“Storytelling through visual art can leave a lot open to interpretation, but music blindfolds you and drops you off in an unfamiliar place. Your imagination is your only map.”
The words come from songwriter Dave Savage. He is a man of mission through music. A band, a show, a song, is merely a vehicle for action and community building. In a soundbite, I would peg this as the unwavering mission of the punk band Upper Management.
Full of hooks, riffs, instrumental breaks, and largely absent of choruses, Upper Management presents an accessible brand of complex pop-punk music that seeks to sound catchy, but never jump through the hoops of conventional song-writing. Savage is a truly unique songwriter writing within very familiar territory and in familiar keys with familiar chord progressions; but can you spot what’s coming next? Probably not. In the vein of Titus Andronicus, Savage opts for the non-linear song-less-traveled.
But you will catch lines that stick with you.
“When you come across a catchy tune, it gets stuck in your head,” Savage says. “You find yourself singing it throughout the day, humming the melody and latching on to a particular line... that always seemed like the perfect opportunity to introduce a message with heavier content. To take advantage of this platform we are given as artists in an attempt to provoke some sort of positive impact.”
The Upper Management Demo available on Bandcamp features four fast-paced, literary tracks that hold the energy of a manifesto with one-liners worthy of any basement, bedroom, or locker room, staring down whatever machine we find ourselves up against these days. I mean, if I was in middle school, I’m sure my away message would have been “HuNgRy heartsss and OvErDrAwN debit cardsss.”
Through music, Savage sees the real opportunity for musicians to build community, treating shows less as moments of self-promotion and more as gatherings with a social purpose. “The DIY music scene promotes this incredibly strong sense of community and empowerment,” Savage says. “Through our music we have a voice and the chance to be heard. Organizing shows isn’t just about self-promotion anymore. Hosting our own events gives us the chance to shed light on any topic or movement of importance. The majority of artists I associate with offer their music for free in some form, whether it be through digital streaming or a physical release. That has become the norm for me. For most of us, this isn’t about capital gain.”
Organizing events such as Food Not Bombs shows and putting out free music samplers, Savage has made himself an advocate for artists in the scene and his pursuit of music falls more in line with a passion than a hobby.
Along with Jamal Mufti on drums and Bryan Clifford on bass, Upper Management has found a welcome home in the local ska/punk/DIY community, recently playing Providence with the always fun Hempsteadys from New London, Connecticut. “For such a tight knit community, I’ve always found it to be very welcoming,” Savage says. “There’s quite a few familiar faces going strong as well as new folks working together to really strengthen the scene. Which I feel is really important. To me, the DIY music community is more of an extended family. Different generations advancing together out of a common love. In the short amount of time I’ve been involved with this scene, I’ve seen such a positive evolution.”
As for what’s next, Upper Management is going to be recording a 5-song EP early this year. It will feature a few brand-new tunes as well as a couple new versions of tracks from the demo. Check out Upper Management’s Bandcamp and Facebook pages for upcoming shows, new merch, and new music updates.