The Ultimatums Rock Into the New Year
Photo by Heather Higgins
The Ultimatums front man Michael Stewart knows how to work a crowd of all ages with his electrifying stage presence and down-to-earth charisma. “Our audience is truly all over the board. We’ve played clubs, bars, dive bars, municipal Fourth of July celebrations, and have had a great response from old and young. My lyrics can be kind of spicy sometimes, but the older crowd gets excited to see a horn band simply because you don’t see that anymore locally,” Michael says.
A nine-piece band with a fierce horn section, the Ultimatums formed in 2006 and play a blend of dirty soul/R&B originals and covers such as “Chelsea Hotel” by Leonard Cohen and Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” They’ve been working on recording and mixing the tracks on their self-released debut album since 2009. On New Year’s Eve at 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown, the Ultimatums will debut the finished product with local Americana rockers Billy Matheny and the Frustrations opening the show.
“This is hands down the high point of my professional music career and the most the band has achieved in the six years we’ve been together. Being trusted by 123 to put on an awesome New Year’s show is an honor. I have the utmost respect for Billy Matheny and the Frustrations and we’re stoked that they’re opening to get the evening rocking proper,” Michael says.
Billy Matheny, who also plays keyboards in the Ohio-based indie rock band Southeast Engine, and his bandmates have been busy with other musical projects the past few years, but the band is thrilled to come together again to support the Ultimatums on New Year’s Eve. “We’re just honored they asked us. It’s sort of like we’re going to prom together,” Billy says.
The Ultimatums self-titled album features 10 songs ranging from some of the first original songs they wrote to the new sounds they’re developing. Recorded at Squirrel Sound in Morgantown, and mixed and mastered at Michael’s studio in Fairmont, the album maintains the momentum of the band’s high energy live shows. “A large band is difficult, but they were so disciplined as far as dynamics, tuning, and arrangement at that point in our development that I really didn’t have to do any fancy studio tricks to cover anything up. I just tried to make it sound as professional as possible without losing the booty-shaking energy that you get from the live show,” Michael says.
For vinyl collectors, the Ultimatums are in the process of pressing more than 200 copies of their debut album. Fans have expressed interest in having the album on vinyl, and the band is happy they are financially able to go the vinyl route. “It’s not a dead medium anymore and it has some sonic superiority if not for the nostalgic sound of putting the needle to the grooves and the end of a side,” Michael says.
Though the Ultimatums are just now set to release their first album, the band is already thinking about adding on to their catalog. “We’ve been working on this album for a while, and a self-release has helped us learn a lot,” says guitarist Jeremy Batten. “We’re already working on the second album, and it won’t take as long.”
To order tickets online for the New Year’s Eve show at 123 Pleasant Street, visit 123pleasantstreet.com.