The notion of legacy can often be a thorny subject. Whose legacy are we a part of when we do the things we do? A family, a community, some larger narrative which barely has anything to do with us? Jakob Armstrong grew up in a musical family and around the Bay Area punk scene. Did you put together surname and location in your mind? You might recognize his brother Joey as the drummer for SWMRS. Both Jakob and Joey are second-generation musicians, raised by their father Billie Joe, the frontman for East Bay pop-punk titans Green Day.
Armstrong began playing guitar at seven years old and honed his craft privately until about sixteen, playing in bands in and around Oakland after meeting friends with like-minded tastes in music. Soon enough, with the memories of Ultraman action figures fighting in his mind, he and a group of friends he cultivated from those years playing around and pouring over records, formed Ultra Q (its name inspired by an Ultraman prequel series).
Fusing together the skyward lift of Interpol, the clever guitar interplay of the Strokes, the maudlin romanticism of the Cure, and the often impressionistic narrative gifts of Arctic Monkeys, Ultra Q’s growth since their 2019 EP We’re Starting to Get Along has been exponential. A traditional alternative rock sound is baked by the California heat, shards of broken glass gleaming in the sunlight, spanning the distance from Berkeley to Rodeo Drive. Over blaring guitars and thunderous drums, Armstrong’s voice is carried by a very familiar lilt.
Self-recorded by Armstrong on a whim while quarantined, In a Cave in a Video Game serves as an interesting outlier for the group; a lo-fi departure from the booming rock music Ultra Q usually plays, insular and experimental but as anxious and romantic as the band’s past and future work. The band preparing for the release of their debut full-length — slated for autumn 2020 — rife with captivating, anthemic, and musically complex (but not too complex) songs about trying to shake off anxiety and the sour taste left by the bitter feelings.
You could say Jakob Armstrong is carrying on two separate legacies — that of his family name and Oakland’s long standing punk scene — but the truth is a new legacy is being formed in the massive songs of Ultra Q, a band quickly rustling up a truly intriguing body of work. — Martin DouglasFor tour dates and more visit: ultraqmusic.com/