The New Up, like Le Switch, was another band whose second time crossing my path felt just like the first. Only difference this time, other than the fact that their name remained the same, was that their sound had changed. Hooking up with noted producer/engineer Jaimeson Durr (Dan the Automator, Chickenfoot), the band had streamlined their studio sound, and after stabilizing their personnel, ended up with a polished modern rock identity that translated equally well on disc and on stage. Hearing them three years after the first live show of theirs I reviewed, I felt like I was hearing a whole new band.
The first time I saw the New Up, I was covering a live show at the now defunct (and missed) San Francisco venue called 12 Galaxies for the Rasputin Manifesto in 2005. The bands assembled all had one thing in common – they were all female-fronted (hence the name of that night’s program, “Girls’ Night Out”).
The New Up stood out for a number of reasons. For one, their lead singer, Emily Pitcher, had a voice that reminded me at times of the Selecter’s Pauline Black. And though they didn’t bust out covers of “Celebrate the Bullet” or “Three Minute Hero,” they did feature a killer rendition of Radiohead’s “I Might Be Wrong.” They were also managing a tasteful blend of classic rock, reggae and new wave, not an easy task. Plus, as I recalled in my Manifesto piece, they got the girls up front to dance. Score!
I came to find out much later that the guy playing flute and manning the laptop in the New Up, one Hawk West, was the same dude I kept running into at the Blue Bear School of Music. So while I had missed a bunch of New Up shows, and effectively missed out on hearing them evolve into what they are now, I still had regular face time with Hawk. So when I finally did hear what they were up to three years later, on their Broken Machine EP, it was as if I was hearing a much different band – one ready to break out into mainstream success.
And in many ways, they have been primed for success for a while now. They’re never afraid to admit the importance of the laptop computer to their music, to the point where it’s always in plain view on stage. And they’ve got this very present-day “instrument” juxtaposed with the more classically-inclined flute, “from medieval times,” as bassist Dain Dizazzo put it. It’s a novel juxtaposition, and it sounds really cool – especially so on “Better Off,” the title track of the band’s second in what will be a series of three EPs.
The band cooks up all this rockin’ danceable goodness at their semi-communal living/practice/recording space, which they dubbed “The Pleasure Pad,” in San Francisco. Only some of the band lives there, but all of the band – West, Dizazzo, lead singer Emily Pitcher, guitarist Noah Reid and drummer Drew Bertrand – and their friends regularly hang out, party and eat there. And this was the cap to our shoot. After we finished filming, the band invited me to stick around for a big band-plus-friends pig-out, where we ordered probably half the menu from their favorite Chinese restaurant. The Pleasure Pad indeed!
The New Up – “Better Off”