The Upset Victory (Profile)

Forging a Punk/Metal sound from three guitars, contemplative lyrics and broad influences

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When the subject of a band’s influences is broached, virtually anything is open to discussion. Influence can be gleaned from an endless supply of sources, from the obvious (other bands’ music) to the pervasive (love, hate, substance binges) to the subtle (good book, good meal, good dream).

For the material on their new five-song EP, Between the Walls and the Worlds That Sleep, local band The Upset Victory drew on the broad spectrum of their lives and musical experiences.

“I’m influenced by literally anything, from acoustic acts to full on Rock bands, in whatever genre of music it is,” says guitarist Stephen Campbell, one of three string stranglers in the group. “I grew up listening to Iron Maiden and to a degree you can hear some of that, at least with the guitars. Older Punk bands like The Clash and older Metal bands like Black Sabbath and Maiden and Randy Rhodes, that’s what got me into music. Lyrically, my influence stems from novels and television and culture in general.”

“Steve and I grew up listening to Punk and Metal, and everybody loves Slayer and the Dead Kennedys, but our one uniting factor is Skate Punk,” says bassist Spencer Vanderzee. “Lyrically, I like getting out there a little more. Pink Floyd and David Gilmour are big influences. As much as I love NOFX, we don’t really write songs about dick and fart jokes. We want to get a little deeper.”

The Upset Victory grew, like many bands, out of a jam opportunity. Campbell and Vanderzee, veterans of several local Punk bands, contacted vocalist/guitarist Frank Hammonds after the demise of his previous band, Better Luck Next Year, with the intention of doing some impromptu jamming. Hammonds invited his former drummer Frank Harrison, and the Prog/Punk/Metal outfit played their debut gig on New Year’s Day 2007.

The quartet didn’t stay that way for long. Within months, The Upset Victory welcomed former Better Luck Next Year guitarist Jeremy Kramer to the fold, enabling the band to actualize the approach they had originally envisioned.

“That’s when we came into our own and our sound really came together,” Campbell says. “We weren’t a complete band until then.”

While the group built on the foundation of their Punk and Metal experiences, Kramer’s addition broadened and deepened their guitar sound substantially.

“We had a distinct sound already, but he added a whole different element,” Vanderzee says. “It didn’t change our sound too drastically, but it definitely took us in a different direction.”

The band’s three-guitar lineup is both an advantage and a challenge. Each guitarist’s role changes from song to song, which presents an interesting conundrum for the rhythm section, namely providing a pulse that complements the band’s shifting dynamic while keeping it anchored.

“A lot of times, bands can’t play every studio guitar part live because there’s so many overdubs, but this way we have the freedom to do whatever we want,” Campbell says. “With our full-length, we’re definitely going to experiment with strings and keys, and with that fifth member, when someone’s not playing guitar or bass, they can do those kinds of interesting things.”

After coalescing in 2006, the original quartet had written the material that formed the basis of their self-released eponymous EP, which came out just after Kramer joined in 2007. The EP resulted in two major benchmarks for The Upset Victory: their slot on the 2007 Warped Tour in Cincinnati and getting signed to Takeover Digital, a wide-ranging indie label out of Philadelphia.

Although The Upset Victory didn’t alter their sound to any great degree between the first EP and Between the Walls — both feature a relentless guitar attack, a fluid rhythm section and Hammonds’ emotive vocal style — they do cite a couple of fundamental shifts between the two releases.

“There’s a little more technicality guitar-wise on the new one,” Vanderzee says. “Both EPs have a strong emphasis on lyrics, but on the first one, the lyrics were more grounded. On the new EP, we got a little more abstract and started talking about philosophy and writing stories. We were listening to a lot of concept bands, and we tried to get back to our roots. Although we couldn’t sound less like bands like Pink Floyd and some of those older bands, I like the idea of a concept album where the lyrics were out there but you could still relate to it personally.”

The Upset Victory’s vigorous work ethic will serve them well in the new year, as they continue writing new material for their full-length album debut and plan local shows and spring and summer tours. Considering all they’ve accomplished in the past two years, they’re definitely looking forward to their next phase.

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