Hello, MD community! This is the epic tale of Ryan McNulty of the Ugly Club from New Jersey. I’ve been playing the drums for eighteen years. I’ve played in so many bands and done so many random gigs that it’s hard to even recall half of them. Many aspects of my playing have developed from all of these unique experiences. I approach a song not unlike a vocalist in that the song/idea is the most important focus, and every instrument has a role in creating one big picture.
I grew up on guys like John Bonham, Neil Peart, Keith Moon, Levon Helm, and Nick Mason, as well as great songwriters like Bob Dylan, Elton John, and Billy Joel, so I think I’ve always kind of tried to walk the line between hard-hitting, solid, simple grooves and intricate, more complex dynamic drumming. My goal is to capture the vision of the songwriter as best as possible while adding my own style to it. Your playing should really be an extension of yourself.
Beyond the artists I’ve mentioned, there have been so many notable names to come out of Jersey over the years, most of which (Jon Bon Jovi excluded) have had an influence on me in some way. Frank Sinatra, I absolutely love. Not to mention Bruce Springsteen, the Fugees, Whitney Houston, George Clinton, and more! While I was developing as a young drummer and playing in my high school band Reason to Believe (thanks, Rod Stewart), bands like Thursday, Saves the day, and Midtown, all from Jersey, were sort of blowing up and heavily influencing me and many players and bands in the area. After that, the music scene in New Jersey unfortunately went downhill. Recently things have started to look up, as there are a ton of great bands coming out of the tri-state area. The Ugly Club has been such a great project to be involved with because although bands I’ve played in showed potential, most failed to really put in the work. I am fortunate to be surrounded by guys that have a similar mindset about creating music and have the talent and motivation to always keep learning and developing their craft.
In making our new album, You Belong to the Minutes, I really tried to embrace the songs that Ryan Egan brought to the table. I like to look at a song and think, “What’s the most obvious part that could be played to this? What would a generic player do here”? I’m going to do the opposite. There are times when you play what needs to be played, which is fine, but there are many ways to add flavor and dynamics to any old beat to enhance the groove. It’s not always about what you play, but how you play it.
I’m glad to have the opportunity to discuss my approach to drums and writing, and I hope everyone will grab a copy of You Belong to the Minutes!
For more on Ryan McNulty and the Ugly Club, go to theuglyclubmusic.com.