Meet Upchuck: they are Kaila Thompson (vocals), Spuzz Dangus (guitar), Hoffdog (guitar), Armando Arrieta (bass), and Chris Salado (drums). For a very young band (about 1.5 years old), Upchuck has already gained a solid footing the Atlanta scene. They cite influences that range far and wide, from garage psychedelia to hip-hop and classic punk (oh, and maybe a little doom, too). The band is pulling crowds with both their energetic live shows and some salient lyrical subjects. They were picked up to play this year’s Afropunk festival, which is no small capfeather. Below is an interview with frontwoman Kaila Thompson (better known as “KT”) following the band’s most recent tour. — Steven Grubbs
How did the band come together?
KT: It really all started with Mike (the band’s guitarist) scouting for about a year and eventually we came together and instantly clicked with each other.
For probably a wide range of reasons, the live show sounded very different to me than the demo online. The live performance was a little heavier and showed more hardcore influence than the reverb-y Atlanta garage thing that the demo has. Is that conscious or just the band growing and changing?
KT: Our live shows are much more layered. The demos were just demos and recorded about a year ago. We really just use them for reference. We definitely are changing and growing, no doubt. [The doom descriptor] is really for our audience to explore and experience; allow them to absorb and express them.
The song “Upchuck” on your demo contains lyrics that are explicitly about police shootings. Who is Upchuck in this song and what are your thoughts on where our country stands in police shootings and brutality?
KT: “Upchuck” is every ounce of pent-up anger and disappointment that a person of color (POC) feels when a fellow POC is murdered by those that are in charge of keeping us safe. The seething confusing that is felt when we watch them go free. I don’t know the meaning of justice anymore. I don’t know where it lies and if it exists for all of us. And since nothing is truly done, the tale continues and repeats—quickly covered, not discussed. Bodies and scarring videos are shown live on television, only desensitizing masses to the traumas that have been done. I could go on. But just know there’s a lot of disappointment just being channeled into rage.
Do you see racial tensions in the music scene currently? Do you see any efforts being made to confront gaps in intersectionality in Atlanta?
KT: I believe that Atlanta has recently been morphing into a pretty blended scene. I will say that the hardcore scene for me wasn’t always a comfortable place. White men had dominated the scene for a minute. As time passed and bands like Pay to Cum and Trashcan came out, I slowly saw more POC pop out to shows. It was always just strange to me, ya know? Seeing such a large lack of POC in a city that is predominantly made up of POC youth. [It’s] definitely changed in the past years though, for the better, no doubt. I think there’s an overall yearn for that change and Atlanta is definitely in a renaissance.
How’d you get picked up for this year’s Afropunk fest?
KT: Big shoutout to Randy from Drunken Unicorn and Chilly O for putting in word.
What punk bands and doom bands do you listen to?
KT: GOGGS, Spits, Death… Mike has a lot of blues influence. Acid King, Fuzz, Electric Wizard, Sleep, the Pixies, the Breeders, Black Sabbath.
What other bands in ATL do you like to see? Outside of ATL?
KT: In ATL, DEADDOGS, Playytime, Rude Dude and the Creek Freaks, Pay to Cum, Yukons, the Scruggs, Kibi James. Outside ATL, Amyl and the Sniffers, Show Me the Body, King Khan.