Before the band’s gig at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia, Ultrasphinx’s bassist Aaron Rogers is coming back from taking some down time and collected some vinyl albums at a nearby record store-Steady Sounds. One of the albums that Rogers tells me he was really interested in diving into a vinyl album of the great Leonard Bernstein conducting rejected works from legendary mind of Beethoven. During our conversation, Rogers had to cut it short temporary and explains that we will have to call me back. It wasn’t him just being bored with our talk, or that he became completely offended with the topics I was bringing up. No-Rogers had to move the band’s van and trailer away from the meter that they had parked by earlier in the afternoon. In Richmond, the law requires you to move your vehicle at least 500 feet after being parked at a meter no more than two hours. After you move at least 500 feet, you can park at a meter again. You can’t just feed the meter that you are parked by. A rather simple solution, you may think. Nope- you just have to move your vehicle. It’s right up there in the ranks of one of the stranger laws to obey, no question.
Ultrasphinx, from the northeast city of Akron, are currently on the final leg of a two week tour. The band consist of Rogers on bass, Ian Cummins on drums, and Joe Dennis on guitar/vocals. They started their tour in Pittsburgh on June 20th, and it will be ending in Cleveland on July 5th. The tour will be making a stop here in Dayton at Canal Public House this Wednesday where the band will be joined onstage by Arms Race, Oh Condor and Dinosaurus. Ultrasphinx just released their first self-titled LP this past April.
A little over two years ago Rogers was in a band with a friend that he called a “one-off”, Blockades. The singer of Blockades was formerly from Akron and moved to Los Angeles and would fly in before the few shows that the band played. During his flights, the singers would write lyrics. When he arrived into town, the band would then configure the music to go along. Rogers was in charge of drums for the first couple of shows while the singer played guitar. A couple of shows in, Rogers wanted to try something different. “For the third show, I said that I wanted to play bass, and I knew a guy that will play drums,” Rogers says. He recruited Cummins to come and play drums for Blockades. Rogers knew Cummins through the music scene and had worked with him on other projects. Right from the start, the duo had astonishing chemistry. “We locked in immediately. We needed to find something full time. We need to do something in a real band,” Rogers added.
For Joe Dennis, Ultrasphinx is yet another incredible chapter in his musical lifecycle. For many that were immersed into the grunge movement that took over the collective world, there were the indie bands that were also making some noise on their own terms. Dennis was the lead vocals in the 90s band The Party of Helicopters. The Party of Helicopters developed a regionally cult following after their release of Abracadaver in 1997. The Party of Helicopters would release a couple EPs and another LP Please Believe It before calling it quits in 2004. The band would reunite in 2007, 2009, and 2010. After that, The Party of Helicopters were finished. Dennis since then has been in a few other bands around the Kent/Akron area (The Man I Fell In Love With, Teen Tighteners, Company Picnic).
Two years ago, Rogers received a call from Cummins saying that Dennis wanted to three of them to start up a band. The trio knew each other through the Akron music scene circuit. Rogers would do sound for the bands that Dennis and Cummins would be in, and they all had a mutual respect for another’s music taste. With Cummins and Rogers seeing their dynamic chemistry when playing with Blockades-teaming up with Dennis was going to be what they were looking for. “Ian called me and said that Joe wanted to start a band, and practice was Tuesday,” Rogers recounted when he got the call from Cummins. “And either showed up (laughter). Ian called me an hour later saying that something came up, and let’s shoot for next Tuesday.” The next Tuesday came, and everyone showed up. Ultrasphinx released two songs-the first songs that they worked on as a band, “Left Objects” and “Stoned Hearts” on a split 7” vinyl record with Bad Trouble in February 2013.
In March 2013, Ultrasphinx begun writing for their first LP. The band already had flushed out most of the songs that would be incorporated in the album through playing them during the tour throughout the first year of inception. They booked the recording sessions in Akron at STUDIO TIME with Jason M. Tarulli. Tarulli, who has worked with bands such as Cage the Elephant and Akron’s own The Black Keys, was Ultrasphinx’s first and only choice to help record the album. The trio knew Tarulli pretty well. Rogers assisted Tarulli on some recordings in the past at STUDIO TIME. “We trusted Jason’s ears more than anybody else in the world,” Rogers said. The recording of the songs didn’t long due to the band to lay down, but the vocals were recorded twice. The mixing of the album took a little longer because Tarulli couldn’t finish it due to his schedule. Rogers ended up taking over the mixing soon after.
Throughout the self-titled LP of Ultrasphinx, dazzling blend of overdubs, puncturing riffs, and the Joe Dennis signature dreamy vocals that captured fans of The Party of Helicopters from years past are splashed all over. The songs that accompany this LP will leave you scrambling-trying to keep up with the frenetic pace on most of the songs (most of the songs end before the three minute mark). The album should be well-received by fans from all musical enthusiasts-from metal heads to the underground music followers.
Rogers mentioned that the band will take some time after the current to shift through the hundreds of hours of audio from practices, demos that may be used for new material. The new material has become more of a collective collaboration, Rogers added.
As soon as Rogers was able to get back to the band’s van, and moved it the required 500 feet, he called me back. “We are now parked safely three blocks down,” says Rogers. Enough space so that the police won’t ticket them. The van will still have to be moved one more time. Thankfully for Rogers, Dennis, Cummins, the never-ending venture of moving the van every two hours will be coming to an end at six. After that time, they can park somewhere and won’t have to worry about it anymore.
Oh the joys of being on the road. Especially being in a band.
Ultrasphinx will perform on Wednesday, July 2 at Canal Public House, which is located at 308 E. First St. Dinosaurus, Oh Condor and Arms Race are also on the lineup that night as well. Doors at 9 p.m., $5 cover for patrons 18 and up.
To hear and purchase the album, or more info, click onto the band’s Bandcamp site www.ultrasphinx.bandcamp.com.