New Jersey basement rockers UgLi have been at the top of a long list of local bands I need to see whenever they play Philadelphia. Their history is brief, but their body of work is dynamic, and their live performance is electrifying. The band’s debut LP Fuck, a name that’s a protest in itself, is equal parts rewarding and challenging, with songwriter Dylyn Durante’s gift for recognizing and distilling her own nuanced emotions into poetry bolstered by a team of musicians – Andrew Iannarelli (guitar), Lucas Gisonti (bass), and Teddy Paullin (drums) – from a range of professional backgrounds. Fuck fits the canon of what a perfect record should be: it has fast and slow moments, transitions thoughtfully into different moods, and reveals more upon each repeat listening. Even more, it’s available to own on vinyl, thanks to new label Terrapin Records, who made printing Fuck their maiden voyage.
UgLi started as Durante’s outfit of childhood friends in 2018, but found a more permanent lineup in early 2020, just weeks before the first shutdown. “We had four practices, then COVID hit,” Gisonti tells me on a group Zoom with the band. While the ironic timing might have felt like a stroke of bad luck, the band was determined to play. “We all knew that if you wanted to be serious about your art, that you have to keep going through this,” says Paullin. “I was in another band at the time that kind of fizzled out during the pandemic because they didn’t want to keep playing.” When it was safe to gather again in small groups, UgLi bunkered down in the studio. They marathon-sessioned through their first full album, partly to prove to themselves how far they could go, but also, “There was nothing else to do,” said Durante, bluntly.
All four members of UgLi come from different musical backgrounds, but were introduced through a tight-knit scene of players who shared bills and venues. “We were in a ‘soup of bands,’” says Paullin. Gisonti has the most formal training out of the band’s talented members, and surprised Durante in his audition by playing classical guitar. “I was like, ‘are you sure you want to try out for this band?’” she says. Iannarelli also felt the desire to play in a group that was different from anything he’d been a part of before. “After listening to the first EP, it was always the kind of music I wanted to play, very grungy.” When asked about her experience learning to play, Durante told me the story of a one-off lesson she took when she was 11 years-old from a sketchy music shop owner whose business was shut down for, well, peddling more than just instruments. “Other than that, everything has been either learning from interactions with other people or myself or the Internet or messing around,” she said.