-Evolving beyond aggression and excess energy, Ulterior Motives brings a variety of influences to its "pop-growl" brand of crunchy metal originals.
By Lee Abraham
It's a Tuesday night and the Musicians Friend retail store is bustling with activity. There's a band playing onstage at the far end of the store and an engineer is working at the controls of a multi-track mixer, digital recorder. A crowd has gathered near the stage while shoppers continue to browse.
The singer's eyes are shut tight as he growls into the microphone. His face is red from exertion. Beads of sweat fall with his gyrations. Intensely into the music, his features twist and contort as the angst of each painful lyric channels through his consciousness.
Rob Marsh has started hopping up and down, pogo style. His words are still mostly intelligible, however at times his vocals are simply a rumble over the primal urgency of Ulterior Motive's music. The heavy vibe stops on a dime and the crowd roars.
The other members of Ulterior Motives feed off Marsh's unfettered energy, following his lead with increasingly animated movements as the set continues. The onstage vibe is ~aggressive~. Sometimes angry, occasionally melodic, Ulterior Motives sound is edgy and lean. At times their lyrics are "explicit." So explicit that their independently produced debut CD, "Evaporated," which was released earlier this year has a Parental Advisory printed on the cover.
OK, there's a little bit of body piercing on display and some long hair, so it would be foolish to expect anything that the local PTA might include in their next talent show, but generally speaking, the members of Ulterior Motives are intelligent, articulate and hard working. So what's buggin' these guys anyway?
"It seems like you've always got a boss," says Marsh, "you've always got someone telling you what to do and you can't do anything about it. But when I'm on stage I can do something about it, that's when I just let it all come out."
"Letting it all come out" works well for Marsh and his band mates. The quartet, including Randy ??? on bass, Scott Pope(?) on drums and his brother Jim on guitar, have been together for about two and a half years. During that time the Ulterior Motives sound has evolved from a raw, very basic, hard and fast crunch fest, to a more sophisticated blend of styles, sounds and melodies.
Although a couple of years is a good chunk of time for a band to get it together, the Pope brothers having been jamming together since they were kids. Growing up in a musical family exposed the brothers to a wide variety of musical styles, but it was metal that captured their imagination. At the age of ten Scott was turned on to the flamboyance of Kiss by his older brother, and from there he recalls "the music got darker, heavier, faster and louder."
"At one point my Dad couldn't take it any more," remembers the younger brother, "so we had to get out and into a studio. From there we started checking out new alternative rock and stuff like that."
On bass, Randy ???????? is Mr. Automatic, never showing too much emotion while kicking out his chest pounding bottom end. A converted guitar player that has become a rock steady thumper, ???????? grew up on heavy metal and classic rock, and is a former guitar student of local legend Mark Slaughter.
After his partying buddies "from way back," the brothers Pope, began to have informal jams at their house on Fridays, ????????? was ready to learn the bass just to join the band, so he went to a local pawn shop and bought one to test the waters with. "They said they needed a bass player," says the soft spoken ???, "and I figured I could handle it. I was always hangin' out with 'em anyway, so why not?"
The last piece to the puzzle was the addition of Marsh on vocals, a friend of the Popes' sister, who knew the band was looking for a singer. The chemistry clicked almost immediately and after two rehearsals, Marsh was asked to join the band. Bringing a different set of influences that include Prince, early Jackson 5, funk and hip hop, Marsh diversifies the frame of reference Ulterior Motives draws from, and ultimately the band's sound.
Most of the new material starts with Jim on guitar, working out a riff and a rough arrangement for the band to develop. Scott and Rob are the lyricists. From there the songs take shape as the band works out the material during their three or four night a week rehearsal schedule.
As the band continues to develop, they experiment with different styles and new instruments. On any given night, the orchestral stylings of a violin or the funky breaks of a slide trombone may be mixed with the razor sharp, crunchy metal cornerstone of their music.
Usually the energy released onstage ignites the spontaneous combustion of a mosh pit, a phenomenon that the band enjoys. The performance at Musicians Friend however was not the ~usual~ gig. Ulterior Motives was taking advantage of a free recording session the store offers to local bands, so everyone's agreed to be on their good behavior.
"They kind of had a mosh crowd with 'em," says Tom Tanner, recording engineer for the local Musicians Friend, "so we did have to let their people know that we couldn't do the mosh pit in a retail store, and everyone was real cooperative with that."
Although the moshing was to wait for another day, there was nothing to stop the sixty or so fans in the house from venting some energy by singing along to "Liar," a pop-growler classic that has had airplay on the now defunct "It Hurts When I Pee" radio show and also on the new local music program on AM-1230, Wednesdays through Fridays from 11pm to midnight. Many of the fans knew the words by heart, a point proven by Marsh as he held his out his microphone, turning the vocals over to the audience.
Although there was a cross section of ages at the show, the Ulterior Motives faithful gathered on that particular day had a decided "under 21" demographic. No surprise given the high-energy angst which underlies most of the music, and the band's marketing strategy.
"We've been trying to get younger kids to our shows," says Scott, the younger of the
Pope brothers, "they seem to be a little more energetic toward the music and really get into it. We love all ages shows."
"We've got a lot of stuff in the works right now," continues the drummer, "we're looking into getting some management so we can concentrate on the music side again, and we are planning to get back in the studio to record our second CD."
The band has several new songs in the works and is looking to book some out of town gigs, all logical steps toward the ultimate goal of getting signed. They've got the energy and the drive, no question about their motivation. But are they good enough?
Their enthusiastic and vocal fans certainly think so. Tanner agrees. In addition to handling the engineering chores at Musicians Friend, the music industry veteran mixes sound for a lot of live shows around town and has worked with Ulterior Motives in the past. "They have a fresh sound," says Tanner, "it doesn't sound like they're trying to copy anybody."
"There's about six bands in this town that probably deserve to be signed, and then a hand full of others that are pretty much right on the edge," continues the engineer and production guru, "these guys are right in that range."
To get beyond "that range," and onto the next level, Ulterior Motives is focusing its sights on the next CD, which they are hoping to release in the fall. Taking the show on the road is another goal for the band.
"When we started it was just four guys, in a hot, sweaty, swamp cooled room, just jammin' on a Friday night for somethin' to do," Scott says as he looks around the room at his band members, shaking his head and smiling at his recollection. "Then we got some songs, and soon we had a name and then a logo. Next was the mailing list and the first CD. It just seems to keep building."Back to Last Page | Forward to Next Page