While Charlottesville has developed a reputation for its thriving music scene, thus far that scene has been confined largely to one kind of music. If you are not a big fan of the Dave Matthews Band or Phish, the Charlottesville music scene can seem pretty uninteresting. But when a band like utris steps in and makes Charlottesville its home, people who believe variety is the spice of life should take notice.
utris materialized in Washington D.C. in 1995, according to guitarist J. Patrick Harris. Recently the band released its first album, "The Long Walk Home," on the locally-owned Annex Records. Harris, a University student who will graduate in May, listed Big Star and Wilco as two of the band's main influences.
"We're trying to do popular music in an artful way," he said. "We want to do art music that's accessible and popular."
Even though they have been playing together for five years, utris is relatively inexperienced and not established in their home area.
"We're spread out on the east coast right now," Harris said. "But everybody is moving to Charlottesville this summer. We're going to play a lot of shows in April and May, then we'll use the summer to get everybody settled in and record some new material and tour again this fall.
"We're talking to people in Germany and California right now," he said. "Annex is working on licensing agreements through another small label to get us over there."
As any professional musician will tell you, however, record companies only can do so much to ensure success. Touring is an absolute necessity.
"It's like a war," Harris explained. The record company "sends in the planes, but we have to be playing soon, and that's the ground attack. You have to be touring. That's the good thing and the sucky thing about doing it yourself."
While Europe and the west coast are long-term goals for the band, in the immediate future, utris will be staying on this side of the continent. The band will play at the Hoodang Music Festival in April, and will open for "bigger local bands this summer." utris then will begin a "fairly extensive" tour of the east coast in September.
"We don't jam or whatever, we're rock-n-roll," Harris said. "The power lies in seeing it once every other month, like what Earth to Andy does."
While utris does not want to be playing the same clubs constantly, they do expect to be "constantly putting out music."
"If you put out an album every two to three years, you put 20 songs on it, and most of them are crap," Harris said. "We'd rather put out albums whenever we come up with enough good material to justify it."
"The Long Walk Home," the band's most recent album, is available at Plan 9 in the local section. It will soon be released on vinyl. Harris said "Home" is definitely a coming-of-age record. "These past couple years while we were doing it we were growing up, and the album is a reflection of that," he said.
The result is a sound that will surprise and delight those who have grown wary of the vaunted Charlottesville music scene as well as its fans. As Harris said, "It's something that you've never heard of by a bunch of kids. It sounds good and it looks professional. It's like we're tricking you into thinking we're professional."