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Dying to DIY

Kent Ueland of The Terrible Buttons takes on solo songwriting



Last year wasn't a good one for Kent Ueland. But as 2015 emerges, so does his first ever solo record—and perhaps that will make some artistic sense of the wasteland of the previous year.

The former songwriter and bandleader of Spokane-staple The Terrible Buttons presents, Do it Yourself, which consists of songs based on what Ueland calls "the shittiest year" of his life—in which he lost a four-year relationship and a 5-year-old band, and his self-proclaimed questionable moral fabric was left to fly in the wind. With the country, road-tempered tenor of M. Ward and the vengeful and desperate lyrics and repetitive, down tempo, rant-verse of Conor Oberst, Ueland duels with his new life on Do it Yourself, drawing and firing wildly into the air, taking a direct hit, and falling back, injured and heartbroken, to the saloon. All this in a familiar, crackling warm fire of a voice that whimpers sweetly, lashes out in drunken rage and explores the harsh, outer reaches of loneliness.

Source Weekly: How did The Holy Broke come about? How long have the Terrible Buttons been around and is the band still performing/recording, or are you totally focused on this project now?

Kent Ueland: Terrible Buttons (TB) was a band for about five years. We called it quits about six months ago and decided to go our separate ways, mostly amiably. Most of that band are still my very best friends. But, yes, The Holy Broke is my main focus and creative outlet at the moment, and it has been really nice to stretch myself without the safety net of my six best friends.

The Holy Broke came about when I started seeing the signs that TB was on its way out. I fought tooth and nail to keep it together, but it was just time to call it quits. And when I saw that coming, I knew I had to find a way to keep playing music, as well as deal with the personal hardship that came along with me getting out of a four-year relationship and losing the band.

SW: How are the songs you're writing for this solo project different from the songs you wrote with TB?

KU: The songs on Do It Yourself are much simpler and straightforward than what I was writing for TB. I was always trying to push boundaries with those TB songs, and get out of any prior genre affiliation, which I think at times really stunted us. I wanted so bad to make something truly original that sometimes I couldn't just let the song be a fucking song. It had to be weird; it had to be new.

With The Holy Broke, I've become much more comfortable letting the songs breathe. This record is very firmly in the country/folk genre, and there are fewer distractions from the heart of the message. These songs are also much more personal in their subject matter. There are far less "character pieces" and more songs about what it was like to be me during the absolute shittiest year of my life. SW: The album seems desperate and really dark, is there a theme here? Where are these stories coming from? KU: The year in which these songs were written was by far the darkest of my life. It's sort of just this story about a guy with questionable moral grounding to begin with, who suddenly feels justified doing whatever the fuck he wants because he feels he's been wronged. And that's a very dangerous situation. There's a lot of self-destruction throughout. But these are all true stories, there's not a piece of fiction on the record.

SW: How long have you been working on this album? What has been different writing it solo as opposed to with a band?

KU: I've been working on it for about a year and a half, flying back and forth to Minnesota to record at the all-analog studios of Plastic Horse Records. That place is analog heaven, and I've never felt more creative than in their space. I'll be making records the same way for a long time. We're starting work on the next record as soon as this tour is over.

SW: What is the meaning of the title track "Do it Yourself?"

KU: There's a lot that goes into the title. The song, which lends its name to the album, is a pretty straightforward tune about contemplating suicide. It's a conversation in which Death is telling me to stop whining and do it. But there's a lot more to the title of the record. Do It Yourself is the ethic that the label and I have espoused since we first partnered. Forgetting about getting a major label deal and trying to land fancy managers, and instead putting the miles and the hours in to make a dollar, and keeping every cent because you earned it and they fucking didn't. That's doing it yourself. And finally, this is my first solo record, this is me "doing it myself" for the first time. Complete creative control, no one to blame, putting more on the line.

The Holy Broke

8 pm. Monday, Jan. 19

Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr.


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