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Getting Bad with Travis McKayle of The Bad Ups

Unless you live around the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, chances are you haven’t heard of the Bad Ups.  This self-labelled Quakertown Super Group is ridiculously new.  So new in fact, that they haven’t played 10 shows at the time this interview was done.  But don’t let that give you any negative impressions about their sound and talent.  Travis, Zach, Keith, and Chris have been playing together in some form or another since 2010.

Their musical influences vary depending on who in the band you talk to.  They enjoy hardcore bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag; street punk like Bouncing Souls, Suicide Machines and Street Dogs; even some alternative/grunge like Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age.  Today is Monday.  What better way to spend a Monday than talking to Travis – vocalist, guitarist and running man virtuoso – about who the Bad Ups are and why these dudes should be skating into your playlist ASAP.

Ehrin: There isn’t a whole lot about you guys out there yet… I figured we could start from the beginning and do one of those super cheesy, get-to-know-you interviews.

Travis:  Yeah, alright!  We’re not super popular… still kind of fresh.


Ehrin:  But you will be!  You guys are young, awesome and have a big future.  Let’s start with the name.  Where did “Bad Ups” come from?

Travis: Bad Ups is Jamaican slang.  You’d say ‘I’m gonna bad him up’.  Similar to Americans saying ‘beat his ass’.  I’m half Jamaican and half Irish so we thought we’d keep it a little edgy with some Jamaican, ya know?


Ehrin: That’s legit.  Have the 4 of you played together since the beginning of this project or has there been a lineup change?

Travis:  Yeah, it’s always been the 4 of us.  Zach and I have been playing together since high school.  Chris and I played in a band together before, so have Keith and I.  For this project, I just grabbed my favourite musicians from where I lived.  We’re from Quakertown (Pennsylvania) so we call ourselves the Quakertown Super Group [in jest].


Ehrin: Who do you think is the most influential person in your life?  Musically or not.

Travis:  I feel like that changes over time as you start to meet new people because you’re always growing.  That being said, my grandfather was definitely influential in my youth.  He was in an old school country band and I grew up around him.  He taught me how to play some chords and when I was around 11 years old I would start playing with his band at his shows.

As an adult, Jeff Davis who is our producer and engineer is a big influence.  He’s been showing me the ropes for the business and production sides of music.  Chuck Treece is another person who has been a major influence in my life.  He was the first African-American skateboarder on the cover of Thrasher magazine.  I met Chuck at an open mic in Doylestown [PA].  It was such a random thing.  We began talking and then the next day we started jamming together.  I went down to Arizona to play a show with his band McRad at Skaterthon this past year which was sick.  But he’s been teaching me along the way as well.


Ehrin:  Have you always been into skateboarding?

Travis: Yeah.  I can’t say I was always good at it…[laughing].  I remember when I was young and I got a Playstation One and Tony Hawk pro skater.  I just loved that game… and the soundtrack was just like ‘Holy shit what is this stuff?!’.  Chris is a really good skater, too.  He’s skated his whole life.


Ehrin:  What do you guys have coming up now? Any plans for a full-length album?

Travis: We just have a 4-song EP out.  Now that summer is at a close I feel like we can try and hit the studio and get something else out.  We have enough songs now that we could do a full-length album, but when we recorded our EP, we only had the 4 songs.  We said ‘we’ll put these out, see if anyone cares’ and then try to get in the studio again later.


Ehrin:  It would be great to have something more out from the Bad Ups.  Everyone seems to love you guys when you play.  TJ [McFaull] clearly loves you guys.  He thinks you guys are great.

Travis: Tj is the man!  When we met him in Philly at the Street Dogs show, he came out and was like ‘Hey guys, what’s up?!’ like we were already friends.  He is the nicest dude I’ve ever met.  He’s such a chill guy.


Ehrin: That was an amazing show… and as solid a lineup as you can get.  What was it like to play with The Bar Stool Preachers, The New Darkbuster, and Street Dogs?

Travis: It was unreal, to be honest. Darkbuster and Street Dogs are like our heroes.  When we found out we were supporting that show, we were like ‘What the fuck? How did we get this?’.  Grade 2 was supposed to be supporting the tour and we were a little worried we wouldn’t fit in stylistically.  Then we heard the Bar Stool preachers were taking their place and we felt more comfortable with [the lineup diversity].  We listened to the Preachers before the show and thought ‘Hey, these guys are pretty good’.  When I saw their performance though, my brain pretty much exploded.  Tj’s got that thing about him.  He just grips the crowd and won’t let go.


The Bad Ups at The Foundry in Philadelphia, PA (June 2018)

Ehrin:  Yeah, he is very charismatic as a front man.

Travis: We still talk about their performance.  Zach and I were talking about it the other day even.  We were like ‘You know who is nasty?  Tj is nasty, dude’. He just goes up there and kills it and owns it.


Ehrin:  We have a lot of amazing shows come through Philly.  What is one band that you’d like to support if given the opportunity?

Travis: The Descendants are coming this way.  That would be such a sick show to get on as support.  Also, Bouncing Souls would be amazing.  If that ever happened, I might poop in my pants and throw it at the crowd like GG Allin or some shit [laughing].


Ehrin: Oh my god haha.  So, what are you listening to right now?  Other than Street Dogs, Bar Stool Preachers… is there anyone else on your playlist that you’re heavy into?

Travis: This is always such a hard question.  Honestly, I’ve been listening to a lot of rap lately and The Beltones.  But I’ve been on a Dead Broke Rekerds kick.  I don’t know if they still release anything, but there’s this playlist I found on YouTube of some artists that they’ve put out.  One of the songs that came up is from this band called The Broken Toys.  They have an album called Fist Full of Caulk… It’s pretty hilarious but their harmonies are killer.


Ehrin: When you guys aren’t creating or playing music, what do you guys do in your spare time?  Just a lot of skateboarding?

Travis: I stay pretty busy playing in 3 or 4 bands.  So, whether its practice during the week or a show on the weekend I’m always doing something.  Zach does movie reviews on Instagram because he is a big movie buff.  He can tell you about any movie… what it’s about, what year it came out, who was in it.  He’s pretty passionate about that and has got it on lock.   Chris plays the drums, hangs out, smokes weed… really, I don’t know what else Chris does in his free time.  He has his wife and kids though, so he is busy with them doing family stuff.  I’d guess he goes to a lot of amusement parks.  Otherwise, we just hang out, smoke weed, and skate.


Ehrin: What other bands do you play in?

Travis:  I play in a thrash band called Activate.  They are putting out a new album here soon.  I also play in a Philly Oi band called Maguire’s Mob who are putting out some new music soon too.  Maguires Mob has a show coming up here in Philly with 45 Adapters which will be sick.


Ehrin: 45 Adapters are so much fun to watch.  Gerrard [Lindsay] is incredibly amazing.  I’ve never seen someone get so completely fucking drunk and then go up and just kill a set.  It’s ridiculous.  He’s always so on point.

Travis:  Yeah that’s such a rare thing to see.  Gerrard really is the man.  He’s such a nice guy.  I love that dude.

Ehrin:  So, this is going to seem like an odd question… but what is your favourite footwear?

Travis:  It’s hard to say.  Adidas is my favourite right now.  Otherwise docs but mostly Adidas.  I just got a pair of Matchcourt from their skate line.  They are so comfortable.  I like TUKs a lot.  I just got a red velvet pair so I’m pretty excited about that.  If I have to choose between a sick-ass shirt, pants, or shoes… I will always go with some sick-ass shoes.  I love shoes.


Ehrin: Is there anything new that you guys have coming out merch-wise?

Travis: We have some new t-shirts coming out designed by Mick Lambrough.  We just got patches made with our Life is Hell cover art, and have new pins and stickers coming out.

We have old stickers that have the UPS delivery service logo that we just wrote ‘bad’ above it.  When we first changed our name on Instagram, everyone was like ‘Is that like bad u-p-s?’.  If you type it into google or YouTube you get a bunch of videos of bad drivers for UPS.  Its fucking hilarious actually.  So, we have stickers like that… and occasionally we slap them on the back of 18 wheelers when they’re at a stoplight.


Ehrin: Any plans for putting out a split with anyone in the future?

Travis:  Hopefully.  I’d like to but there’s nothing in the works at the moment.  That Street Dogs show was our first big show and since then everything has been going fast.  Everyone has been tossing us shows.  We’ve even been having to decline some so we could figure out how we’re going to do some shit.  We would like to go to Europe and tour rather than playing too much in the same spot cause then you get oversaturation.  We’re trying to figure out the van situation and cash flow.  I just got a new job making a little more money which should help.


Ehrin: Ah. Congratulations!  We all know punk doesn’t really pay the bills hahaha.

Travis: Thank you.  It’s pretty flexible and the pay is good because it’s stone masonry so I can be in and out as needed.


Ehrin: So coming up there are always a lot of weekend type mini-fests around the States.  Are there any in particular you would like to play?

Travis:  Yeah Stoked for the Summer show in Asbury Park, NJ.  Wreck the Halls in Boston would be dope.  I love Boston.  We can never tell who we will fit well with because we’re really melodic.  We’ve had people say we were pop-punk, even though I don’t feel we’re pop-punk.


Ehrin: Really?  I don’t see that at all.

Travis: We were even unsure about the last show we did with DDC, Raw Brigade, Duffy’s Cut and Legion 76.  We love every one of those bands but were like ‘I hope people don’t hate us’ because we weren’t sure if we’d fit in cause we’re too soft or something.


Ehrin: You have a good stage presence. No matter who you guys play with you’ll be good because you do your own thing.  Your relationship and interactions are very organic.  It comes through to the people in the audience which makes them like you for even more than just the music.

Travis: Wow.  Thank you for that, it means a lot.  We try not to overthink anything because you get nervous with that shit.  We end up just saying ‘fuck it’ and smoke a blunt.   Every time we’re like ‘maybe we won’t smoke this time’ because I was running out of breath doing the running man last time.  But then we end up smoking anyway.


Ehrin: Watching you play your set when you opened for Street Dogs and then watching you play the DDC I saw a change.  You guys were having fun with each other on stage the first time. But the four of you seemed different when you opened for DDC; more animated and engaged with the audience.  Do you think you picked up a lot from watching Tj and the Bar Stool Preachers that show?

Travis:  We absolutely did.  Those guys just have a party.  So, we were like ‘fuck it’ and decided to just be wild and have a good time.  People in the audience seem to receive that well.


Ehrin: It definitely came through this time around.  You were much more relaxed and having a good time.  To wrap things up, what shows do you have coming up or are you promoting anything? 

Travis: We have some shows coming up around Pennsylvania – including a Halloween show with the Ramoms. Also, our new video “Sinner” just came out.  Lenny Lashley (from Street Dogs, The New Darkbuster, Gang of One) is in it.  He’s been so influential for us and has just been a great mentor of sorts.  So definitely check that out.


Ehrin: Well Travis, thank you for taking the time to chat with me for The Punk Lounge.  We wish you all the best with everything you have coming up.  We are definitely looking forward to seeing where your music takes you!

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