Elvis Le: bad-ass guitarist
And his band Ugly rips, too
Get over the name, which happens to be Ugly. Let’s get down to the real facts. And for the sake of a good story, we’ll start with the guitarist, Elvis Le. Yeah. Elvis Le. Just picture a guy named Elvis Le and you pretty much have the idea. He’s an Asian dude, if that helps. Well, his showy stage presence (think Jimi Hendrix meets Lord of the Dance’s Michael Flatley) and eccentric persona (Slash meets the Dalai Lama) are everything a VH1 Behind the Music is made of, minus (maybe) tragic death.
Ugly’s singer, Adam McIntire-Hull, recalls the fateful day he first came across the guitarist: He was at The Beat record store with a friend when they noticed a crumpled up piece of paper taped to the wall outside. In handwritten chicken scratch, they could barely make out a message that read: “Badass Guitarist.” The combination of elementary design, barely legible writing and words crossed out right on the flier was intriguing enough to warrant a closer inspection. After all, the flier looked more like a lunatic’s manifesto than a “guitarist seeks band” ad.
In smaller, kindergartner scroll, the ad continued, saying something like, “I’ve been playing for years and I’m fucking bad-ass.”
“So we called him … not even thinking we would hook up,” McIntire-Hull said.
Well, they did hook up. And when they got to Le’s apartment, McIntire-Hull knew he’d found his guitarist.
“We go to his little studio apartment, and he’s got this huge Marshall amp in there, and he’s fucking shredding for us and we’re like, ‘Wow, dude, you are tight.’ His apartment is a mess, but he lives for that amplifier,” he said.
But even without Le (God forbid), Ugly is an intriguing band. There’s McIntire-Hull’s gift of storytelling, matched with vocal distortion and insanely catchy hooks and just enough throatiness to keep the music interesting; and there’s Ugly’s new addition, Nick Kellermann, who adds the momentum of electronica with keyboards and thumping bass. Finally, there’s Jonny Shidler, who pounds way too hard on the drums. It all adds up to an ultra-radio-friendly sound without being too poppy. Really, Ugly is as sustainable as it is eccentric.
Only thing is, they’re technically rap rock, which in most metropolitan areas of our country is kind of a fashion faux pas. Like when Nicolas Cage wears leather pants. The band, however, is certainly smart (and good) enough to stare such a stigma in the face and kick its ass out of town.
“There have been a lot of rap-rock bands that have been out there, but the singers weren’t emcees before they started singing, so their lyrics—or their rap style—comes off kind of weak,” says McIntire-Hull, who speaks like a true emcee, rather than a rock singer who’s just stumbled onto hip-hop. That’s because the majority of his experience is in hip-hop, stemming from a four-year run with the now-defunct Sacramento group The Cawz, which developed a loyal fan base and a national name for themselves as some of the fiercest emcees in Northern California rap.
And genre, anyway, is one of those things that only matters if your music sucks (e.g., if it weren’t for emo, Fallout Boy would just be a gang of beautiful tattooed men).
“I’ve had people call it rock, and that’s fine with me,” McIntire-Hull said. “It’s the same shit if you ask me.”
But there are always going to be fickle hip-hop fans who don’t understand rock-infused hip-hop, a sentiment they readily express to McIntire-Hull. “They didn’t know what we were doing,” he said. “But once they hear it, they understand.”
So, really, before you write off Ugly as a flash-in-the-pan cheese fest and file them in the Limp Bizkit receptacle, go straight to www.myspace.com/uglydaughter and have a listen. Seriously, I mean right now. Don’t even read the rest of this newspaper. Not even the porn in the back. Go on.