Dan Bauer is a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter hailing from New Hampshire. His quirky, soul-searching video single, ‘U.G.L.Y.’ is out now.
We are hooked in by the visuals instantaneously, as the artist can be seen stomping on a bag sharpied with the word ‘drama’. Lamenting statements such as ‘Can’t see why I can’t be….Happy’ is a big tell that the main character is feeling something quite contrary to what he’s showing.
Musically, Bauer displays moments of sensitive falsetto, which are then contrasted by upbeat percussion. According to the artist, the goal of this release is to juxtapose and contrast against his most recent album, The After Life, which has a more traditional set-up of electric guitar/bass/vocals/acoustic guitar/piano. The instrumentation of U.G.L.Y includes ‘acoustic guitar, drums, hand claps, synth sweeps, a funky bassline, piano, a staccato strings solo, and varied backing vocals’.
Bauer’s self-directed video is just as interesting as the song is sonically. It can be best described as quirky yet brooding, introspective yet blithe… We watch the artist process his thoughts, as he breaks a chair in a bespattered smash room. Later, we see a double of himself. One version of Dan is singing on a tv screen, while the other sits in a chair casually strumming with no fingers on the fretboard:
And while the lyrical theme is dark, the video never loses its unorthodox charm. You’ll see shots of a skeleton, tossed apples, and a flipping traffic sign. However, about three-quarters of the way through the tune, something changes significantly. The artist can be seen taking different actions, such as painting over the word alibi, which had appeared in graffiti on the wall. In another moment, he smashes the duplicate of himself from the tv screen, indicating that he is moving on from the cynical past version of his personality.
The lyrics consistently feature themes of regret and fear, but somehow still take the tone of careless glee. But when the violins come in with lighthearted staccato 8th notes, we feel as though we are finally moving a few steps forward. Dan Bauer stated, “Lyrically, the song features me reflecting upon the stark reality of where two years of self-loathing, ruminating, and rampant escapism had gotten me, and that place was ugly.”
He closes with the firm and repeated statement ‘Well you ain’t got no alibi, well you ain’t got no alibi’. He is out of excuses for that facet of himself. We get the sense that he is finally about to walk out the doors of the smash room, into a more pleasant (head)space.
This self-reflective song is both the second single and the opener from his upcoming album, Love, Dan which will be released later this year. If you’re in the New England area, be sure to also check out Dan’s live acoustic sets.
How did you ultimately settle on the title ‘U.G.L.Y’? Are the letters an acronym for something?
Well, the ‘U.G.L.Y.’ chorus is a take on the old schoolyard chant, so it’s definitely not an acronym for anything lyrically here. But I thought incorporating it (and putting a new melodic twist on things) worked in the sense that it conveyed what I was attempting to say: When you don’t take accountability for your own life – spirals, lows, and all – reality will eventually set in, and you may realize in that moment that your self-sabotaging is ultimately inexcusable. Tired excuses cannot be leaned on forever, or, as I sang in the key of G, “things get U.G.L.Y. when you ain’t got no alibi.”
Can you tell us more about the hidden meaning behind your choice of the backdrop / the smash room?
I chose the smash room because I wanted to make a visually-evocative video with as many trippy and unique visuals as possible. I figured a smash room would be the perfect venue for this, as I could combine the oddball cinematography I was aiming for with a similarly unorthodox venue. Plus, I was really sick of my TV anyway (yes, that was my actual – and only – TV) and needed a chance to let out some pent up rage.
What’s up with the rotating traffic sign and the skeleton in the video? Do they represent a part of the plot, or are they for comic relief?
There is no real plot to the video, nor are the skeletons comic relief. The shot featuring the rotating traffic sign, though, was one of my favorites of the video because I thought it was visually-trippy and lowkey kind of complex to pull off. The intended effect was to have me sing/play the song on piano at speeds which correlated with the actual road side’s instructions.
As soon as the sign holder flips it from STOP to SLOW, the footage suddenly appears in slow-mo. Afterwards once it’s back to STOP, I pause my performance. Moments later and still during this same long shot, my body returns to normal speed before I take a dip my body harmoniously with the strings. To achieve these effects, I had to film this section to a version of the song which oscillated between normal and fast-speed audio, and choreograph my keyboard-playing and singing accordingly to make the visuals align with the audio. Aside from the backwards basketball/TV shot in the song’s third verse, this may be my favorite from the video.
This single comes across as extremely honest and down-to-earth. What do you think is the key to coming across as musically candid?
First of all, spanks a lot for the kind words. Secondly, I certainly wouldn’t say I’m qualified more than anyone else to answer that question. But from my perspective I’d say the key to coming across candidly musically is to just live and be candid and authentic off the stage. I see so many acts out there who treat music like a commodity, more so than an actual art form, and I think there’s just too many gimmicks out there. I’m making music that speaks to me and hopefully others will vibe with it, too, but the moment I start resorting to melodrama, flexing, or forcing any sort of non-real depiction of myself onto my audience will be the moment I’ve stopped being an artist.
What other visual themes do we have to look forward to in Love, Dan?
So visually, I actually just got the official artwork completed and I’m very happy with the results. I won’t spoil anything, but the official artwork will be released after the next single and I believe it perfectly fits the album’s music. I designed the concept and, several friends, referrals, Redditors, and Fiverr artists later, we’ve got it looking mint. On the video end of things, I have two more music videos already finished, as well as two more ideas in the works. All told, 4-6 music videos in total throughout the Love, Dan album cycle.
What is your favorite song from your upcoming album so far, and why?
I’d say either When I Wake Up or MTL, but probably the latter. MTL is an 8+ minute song that takes a lot of twists and turns, tells a very personal and important story, and has my favorite moment of music I’ve created (thus far) to date on it. The album itself is a heaaaaavily-eclectic mix of songs, though, and I’d like to think the songs all have their own strengths. Lots of favorite moments throughout and I hope you’ll all hear them when the album drops. Thanks, Jammerzine!