Combining the best of Nuggets-era garage rock with a no-nonsense hard rocking energy reminiscent of The White Stripes, The UK's are one of Kansas City's most exciting bands. Comprised of Noah Bartelt (vocals and guitar), Scott Combs (guitar), Nick Brown (bass), and Tarquin Eugene Kellough (drums), the band are hot off the release of their excellent debut album Bad Seed. We are thrilled to share an interview with Noah and Scott in which they address the making of Bad Seed, their songwriting process and their numerous charity efforts.
Please introduce yourselves. Where do you live and work?
Noah: I'm Noah Bartelt, lead singer and one of the guitar players of The UK's. I was born in Dallas, TX, but was raised in Kansas City. I am currently going to UMKC for a degree in Theatre Sound Design and I work part time as a barista at Parkville Coffee.
Scott: I'm Scott Combs, I'm the lead guitarist of The UK's. I live in Kansas City and I work for the Park Hill School District as a tutor at Park Hill High School. I currently go to Johnson County Community College and I am pursuing a degree in video game development.
Tell us about your debut album, Bad Seed. Where was it recorded? How long had it been in the works?
Noah: I hesitate to use the term 'concept album' because it has a weird connotation, I prefer to call our debut album, Bad Seed a 'story album'. We recorded the album in January of 2016 at Element Recording Studios with Joel Nanos. The album story line that helped us write nearly half the songs came to me in late September of 2015. The album tells a tale about a man who is addicted to drugs and falls in love with a woman for whom he tries to get clean for, but he fails at getting clean and ends up accidentally killing the woman he loves in a drug induced rage. The album ends with a person who had always loved the woman, killing the drug addict to avenge the death of his love. It's a dark story line but it brings up topics and struggles that are real and powerful.
Scott: The majority of the album was written in about 4 or 5 months, but we had a couple songs (namely Sir Fish, White Out, and Far From the Shore) that we had been playing for the better part of a year. Looking back on it, it doesn't feel like it has been that long. I remember writing them with Noah and it feels like it was just yesterday.
How do the songs get written and arranged in the band? Who brings what to the table?
Scott: The music is written by the band as a whole, we all try to sit down and jam something out together so we all feel like we have an equal say in the writing process as opposed to one person writing the whole thing.
Noah: Sometimes one of us will bring a riff or melody that we have been working on and present it to the band and if it sticks, we all try to add our own flavor to it and jam out the structure of the song as a group. But like Scott said, some of the songs we write come from us just jamming together with no preconceptions. As far as words go, I write a lot of the lyrics with help and edits from Scott. The songwriting process for us is very much a group effort and we love to have a piece of everyone shine through in each song.
How did The UK’s get involved with Camp Quality, which serves children with cancer? What other charities have the band been involved with?
Noah: We got involved with Camp Quality a few years back through a friend, Mike Borgia, who booked our shows at Czar Bar. When we heard about a benefit show there for Camp Quality, we jumped in to be a part of it with help from Mike. We have also organized charity concerts with other local bands and musicians that helped raise money for the Red Cross after the earthquake in Joplin, MO in 2011 and after Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast in 2012. We love to do anything we can to help those in need, and we use our art as a vehicle for that.
What inspires you about the Kansas City music community?
Noah: The most inspiring thing about the Kansas City music community is how many genres of music are being performed and blended here. There are amazing bands playing everything from reggae and ska to garage rock and punk to jazz and blues. And seeing so many bands get big followings outside of the region like Beautiful Bodies and Radkey is hugely inspiring for me.
Scott: The thing that inspires me most about the KC music community is that there's so many people who will listen to anything we have to play, because the love of music is so strong in this city, and most everyone we've come across has been super supportive and awesome. It's really cool to see bands like Radkey who started so young get as far as they have, and I think it has a lot to do with the music community here in KC.
Music Recommendations (Noah's Picks):
Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt
This album is amazing from front to back. Not only did it introduce me to the genre of ska but it was definitely the very first album I ever danced to when I was just a baby. It blends the genres of ska and pop rock effortlessly and it's just a fun album to listen to. I have a very big soft spot for this album in my heart. It reminds me a lot of my childhood and my first introductions to music by my mom and dad.
Maladroit by Weezer
One of my favorite albums of all time has got to be Maladroit by Weezer. It was one of the first albums I fell in love with and I've been a hardcore Weezer fan ever since. There's something so anti-mainstream about the album but they are so unapologetic about it. It's something about those heavy guitar riffs like the one in Burndt Jamb that draws me to this album. It's so awesome!
White Blood Cells by The White Stripes
This is another one of my favorite albums. I found the White Stripes and Weezer around 5th or 6th grade and those are the two bands that drew me to performing music. White Blood Cells is what made the White Stripes the White Stripes. Not only does it have the staples like "Hotel Yorba" and "Fell In Love With A Girl", it has some lesser known rockers like "The Union Forever" that takes words from the movie Citizen Kane and transforms them into a song. I think a lot of people take for granted how clever and inventive of a songwriter Jack White is.
The film Under Great White Northern Lights is a documentary of sorts about the White Stripes' 2007 tour across Canada. It shows Jack and Meg playing in every venue from a theater to a town square to a bowling alley. There's something so punk and careless about it but at the same time it shows how much compassion and love you can find in people you make music with.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is a really interesting autobiography about musician and comedian Carrie Brownstein. It's an equally funny and heartwarming book and its honesty is refreshing. She's a great storyteller which makes her already unique life even more entertaining and inspirational.
One of my favorite music biographies is Jimi Hendrix: A Brother's Story. It is written by Jimi's brother, Leon Hendrix, and it goes far more in depth into his early life and experiences than any other biography I've read about Jimi. He seriously carried around a broom for a year when he was a kid pretending to play it like a guitar because he couldn't afford a real one. He was dead set on playing guitar, regardless of if he had one or not, and that blows my mind! I never knew that fun little fact until I read this book, and trust me there are plenty more in there.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Never Ending Story by Michael Ende
Dark Black Makeup by Radkey
Gary Clark Jr. - Blak and Blu
Swiss Army Man (DVD)