With an eclectic sound, DIY roots & a new album on the way after signing with a Detroit label, the Grand Rapids indie emo-punk band plays Wealthy Annex Saturday. Learn more about this emerging outfit.
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Emerging from the sweaty basement shows of Grand Rapids, indie emo-punk band Ugly Flannel is determined to pave its own own way in West Michigan’s music scene and on its own terms.
The band recently signed with Detroit-based record label Young Heavy Souls, with plans for releasing a new album in early 2023.
What began as a solo project for guitarist and vocalist Ben Nguyen when he was a freshman at Grandville High School has morphed into a collective of like-minded musicians.
Bassist and vocalist Kate Zacharias and drummer Athen Erbter began in 2015 as backing band members, but have since become official Ugly Flannel-ites. The band also welcomed new guitarist Jake Domeier earlier this year.
With many of the new tracks taking shape during the early days of the pandemic, the creation of the upcoming album marked the first time band members all sat down together to contribute to the writing process.
While the collection will still include plenty of the sad lyrics and melancholy guitar riffs that longtime fans have come to love, it will also introduce a more aggressive tone and more personal lyrics than previous releases such as 2019’s “The Schiller in You” and 2018’s “To Make Up for the Depleted Oxygen.”
Citing Jimmy Eat World, My Chemical Romance and ’90s grunge as influenat Gces, Nguyen described the band’s sound as “a superman ice cream of all of our favorite genres.”
Ahead of the album release, the band has a handful of Grand Rapids shows planned to close out the year, starting with an appearance Saturday (Sept. 10) at the Wealthy Annex, 1110 Wealthy St. SE, in Grand Rapids with Vagabonds, Cheap Emotion and Vert Terms. Tickets are $10 in advance online here, or $12 at the door.
“It’s really emotional for us (Saturday’s show) because he’s one of our friends that was in the scene before us and took us under his wing,” Zacharias said of fellow Grand Rapids artist Vagabonds.
‘WE WANT TO GO AS FAR AS WE CAN WITH THIS BAND’
Bigger shows and more opportunities for Ugly Flannel also come with bigger challenges. While the band has a loyal troop of fans that’s followed them since the beginning, members have focused on exploring new ways to connect with crowds that have never heard of them.
“We look into the bands that we are playing with and then adjust our set list to what we think the crowd is going to like,” Zacharias explained.
Carrying the values they learned from the DIY scene with them, members of Ugly Flannel want to find success on their own terms.
“We have no problem saying ‘No’ to things if it’s going to compromise what our ethics are. We want to go as far as we can with this band, but we’re not going to do it if we’re going to end up not being ourselves at the end of it,” said Erbter.
Describing the scene they grew up in as a family that learns and grows together, members of Ugly Flannel have made helping out smaller up-and-coming acts a priority — a way to contribute to the rebuilding of a community that suffered during the pandemic.
“The most important part to this band is being community-driven,” said Erbter.
So while the band is bursting with excitement to share a new record with the world, there’s also eagerness to find new ways of growing and expanding beyond the West Michigan scene.
“We’re gonna figure it out and mess up along the way, but that’s gonna be part of the fun,” said Erbter.
Ugly Flannel also will play The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids on Oct. 19 with Parlor Voice (album-release), Perren and Luck Plunge.
VIDEO: Ugly Flannel, “Life is Chrome” (2021)
PHOTO GALLERY: Ugly Flannel, Outdoors at Circle Theatre (August 2022)
Photos by Holly Holtzclaw