I realize how derivative it is to say Autumn is my favorite time of year, but alas, it is a sentiment I share with anyone who’s summer was slightly lackluster with unfulfilled promises of spending time on an exotic beach reading and sipping rum cocktails out of a pineapple. For me, it is with great joy that tacky sandals are replaced with fine leather boots in display windows, and overhearing the woman in front of me at Starbucks order a pumpkin spice latte with light whip, and the sounds of summer are replaced with a new soundtrack–one that welcomes the itch for change and encourages a playlist overhaul to match. Feeling more than ready for all things fresh and new, I met September with open ears and what dropped into heavy rotation were not one, but two LPs by UK duo Ultimate Painting.
I was surprised to learn the cohesive pair have only been a fully formed project since the summer of last year considering how successfully they’ve honed in on their simplistic, easy breezy sound. James Hoare and Jack Cooper spent time together while touring with one another’s respective bands–Veronica Falls and Mazes–and well, one thing led to another and Ultimate Painting was born. After releasing their self-titled debut, the band toured, recorded and released their follow-up, Green Lanes, a mere ten months later.
When asking Jack about their writing and recording roles, he describes an even deal. “We both split everything 50/50 really, but then James engineers everything because it’s his gear and he knows his way around it. But as far as writing and the playing, we split it.” Split so evenly, in fact, that for Green Lanes each songwriter wrote five songs for the album, with the other contributing and collaborating on what they consider a more American sound than their first album. “The song always comes from a melody, some vague structure and then maybe a verse or chorus worth of lyrics…but everything we do, be it a guitar part or harmony, is always filtered through the other person.”
My favorite track on Green Lanes is “Sweet Chris,” a nostalgic song that hums along to a steady beat with a repetitive chorus of a goner friend much missed. The entire album grows more interesting with every listen, and the simple melodies more catchy in a kind of classic, melancholic English fashion. The duo is well aware of their common comparison to The Velvet Underground’s self-titled third album too, but source inspiration from a few other American rock bands of the heyday. “We certainly love that record but we really had this idea of being a very sparse economic Television. That was what we talked about. That and the restraint of things that very probably influenced the Velvets..Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bo Diddley.”
James has an entirely analogue studio in his house where the two recorded, so it seems quite natural for the band to venture into Third Man to record their first live album where the Blue Room is just about as cozy as it gets. “My friends in Parquet Courts really talked the place up so we’re really excited to be playing there. Getting to record there and follow in the footsteps of some great people is going to be the highlight of the tour for me. It’s a thrill. I’m imagining a backstage with weird taxidermy and weird stuff. Helping ourselves to a cigar from Jack White’s private reserve. That kind of thing.” Hmm…doesn’t seem too far off.
Ultimate Painting will be sharing the stage with Chicago-based Trouble in Mind label-mates Salad Boys (hailing from New Zealand!) and Paperhead to fully round out the psychedelic night of groovy tunes hosted in the lovely Blue Room Thursday, September 24th at 8PM. Hurry up and grab your tickets here or in the TMR storefront and get your fall feelin’ right.