Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The last time Oklahoma City's The Uglysuit was in this vicinity, its van was in better shape, but not by much. This bunch chooses to drive around in what would technically be described as a hunk of junk, full of unpredictable (or rather very predictable) persnickety behaviorisms that can lead to frustrations and being stranded thousands of miles from home without a pot to piss in, just a ton of musical equipment and some merchandise for sale. But a well-running van is a luxury. It's okay to have one that takes hours to turn over, where slyly running extension cords into a bank and trust's lobby to pilfer electricity for the battery charger.
There's no shame in that and sometimes that's the only way you'll get anywhere. But these motor vehicle issues were dealt with when we met them. Back to the last time they were in the vicinity, it was spring here and they were here for the craziest night of it, by far. They played in Iowa City the night that the floods took over. They took charge and claimed the interstate for the first time ever. They destroyed the downtown of Cedar Rapids, known for its Quaker Oaks plants and a continuous aroma of what must be cereal. It took down numerous buildings on the University of Iowa campus and nearly stranded The Uglysuit, Iron & Wine (who they were playing with in an old theater there) and all of the members of the crowd who came out in the battering rains.
The band's tour manager woke them up with a warning that if they didn't leave immediately that they'd be stuck and they would have inevitably seen the water covering the roads in front of them, some with flopping catfish wriggling across the pavement as if they were punchlines to some bad chicken joke. The race against time vibe of the situation had to have been something that the band of six friends embraced, however inconvenient and possibly frightening it might have been to see the lanes of traffic close down behind them with the glistening and brown rivers swallowing up the roadway. It's the drifting away in the face of danger, with it closing in from behind but with enough of a head start to feel shaky, but safe, that the band sews into their music. They worship that fine line between grey heavens and the most impressive and affirming sunlight imaginable.
The waters of Iowa City that the band experienced and still avoided the heaviest hands of - these waters of almost ceaseless and definitely relentless conquering notions - are symbolic of the kinds of moods and dynamics that Uglysuit allows itself to get caught up in frequently. They are believers in scenery, silver and gold-encrusted scenery that neither dies nor stays, just impresses upon the heartstrings for a lifetime or longer. One gets the thought that each of these six young men could look out at either a calm or raging body of water and think a hundred different things ranging in degrees of sheer beauty to paralytic longing to the consequential evidence that buoyancy doesn't happen the same way for everyone. This could continue for hours. Uglysuit makes paintings that have a myriad of definitions and none of them are monosyllabic. They necessitate rambling sentences that go on into paragraphs that span through a day or more as all of the chilly details read their lines.