"Have you ever seen Snake Eyes?" Charles Hellier asks me. I pause and say "Maybe a long time ago ..." Like most Americans, I'm sure I have seen almost all Nick Cage movies. Charles laughs and begins our interview with "Yeah, it's terrible." The other half of Hellier Ulysses, Thomas Ulysses, couldn't make it so we called him, threw him on the SPEAKER PHONE and kind of got down to business.
Hellier Ulysses are a noisy Birdnames. Maybe one of the highest compliments I think I can pay any band. They wrestle the weirdo pop sensibilities of Americas #1 underrated band and make them heavier, louder and at times more engaging. Switching bass and guitar throughout their set and alternating lead vocal duties, Hellier Ulysses spin odd melodies over misplaced notes and Charles' foot stampeding away through driving bass drum beats. It's engaging. It's different. It's good. T is for Thomas, C is for Charles, and B is for Billy. Let's go!
T: Hello. Do I sound strange?
B: Yeah, you sound strange.
C: Billy has nothing prepared. We're doing it live.
T: DANG. So, when do we start?
B: It's started. Have you ever seen Snake Eyes?
C: It's not very good.
T: Wait, you have no questions prepared?
B: Well, when I found out you weren't going to be here I proposed we should write a mad lib and then call you, but Charles said you'd be mad.
T: I wouldn't be mad.
B: So we can call you back in ten minutes?
T: No way man. (Charles mouths "he's mad")
B: So it does make you mad?
T: It doesn't.
B: So we can call you back and do that?
T: No way. (Again Charles mouths "he's mad")
On stage you can sense the friendship between the two. Their back-and-forth is perfectly balanced, intuition coming from playing together for years. Charles says they've known each other three years, Thomas says five years. Charles says they met at the pink house, Thomas says no way.
C: Dude, just make something up!
T: Dude, we met somewhere. It was like a first class love.
C: We were on a job in Malibu and our paths crossed.
They both agree they started playing music in Thomas's attic. "We were just in the attic, taking our shirts off, making music." Then they moved to Thomas's grandmas house, "before Charles became all crazy vegan. And I spilled mustard everywhere. Dude, I hate mustard now." That has nothing to do with their music, but it does. Their back and forth is ridiculous and engaging, the way they interact in person mimics the way their instruments and vocals banter across the stage. Songs like "Synchronized Reduction" bounce all over the place, comfortably making uncomfortable tempo changes and weirdo note choices work.
B: When you're on stage what do you pick up on in the audience?
C: I hate looking at people.
T: If I could, I would take out my eyes for the show.
C: Sometimes I look at people but then I realize they are looking back at me.
T: They should bring tennis rackets and balls and entertain us while we entertain them.
B: Can you hear that? (Ambulance siren in the background)
T: I can't hear anything!
B:That's Charles' side project.
C: It's called AMBULANCE.
B: What do you want people to do in the audience while you're playing?
C: Make love, right?
T: Yeeeeaaaah, something like that.
B: What do you think would happen if I brought someone home and put on your record? Not love making ...
T: She'd probably walk out on you ... She be like "I thought you wanted to pleasure me, not ruin me with this music."
Briefly we were interrupted by members of TV Dinner trying to make dinner plans. Thomas kept yelling "Can you hear me, can you hear me." We could hear him. Then, abruptly, we finished with this.
B: What are the top five things about playing music in Atlanta?
T: I'm going to have to say music with Charles for my first one.
C: Music with Tom.
T: Number 2, uhhhhhhhh, music fun. Music is fun.
C: It's a good way to distract yourself, uhhhhh, ...
T: Say it, say it.
C: ... The horrible realities of life.
T: Ohhhhhh. He said it! It's better than playing badminton at one of our shows.
We never made it to five, we just geeked out about Danny Bailey. "Anything Danny Bailey does is amazing." They each said his name a few more times and then we went our separate ways. Bring a date at your own risk to their show at Washroom tonight. If their music ruins your chances for post-show love, you can't say they didn't warn you.
Hellier Ulysses, Heavy Light, and Dementians play washroom tomorrow (Tuesday, May 21). 9 p.m. FREE . 825 warren st. Atlanta, Ga 30310
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