Music

Ultra Q Treat the Band Like an ‘Art Project’

Mary Grace Ritter | The PhoenixChris Malaspina, Jakob Armstrong, Kevin Judd and Enzo Malaspina (left to right) of Ultra Q pose at Riot Fest on Sunday, Sept. 15.

Ultra Q may be new to the alternative music scene, with the release of its debut extended play (EP) “We’re Starting to Get Along,” but it’s ready to “full send” and dedicate time to music.

The California-based group, consisting of lead singer and guitarist Jakob Armstrong, bassist Kevin Judd, guitarist Enzo Malaspina and drummer Chris Malaspina, originally went under the name Mt. Eddy. As the members leave their late teens and enter their early 20s, they decided it was time for a change.

In the midst of playing their set and meeting artists they admire at Riot Fest on Sunday Sept. 15, the members huddled around a high table in the press tent trying to block out the sound of Against Me!’s set. They chatted with The Phoenix about the name change, goals as a band and a new album out February 31.

Mary Grace Ritter: You just dropped your new EP  — how does it feel to have it out?

All: Amazing, fantastic, oh my God.

Jakob Armstrong: We’ve been sitting on it for so long.

Kevin Judd: Working on it for so long.

JA: Working on it for so long, rather.

KJ: And the longer the songs aren’t out the more we hate the songs and want to change them. Not that we hate the songs, but the more we don’t like the way we recorded them.

JA: Well no, no, no I’d say it’s like the longer we have it the more —

Chris Malaspina: Ideas we come up with.

JA: By the time it came out I was already on the next thing, you know. My mind is already on the [next thing] so it’s hard for me to be in the moment of being excited about it. So it came out and we were just like, “Oh, woah it’s finally [out].”

KJ: “That’s crazy!”

JA: “It’s crazy,” but then it kinda brings it back when people are super excited about it. … We’re super proud of it.

MG: Very nice, how has fan response been to new music?

JA: I think its hard when we live with this stuff for so long to where it seems like super normal to us, all this crazy music that we’re trying to do. Where as, I think people are a little surprised by what we end up doing and our ideas.

KJ: It’s a big change of pace from Mt. Eddy.

JA: Yeah, it’s been good, it’s been good so far.

MG: That was actually going to be my next question — why the name change?

JA: Yeah pretty much, break it down, we weren’t going to be playing together for a long time because of school and such, so we decided to take a break. And then by the time we decided to come back together all of our music taste [had] changed so much and we [wanted] to challenge ourselves in more interesting ways, so it just kind of felt like time. If we were going to do it, we might as well do it now because we’re like 20 years old. It wasn’t really that we didn’t like Mt. Eddy or anything. It was more that our taste in music changed so much already since then.

KJ: And now that we’re done with school we can finally full send and really try to do this full time.

CM: [laughing] “full send.”

JA: That’s a great word, that’s a great phrase.

CM: Great vocabulary.

MG: Amazing. I’ll be sure to quote that.

KJ: OK, perfect.

CM: “Full send” -Kevin Judd

MG: So what are your goals going forward because, like you said, you have the time to do this?

CM: We got a stadium tour lined up next fall.

MG: Oh yeah, you’re actually headlining the Hella Mega Tour [with Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer].

JA: Ha!

CM: Yeah, right.

JA: Ha, no absolutely not. But I think in general we want to build up our local [scene]. We want to get back because we haven’t played locally in a long time and we really want to build up our local fanbase and our local scene, just play with our friends’ bands for a while. And then eventually we want to play a show in London so bad because people have been dying for it. So that’s on the horizon for sure. I don’t know, [turns to Enzo] do you have any goals?

Enzo Malaspina: Challenge ourselves. We need to make a new record and rebuild our streaming presence.

JA: Yeah, yeah definitely not as [many] people listen to Ultra Q as Mt. Eddy so far but I mean that’s bound to happen. … Our mindset isn’t “We’re the best band in the world! You have to check this out,” whatever. It’s all this stuff, all this music is really personal to us so we’re not trying to be in anyone’s face. We just kind of want people to enjoy what we find is challenging and interesting to us.

KJ: To piggyback off that, I feel like really our goal is to really build our live show. The recorded music is super important to us and that’s probably the biggest grind and most mental energy is spent there. But I think we’re all in agreement that probably the most fun part is the live show and getting people to rally up around some fun concert.

JA: Yeah, absolutely and I think our overall mindset is we want to treat our band like it’s an art project. In as far as everything you know music, merch, our videos, everything is like if it’s not how we want it and it’s not perfect, we’re not gonna do it.

CM: We’re really trying to go for this cohesive look and feel.

MG: What do you think shifted in the mindset going from Mt. Eddy to Ultra Q? If there was one.

JA: I think in general Mt. Eddy was sort of what we could do in our free time in high school and now Ultra Q is definitely more our full-time art project that we are very personally invested in.

KJ: In the last six months we’ve spent basically all our mental energy into this project.

JA: I’d say I started working on the first Ultra Q songs over a year ago. I mean obviously we didn’t know it was going to be a new band, but I was writing stuff and I was like, “this is definitely not Mt. Eddy. This is a new band.” So it’s been a mental grind. It’s really hard and it takes a really long time and often times we fail at it. We re-recorded the first song that we put out like three times.

CM: At least.

JA: Because we didn’t like it and we wanted to make it how we wanted it. And we’re going to do it again when we [laughs] you know, soon we’re going to do it again. So we’re constantly working on everything at all times, so it’s very tiring. But it’s really fun and we love it so.

MG: And then how did you land on the new band name?

JA: When I was a little kid I was into this thing, this show and they had action figures and toys called Ultra Man. … But then I found out that there’s a prequel series to it called Ultra Q … It has a bunch of monsters and stuff — Enzo’s also into that kind of stuff so we were nerding out on it and then we were like “let’s just name our band Ultra Q”… And it’s really cool to have a name because we are so bad at naming things.

CM: Terrible, horrible.

JA: The worst, the worst and it’ll take us forever, but it feels really good to have a name that we all love both where it comes from and what it means. And we love the history behind monsters and this TV show and we’re super into that kind of stuff. Practical effects.

CM: That’s right.

JA: Prosthetic heads.

[All laugh]

JA: Monster suits — you know, if you actually think about it, really interesting sculptural work from all the set designers and stuff.

CM: Pretty soon we’re gonna come out looking like GWAR.

MG: What’s it been like playing Riot Fest? And you’re also on tour with Bad Suns [and Liily] right now.

JA: Riot Fest this was one of my top shows ever.

MG: Really?

KJ: It was such a pleasant surprise.

JA: Yeah, we expected there to be 20 people at noon on Sunday to be at our set. And then all of a sudden we see a couple hundred people show up and we’re like, “Oh shit this is crazy.” Then we’ve kind of won because a very small percentage of those people actually knew who our band was, so it was really satisfying at the end to feel like we kind of won them over and got them to enjoy our music. So yeah, it was one of my favorite shows ever and then kind of one of the best days just walking around ever. Tour’s been so great like we’re really getting along with the guys in Liily. … We’re gonna be doing shows with them later, our own smaller shows. That’s kind of what we mean by building up the small local scene. We meet all these really cool people and then we’re gonna bring them home and have them do a show with us at Gilman [a venue in Berkeley, CA], which is gonna happen. It’s not announced, but it will happen.

KJ: And Bad Suns — they put on such an amazing show.

JA: Great show and we’re just super grateful that they decided to bring us out. We’re so lucky and it’s really cool.

KJ: Everyone’s just getting along so well on this tour.

JA: Yeah, it’s been a dream.

MG: So good. Is there anything you guys wanted to add or talk about that I didn’t touch on?

JA: I don’t know, man. I mean, we’re working on new music, it just takes a little bit of time.

KJ: Nothing to report I don’t think.

JA: Yeah, nothing to report. We’re not announcing anything.

EM: Album out Feb. 31.

JA: Album out tomorrow, check it.

KJ: We’ll record it tonight.

JA: Yeah, we’ll record it tonight on our drive home.

Ultra Q is available to stream on Apple Music and Spotify.

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