Riddle of the Sphinx

Akron’s Ultrasphinx at Canal Public House

by Josher Lumpkin

Photo: Ultrasphinx will play at Canal Public House on July 2; photo: Geoff Hill

Ultrasphinx, from Akron, are an awesome band. Stringing together ringing, math-y guitar riffs, pulsing, distorted bass and tight drum rhythms, Ultrasphinx sounds like they’ve just stepped out of a time machine directly from 1998. But this band has much more to offer than nostalgia. Their combination of melody and a taste of aggression could easily blow most of today’s indie bands right out of the room.

I recently got a chance to ask Aaron Rogers, bassist for Ultrasphinx, a few questions about the band, in preparation for their upcoming East Coast tour and their show on Wednesday, July 2 at Canal Public House with Dinosaurus, Oh Condor and Arms Race.


How long have you guys been playing as Ultrasphinx?

Actually, today [June 1, 2014] is the second anniversary of our first show. How romantic. – Aaron Rodgers


Have you played together in other projects?

Ian, the drummer, and I played briefly in a band called Blockades, which was kind of a one-off recording project with Sean Djuricic from Interfuse and National Suicide Day. Sean lives in L.A. now, so he’d fly into town, write some lyrics on the plane, then we’d write songs the day before we played. That band was heavily indebted to the Murder City Devils, Hot Snakes and the Melvins and we wore it on our sleeves. Joe and Ian played together in a band called Mademoiselles that never quite made it off the ground. Ultrasphinx kinda started because they invited me to play bass in that band as it was losing steam, and when that didn’t work out, we just started Ultrasphinx. We hadn’t played together before that. Prior to all that, Joe was the frontman in The Party of Helicopters and the singer/guitarist of The Man I Fell In Love With. – AR


How did you meet? What’s the underground music scene like in Akron?

I met Joe and Ian when I was the sound guy at Annabell’s in Akron, just from mixing other bands they played in and talking about music. I always played stuff like the Stooges, Unwound, the Jesus Lizard or weird Krautrock compilations between bands and it turned out our musical tastes are pretty similar. As far as the Akron music scene goes, it feels pretty small. It tends to run in cycles where it’ll get hot for a year or two, then cool off for a few years. There hasn’t been a whole lot of new blood lately, but there’s a solid core of “indie vets,” or whatever you want to call ’em that are always making interesting music, and will probably always make interesting music. It’s really hard to say for sure if there are less bands now than before, or if maybe my tastes have changed and I’m just losing touch. Maybe it’s my problem? – AR


Do you feel like guitar-based rock music is an aging, dying style of music? Or is it timeless?

There’s definitely been a shift away from guitar- or song-based music towards EDM/techno/dance music, not only in Akron, but just within youth culture in general, which is fine I guess, because a laptop with Ableton Live is a tool like any other and you can use it to make good music; but a lot of folks seem to be taking the easy way out and are just beat-matching MP3s in dance clubs instead of creating new music and actually expressing themselves. Regardless of instrumentation, I think the key to timelessness is in songwriting and arrangement, even in a ripping hardcore band. Even the most abrasive music, if it’s any good, has a riff, a melody or a lyric, or even just a concept to wrap your head around. My criticism of a lot of newer music is more of a cultural one than musical. – AR


What current bands are you into?

I have to confess, I haven’t been keeping up with current music as much as I used to. Lately, I’ve been more into synth/soundtrack stuff – Goblin, Zombi, John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream, Steve Moore, Sven Libaek, Kraftwerk, etc. As far as active bands go, I like Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Relaxer, Obnox and Kill the Hippies, and I just got the new Trans Am record, which is awesome. I’ll probably pick up the new Young Widows soon. Oh, and I’m not a huge death metal guy, but I really like the most recent Carcass record. – AR


Any plans to release your self-titled CD on vinyl?

Yeah, as soon as we can afford it, or we find a label to release it. I’m guessing the former. – AR


Will your upcoming East Coast tour be the first one for Ultrasphinx, or have you toured before?

This is our second tour. We did a short nine-day run in the Midwest and East Coast last spring. – AR


Have you ever played Dayton before?

This will be our first time in Dayton. Can’t wait! – AR


What can show-goers expect at Canal Public House on Wednesday, July 2?

Show-goers can expect us to set up our equipment on the stage, play loud rock music for about half an hour, and then we’re gonna shut up and get off the stage so the band after us can play. It’ll be a lot of fun. We’ll be taking requests, too, but only for the first 35 seconds of Rush’s “YYZ.” – AR

Ultrasphinx will perform on Wednesday, July 2 at Canal Public House, 308 E. First St. Dinosaurus, Oh Condor and Arms Race are also on the bill. Doors at 9 p.m., $5 cover for patrons 18 and up. For more information, please visit ultrasphinx.bandcamp.com.


Reach DCP freelance writer Josher Lumpkin at josherlumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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