As they make their way to SXSW, queer duo Uh Huh Her scales back for sophomore release
The dream of most bands might be to find a label and release a well-produced debut album. Hustling to keep it afloat? Not so much. Job security is still a nice thing, even in the music industry.
Uh Huh Her sees things differently. You might even think they just took two steps back after a major leap forward.
“Yeah, we are weirdly going the other way,” laughs Camila Grey, half of the indie duo. “Our success was immediate: We got picked up by a label right away and had this glossy pop album under our belts.” But despite that welcome mat, Grey and her music-making partner, Leisha Hailey, wanted to work for their success. So they did what any new band starting out would do. They dumped their label.
Uh Huh Her’s 2008 debut, Common Reaction, was a stellar disc of well-constructed songs that hinted at ’80s New Wave with alt-rock sensibilities. Recalling the likes of Ladytron and Le Tigre, UHH was poised to become the Next Big Indie Thing. They were far from hurt by the built-in audience brought in by Hailey, star of the lesbian drama The L Word.
“That was our core fan base because the audience did follow her,” Grey says. “That was also part of the immediate success. But we’ve been able to grow it from there. Now our audience is all over the place, from straight couples to gay kids. And it’s just widening.”
Having been off the radar for most of the past year, UHH is set to release their second full-length album, Nocturnes, later this spring. Grey promises a grittier, edgier, more personal sound.
“The beauty of this album is we did it all on our own,” she says. “I produced and we recorded it in our own studios. I think it’s bringing us back to our roots. We want to focus on this again and give it another go.”
With a liberated approach, Grey didn’t feel the pressures to sound a specific way as “encouraged” by her label.
“We have lives aside from the band and the realistic situation was knowing we can do this on our own terms,” she says.
Grey and Hailey produced an EP at breakneck speed and took it on the road. Six tracks made up Black and Blue, recorded and packaged in less than two weeks to use as a promotional tool for the tour. They have taken their musical destiny into their own hands.
“We work really well under pressure,” Grey laughs. “The whole thing has been labor of love and we put more care into these two things. There’s no pressure from The Man anymore.”
UHH is on the road now, and will play in Dallas after coming off gigs at Austin’s South By Southwest Festival, where they could easily be cited as the next It band if the right people see, blog and tweet them well. But Grey isn’t concerned about being that band; she’s a musician at heart and creating music is her primary goal.
UHH played SXSW two years ago, but Grey is throwing expectations out the window to just have fun. They have four days of gigs lined up before heading to Dallas, where she was born (she grew up in Austin). What surprises her most is the Dallas audience.
“Texas always gives us more love,” she says. “It’s so weird the markets that we’re popular in are more conservative ones. We’ve always had a packed audience with great energy in Dallas. Houston’s the same. You’d think that would be more so in a city like Austin.”
Guess Austin hasn’t cornered the market on knowing good music after all.
— Rich Lopez
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.