With influences ranging from elements of hip-hop and electronica to rock, pop and traditional Scottish folk music, ULTRAS is the brain child of multi-instrumentalist Gav Prentice. The self-titled debut album is due for release on 28th April 2017 via Hello Thor Records and Instinctive Racoon.
ULTRAS’ eclectic take on modern pop music is as challenging as it is rewarding; a twelve track record that confronts the listener sonically and lyrically, resulting in the creation of a sound that has the ability to reach euphoric highs as well as melancholic lows.
In this interview, we chat about influences, navigating the digital music world, the newest project and more.
Full Q&A along with links and streams available below.
Let’s dive a little deeper into You, the artist and your music. What attracted you to this genre(s) or style(s)?
I’d like to think it’s difficult to say what genre or style ULTRAS is. If it was easy to sum up I think that would probably mean it was pretty uninteresting. You don’t set out like ‘today I will make a dance tune’ or ‘today will be rock and roll’ – but the stuff from your life all gets mashed together to reveal your personality and your history and, for me, primarily to serve the lyrics.
What led you into this journey with music? And further, what drives you to push it out to the public?
I grew up on classic pop and rock music, and that very much feels like the background to everything I do – I think if I tried my absolute hardest not to, whatever I did would still sound a bit like rock and roll and still have a pop sensibility. In my teens, when I first started making music, it was really just making a racket, as noisy as possible. I gradually became able to put together a tune. Arguably. For ULTRAS, the big influence that probably hasn’t showed up much in what I’ve done before is hip-hop. There’s no rapping, or posturing with hip-hop fashion, it’s more taking the production style, the actual practice of how that stuff gets put together, and incorporating it into my sad white guy music.
Who or what influences your creativity? Have your tastes in music changed over time?
I genuinely couldn’t tell you why I push it out to the public. You have huge highs when you feel the recognition from a good gig or a radio play, but it can be a really unrewarding and exhausting life. You have to settle with yourself that you’re doing it for the sake of itself, rather than out of any kind of misguided ambition for fame and fortune.
Were you trying to accomplish anything specific on this new project? Creatively or otherwise?
People have often said that my music sounds Scottish, which is probably mostly down to my accent, but the older I get the more interested I am in music from outwith the culture that I was brought up in. So jazz, or folk music from around the world, and even really commercial American hip-hop is hardly from within my culture really. Ultimately the stuff from your own culture comes out like a reflex, so it’s natural to branch out.
The album has 6 different producers across the 12 tracks, which is inspired by the way that hip-hop mixtapes would be put together. The producers are all people in Scotland that I’ve either worked with before or have been meaning to for a long time – Jonnie Common, Ben Hillman, Julian Corrie (Miaoux Miaoux), Joe Cormack (Pictish Trail, The Massacre Cave), Paul ‘Gal’ Gallagher, and myself.
Lyrically, all of the songs address violence in one way or another. That could be political violence or a personal situation that you could be trapped in.
What was the last song you listened to?
A track that I’ve done guest vocals on for MC Almond Milk, who is a Glasgow based rapper and producer. It’s a dream come true to do guest vocals for a rapper!
Which do you prefer? Vinyl? CDs? MP3s?
I try not to be a wanker about it, but I do prefer vinyl. I grew up with a lot of it in the house, and it sounds like the proper way that music should sound to me, if that makes sense. Digital stuff always just sounds like a slightly inferior copy, and when you’re dealing with files it feels really disposable in the way that a large collection of physical objects with lovely cover art doesn’t.
The ULTRAS album is coming out on vinyl (another dream come true!) and I’ve written liner notes for it in the way that old jazz and soul records would have, telling you about the process of making the album, the lyrical themes, the guest producers. I always find that stuff really interesting on old records, even when it’s written by the label boss just saying stuff like “this kid’s got it!’. I spend ages just reading the back of records that I have no intention of buying in second hand record shops.
How about this one…. Do you prefer Spotify? Apple Music? Bandcamp? Or something else? Why?
I’ve only very recently caved in to streaming, and I’ve gone for Tidal, which I only really listen to while I’m on the move, but I thought for quality, and the playlists, and the royalty it pays, it seemed the best. I do still think that artists have effectively been stitched up with the new forms of distribution – still always the last people to get paid are the ones who actually create the stuff. It was always that way I think, but when there’s less money in the pot it seems all the more galling.
Other than the digital era overwhelming us with access to an abundance of music, what is the biggest challenge you face when trying to connect with or find new fans?
Every media and distribution outlet seems to want to very quickly define you with a genre type, despite there being many people who would tell you that the new ways of the music industry break down genre barriers. If an algorithm is deciding what to recommend to you, that’s bollocks, it needs tags on what you’ve done that it can manage a database with. And that’s detrimental to discovering stuff that’ll shake you out of your comfort zone.
Where is the best place to connect with you online? Discover more music?
Our own website http://ULTRASband.com has all of the videos, streaming stuff and tour dates, so go there.
Anything else you’d like to add before signing off?
I hope that if people listen, they take the time to engage with the lyrics, and with the album as a whole if they can. That’s not particularly practical with the way that people consume music digitally now but I really do think that the little extra effort would be rewarded.