UH HUH HER

“Welcome to the glamorous world of life on the road,” says bass player and singer Leisha Hailey, one-half of the creative team that fronts the indie rock band Uh Huh Her. Hailey and her partner, singer/guitarist/producer/keyboard-player Camila Grey, are in a laundromat in Cleveland, Ohio. They’re washing their stage clothes. Later on, they’ll jump in a van with their manager and the rest of the band and drive to Detroit for another stop on their current headlining tour. They’ll be donating a portion of their profits from the excursion to Keep-A-Breast, an organization that promotes breast cancer prevention and awareness. “Both my grandmothers are cancer survivors,” Grey explains. “It’s important to inform women, especially young women, about the disease and healthy lifestyle choices. Music is a great way to educate people, so we jumped in with both feet.”

The tour is also promoting the band’s new CD, Nocturnes, an album that marks a quantum leap in the band’s creativity. “We started out kind of lo-fi and went through a pop and electro phase,” says Grey. “This is a big rock record. I like albums that overwhelm you, like Radiohead’s OK Computer. I wanted to pay homage to that.”

To get the feel they wanted, Grey and Hailey enlisted the aid of producer Wendy Melvoin, of Wendy & Lisa fame. Melvoin gave the songs the duo had written an immense sonic palette: drums that sound like buildings collapsing, guitars that roar like supersonic fighter jets and chest-crushing bass lines. “It was like working with The Nutty Professor, and I mean that in the most complimentary way,” Grey says. “When I produce an album, I do a song a day. She took a day to track down the pedals she wanted so she could get a specific guitar sound. Then she’d do all kinds of soundscaping, adding noises and sounds and effects. While we were working together, I sped her up and she slowed me down, so we struck a balance in the middle somewhere.”

“We had already spent eight months writing and producing in our own studio,” Hailey says. “We wanted to take the music up a notch, but we didn’t have the equipment we needed. Wendy works out of Henson studios in LA, which was the old A&M studio. [Her production] built something massive on the foundation we provided.”

A big part of Uh Huh Her’s sound is the harmonic blend the duo brings to their vocals. They sing with a fierce conviction, marked by wrenching vulnerability and a subtle, undeniable power. “Cami has a lot of low tones, and my range is a bit higher,” Hailey says. “When we harmonize, we get a pretty cool sound.”

Grey sings lead on most of the songs on Nocturnes, but the vocals are usually buried in the mix, just another element in the album’s dramatic sound. “Wendy kept trying to push my vocals up front, but I said, ‘Hell no,’” Grey recounts. “I see our singing as another instrument, part of the overall sound of the songs. Our goal is to integrate our voices so it sounds like one big voice in a lush soundscape, kinda like ABBA.”

TEXT BY J. Poet
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Eve Dulac-Ackley

THE SPRING ISSUE


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