Stelth Ulvang is a singer-songwriter who's ability to weave delicate lattices of deeply emotional lyrics over catchy rhythms is one not commonly shared amongst his peers. After performing "Denim," we sat down with Ulvang and Dorota Szuta to learn more about their lives in music in this Labor of Love.
Labor of Love - Stelth Ulvang
How did the making of music become your life?
S: I kept saying yes to friends and bands going out, playing for free, until I was skilled or confident enough to ask for money, and it shifted to a full time hobby about 6 years in.
How did you get your start?
S: Playing sax in high school bands, and slowly learning more and more instruments.
D: Also playing music, violin and choir growing up. Karl from CME, a longtime friend, gave me my first amp in High School!
In these times it's an incredible challenge getting by making music, everyone at CME has found a happy home here to support our passion for music. How do you make it work?
S: Traveling and music seem to be one of the best ways to keep afloat, and finding a sustainable balance is the biggest challenge. I probably tour 80% of my time.
D: Be flexible and roll with the punches. Also work as a water scientist.
How does it all come together?
S: Long drives, breaking even, and sleeping on floors, but surely all the laughing in a van and early airport rides makes up for the years off our life. It's sure nice being able to travel and perform with Dorota.
Who were your major influences?
S: Feeling heavily influenced lately by Jason Molina. I grew up listening to Paul Simon and Fleetwood Mac, then Weezer, Pavement, and other such garage rock sounds.
D: Cat Power, early modest mouse records, all the bands on the Saddle Creek label in the early 2000s, that one le tigre video with the two people dancing in costume, traditional fiddle tunes, any music that sounds fun but is lyrically dark.
What guides your playing style?
S: Guitar wise, I love the classic songwriters- Cohen, Baez, Van Ronk, and Dylan. Accents in chords that lock right on in with the lyrics. You can tell they always record both at once how well the rhythm locks.
D: When I'm accompanying other people, which is mostly what I do lately, I try to listen and adapt. I err on the side of minimal and droney for violin and borderline excessive harmonizing for guitar and vocals. Some combination of thinking and feeling, one foot in each kiddie pool.
What's your rig?
S: I have a Gibson '67 J-50 with an L.R. Baggs Anthem pickup and a Baggs Venue D.I. Have also been enjoying an electric archtop (with bigsby) cutaway Lh-306T by The Loar. When playing electric- I run through a Peavey Classic 30, with an Earthquaker Dispatch Master, Holy Grail, and Xotic SP Compressor, and MXR six band EQ; which cover a lot of ground.
S: I had a 1911 Washburn for a few months before it disappeared to a friends grasp and never got it back.
D: Before my first guitar came my first violin when I was 10, which was a cheap student model that i played for ten years. My favorite part was that the case was lined in blue velvet and had a raised heart right where the body lay. My first guitar amp however was a mini amp given to me by CME's very own Karl Neurauter when we were in high school!
Any gear you can't live without?
S: Until I'm a better guitar player, I love me a good capo ;) - I also will drop everything to play a Wurlitzer 210A
D: A baby blue danelectro that's light enough that you could play it forever with no shoulder injury. Also, sounds punchy and looks like a cartoon!
What do you have coming up? Albums? Tours?
S: I released 2 EP's and an Album (American Boredom) this last year. Hitting the road again with the Lumineers soon enough!
D: I just took a big girl science job so we'll see how the future unfolds. Most likely recording a bedroom album later this year.