Ugly Lion
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Ugly Lion

Dallas, Texas, United States | INDIE

Dallas, Texas, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Reggae

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“Hear the lions roar!” singer Brandon Chustz quite literally roars on “Burn One,” the second song of Ugly Lion’s sophomore album, Roots of Revolution. The band from Texas formed in 2009 and is here to share their self-proclaimed “music with a conscience”; a message of free thought, unity of humanity, and peace.

Currently working on their third EP, Ugly Lion is also touring through the South and Midwest responding to demands of their ever-growing fan base. Through self-promotion, the group certainly has an effective marketing strategy, calling their followers their “pride” and “lions”, and naming their website “The Lion’s Den.” The names denote a certain camaraderie, which would appear to be exactly what the band is looking to do.

The album has all the elements of reggae one might expect. The themes of thanking Jah and taking down Babylon, which keeps society under its mind control, are ever present. Throughout all 6 songs on the EP, the rhythm accents the off-beats which are characteristic of the reggae genre. While “Burn One” starts out feeling like a rock song with its snazzy guitar riffs and minimal bass, it breaks off and slowly falls into the steady rhythm of reggae. The members of Ugly Lion definitely know how to play their instruments. Their talent shines on each track.

“Jah Lift Me Up” could be playing in the background while you relax on a beach with your drink or controlled substance of choice in hand. “My Enemy My Bredren” brings with it the message of forgiving your enemies, and bringing along peace wherever you go. The vocals on the album are on par throughout, very relaxing and in tune, with good vocal range. A female sings backup on a few songs- it brings a nice, unexpected layering of the vocals.

“Step Back” is a little more fast-paced and plays around with timing in a very enjoyable way. “Worriers” has some deep lyrics that leave you thinking: “I struggle with my own inner peace ‘cause I spent too much time looking over my shoulder wondering if this life’s going to catch up with me.”

Overall, Roots of Revolution is an album with a much visited, yet always needed message, great vocals, and excellent musicianship. Whether you’re a big fan of reggae or not, after a listen to Ugly Lion, you just might be, mon.



Key Tracks- Lion Pride, Step Back, Worriers

Christen LaFond - Muzikreviews.com Contributor
- muzicreviews.com


“Hear the lions roar!” singer Brandon Chustz quite literally roars on “Burn One,” the second song of Ugly Lion’s sophomore album, Roots of Revolution. The band from Texas formed in 2009 and is here to share their self-proclaimed “music with a conscience”; a message of free thought, unity of humanity, and peace.

Currently working on their third EP, Ugly Lion is also touring through the South and Midwest responding to demands of their ever-growing fan base. Through self-promotion, the group certainly has an effective marketing strategy, calling their followers their “pride” and “lions”, and naming their website “The Lion’s Den.” The names denote a certain camaraderie, which would appear to be exactly what the band is looking to do.

The album has all the elements of reggae one might expect. The themes of thanking Jah and taking down Babylon, which keeps society under its mind control, are ever present. Throughout all 6 songs on the EP, the rhythm accents the off-beats which are characteristic of the reggae genre. While “Burn One” starts out feeling like a rock song with its snazzy guitar riffs and minimal bass, it breaks off and slowly falls into the steady rhythm of reggae. The members of Ugly Lion definitely know how to play their instruments. Their talent shines on each track.

“Jah Lift Me Up” could be playing in the background while you relax on a beach with your drink or controlled substance of choice in hand. “My Enemy My Bredren” brings with it the message of forgiving your enemies, and bringing along peace wherever you go. The vocals on the album are on par throughout, very relaxing and in tune, with good vocal range. A female sings backup on a few songs- it brings a nice, unexpected layering of the vocals.

“Step Back” is a little more fast-paced and plays around with timing in a very enjoyable way. “Worriers” has some deep lyrics that leave you thinking: “I struggle with my own inner peace ‘cause I spent too much time looking over my shoulder wondering if this life’s going to catch up with me.”

Overall, Roots of Revolution is an album with a much visited, yet always needed message, great vocals, and excellent musicianship. Whether you’re a big fan of reggae or not, after a listen to Ugly Lion, you just might be, mon.



Key Tracks- Lion Pride, Step Back, Worriers

Christen LaFond - Muzikreviews.com Contributor
- muzicreviews.com


I know it’s only Thursday but the good Skope mgmt decided to give Stoli a 3 day weekend, who am I to complain? As many loyal readers know, Stoli does not listen to Top 40 radio. This next band just cements my logic for having no patience for manufactured music. When I first put in the new EP from Ugly Lion I got the chills. This group coming out of Dallas, TX is putting out music that not only sounds good but has a message. I caught up with Brandon to find out what’s up with Ugly Lion. We talk about everything from the lion as a symbol, reggae and revolution, and he even offers a free MP3 of “Worriers.” Tell the Skope mgmt that I am keeping this EP for myself!
Stoli: Where are we talking from and how was your summer?? ?Brandon: We are in Dallas Tx, Our summer was very productive. We took that time to tour through the southeast and Midwest. We had the opportunity to play at some    great venues with some of our most favorite Reggae artists on the scene.
Stoli: How did the six of you come together and form Ugly Lion??      ?Brandon: We all met 7 or 8 years ago through the Dallas/Austin reggae scene. Eventually all of our separate projects just morphed into what is now UGLY Lion.
Stoli: I must compliment on how impressed I was with your media kit. It really says a lot that not only are you serious about your music but your sales/marketing as well. How did you guys learn to make it takes much more than just music??      ?Brandon: Well it comes from years of doing things the wrong way. When we were first starting to play together we didn’t think past playing the songs. The truth is, there is a lot more to making a successful group. A professional image and attitude is just as important as being able to play your instrument and writing good songs. If you can’t show up on time and you have a bad attitude, you won’t make it far, and there is always room for improvement.
Stoli: What is the significance of the lion as a symbol and major animal of your music & reggae in general?? ?Brandon: First off, it holds deep significance Religiously. In personal sense we hold our character to that of a lion in strength, loyalty and courage. In Rastafari and Reggae in general the Conquering Lion is a symbol of Haile Selassie, the last king of the Tribe of Judah.    
Stoli: When you first started out how did you decide how Ugly Lion would be different from other reggae groups that have come before??  ?Brandon: We never thought about being different. We only wanted to stay true to who we are and let the music speak for itself.     
Stoli: Being that there are six of you, how do you keep it democratic or does one person rule creatively??     ?Brandon: When a song is being created, We all have equal input.Once the piece of music is put on the table everybody has a say in the process. That is the beauty of working with others, A song takes on a whole new personality that wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for all of us. We are Brothers, so When it comes down to the nitty  gritty we do whats best for the music and nobody takes any criticism personally
Ugly Lion “Worriers” MP3:
SKOPE IT HERE!
Stoli: Do you think that the stigma that marijuana and reggae go together is positive or negative and should the US consider legalization to boost the economy?? ?Brandon: It could be negative, because people that don’t partake can’t see past it. Reggae music is about reaching higher heights and for thousands of years different cultures have used Cannabis to get closer to G-D. As far as legalization, just look at the numbers.?      ?Stoli: Who are two other up & coming reggae bands/musicians do you respect & listen to??       ?Brandon: Soldiers of Jah Army & Groundation
Stoli: Do you do music full time or do you hold down regular jobs as well??    ?Brandon: This our #1 priority by any means necessary.
Stoli: I love your song, “Jah Lift Me Up.” Do you feel that songs like that can actually help people with depression and uplift them??       ?Brandon: You never know the wonders of music and the effect that it can have on a   person’s mental and emotional state. Everybody reacts differently to music. I hope that every song we write can lift up someone’s spirits and have a positive impact on their life.
Stoli: When you talk about “revolution” do you mean that in a musical or political sense??      ?Brandon: It’s more of a personal revolution than anything else, Its about freeing   yourself and fighting  down the Negative. 
Stoli: I believe the people need more music from Ugly Lion and less from this crap I hear on the radio. How can Skope readers help spread the buzz on Ugly Lion?? ?Brandon: They can sign up for our street team (The Pride), Get on our email list, Spread  the word of our Message.
Stoli: What is coming up for Ugly Lion and where are you at online?
Brandon: We are taking the winter to get settled, we just added a new member to the Pride. Our singer had a baby boy. So we are laying low till January, Then we will be headed to Nas - SkopeMagazine


I know it’s only Thursday but the good Skope mgmt decided to give Stoli a 3 day weekend, who am I to complain? As many loyal readers know, Stoli does not listen to Top 40 radio. This next band just cements my logic for having no patience for manufactured music. When I first put in the new EP from Ugly Lion I got the chills. This group coming out of Dallas, TX is putting out music that not only sounds good but has a message. I caught up with Brandon to find out what’s up with Ugly Lion. We talk about everything from the lion as a symbol, reggae and revolution, and he even offers a free MP3 of “Worriers.” Tell the Skope mgmt that I am keeping this EP for myself!
Stoli: Where are we talking from and how was your summer?? ?Brandon: We are in Dallas Tx, Our summer was very productive. We took that time to tour through the southeast and Midwest. We had the opportunity to play at some    great venues with some of our most favorite Reggae artists on the scene.
Stoli: How did the six of you come together and form Ugly Lion??      ?Brandon: We all met 7 or 8 years ago through the Dallas/Austin reggae scene. Eventually all of our separate projects just morphed into what is now UGLY Lion.
Stoli: I must compliment on how impressed I was with your media kit. It really says a lot that not only are you serious about your music but your sales/marketing as well. How did you guys learn to make it takes much more than just music??      ?Brandon: Well it comes from years of doing things the wrong way. When we were first starting to play together we didn’t think past playing the songs. The truth is, there is a lot more to making a successful group. A professional image and attitude is just as important as being able to play your instrument and writing good songs. If you can’t show up on time and you have a bad attitude, you won’t make it far, and there is always room for improvement.
Stoli: What is the significance of the lion as a symbol and major animal of your music & reggae in general?? ?Brandon: First off, it holds deep significance Religiously. In personal sense we hold our character to that of a lion in strength, loyalty and courage. In Rastafari and Reggae in general the Conquering Lion is a symbol of Haile Selassie, the last king of the Tribe of Judah.    
Stoli: When you first started out how did you decide how Ugly Lion would be different from other reggae groups that have come before??  ?Brandon: We never thought about being different. We only wanted to stay true to who we are and let the music speak for itself.     
Stoli: Being that there are six of you, how do you keep it democratic or does one person rule creatively??     ?Brandon: When a song is being created, We all have equal input.Once the piece of music is put on the table everybody has a say in the process. That is the beauty of working with others, A song takes on a whole new personality that wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for all of us. We are Brothers, so When it comes down to the nitty  gritty we do whats best for the music and nobody takes any criticism personally
Ugly Lion “Worriers” MP3:
SKOPE IT HERE!
Stoli: Do you think that the stigma that marijuana and reggae go together is positive or negative and should the US consider legalization to boost the economy?? ?Brandon: It could be negative, because people that don’t partake can’t see past it. Reggae music is about reaching higher heights and for thousands of years different cultures have used Cannabis to get closer to G-D. As far as legalization, just look at the numbers.?      ?Stoli: Who are two other up & coming reggae bands/musicians do you respect & listen to??       ?Brandon: Soldiers of Jah Army & Groundation
Stoli: Do you do music full time or do you hold down regular jobs as well??    ?Brandon: This our #1 priority by any means necessary.
Stoli: I love your song, “Jah Lift Me Up.” Do you feel that songs like that can actually help people with depression and uplift them??       ?Brandon: You never know the wonders of music and the effect that it can have on a   person’s mental and emotional state. Everybody reacts differently to music. I hope that every song we write can lift up someone’s spirits and have a positive impact on their life.
Stoli: When you talk about “revolution” do you mean that in a musical or political sense??      ?Brandon: It’s more of a personal revolution than anything else, Its about freeing   yourself and fighting  down the Negative. 
Stoli: I believe the people need more music from Ugly Lion and less from this crap I hear on the radio. How can Skope readers help spread the buzz on Ugly Lion?? ?Brandon: They can sign up for our street team (The Pride), Get on our email list, Spread  the word of our Message.
Stoli: What is coming up for Ugly Lion and where are you at online?
Brandon: We are taking the winter to get settled, we just added a new member to the Pride. Our singer had a baby boy. So we are laying low till January, Then we will be headed to Nas - SkopeMagazine


I felt a slight tingle of disappointment when I realized Ugly Lion’s set was next; I had never spent an Ugly Lion show anywhere but up in front of the stage dancing my ass off. But once the jams started up, people flooded the merch table for CDs and T-shirts and I realized that playing music is one of the most selfless acts of all time. Darkness filled the lot by this point and all that was visible was the silhouette of a sea of almost 3,000 people, one of the biggest Ugly Lion has ever played, bumping and grooving to one of my favorite bands. Seeing Ugly Lion play live is an experience I’m glad to share with anyone and everyone, and witnessing first hand how much first time listeners dug the sound, I realized that it was someone else’s turn to dance their ass off in front of the stage - dfdubreport.com


I felt a slight tingle of disappointment when I realized Ugly Lion’s set was next; I had never spent an Ugly Lion show anywhere but up in front of the stage dancing my ass off. But once the jams started up, people flooded the merch table for CDs and T-shirts and I realized that playing music is one of the most selfless acts of all time. Darkness filled the lot by this point and all that was visible was the silhouette of a sea of almost 3,000 people, one of the biggest Ugly Lion has ever played, bumping and grooving to one of my favorite bands. Seeing Ugly Lion play live is an experience I’m glad to share with anyone and everyone, and witnessing first hand how much first time listeners dug the sound, I realized that it was someone else’s turn to dance their ass off in front of the stage - dfdubreport.com


Dallas isn’t a place usually associated with reggae music or reggae culture. Hippies don’t roam the streets, independent vendors lining popular squares are nonexistent, and there are no big fields in which music lovers can congregate. However, Tuesday, October 13 will be a landmark day for the reggae scene in Dallas. Washington D.C.-based band SOJA is coming to The Green Elephant with Columbian trio Movement Vibe and local reggae innovators UGLY LION to play their first show ever in the great Lone Star State.

--Excerpt, Original Article by Christine Ricciardi - SMU Daily Campus / Pegasusnews.com


Dallas isn’t a place usually associated with reggae music or reggae culture. Hippies don’t roam the streets, independent vendors lining popular squares are nonexistent, and there are no big fields in which music lovers can congregate. However, Tuesday, October 13 will be a landmark day for the reggae scene in Dallas. Washington D.C.-based band SOJA is coming to The Green Elephant with Columbian trio Movement Vibe and local reggae innovators UGLY LION to play their first show ever in the great Lone Star State.

--Excerpt, Original Article by Christine Ricciardi - SMU Daily Campus / Pegasusnews.com




Walls vibrated and bass lines dropped hard last Tuesday night at The Green Elephant when reggae band Soldiers of Jah Army made their first appearance in the Lone Star State with special guests The Movement, Ugly Lion and Dr. Dubbist. The venue sold out of tickets and reached maximum capacity, creating refuge for 400 peace seeking fans.

Starting the evening was Dr. Dubbist, DJ Jacob Benenate from Austin. As the drummer for dub band Grimy Styles, Benenate spun his rendition of dub and soul music over chill and subtle techno beats. His song, “Tokyo Dub,” spliced a rickety synthesizer over tame guitar notes that were then complimented by notes on the keyboard modestly matched with the faint sound of popping bubbles.

Next to play was Ugly Lion, a local Dallas band comprised of lead singer and guitarist Brandon Chustz, bass player Kyle Atkinson, lead guitarist Mundo Zamora, drummer James Gottardi, keyboardist Mike McDonald and saxophonist Kevin Simon. After actively playing several gigs this summer, this performance topped them all. They opened with “Burn One Spliff,” uniting the bar in a passionate cry for equality as lead Chustz chanted “Here the lions roar! We won’t suffer no more!”

After that, Ugly Lion slipped into a sexy beach reggae tune called “Roots Music,” which featured Simon as he wailed on the sax. It’s no joke when they say, “After a long day, you might find a little Ugly Lion will unwind your mind from the confines of Babylon.”

Even though they squished seven people onto about half of the stage area, they rocked out as if they were standing in an empty field. Dreds were flailing, bodies were bouncing and the crowd felt captivated spiritually with every note played. This show also carried intrinsic value for the members of the band.

“The difference between tonight and any other show is that I get to open up for my favorite band in the world, SOJA,” said Gottardi. “Absolutely the best show of the year for me.”

The Movement Vibe from the East Coast performed the third slot on the bill. Their set rung of trippy echoes and peppy sunny-day songs including “Set Sail,” the title track to their first album. “To the Moon and Back,” an edgy reggae tune with spunky electric guitar riffs, was another highlight of their set so crisp, a recording of the song would immediately take you to the front row before the stage.

By the time SOJA took the stage, The Green Elephant was jam packed with people. The sincerity of the band was immediately apparent when they offered their newest album, Born In Babylon, for any named price and then followed up with a never before played song. The performance of their latest single, “I Don’t Wanna Wait,” was soothing yet choppy, cutting the lines of music in short spurts by keys and the snare drum.

During the break down of “Never Ever,” horns ran ramped and guitar notes dipped into insanity as the crowd appeared contaminated with ecstasy; eyes closed, hands up, dancing and shaking trying to let out the passion the music had put inside them. SOJA’s epic finale was “Here I Am,” an ingenious ballad weighing the differences between love and lust.

After the show, lead singer Jacob Hemphill was stoked about the turnout saying he could feel the truth behind the music that evening.

“Reggae means universal peace. It’s all about the smiles, the laughter and just having a good time,” he said. “I was hoping the crowd was going to be like this and I was right.”

Sources:

James Gottardi, drummer for Ugly Lion

Kyle Atkison, bass guitarist for Ugly Lion

Natalie Pietsch, works with Steven Hemphill

Bobby Thompson, guitarist for SOJA

Jacob Hemphill, lead singer and guitar for SOJA
- Envy Magazine/ Pegasusnews.com




Walls vibrated and bass lines dropped hard last Tuesday night at The Green Elephant when reggae band Soldiers of Jah Army made their first appearance in the Lone Star State with special guests The Movement, Ugly Lion and Dr. Dubbist. The venue sold out of tickets and reached maximum capacity, creating refuge for 400 peace seeking fans.

Starting the evening was Dr. Dubbist, DJ Jacob Benenate from Austin. As the drummer for dub band Grimy Styles, Benenate spun his rendition of dub and soul music over chill and subtle techno beats. His song, “Tokyo Dub,” spliced a rickety synthesizer over tame guitar notes that were then complimented by notes on the keyboard modestly matched with the faint sound of popping bubbles.

Next to play was Ugly Lion, a local Dallas band comprised of lead singer and guitarist Brandon Chustz, bass player Kyle Atkinson, lead guitarist Mundo Zamora, drummer James Gottardi, keyboardist Mike McDonald and saxophonist Kevin Simon. After actively playing several gigs this summer, this performance topped them all. They opened with “Burn One Spliff,” uniting the bar in a passionate cry for equality as lead Chustz chanted “Here the lions roar! We won’t suffer no more!”

After that, Ugly Lion slipped into a sexy beach reggae tune called “Roots Music,” which featured Simon as he wailed on the sax. It’s no joke when they say, “After a long day, you might find a little Ugly Lion will unwind your mind from the confines of Babylon.”

Even though they squished seven people onto about half of the stage area, they rocked out as if they were standing in an empty field. Dreds were flailing, bodies were bouncing and the crowd felt captivated spiritually with every note played. This show also carried intrinsic value for the members of the band.

“The difference between tonight and any other show is that I get to open up for my favorite band in the world, SOJA,” said Gottardi. “Absolutely the best show of the year for me.”

The Movement Vibe from the East Coast performed the third slot on the bill. Their set rung of trippy echoes and peppy sunny-day songs including “Set Sail,” the title track to their first album. “To the Moon and Back,” an edgy reggae tune with spunky electric guitar riffs, was another highlight of their set so crisp, a recording of the song would immediately take you to the front row before the stage.

By the time SOJA took the stage, The Green Elephant was jam packed with people. The sincerity of the band was immediately apparent when they offered their newest album, Born In Babylon, for any named price and then followed up with a never before played song. The performance of their latest single, “I Don’t Wanna Wait,” was soothing yet choppy, cutting the lines of music in short spurts by keys and the snare drum.

During the break down of “Never Ever,” horns ran ramped and guitar notes dipped into insanity as the crowd appeared contaminated with ecstasy; eyes closed, hands up, dancing and shaking trying to let out the passion the music had put inside them. SOJA’s epic finale was “Here I Am,” an ingenious ballad weighing the differences between love and lust.

After the show, lead singer Jacob Hemphill was stoked about the turnout saying he could feel the truth behind the music that evening.

“Reggae means universal peace. It’s all about the smiles, the laughter and just having a good time,” he said. “I was hoping the crowd was going to be like this and I was right.”

Sources:

James Gottardi, drummer for Ugly Lion

Kyle Atkison, bass guitarist for Ugly Lion

Natalie Pietsch, works with Steven Hemphill

Bobby Thompson, guitarist for SOJA

Jacob Hemphill, lead singer and guitar for SOJA
- Envy Magazine/ Pegasusnews.com


Discography

Roots Of Revolution EP -2010-
Evil's On The Rise EP -2013-

Photos

Bio

Ugly Lion is a dynamic four piece outfit from Dallas, Texas redefining progressive roots reggae with the provocative aggression typically associated with virtuoso rock and metal acts.
Since the group’s formation in 2009, Ugly Lion takes up the mantle of Peter Tosh and Bob Marley’s incendiary lyrical tradition openly questioning the establishment’s status quo and boldly challenging their audience to embrace the unequivocal need for global harmony.
This unapologetic approach has been rewarded with opportunities to share the stage with definitive artists such as The Original Wailers, SOJA, Collie Buddz. Cas Haley, The Melodians, The Mighty Diamonds, Tribal Seeds and The Movement. The Lions have also been privileged to share their message at prestigious U.S. festivals including Wakarusa, The Bricktown Reggae Festival, Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Festival and Bass Invasion at SXSW.

Reggae For The Concrete Struggle
With roots in ancient oppression, constructions of rebellion, musical ebb and flow, and a pounding rhythm; Ugly Lion invites you to bear witness to the power, persuasion and passion of a message capable of shattering mental and musical obstacles. Evil’s On The Rise contains a myriad of hip-hop and hard rock influenced reggae, as Brandon finds a lyrical style that matches the intent.

Their message is as old as time… to stand our ground against the forces that try to drive us further away from “live and let live,” combating the evil that is taught through choosing hate rather than acceptance and love. These songs are a call to action, to come together through music, and to live for peace. These songs are a vision of what we are facing today, and of what tomorrow should be.

Band Members