upper-neck riffs from Mullins, with Baker either ferociously attacking his drums or gently layering a tune with cymbal rides, and Brackett continuously pumping out foundation-holding bass notes. It's guitar rock, incorporating minimal lyrics and avoiding the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus song structure, and influenced by bands such as The Beatles, emotions such as anger and even the cover of Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood.
"I was really into that cover," Baker said. "When I saw the cover of Dr. Feelgood, I wanted to do that."
While Smalltown X was devoid of bass guitar, Making Sky includes the bass playing of producer Barry Poynter, who recorded the album with the band from January to September 2009 at his Poynter’s Palace studio. With Poynter’s bass playing on the album and Brackett’s bass playing live (He joined the band after moving to Benton from Brownstown, Mich.), Underclaire sounds at times similar to a less-experimental At The Drive-In, with a rampaging musical assault but atmospheric open spaces, and music that transitions from a whisper to a roar in the crack of a drumstick. The band itself has described Making Sky as a more layered creation, with Mullins and Poynter adding keyboards, and Mullins and DeLeon including several guitars on some tracks.
"We just decided to do something different," Mullins said. "With the first album [1999's Lights Out, Cairo] we were a normal rock band. We wrote all the songs [on Making Sky] as a three piece, and decided 'Let's not make the same record we did last time.'"
With four years between the release of their second album and the recording of their third album, Underclaire played a number of live shows, steadily writing tunes along the way, and then reworking those same tunes.
"It takes us a while to write songs," said Mullins, noting "Belladonna" first surfaced in 2005. "Sometimes the songs just come out. Sometimes we might have the whole song written and then go, 'Eh.'"
Underclaire begin its musical career in the late ’90s as a mega-decibel heavy rock band that won a New Music Monday competition at Vino's, and the former howl of the band resurfaces in the 12 tracks and 43 minutes of Making Sky. A couple of songs on the album — "Bullet Train" with its Pink Floyd-like bass and the ballad "Dead Lights" — are mostly instrumental pieces with scant lyrics, but the album's title track is a four-minute, tension filled outburst of squiggly guitar breaks and a rolling thunder of drums, and "Black Swan" is a cataclysmic loud/soft/loud/soft onslaught with Mullins stating: "Here it comes/With white knuckles, white noise."
It's a dynamic album of lush melodies and aggressive riffs filled with slight surprises. It's serious music for a serious time, and even Baker, the band's resident joker, ultimately knows that's the purpose of Underclaire.
"We take ourselves seriously," he said. "We express ourselves honestly."
See the show:
Underclaire will be holding a CD release party for Making Sky at Sticky Fingerz on Friday with the music kicking off at 9 p.m. with opening acts The Breakthrough, and Brother Andy and His Big Damn Mouth. Cover is $5, or a $10 cover includes admission and a copy of Making Sky.
Underclaire parties on 'hangover day'
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LITTLE ROCK — Little Rock alt-rockers Underclaire have plans to start 2010 the right way. They’ve ...
LITTLE ROCK — Little Rock alt-rockers Underclaire have plans to start 2010 the right way. They’ve got a fine new CD, Making Sky, and are celebrating its release with a show Friday at Sticky Fingerz.
... See More
“We’re releasing the record on Jan. 1. It’s national hangover day,” says Underclaire’s Mike Mullins. “I like that.”
It’s fitting, since the self-released Making Sky took most of 2009 to produce. Guitarist/singer Mullins and the rest of Underclaire - drummer Bryan Baker, guitarist Edison De-Leon and new bassist Rob Brackett - recorded the 12-song cycle over 10 months with producer Barry Poynter, who has been behind the board for all three of the band’s LPs.
Why so long? A number of factors, Mullins says.
“We recorded it on weekends when we had time off from our jobs and whatnot. We also had to work around Barry’s schedule.”
Poynter’s studio work has appeared on TV shows like South Park and on HBO series like Six Feet Under, Deadwood and others. He also has a list of bands he has produced about as long as a Bill Clinton speech. And that’s Poynter playing bass on Making Sky.
Having new toys and technology to play around with at Poynter’s Palace studio in Maumelle was also a factor in the time it took to record.
“We used Pro Tools,” Mullins says, referencing a popular recording software. “There are a lot of things you can nitpick with and polish in this controlled environment.”
The extensive studio time also gelled with the album’s overall vibe. Mullins says the band wanted to get away from 2004’s indie-rockish Smalltown X and experiment with a larger, more produced sound.
“The last album was so stripped down. This time we wanted to do something the opposite,” Mullins says.
The result is a sweeping, bouncy, sometimes dramatic collection of layered and wellcrafted songs.
It’s also a bit of a concept album. The songs tell the story of brother and sister twins who are having a rough go of it.
“The first six songs are from his perspective and the second six are from her perspective,” Mullins says. Seems the brother is in a bad relationship, there is a suicide and the sister goes off on a killing spree.
Grim-sounding themes for sure, but the music surrounding the story is hooky pop with an edge. The album ranges from the radio sweetness of “Las Muertas” to the loud/soft/loud aggression of “Black Swann.”
The title cut is also a standout.
“We’re all fond of the title cut,” Mullins notes. “It has all the right elements of a good title song.”
Mullins comes up with the lyrics, but “we all compose and arrange the songs. The band is a total democracy, for sure.
One person doesn’t call all the shots.”
A Virginia native, Mullinsstarted Underclaire after meeting original drummer Matt Kuntzman while the two were in the Army. Kuntzman talked Mullins into coming to Arkansas when they were discharged and Underclaire was born.
Kuntzman would return to the service, but Mullins kept on with the band, and Underclaire’s debut, Lights Out Cairo, showed up in 1999.
Mullins says the band has plans for Making Sky. Along with Friday’s show, the group will play Jan. 29 at the Whitewater Tavern in Little Rock. There are also dates in St. Louis and Austin, Texas.
“In the past, we’ve done one or two shows out of town. But with this big-sounding record we wanted to push it and say, ‘Let’s go further than we’ve ever tried.’ We’re hitting the market and trying to see what we can do.”Music Who: Underclaire CD release party with opening acts Andy Warr and His Big Mouth and The Breakthrough When: 9 p.m. Friday Where: Sticky Fingerz, 107 S.
Commerce St., Little Rock How much: $5; $10 admission includes CD (501) 372-7707 stickyfingerz.com
This article was published today at 2:56 a.m.
Style, Pages 31 on 12/29/2009
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Underclaire represents for the resilient. The day after the whole world's gone crazy all night long,...Underclaire represents for the resilient. The day after the whole world's gone crazy all night long, the local quartet celebrates the release of its new album, “Making Sky,” with another party. Consider it a hangover cure. Underclaire, on this third album, continues to put its two-guitar-pronged attack — of Mike Mullins and Edison DeLeon — out in front, with striking lines that weave and build and come crashing together in anthemic ways. Mullins, who also writes the band's lyrics and sings, wraps everything around a song-cycle about fraternal twins. Relationship problems, a suicide and a killing spree factor in, but the darkness doesn't overwhelm the band's warm instrumental approach. The always impressive Andy Warr and His Big Damn Mouth opens along with Breakthrough. Down the road, Underclaire takes its CD release tour to White Water on Friday, Jan. 29.
Homespun records Many bands these days are producing their own CDs, so they’ll be free to make music the way they want to,
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Once upon a time, a band was dreaming big when it dreamed of making a record. That dream included s... Once upon a time, a band was dreaming big when it dreamed of making a record. That dream included selling the record in stores, and not just the hometown outlet but the national chain that carried the Rolling Stones and all the rest of the requisite best sellers. Guess what? Today the dream comes true with unalarming regularity for hordes of Arkansas bands and musicians, from rockers to rappers and genres in between. These dreamers don’t have to have connections to a major label or even connections to a regional label. All they have to have is some money and access to recording equipment in their own home or in a studio. Underclaire, a Little Rock rock trio, has just released its second CD, Smalltown X. The band paid for the studio time and the printing costs. The result is 1,000 copies of Smalltown X that Underclaire intends to sell itself. There was little thought of trying to get an outside organization of any size to distribute Underclaire’s new record. "When we started playing in ’97, that was the whole point," says Underclaire’s Mike Mullins of shopping for a label. "I’ve become jaded about the business. It seems like more of who you know these days. The music is for us and so we put it out ourselves." Underclaire is hardly alone. This year has seen new CDs by noted Arkansas bands such as Mulehead and the American Princes (released on Little Rock’s small Max Recordings label), The Salty Dogs, Amy Garland and Fayetteville’s Woods Afire. The venerable Ho-Hum, which releases its CDs on its own Playadel label, has just put out Now I (Heart) You, the band’s sixth album since 1997’s Sanduleak. Then there are the various hip-hop records, which seem to be more plentiful than ever. Official 1 Records, a small label that operates out of the downtown Little Rock home of producer Dameon Thompson, has recently put out Bangin’ to Ballin’, the soundtrack for the HBO documentary Gang War II: Back to the Hood.
SOUND FROM HOME
It is clear most musicians based in the state who haven’t gone off to seek fame and fortune elsewhere now consider making a CD just standard operating procedure. Like playing live shows, a CD is another way to put your music in more ears. "I don’t really know any other way to do it," says singersongwriter Amy Garland, who has just put out her second fulllength album, Angora. "I guess you can have somebody else pay for it and be signed to a [label ]. But if you wait for that to happen, you won’t ever release anything." The do-it-yourself aesthetic also appeals to independentminded musicians. "You get into music because you want people to hear it," says Mullins. "But by doing it ourselves there are things we don’t have to compromise. Having the cover art the way you want it is important. The lyrics are important. I wouldn’t compromise those things." Burt Taggart, 30-year-old manager of Max Recordings, has seen the technology shift from vinyl records to CDs and seen the cost of making music decrease. "I had a hand in File 13 about a dozen years ago," notes Taggart. "That label documented what was going on in punk rock bands from that era. I helped run that label for a few years. We dealt with 45 vinyl records then because that’s what was cheapest." Improvements in technology also mean that more home studios with decent recording equipment are popping up. Garland recorded Angora on equipment owned by her bass player, Mike Nelson. Underclaire decided to take a more expensive route and record at Barry Poynter’s Little Rock studio. Since all the members of Mullins’ band have day jobs, the record had to be made in piecemeal fashion, a couple of hours at a time. "We had to work it around Poynter’s schedule and our schedules," notes Mullins. "We started in February and finished in August." Once the music is recorded, a master is sent off to one of several CD reproduction companies that can, for a price, produce hundreds or thousands of copies. For Smalltown X, Mullins asked for 1,000 copies, which he says is a "standard number." It was the same amount the band ordered for its debut 1999 album, lights out, cairo. Mullins acknowledges that it took several years for Underclaire to break even on lights out, cairo. He expects Smalltown X to be no different. Garland asked for 500 copies of Angora and says the decision on a smaller number was purely a "financial one." Thanks to computer graphics programs, these self-released CDs can have a professional look. Sitting in a CD bin, Underclaire or Ho-Hum’s latest won’t look out of place next to nationally released albums by Simple Plan or Green Day. So, in this respect, the playing field is level.
SELLING THE HARD WAY
Sophisticated technologies might bring these CDs to life, but units are sold through outlets and avenues that haven’t changed since the first rock bands dreamed of big money. Musicians still sell a bulk of their CDs at live shows. After the initial record release party, sales at gigs in clubs will drop. Independent record stores are the next big target. John Harris, who has operated Little Rock’s Been Around Records for 24 years, has seen a definite increase in the CDs generated by local bands. "Sales of those kinds of CDs are sporadic," notes Harris. "I’d have to say the most popular ones here are Ho-Hum and Amy Garland. Mulehead was a good seller for a while." In central Arkansas, Been Around Records, Arkansas CD and Record Exchange, Blank Generation and Anthro-Pop, run by Ho-Hum’s Rod Bryan, are where most self-released records will wind up. "I’ve taken [my CDs] to Been Around Records and Arkansas CD and Record Exchange," Garland says. "We’ll sell them through Anthro-Pop, too." In Fayetteville, the independent store, Clunk Records, is the place to look for self-produced work. "They’re usually less expensive [to buy] because of the middleman cut-out," notes Chris Selby of Clunk Records. "Woods Af ire and Paper Hearts sell pretty well here. I sold some of Wildwood’s CDs. Wildwood is a bluegrass jam band." Self-released CDs will generally sell for $10 or less compared to major label CDs, which are normally priced at $12 or more. Musicians are also finding luck with certain chain stores. "This time I discovered that Hastings sells on consignment," notes Mullins. "They put a bar code on [the CD] and everything." Some chain outlets have stopped consignment sales. The CD Warehouse on Little Rock’s Rodney Parham Road doesn’t take self-released CDs any more because of mix-ups on who would be collecting money made. At CD Warehouse, hip-hop from Little Rock rapper Ball Jones and CDs on the Official 1 and Ball Hawg labels sell well. Even a label like Max Recordings went the consignment route for a while. Now Taggart and his bands have a deal with Memphis’ Select-O-Hits, a national distributor to independent record stores.
ON TO THE NEXT ONE
For Garland and Mullins, who work without a label, the best way to reach audiences outside of the Arkansas borders is through the Internet. Mullins says Underclaire will try to move copies of Smalltown X through its Web site, www.underclaire.com. The basic truth is that unless a listener is exposed to a song through radio or sees a band at a concert he isn’t likely to take a chance on buying a new CD. As a result, nobody making CDs at this level expects to strike it rich. "You don’t do it to make a living," says Taggart. "Unfortunately, I won’t be moving out of my home office anytime soon." The rewards come in other areas. "When you open up the first box [of CDs] and you see the result of a lot of hours worth of turmoil and you finally see something real and physical, that’s a good moment," notes Taggart. It’s not as if Smalltown X, Angora or any of the CDs under the Max Recordings label won’t sell. Though it may take years and lots of trudging back and forth to record stores, those thousand discs that arrive in boxes will slowly disappear. And what do these musicians do with the money they make? "You keep the money to pay for the next one," says Garland.
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"Now this isn’t the Underclaire I remember. True, it has been a while, but I recall a bracing, willf..."Now this isn’t the Underclaire I remember. True, it has been a while, but I recall a bracing, willfully difficult Little Rock squad that dropped guitar clank and scrape on your brainpan like it was medicine they thought you needed. This Underclaire — Michael Alan Mullins, Bryan Allen Baker and Edison Siongco DeLeon — has developed a relationship with song structure, dramatic tension and modulation. In other words, Smalltown X pulls you in and holds you. The guitars are still what turn these boys on — even if the instruments are in an autumnal mode here — and the lyrics are just some non sequiturs to spout to in between riffage. Just when you think Underclaire might be fading toward the end, "The Memory of Water" puts a seriously lush exclamation point on the project. Welcome back. A-" — WERNER TRIESCHMANN (Arkansas Democrat Gazette)
That's What Chemicals Can Do
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underclaire's EP is reviewed by the Arkansas Free Press. by "Scottish" Brian . That's what ch...underclaire's EP is reviewed by the Arkansas Free Press.
by "Scottish" Brian
. That's what chemicals can do. Whit? Make ye furget ye werr suppose tae be at wurk? So Edison, their guitar player fuckt me ower. Nae hard feelins though. The disc has some astoundin' moments aw be it in different songs. Ah sometimes wish it was mair straight oan. Thair is so much melody in thair it's hard tae distingwish werr it's comin' frae. If Underclaire get solid in the root of who and whit and werr they want tae be they will surely become huge. Oanly mibbe no in Arcane-saw. Mibbe in anuther toon mair open tae experimental pop. Cause even though Underclaire are a great band they don't make it easy for ye tae like them. Ye need repeatit listens and when it aw comes thegether for ye, yer like, "ya mug ye, if oanly Ah had listenit harder," or sumthing like that. STASH.
Little Rock bands Underclaire, Sweetland make sweet sounds
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Underclaire, Lights Out, Cairo; self-released "Whoa. I'm trying to think about the great guitar r...Underclaire, Lights Out, Cairo; self-released
"Whoa. I'm trying to think about the great guitar records I've heard in the last year or so. There was that Built to Spill and the Sleater-Kinney and, well, put this local band on the list. The thundering riffs work because they are tied to great structures in solid songs. "Hurricane" gives off chills. "The Last Smile" ends with a whirlpool of glistening shards. There are times when the choppy heavy metal gets to be too much and the darkness gets a little too dark. But mostly Underclaire stomps its way to a remarkable finish. A- -- Werner Trieschmann (Arkansas Democrat Gazette)
Rooting for the underclaire
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Live, Underclaire plays with abandon. The guitars scream, the drums quake, and the bass rumbles. Luc...Live, Underclaire plays with abandon. The guitars scream, the drums quake, and the bass rumbles. Luckily they were able to capture that in the studio. They've only tamed what needed to be tamed like you can hear the vocals now, and Mullins has turned out to be quite a gifted writer. His songs aren't just about your average rock and roll stuff, he takes it to another level, as does the rest of the band. Brian Baker has the ability to take his drumming to an almost too busy height and pull it back at just the right moment. Guitarist Edison deLeon knows his shit. he can play the most fragile, dainty riff and in the next moment crush it under a blur of deafening distortion. Josh Faulkner is the best kind of bass player. You don't notice him until you are supposed to.
So, let me summarize. Underclaire is a good rock band. they are coming out with a CD (Lights Out, Cairo) that in, in the words of Wesley Willis, is gonna "whip the race horses ass with a leather belt."
Lights Out, Cairo
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Thursday, Feb. 24, 2000 I love the sound of loud ringing guitars! There is something amazingly up...Thursday, Feb. 24, 2000
I love the sound of loud ringing guitars! There is something amazingly uplifting about the crazy interaction of dueling guitar frequencies and all the subtle nuances made in that free high-end chaos.
Underclaire's debut disc Lights Out, Cairo...is a stunner from start to finish. With the opening shots of the first track-"The Direction", to the beautiful quiet of-"hurricane", it is very obvious that Underclaire has staked out a beautiful sonic territory full of amazing dynamics. You get a sense from listening to this disc that the members of the band have been in the trenches and that the songs they sing are full of the life experiences of their various members. They seem to be close to the march, and visions of battle seem to creep into the auditory brain stem. Who do they sound like? Well, Mike Mullins sings like he might have listened to everyone from Led Zep to Bush, but his voice is definitely his own and it blends well with those loud-ass guitars that crunch like bombs. So check and sit back in amazement as their music rocks the whole world.
Pretentious Ears: CD Reviews
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Underclaire “Lights Out, Cairo ...” (Independent) Arkansas’ Underclaire wraps melody around em...Underclaire
“Lights Out, Cairo ...”
wraps melody around emotive
power and presents it
in an indie/alt-rock package
that reveals some flair
for songwriting. There’s a
certain timelessness to it,
in that this band — if you
didn’t know better — could
hail from the classic alt
scene just as easily as it
could today’s rock scene.
It doesn’t back itself into a
corner. It’s modern without
being trendy. It’s unassuming
— which by no means
translates as weak. The
band simply has nothing to
prove. It’s not pushy or egodriven.
It makes the music
it makes, the music it feels,
and lets the music speak
for itself. Underclaire is
softspoken without being
soft. It’s energetic without
invoking the punk gods.
It’s found a happy median
that conveys the feelings
at the hearts of the songwriters
cheer or morbid brooding.
It’s reflective of the human
condition in that way. And,
finally, the layers of the
songwriting are brought
out in production that is
slightly soft but allows the
music to breathe without
becoming excessively airy.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.