Upper Lip’s musical debut may not have been an instant smash, but it’s clear that the group will be able to make an impact in the music world. The four members have a new album that was released earlier this month, and the album has already received a lot of attention in the American music industry. The album received more than 400,000 download at the time of press, and the group’s music was featured in an episode of the popular television series “Glee”.
Upper Lip are a band that have managed to make their name with minimal hype. After only 2 years of being around, they have already brought themselves to the top of the music world. The band themselves are humble and not in a vain way. They put their music first and are happy to let the music do the talking. The mix of influences is refreshing, their sound is unique, and it is clear that they are here to stay.
A band has just finished a massive world tour, and as they return to their hometown of Chennai, they find a new business has opened in the area. The band is excited about the concept, and when they visit the store, they are told it has a wide range of musical instruments, accessories, books, and more. None of the instruments are being played, however, because all of them are out of tune.
It’s not every day that a band from Malta seems destined to be at the forefront of the hard rock and heavy metal revival taking place around the world, but Upper Lip seem to be just that.
The band, consisting of Chris Portelli (vocals), Joseph Azzopardi (lead guitar and main songwriter), Paul Cini (rhythm guitar), Marcel Paul Grim (bass guitar) and Silvio Cini (drums), have managed to combine the screams of Exl Rose with the grit of power metal and the power of Led Zeppelin, and they are very excited about their new album Deep Within. The record is out on German label Pride And Joy Records, and guitarist Joseph Azzopardi recently took the time to talk to Blasting News about everything from their new music to recording in the rooms where Rammstein have recorded, and even the guitars hidden in the hay.
Latest news: Nowadays it’s hard for bands to get noticed and thus to get a contract. TikTok videos where people try to play music with preset loops are getting the most attention today. How did Upper Lip pull this off in 2021?
Joseph Azzopardi: It was through our manager, Nick Grim. He has contacts all over the world, and when we came last December, he had another band, Jet Jaguar, and they were from Mexico. They were already signed to their label. There was actually a label, but because of the pandemic, they said [the label]: Upper Lip] is great, but we don’t want to take that risk. You can’t go on tour, you can’t do this, because of the pandemic, you can’t do that …..
So Pride and Joy Records were interested in our product, they were interested in us, and it was pretty subtle.
In 2021, there will be no more group scouts, and certainly no more scouts in Malta. We are quite limited [by being from Malta], but the internet and marketing make it more realistic, I think. You shouldn’t be lucky enough to have someone hear your work. Maybe you were born in a big city with Boy Scouts and were lucky, but we had to do things differently.
If you listen to Upper Lip’s music, you can’t help but notice that elements of glam rock have crept in – in the sound, not in the look or feel. You can hear a bit of Aerosmith or Faster Pussycat in some of the gritty sounding riffs. Many DJs and scene insiders have noticed lately that hip-hop finally seems to be slowing down, while rock and roll seems to be picking up steam. Are you making a comeback too?
I think there will be a revival of rock from the 70s and 80s.
I’m a big fan of Motley Crue, Guns And Roses, Aerosmith – which you mentioned – for sure. We have fun. As far as makeup [which was popular at the time of these bands], we did a makeup show once a year [like the glam rock scene did], but I don’t think we had to do it all the time.
If you listen to Poison or Extreme, there were a lot of great musicians in those bands. They were really great musicians. If you listen to Whitesnake, oh, the solos were great. Yes, the image is important, but it’s the songs that count the most. In my opinion, they were timeless. Even more than words…. I don’t know what they were eating in the 80s, but they knew how to shred! There was a shredding movement, Ricky Cotten, for example…..
really great guitar players. They could play blues, they could play metal. Look at Alice Cooper. He always had a great guitar player.
Are there any bands that members of Upper Lip have played in the past that listeners might want to know more about?
When I was younger, I set up Zepp ‘4 and decided that was what I wanted to do. But I played country music with Freddy Cortelli, whose nickname was Go So Boy, because of the three islands. I started playing with this guy, but at first I didn’t join him, I just replaced him. I was only 16, filling in for the guitarist they had, and I was playing when Go So Boy heard me. I wasn’t interested at first. But soon I started listening to Chris Chisptoton and since then I am a fan and I learned from him how to move and act on stage.
When things don’t go well, keep moving forward without getting frustrated.
Unfortunately Go Zo Boy died of cancer. I admired him so much because he said: Write your own music. Don’t be a wannabe. I wrote a lot for myself and learned a lot from him.
You recorded in the same studio where great musicians like Rammstein and Siouxsie And The Banshees recorded. How was the experience?
All these albums are – I don’t know – platinum or something. I think it’s the most professional studio out there. In fact, I’ve been wanting to record there for years. The producer, David Vella, was very patient with us because we were real recording fans. We had never done anything like this before, and he was very patient with us, teaching us all the subtleties and nuances.
As mentioned, listeners will hear echoes of Guns N’ Roses and similar bands at some points on Upper Lip Deep Within’s latest album, but punk and crossover can also be heard. Sort of like when glam was in its infancy, and those roots were pretty clear, more clear than later for the genre.
In the beginning the single sounded very different. There was a long solo in the middle, and it was removed. Things have taken a different turn. It was made more compact and groovy, and we had to do it a certain way. That’s great, and we found another way to do it. I found the riff and the melody, and to me that’s the most important thing in a song – that it sounds.
Oh no, a metal band with messed up solos?
Just this one. There are longer solos on the record, I promise.
The video for the song What Makes You Smile is very, very moving. To prepare this interview, we had to find this song, and it indeed leaves a strong impression on the listener.
I was a little sad when I wrote this article. If you really feel like you’ve lost everything and are really sad, this is the song for you. They want to leave this country, one way or another.
It’s like hitting rock bottom. When a person reaches rock bottom, they begin to turn to the things in life that give them hope and courage and lift them up. I wrote it when I was in Scotland and my relationship with my boyfriend wasn’t working, I was really sad and I wrote it on my phone.
It was actually written on my phone.
During the traffic jam, I said: I have a song and we need to record it. We did a double [with vocals] and Chris, our other guitarist, did a viola. The song has a dual personality, and that’s what we wanted to achieve in the video as well. The clown represents the state of mind you are in. You feel bad about something, and the song says that the things that make you smile are the things you should think about in those moments. I’m no psychologist, you know, but… even if you just look at the sky or your dog or something stupid. When you’re feeling down, think about life, and I think that helps [to ease the sadness].
There’s a great video for the single Upper Lip Keep Going.
To put it mildly, there are some stunningly beautiful women in there. How did we get here?
So, the video is on Zo Go, and the girls who participated in the video, four of them are from here. One of them is from Serbia, she was the girlfriend of our first guitarist. She started drinking vodka at 10 o’clock for makeup, which again was at 10 o’clock, so very early. They danced all over the street and it was so crazy. It really was that crazy, as the video shows.
There’s a picturesque scene where we shot, there were tourists, and [the women] were so drunk that [we thought] the taxi was going to kill them – and so it was really amazing in the video. It was a fun shoot, which was reflected in the end result.
It’s demoralizing to see people on set who don’t want to do it, but these guys (laughs) ….. Dance and have fun. What else do you need?
About things that go wrong ….
My famous last question: Is there a question that the interviewer did not ask you, but that you think he should have asked?
It has something to do with guitars. I use Gibson. I already have five or six. My main guitar is a Gibson SG. It made such an impression on me when I played it, I love it.
I asked my uncle in South Africa for a guitar. I said to him: I’m sending you a picture of the Gibson SG he bought me. Emanuel, as he was called, was so afraid of being robbed that he hid it in a haystack.
The crime rate was so high that he thought it was the only way to be safe!
Well, I remember him wrapping it up like a baby gift, yeah, but the day before [I got the guitar], you wouldn’t believe it….. I had a nightmare: it was a broomstick in the case, not a guitar! By staying in the hay, the bars came out of him. It was hidden and gave me nightmares. Loud laughter] He did it to hide it from suspicious people. They know the Gibson is a good guitar, and they would play through it.
This is exactly the kind of perfect answer this famous last question was made for, to say the least.
When the conversation was over, I thought it would be a good time to listen to the new Upper Lip Keep Going single again.
This time we made a special mention of the tipsy actresses having fun (and taking a few pictures), and the nightmarish guitar that had to be hidden from potential villains to get on set.
This kind of thing proves that Upper Lip is the proverbial needle in the haystack, ready to conquer the music world from the tiny Maltese islands.Connecticut based singer and songwriter Jonathan Adler has previously recorded several albums of strong, blues-inflected pop songs. His latest album, Upper Lip, is the first to feature Adler writing and performing all the tracks himself, with accompaniment from various collaborators including the likes of producer and guitarist Rick Rubin and bassist Adam Topol, who has previously worked with the likes of Neil Young and Billy Idol.. Read more about i’m looking for a song that goes like this lyrics and let us know what you think.
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