Setting up as a new band in the middle of a thriving scene has been a personal process of sacrifice and influence for Brooklyn, NY outfit Big Ups. Ahead of the release of their second LP, Before A Million Universes, Vocalist Joe Galarraga gave us a peek into the origins and significance of the band’s latest project.
I’ve hear a lot about the new record, what can you tell me about the content?
In terms of the content and for us in terms of making it, it was a much more intentional sort of production in the sense that we really wanted to write an ALBUM, whereas the last time that we put out a full-length we didn’t really think about the flow of it as much or the cohesiveness… The undertaking was more serious in the sense that having the chance and the opportunity to continue with this band and continue making more and more music, you sort of have to take it more seriously because you inevitably spend more and more time doing it… We just kind of wanted to do justice to that fact and the fact that all of us are making sacrifices in order to do this.
I know ‘National Parks’ is a tribute to the sacrifices your Mum has made. What made you want to write that track about her?
I think firstly, like I said, this is something that I have kind of sacrificed a lot to do. You know, going on tour and travelling and playing shows, and all of this, it takes a lot of time, and obviously we love doing it, but you can’t do everything. So I feel like sometimes I don’t get the chance to visit my mother that much… Ans also it’s something that I can do for her… Very basically, looking at things that I spend a lot of time doing, so I just wanted to write a song about her and sort of in dedication to her.
So much of this record is very reflective, it’s about selfhood, it’s about how people fit into their individual worlds and identity and stuff like that, and I think that inevitably I thought it was worth my literal roots. This is my mother, who raised me, who I spent the first 18 years of my life with, [we’re] kind of seeing what she did and the person that she was and the person that I want to be as well.
I’m curious about how the idea of national parks came into the track.
The ending part, the coda, takes place in the future tense, things that will happen. Because when I was growing up, I remember my mom always said: “When you and your sister move out of the house I’m gonna get a Winnebago and a bunch of dogs and drive around the country”. And I remember at first, when I was younger, I was so resistant to that idea because I thought it was crazy. But if that’s what she wants to do, then she should totally do it… I want her, after years and year of spending her life taking care of my sister and myself, to do whatever she wants, driving through national park, and I’ll be there to support her decisions.
“Before a million universes” is a Walt Whitman quote, and I know he was very into nature. Did he inspire you in some way?
Yeah, he very much did inspire a lot of the songs on the record. It wasn’t almost until the record was done being written that realisation came about. There were things that were [inspired] very directly – like the last song on the record ‘Yawp’, is also a paraphrased quote from Walt Whitman – and certainly the naturalism, like you said, comes to be part of it. But year, it has a lot to do with the idea of the self, and the individual’s place in society… [The title] is a line from ‘Song of Myself’, which is a HUGE poem by Walt Whitman, and so that’s sort of hoe we came to that decision.
You have been playing together for about six years now. In the beginning, what was it that made you guys want to start playing?
For me it was out of boredom almost… I came from Baltimore where there was a really strong music scene. There was one in Brooklyn at the time too but it was way bigger, and I don’t want to say less accessible but because it was bigger it was perhaps more intimidating and I felt Like I din’t really know it. But I was going to a lot of shows and I have band in baltimore for a while, and that was really all that, in terms of recreation, really the only thing that I wanted to do…
And so, the band was sort of originally an idea of mine, and all the songs were so bad, but like I wrote them all very haphazardly… I was like “Hey, wanna try to play these songs”, and you know, we don’t play a single one of those songs anymore, it’s become something way more collaborative since then, but I think that in a way doing this has been such a good outlet for all four of us individually. I don’t want to speak for everybody, but it’s just brought us together in a way… Having a relationship with people that’s spanning six years is like… There’s certainly a lot of history there and it’s really great.