Recently, Aiken Blend writer, Michael Eubanks had the opportunity to sit down and interview Julian Lockwood and Kent Cubbage, founding members of “The Upshot”, a local band, on one of their performing nights at Hotel Aiken.
Aiken Blend: “I’d like to welcome you gentlemen to the interview.”
Kent: “Thank you Mike, it’s good to be here.”
Julian: “It’s great to be here.”
AB: “Can you tell me the origin of The Upshot and how your band got started?”
Kent: “This started in January of 2016 when I met my neighbor. I had no idea the he played bass, and he had no idea that I played drums. One thing led to another…”
Julian: “We started jamming in a downstairs bedroom with bass and drums…and an iPod, turned up very loud.” (laughs)
AB: “So how long did it take for you to find the other members?”
Kent: “Only about a month. We found our Rhythm Guitarist Joe Avera because he bought my old house. He moved to Aiken from Florida a few years ago. As it turns out he plays guitar and we became friends. He came over and we had our third member, so we were on our way. Still no Singer or Lead Guitarist, but we had the nucleus of the band.”
AB: “Julian, when did you decide to get started in all of this?”
Julian: “I would say a couple of years ago. I was here at the Hotel Aiken with some friends and I saw a band play and I said to myself “You know, I need to be up there doing that instead of sitting here watching someone else do it, and I haven’t got a lot of time left to start learning a musical instrument…you know I’m not as young as I used to be, so…I’d better start now and, yeah, it kind of went from there.”
AB: Would you say this is the first band that you have ever been in?
Julian: “Yeah. The first and only.”
AB: “That’s awesome.”
Me: “Kent, you have played in other bands around the local area?”
Kent: “Yeah, I’ve played in several bands around here that were pretty successful and had played here (Hotel Aiken) about ten years ago.”
AB: “Would you describe The Upshot as a very democratic band in regards to deciding what to play…
Kent (Laughing): “Benevolent Dictator, I call the shots…” (Julian laughing)
Julian: “He gets more choices than I get, I’ll tell you that much!”
Kent: “Actually, we do take turns picking songs but that doesn’t mean every song makes the cut.”
Julian: “I tend to pick a lot of songs that no one’s ever heard of…”
Kent (more laughter): “Or likes to hear…or wants to hear!”
AB: “Have you had the typical band experience of going through personnel changes, and growth pains as any band would have? You know…Band 101?
Kent: “Yeah…we’ve had some LSD (Lead singer disease) that has been there, we have been through…we’re on our second (Lead) Guitarist. Our first (Lead) Guitarist we actually want to give him a pat on the back. There probably wouldn’t be an Upshot without him. His name is Paul Leslie…he helped in founding the band and left for various reasons. So Paul left and Gary (Shepard) came in. We had a female singer for a while and she was fabulous. She had surgery and could not continue with us, so we have been onward and upward.”
AB: “Are there any plans to re-visit the female vocalist position?”
Julian: “That’s interesting. I would like to bring in a female vocalist just for backing vocals and you know, harmonies, but I don’t think we would now, at this point, want to bring in a female vocalist to do the majority of the vocals because Mark has done such a great job and we’ve just found our sweet spot with the band that we want to keep.”
AB: “Where did you find Mark (Shioleno)?”
Kent: “A good friend, a longtime friend, I was talking to her and mentioned that I was looking for a singer, and she replied “You won’t believe it. This guy I’m dating is such a good singer, and he does karaoke and such..” (Julian: “We met him at the Steeplechase.”) We started talking and found that we had common interest and goals in music, so we had him over and he sounded good, so here we are, two years later and he’s singing with us tonight.”
AB: “Is there any gig that you have played as a band, that really stands out in the forefront where you would say “That was probably the best gig we’ve ever played to date?”
Kent: “Yes. Dinner En Blanc, which we played at Rose Hill. It was 700+ people and the dance floor was full the entire time. They had some promotions that stopped our set short. Some were disappointed, but it was a great gig. We sounded great and had our female singer. It was a beautiful night. That’s my favorite. I wouldn’t know about Julian’s.”
Julian: “I would say the first gig we ever played, our first pro gig which was at The Wing Place. They took a chance on us. We had never played anywhere before. They had never heard us, and we weren’t sure how it was going to go…but it was one of the most fun gigs that we’ve ever had. We played really well. There were plenty of people there and they liked us, so I would say that was the most important gig for me, that I’ve ever played because, we kind of knew that we could do it…after that gig.”
AB: “What would you say the role of marketing your band via social media such as Facebook or other avenues has done for your band? Do you think it has expanded your fan base?”
Julian: “We initially did a lot of work at the beginning before we even started playing out. We had some professional videos made of us performing, and we built a web page that had some great content, including the professional studio videos of us performing and we could persuade people that had never seen us or heard of us before that we could play, so that really helped and then afterwards we set up our Facebook page which is where we really do all of our business now.”
AB: “How would you describe the local climate of musicians and bands around here? Do you get a lot of support and/or encouragement?
Kent: “Everyone is supportive. There is a lot of comradery. It’s our goal within the next year, to branch out and do a lot of Weddings and Parties as well as play some gigs away in places such as Greenville, Atlanta, Columbia, Charlotte. We want to see the Aiken music scene grow and support it. We also want to spread our wings too. We’ll see how the year goes.”
AB: “With Hotel Aiken preparing for renovations, do you have any other gigs in the area coming up soon?
Kent: “We’ll play Playoff’s, Rose Hill, hopefully Red Pepper in the new year. We’re going to take a couple of months off as we have one member that needs minor surgery, another member is involved in a month long project, so hopefully we will be back ready to play by March (2018)”
The Upshot. Visit their Facebook page and give them a “Like”! Show your support for them and for Aiken music!
THE UPSHOT is:
Kent Cubbage – Drums and Background Vocals
Joe Avera – Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar
Julian Lockwood – Bass Guitar
Mark Shioleno – Vocals
Gary Shepard – Lead Guitar, Keyboards, Background Vocals
Michael Eubanks is a local professional musician with both stage and studio experience and is also a popular music lessons instructor in the Aiken area. He has had major label interest in his works as a songwriter and from several top music publishers. He holds a degree in audio recording and production with several awards. He has performed and taught guitar/bass/songwriting and performance in the CSRA for many years. He worked in the music industry working at several large studios with some of the finest engineers and producers in the music and entertainment industry while living in Nashville TN, and has worked with many of the top artists in music. He returned to Aiken in 2005, and has since produced award winning students that have competed in talent shows both locally and regionally. He has served as a judge for “Aiken Idol” and other competitions.
For lessons, visit www.facebook.com/MikeEubanksMusicLessons/