SXSW Picks 2 Click 2007

The Ugly Beats' Bandstand pledge: It's got a good beat, and you can dance to it

SXSW Picks 2 Click 2007
Photo By Mary Sledd

Ugly Beats

Joe Emery, frontman for Sixties-flavored garage rockers the Ugly Beats, loves to talk about other people's music.

Instead of promoting his own band as interviewee, the guitarist/vocalist excitedly talks up all the other bands that have inspired him over the years. Bands like the Beau Brummels, the Sonics, the Real Kids, and the Cynics, the latter of whom Emery can now address as labelmates. In fact, Emery and drummer Stephen Austin are proud to call themselves the Cynics' rhythm section at the Get Hip Recordings SXSW showcase.

"The Cynics are one of my all-time favorite bands, and I'm thrilled just to see them, let alone play with them," gushes Emery.

Reverence is the X-factor in the Ugly Beats' ability to capture the hip-shaking teen canteen vibe in a fresh, immediate way that never sounds like canned nostalgia. You won't hear the Ugly Beats cover obscure singles like the Easybeats' "I'll Make You Happy" unless Emery is sure they can "do it justice."

Born in 2003 from the remnants of Austin's Sir Finks, the Ugly Beats marshaled their collective retro-rock prowess to turn back the clock. Between class covers and bop-driven originals like "I'm the One" and "Girl on the Brain," the Beats' set list embodies the old Bandstand Rate-a-Record standard: It's got a good beat, and you can dance to it.

"We played in Corpus last week and had a really good time," says Emery. "At the end of the night, the club owner was saying, 'You guys don't understand. People never dance here! It's very strange for people to be dancing!'"

The Beats 2005 Get Hip debut, Bring on the Beats!, earned its exclamation point by capturing the band's potency in digital form (Phases & Stages, February 11, 2005). Eschewing pay-by-the-hour studios, the band recorded Bring on the Beats! at Emery's house with Bad Rackets' guitarist Bob Widenhofer producing.

"About four or five years ago, I bought some recording equipment, just enough to be dangerous," Emery jokes. "I got good advice on what to buy, but I discovered pretty quickly that I'm not really cut out for engineering. So Bob volunteered to help when I first got to know him. He's great to work with."

The band returned to Emery's house with Widenhofer last year to record their second album, Take a Stand With the Ugly Beats. The forthcoming album takes a whole-band vocal approach, with lead turns taken by Austin (who sings the Beau Brummels-ish "Million Dollar Man"), guitarist Jake Garcia, and go-go-boot-bedecked organist Jeanine Attaway.

"There's some stuff that's harder than anything on the first record, but there's also acoustic stuff on there," says Emery. "We decided to mix it up a little bit."

Emery hopes Take a Stand will be ready in time for SXSW, but either way, the fan in him has a lot to look forward to.

"There are so many amazing bands," he muses. "It's hard to keep up, but we've got an embarrassment of riches here right now."

SXSW showcase: Friday, March 16, 11pm @ Habana Calle 6 Patio

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