Friday, April 19 2024

Today, we have the pleasure of delving into the musical universe of Underdog, an alternative rock powerhouse hailing from the vibrant city of Boston. Known for their supersonic style, this band, led by the dynamic duo of Scott Ferguson and Bryn Carlson, has been making waves since 2013. With their latest release, ‘Trans Global Amnesia,’ recently launched on New Year’s Eve 2023, the band has provided 12 tracks of alternative and punk rock hi-jinx and mayhem. So, buckle up as we chat with Scott from the group and unravel the creative process and the unique soundscape that defines Underdog.

Hey Scott! Your debut album, ‘Ether Dome,’ received positive reviews. How did the experience of creating and releasing ‘Trans Global Amnesia’ differ from your first album, and what inspired the evolution in your sound and songwriting?

In many ways they are both “waterfall’ albums, as ‘Ether Dome’ is made up of the first 12 songs we finished, and ‘Trans Global Amnesia’ the next group of 12 songs. However, a bit more thought went into which songs to work on for ‘Trans Global Amnesia,’ as we had a library of over 50 songs to select from, where ‘Ether Dome’ was more or less being written as it was happening, except for a couple of the songs which had been around for a while. That being said, some of the ones on ‘Trans Global Amnesia’ came about more recently, and were finished off ahead of songs that have been around for a couple of years. 

My initial goal had been to have 14 songs on the albums, but the pandemic created the problem of not being able to continue recording, so we opted to release ‘Ether Dome’ with just the 12 songs we had finished at that time. ‘Blow You Face Off’ which is on the new album, was supposed to be the final track of ‘Ether Dome,’ as a sort of couplet to ‘Music Box,’ which actually did that job quite nicely on its own. 

I think the songwriting is always evolving, but often in ways that I can’t see as easily as a listener might. The songs on ‘Ether Dome,’ were overall more straightforward, as we were trying to get our sound together as well as figuring out ProTools along the way, so we aimed to keep things a bit more simple. With ‘Trans Global Amnesia’ there was definitely a conscious decision and effort to widen the spectrum of sounds, as well as styles of the songs, while still keeping true to the overall “philosophy” of the first album. Hopefully the next album will show growth in new directions as well.

Underdog 1

With both Yourself and Bryn sharing songwriting duties, can you elaborate on your creative process for ‘Trans Global Amnesia?’ How did collaboration play a role in crafting the album, and were there any specific influences that shaped its unique sound?

Actually I wrote all the songs on ‘Trans Global Amnesia,’ which was not something that I set out to do, but a lot of the songs that Bryn was writing at the time were for another music project he is involved in. That said, there is always the collaboration of fleshing out the song. I show Bryn the chords and he comes up with his lead parts, which is always cool to hear what he comes up with. Same thing with the drums, as I can provide some basic directions, but they really come alive once he’s in the driver’s seat. I did end up playing drums on a few of the songs, and there’s one with both of us going at it, but the more solid sounding ones are Bryn. 

I think it’s a pretty fluid creative environment, with both of us pulling from vastly different influences, far too numerous to list here, but ’60s Garage Psych, ’70s Hard Rock, ’90s Alt, Blues and others, which are very obvious on the surface, others run a bit deeper. It’s what keeps it interesting, and allows the music to be a bit unusual. That, and trying to keep the energy up, gives it a unique sound compared to a lot of other stuff I’m hearing out there at the moment. It’s sort of like putting all those influences into a high speed blender without the lid on.

Releasing an album on New Year’s Eve is quite unique. What significance does this timing hold for ‘Trans Global Amnesia,’ and how do you envision the album setting the tone for the year ahead?

Honestly, mostly it came about out of necessity. We had hoped to have the recording wrapped up in the summer, and release the album in the late summer, or early autumn, but schedules and life slowed things down. I even ended up recording a few of the songs on my own to keep the album on track. 

Ultimately, Bryn recorded the final lead guitar overdub on Friday, December 29, and we mixed the song there and then. We joked about releasing it that day, but couldn’t pass up the 123123 opportunity that presented itself. As they say when opportunity knocks, open the door, and I figured it was a nice way to say goodbye to one year, and welcome the new one in the door. There was also the idea of how time and space tend to blur during big moments of transition like the new year, with everyone being overly aware of time zone differences as it rolls across the globe, that spoke to the idea of transient global amnesia. So it suddenly seemed perfect, like a gift out of nowhere.

That said, it’s always weird from the artist’s perspective, because by the time an album, or even a song is released, it’s “old” to your ears, and you have already moved onto whatever the next song, or group of songs may be. So, really it’s hard for me to think of it as setting the tone for the coming year, as much as it’s a diary of the past couple of years. However, for everyone else, I hope it does set the tone for the year to come. I always love being able to associate certain albums or songs with a specific time and/or place. Music forms some of the strongest bonds to memories we can have.

Underdog Scott
Scott from Underdog

Congratulations on your success as the No. 1 charting alternative band in Boston and the region on Reverbnation. How has this recognition impacted your journey, and how do you feel about reaching No. 3 on the Global charts?

Thanks, Matt! It’s definitely something that has helped put us on the radar of various people, and radio stations. A lot of it speaks directly to engaging with other artists on Reverbnation. The great thing about it is that it’s primarily other artists providing the support, so it’s a chance to interact directly with our peers. We were really blown away when we found ourselves at No. 3 on the Global chart, and obviously a small part of us was hoping we’d eek out those last two spots, but once we stepped back and got some clarity and perspective on it, we realised how fortunate we were to get to that spot, out of over 5,300 artists on the chart, and went “Woah!” I suppose we would have had to change our name if things had gone the way we wanted them to LOL 🙂

As great as all that is, I still find it far more rewarding to see the fans and listeners reacting to the music, and their comments that let us know that the songs are making some impact. It’s also a lot of fun to be in direct contact with the fans, to hear their thoughts on the music. We have some die hard fans in California that have already covered ‘Shark Attack’ and are in the process of working on another one of our songs on ‘Ether Dome,’ which is a real honour.

Your songs have gained exposure across various platforms globally. How do you perceive the current musical landscape, and what role do you see Underdog playing in it? Additionally, with the release of ‘Trans Global Amnesia,’ what are your plans for the coming year, especially with the third album in the works?

In a lot of ways we are not that in touch with the current musical landscape in terms of Billboard Top 40 or Grammy artists. We keep an ear to the ground about the artists we care about, and influence us, but often they are not in the most direct limelight. There’s also nothing better than discovering an unknown band or artist for yourself, and watching them grow in populatirty, which is is something we can only dream of happening to us. 

We are hoping to complete the recording of the next album by springtime and get it released at the start of the summer. I’ve always enjoyed having that special summer album, and would love to provide that for others. I see it charting new territory for us, with the same sonic edge, but who knows. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to weigh in on it when it comes out.

Underdog Bryn
Bryn from Underdog

And, finally, a TIG ‘fun question’ – If you could choose any fictional character to join Underdog for a special one-night performance, who would it be and why?

Snoopy seems like an obvious choice, especially as his Jaw Harp would add a new dimension to the sound to the band. I think I’ll have to look into getting one of those. He’s always been a big part of my life, growing up with the Peanuts strip in the ’60s, and in so many ways he’s the king of the hill, but at the same time he’s a perennial underdog. “Curse you Red Baron!” I also think he would be a lot of fun to hang out with!

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Matt, and we look forward to speaking with you again in the future.

Thanks so much, Scott! We recommend keeping an eye on Underdog, the No. 1 charting alternative band in Boston, because, in addition to the new album, they obviously have some exciting plans for the future. As we eagerly await their upcoming third album, we can only imagine what new musical adventures lie ahead. Stay tuned, because the Underdog story is far from over!

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About Author

Matt Warren

Matt Warren is a Cheshire based musician who studied contemporary music and composition. When not writing for The Indie Grid he enjoys watching 'Breaking Bad' on continuous loop and going to gigs. Since a youngster his fave band have been 'The Beatles' (with 'Cardiacs' in at a close second)... and this still applies to this day.

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