Formerly known as Mt. Eddy, Ultra Q stands as a riveting counterexample to any aging music fans proclaiming that rock and roll is dead. The young band comprised of Jakob Armstrong, Enzo and Chris Malaspina, and Kevin Judd sounds like the peak of 2002 New York City; if you’re a fan of The Strokes, Bloc Party, or Interpol, their new EP Get Yourself A Friend is bound to be your friend. After an entertaining release rollout featuring impressive music videos for singles “Bowman” and “Handheld”, the EP has dropped today on Royal Mountain Records, and it’s an exciting glimpse of a band that’s scratching the surface of their potential. The band definitely comes from some rock and roll royalty — lead singer Jakob is the son of Green Day legend Billie Joe Armstrong — but this EP is strong enough to stand on its own separate from any other history, and it firmly establishes Ultra Q as an immensely fun rock band to watch for the years to come. With the EP’s release and a date at next year’s Shaky Knees on the horizon, Jakob zoomed in to chat with us about the reasons behind the band’s rebrand, the strength of EPs versus albums, and the overarching feeling of growing up. Keep scrolling to read our chat, and check out the band’s new video for the title track “Get Yourself a Friend” below.
How are you? You’re a couple of weeks out from the EP’s release — does it feel good to get this out there?
I’m good! It feels so good to get these songs out there. Some of them we’ve been holding onto for years, and I remember when we were cutting them in April and thinking that the EP was coming in November, it just felt like it was so far away. And now it’s here, in like less than a month. “It’s Permanent” just came out and I think it’s my favorite on the EP — I’m ready to play shows again, though. I think that’s the moment that it’ll really feel real to me.
Yeah, with the name change and everything, it’s been a minute since you have played a show, right?
The last show we played was a New Year’s show — like, December 2019.
You mentioned “It’s Permanent” earlier; I remember seeing the track-by-track for this EP where you say “If there’s one thing I want people to remember from this EP, I want it to be this.” Why is that?
Well, I think it’s the one that I’m most proud of, for sure. I feel like it’s the most out-there of all the tracks; it’s much different than things we’ve done before, and it was so fun to record that and make it. I’ve been going through this phase of the last year of getting really into this darkwave and post-punk stuff, and I think “It’s Permanent” is the best example of that. I love that song a lot. What’s cool though, is that every song on the EP has been our favorite at some point. This is just my favorite right now.
I think that’s a strength of the EP format. You know, as albums get longer and longer, an EP is like, six or seven sharp songs with no filler to cut through.
I’m someone that listens to albums — like things that you can listen to all the way through. The first New Order record though, is like eight songs. The last Strokes record I think has nine songs. The ideal album length is around eight to eleven songs for me.
(laughs) As someone who believes in the ten-song, thirty-minute album, that’s relieving to hear.
You can never go wrong with that album length!
The music videos for this project have been so incredibly entertaining. I feel like making music videos is a bit of a lost art — what persuades y’all to really put this effort into making these super appealing music videos?
I think the visual component of the band is just as important as the sonic part. There were times where we were writing these tracks where we were visualizing the videos alongside tracking them; it’s just something that’s incredibly meaningful to the band and me. Our first EP had some cool videos, and then our last release had one video that had all of our songs in it. I also just enjoy filming and fulfilling that vision; we had outside directors for the first time with Get Yourself a Friend, and it really just gave us the opportunity to flex our muscles a little bit and get more experimental with what we were already doing. I agree with you in that it’s a bit forgotten; I think that people have forgotten how central music videos are to being a music fan.
It’s interesting too because as a larger society, I think we’ve pivoted towards video-based media through TikTok and the like, but music seems to have been left behind.
I think artists are learning that you don’t have to put as much resources and time behind a video for it to get attention. I think on TikTok, artists are focused on the spontaneous and being more genuine and asking themselves “Why do I have to spend all of this money on a music video?” I see the value in both ideas for sure, but we choose the other route just because we really like doing it.
Going back to the track-by-track, you talk about how the title track serves as the thesis statement of the EP. To you, what is the theme of the EP?
Lyrically, there’s definitely a lot of nonsense in there; I don’t like to be someone that takes myself too seriously while I’m writing. I think we’re all hitting the point in our lives that’s, like, the zenith of growing up — we’re truly becoming adults, you know? I think this EP hones in on that idea of that awkward transition between youth and adulthood; this feels like the final chapter of our youth. I think everything after this point is going to feel like adult Ultra Q, which is somewhat exciting and cliche all at the same time.
What prompted the rebrand from Mt. Eddy?
I don’t think there was any specific cause. We were at the end of the Mt. Eddy project and we graduated high school, and then a year later we decided to make music again. At that point, our tastes had changed so much that we felt like it was right to create a new identity for us as we explored this new sound. We didn’t even know if we were going to be a band anymore, so this new name felt like a fresh start in a way.
What did your tastes change to? I’ve already heard you namedrop The Strokes and New Order.
My all-time favorite is The Cure — hands down. The Strokes were pretty important to me as well growing up. While we were recording this, I was revisiting the old Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs records and I think that really showed on the EP. My taste is always changing, but those were kind of cornerstones for me — I’m obsessed with the new TURNSTILE record right now, though.
Growing up in a music-filled household, was there a moment where you decided this is what you wanted to do?
It’s interesting — this was actually not something I wanted to do growing up. I wanted to be a painter; I actually went to college to be a fine arts painter and figured out I didn’t love that as much as I thought. I remember hearing the first Strokes record and it just blew my mind and I became obsessed with that; from there, I met the band early on and we just played local shows, and eventually we just got to the point where we went through so much together that it made sense to keep going. I dropped out of college and really had to ask myself “Do I want to do this?” and I realized that I just loved to do it more than anything else. It was definitely a late realization for me.
With the EP’s release, what’s on the horizon for the band?
We’re trying to get a tour lined up — it’s difficult right now because every band is trying to tour at the exact same time, so most of our stuff should be happening next year. But we want to tour, and we also want to get in and record a full album at some point. My demos folder on my laptop is just completely full right now, and I’d love to bring those to life at some point.
Get Yourself a Friend is out today on Royal Mountain Records.