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Bumpin Uglies Explain ‘This Whole Gig is Survival of the Fittest’

By Linc Bradham

This reading of Alchemical Records content provides a multimedia experience for our audience while increasing the accessibility of our content to persons with hearing loss, low vision, dyslexia, physical or motor disabilities, or are on the autism spectrum.

One of today’s most exciting reggae/funk groups that you’ve likely already heard of, but may not know is actually from right in our DMV backyard in Annapolis, Maryland is none other than Bumpin Uglies. If you haven’t already heard them, Bumpin Uglies blend and swirl a style that weaves a sonic palette of upbeat music, heartfelt lyrics, and most of all, fun…channeling ska and reggae favorites such as Sublime, Reel Big Fish, and Streetlight Manifesto.

Bumpin Uglies hail from the DMV originally, but have now reached national notoriety and fame in their 10-plus years in the scene. It becomes crystally clear why when you listen to not only the writing skills and production quality of the group, but also when you see one of their high-energy live shows.

Bumpin Uglies Perform at Baltimore Soundstage
Bumpin Uglies – Baltimore Soundstage – Shantel Mitchell Breen

Bumpin Uglies got their start when frontman, singer, guitarist, and writer Brandon Hardesty decided in the early 2010’s to take his music career seriously, go full time, and stop waiting tables. He poured his all into the group, beginning with them playing local open mics, subsequently finding backyard shows, then house parties, and basically anywhere they could perform.

Eventually, one gig led to another, and the group started to gain some traction, playing local DMV hangs such as Michael’s Pub in Baltimore, The Whiskey in Annapolis, and Tortoise & Hare in Arlington. Then, in 2012, after about three years of local shows and parties, along with their first full-length album under their belt, entitled Free Candy, Bumpin Uglies exploded into something completely new: a full American tour, which saw the band playing all the way from Pennsylvania, to Illinois, to Colorado, to California, and other states.

The tour was a success, in addition to the group promoting their second album, Go Folk Yourself. As time has continued further along the way, the group never stopped releasing new music to the appreciation of their many adoring fans, lovingly known as Uglies Nation. There have been some personnel changes along the way, but the current Bumpin Uglies lineup includes Dave Wolf on vocals and bass, Ethan Lichtenberger on keys, and TJ Haslett on drums, in addition to Hardesty.

While Bumpin Uglies has continued to release music regularly, with a new album coming out (nearly) every single year since Free Candy in 2011, live shows have always been where fans connect most with the group. As was the case with many bands following the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the group had to go on a hiatus during the time of quarantine and social-distancing. For this article, Alchemical Records had the pleasure and distinct opportunity to speak with Bumpin Uglies frontman Brandon Hardesty about how COVID-19 affected the group and what the future looks like for Bumpin Uglies.

Says Hardesty, “We’d been touring for 10 years. That was ripped away…Conventional touring was ripped away. The entire world was taken away from us, and so we had to find our place in the new world.” In order to do that, Hardesty explained that Bumpin Uglies decided to get back to writing and recording, releasing a new single nearly every month of 2021.

These 2021 singles included “Predator,” “Loud & Clear,” “Roles We Play,” “Take It Back,” “Cali Sober,” “Too Stoned,” “Right & Clever” (already a fan favorite, and one that Alchemical Records covered upon its release), and “Mechanics & Barstools.” Each one of these songs could stand on its
own as a highly successful single within a year for a group, but releasing eight, following four other singles, along with a full-length album both released in 2020 (entitled Keep your suitcase packed.) is astounding.

With COVID-19 affecting touring for a while as well, Hardesty says, “It was nice to get back to our roots…playing private parties, solo acoustic stuff, outdoor venues, and traveling around the country that way. For friends to come and see us in the backyard again, like the old days.”

Weekend at Wolfie's Festival
Bumpin Uglies – Weekend at Wolfie’s – Courtesy of The Jamwich

Now though, with live music back in full force, Bumpin Uglies is touring again regularly. Following a truly fun and heartwarming Ugly Sweater Party at DC’s own 9:30 Club in December of last year, the group has embarked on the Pacific Northwest leg of their tour, with upcoming dates in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and others throughout January and February.

Toward the end of February and through March, Bumpin Uglies will be back on the East Coast, playing all the way from Florida through Georgia and the Carolinas, along with the Virginias, with an assortment of other East Coast states throughout.

Lastly, one of the most exciting developments for both fans of Bumpin Uglies and the group itself is the return of Weekend at Wolfie’s. Weekend at Wolfie’s is Bumpin Uglies’ own festival that was put on hold during the pandemic. The festival is three days long in Bedford, PA, and this year’s dates are June 23 – 25. This year’s lineup includes three sets from Bumpin Uglies, in addition to Tropidelic, PASADENA, Kyle Smith, Joint Operation, Elephants Dancing, and FUBAR, with more to be announced. With past years being some of the most fun festival times anywhere in the country, this is not an event to be missed!

We asked Brandon Hardesty what parting words he might like to share with the readers of Alchemical Records, along with anyone hoping to pursue a career in music, and he shared these words of wisdom, “This whole gig is survival of the fittest. It’s not for the faint of heart. But you just gotta keep your head down…keep working at it, and you’ll find your way.”

For more details about the ongoing Bumpin Uglies tour and Weekend at Wolfie’s 2022 festival, or to buy tickets, head over to the official Bumpin Uglies website. Uglies Nation!

Linc Bradham

Linc Bradham

Linc Bradham is an American multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, audio engineer, and songwriter originally from Savannah, GA. He has resided in the DMV for the last three years and has served in the active-duty Army for the last 12 years. He is in the process of switching Army careers into the Army Field Band as an audio engineering professional, with long-term goals of promoting music education in America and the Middle East.

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