Jakob Armstrong

Rock Gods & Guardian Angels – An Interview With Ultra Q

From Pet Sounds to Disintegration, the influential stylings of Ultra Q’s long-awaited debut run far and wide. Because of this, the process of making said album was both fun and therapeutic for the band.

West Coast bands are anything but few and far between, but standing out from the crowd is Ultra Q. Call them punk, shoegaze, or garage rock – it doesn’t matter because the band knows how to blend all those aforementioned sounds together effortlessly. Jakob Armstrong, Enzo and Chris Malaspina, and Kevin Judd got together when they were just youngsters (which is saying something being in their early twenties now). They wanted to write and record songs, but with no pressure… even if Armstrong’s father is none other than the frontman to the legendary punk band Green Day.

Armstrong, as the lead singer and core lyricist, has influences that range – something we’ve talked to him about before. Still, he is able to cite his go-to inspirations as The Cure, likening them to rock gods.

Ultra Q’s debut album, out this Friday, finds the foursome putting an ear to the work of Cure frontman Robert Smith. The band found themselves recording the songs for it in the legendary East West Studios and with Chris Coady, producer of some of our favorite We Are Scientists and Yeah Yeah Yeahs records. With all of this in their back pocket, their next endeavor is to pull off an amazing North American tour with Cloud Nothings and headliner Wavves. 

We hopped on a call with Jakob Armstrong to talk about all this and more.

Was it difficult finding other members that were on the same page musically as you?

I think it was natural actually. I met Chris and Enzo when we were five years old, so we went through similar musical discoveries together. We met Kevin, our bass player, in high school. 

My Guardian Angel is the band’s debut album. What’s the album about and why name it My Guardian Angel?

We realized late in the game that we needed to name our record. Writing this was my attempt in writing pop music. I think in this tracklist was the song “I Watched Them Go.” We were bored playing guitars and drums. 

COVID happened and it led me to what I write what I wrote. I’ve been playing music for 10 years now. We were gigging all the time. As you get older and time passes, you see friends move away and get jobs. This record, to me, was kind of reflecting on not having that space anymore. It also reflects on some other familial events that happened during COVID that was really challenging, as well. This record dealt with all those emotions I was having, and it was very therapeutic to write and record.

How was it working with producer Chris Coady? Any studio stories to tell?

That was a very surreal moment that he wanted to make it. I knew him from producing TV On The Radio and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. We met him through the owner of our record label. He produced great Beach House records, as well.

We recorded the majority of the record at his house. To record the live drums, we went to Los Angeles to East West Studios in Studio 3, where Beach Boys recorded Pet Sounds, which was amazing and very special.

What’s the overall soundscape of My Guardian Angel?

My favorite band is The Cure. They are the rock gods to me. It’s sort of like a mixtape from punk to the Strokes to shoegaze elements – as far out of our favorite sounds. The sound is not locked down to one thing. 

You’re touring with Cloud Nothings and Wavves. What can we expect from the tour and what’s the best thing about touring?

Being to be able to open for those two bands is a special moment for sure. I was such a big fan of Wavves in high school. Last time we toured on the East Coast, I had COVID we had to cancel a lot of those shows. I can’t wait to hit the cities that we missed last time – Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, D.C.. We record music to play shows. That’s the most important part. 

Did your father give you any pointers before entering music industry?

Not really. I didn’t mean to enter the music industry; it kind of happened. I just wrote songs with my friends when I was younger and we placed it on SoundCloud. I ask him for advice all the time, but it’s pretty much hands off. 

What’s next after the album release and tour?

Honestly, we want to tour more, but it’s so competitive. We want to put out this record, but we don’t have anything really planned after this summer. We are just taking it a month at a time. We will have fun the most fun we can have while on tour.