We have a “Disaster” on our hands today and it’s being brought to you by the fine fellows in Ultra Major. Composed of four men raised on ‘90s and ‘00s guitar rock, the band recently released their groove-heavy new single, “Disaster,” via Mint 400 Records. The song is something of a throwback, to a time where rock was less gimmicky and more matter of fact. It’s one of those straight-up rock tunes that you may have used to lead off your homemade mixtape.
As an act, Ultra Major sticks to a pretty simplistic objective; plug in, play, maybe even 500 times, and by that point maybe it’ll be ready to bring out of the practice space. Drummer Eric Michael Pearson directed and produced the music video for “Disaster,” with the fuzzed-out clip making it feel like you just caught the guys in the middle of their set after a number of beers.
Speaking of beers, the members of Ultra Major thoroughly enjoy some cold suds, along with whatever cuisine, expensive or cheap, classy or trashy, they can get their hands on. For these reasons, we caught up with all four members for our latest Art of The Meal interview in which we discuss all things food and eating.
Do you follow a particular diet?
AJ Tobey: “Not really, I just try not to eat like a jerk even though right now I’m pretty much home all day surrounded by snacks.”
Eric Michael Pearson: “I’m not proud of it but it’s mostly sugar, carbs and proteins.”
Nick Tardif: “My wife recently asked me if I ever eat anything besides sandwiches.”
How does the food you eat on the road compare to what you eat when in the studio or not working?
Tobey: “When life is normal, and we get to travel to play shows, we tend to eat meals either on the go or at a joint near the venue. Bonus points if there’s food included in our deal with the club. When we’re in the studio we tend to live off take-out because we don’t really take breaks to eat as a group. So it’s more like, if you’re hungry, and you’re not currently recording, then I suggest you find the closest edible option and make it count. At home, we all do a lot of our own cooking. So that’s not as fun, but probably contains less sodium.”
Do you prepare a lot of your own food?
Ty Jontz: “Most days yes, but I order out a few times a week to support local restaurants.”
Tobey: “Right now most of the food I eat is made in my kitchen, which has its ups and downs I suppose. I don’t always feel like cooking, but I usually don’t have anything better to do. So I generally spend an hour or so thinking about what I want to make, and then another hour or so making it. Then I eat it in about six minutes.”
Tardif: “Suburban dad over here longs for his past NYC takeout food lifestyle and is reduced to eating his children’s leftovers (I’m obligated as a card carrying member of the clean plate club).”
Are all of you guys cooks or foodies?
Tobey: “We are all varying levels of sandwich connoisseurs.”
Pearson: “I have a wicked sweet tooth and regularly visit a number of dessert bars in the city.”
Jontz: “Eric got into making artisanal chocolates for like a month a few years back. Those were some fancy band practices.”
Tardif: “I believe the technical term is gormo.”
What are some of your favourite restaurants in your hometown?
Jontz: “My personal faves are Bonnie’s Grill for burgers, Geido for sushi, and Chavelas for Mexican.”
Pearson: “Bonnie’s Grill has the best burgers in NYC. Fight me. Barboncino for pizza, Dough Donuts, Purbird Chicken unless you want jerk chicken, in which case, Peppas.”
Tobey: “The gas station around the corner from our practice space sells Narraganset tallboys for pretty cheap, and that usually tends to be our go-to rather than food when we’re together. But yeah, the burgers at Bonnie’s are dope. But not the best in the city. That honour goes to Red Hook Tavern. I’m happy to fight both of you over it.”
Tardif: “Third for Bonnies (Buffalo pride!). Also Mile End Deli for smoked meats and comfort food, Fonda for interior Mexican, Peter Pan Donuts, and Frankie’s 457 for Italian.”
Do you have a favourite “food city” when on tour?
Tobey: “Maybe Boston because Eric and I both grew up by there so we get excited to eat what we used to before going to shows. And by that, I just mean Kelly’s Roast Beef, because almost every other food option in that entire city is terrible. So maybe not Boston.”
Jontz: “I once went on a tour where we hit up all the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives restaurants in each city we played. All my meals were depressing for a good month after I got home. Also, when we’re in Seattle, we must stop by The Swinery and get the ‘Spectacular.’ Honestly I’m getting a little choked up thinking about that sandwich right now…”
Pearson: “Austin. Montreal. But yes, the Swinery ‘Spectacular’ is worth visiting Seattle alone for.”
Tardif: “Buffalo, Austin, and Nashville.”
What are some of the food items on your rider?
Tobey: “We’re still at that level where if there’s chips and salsa in the dressing room when we get to a venue, once the surprise and shock wears off, we race each other to the bottom of the bag.”
Pearson: “We have a rider?”
If a fan were generous and to give you a food or drink-related gift, what should they get you?
Jontz: “I’m a sucker for a good IPA.”
Tobey: “A shot of whiskey? Ok, two shots of whiskey.”
Pearson: “Pizza certainly won’t be wasted. Or anything from Milk Bar.”
Tardif: “A nice local hot sauce would be rad.”
Were any of your songs ever conceived at a bar or restaurant?
Jontz: “I do all my best writing when devouring a ‘Bloomin’ Onion’ from Outback Steakhouse. They love it when I bring my guitar in the restaurant. So yeah, probably all our songs.”
When was the last time you barbecued?
Jontz: “Summer 2019.”
Tobey: “I’m lucky enough to have a grill at home in Brooklyn. It got a little out of hand. Making a quesadilla on the grill isn’t exactly efficient… but trust me it’s possible.”
Tardif: “My wife is from Texas so I’ve been schooled on the difference between barbeque and grilling. I’m too lazy to learn to barbecue but we grill out on our deck almost every weekend. My homemade burger is pretty legit.”
What is your go-to meal when headed to a barbecue?
Jontz: “B&Ds! (burgers and dogs)”
Tobey: “Kielbasa from the meat market in my neighbourhood where everyone is kind of mean to you.”
Pearson: “Kielbasa from AJ’s meat market.”
Tardif: “Brisket, pork ribs, sides of mac, slaw, beans, cobbler, and beers.”
Did you have to overcome being a picky eater and, if so, when/how was it?
Tobey: “Nah, I’ve always been drawn to food. Trying new foods and playing rock shows are two of the only things left in life that make me happy.”
Pearson: “I didn’t overcome. I adapted.”
Tardif: “Nope, growing up as one of five kids from a modest background doesn’t leave room for being too picky. Get it before it’s gone was the motto.”
What is the “strangest” food you’ve ever tried and how are you with “less standard” foods?
Tobey: “One time I was in Japan with a different band, and we went out to a big dinner after a show with the promoter. The promoter chose the place and took care of all the ordering (none of us spoke Japanese). Plates of the most incredible sushi you’ve ever seen just started showing up, one after another, with plates of other random, confusing, but delicious food showing up in between. At one point I just grabbed whatever landed in front of me and put the whole thing in my mouth. I took one chomp, then looked at the promoter, asking ‘What’s this…?’ To which he looked at the plate and said ‘Oh! Raw horse.’”
Jontz: “Raw horse meat! I’ve had that! It’s f’n gross!”
Pearson: “Some kind of bubbly fizz thing at a Japanese/Italian joint. Didn’t taste like much but was spicy and kind of tart. Three out of five stars.”
Which toppings go on your ideal pizza?
Jontz: “Meat and Mike’s Hot Honey.”
Tobey: “Oh man, there’s a pizza place down the street from me called OPS, and they have these anchovies that they put on one of their pies. They just melt in your mouth with every bite, and it’s made me question any fish-free pizza since.”
Tardif: “I’ll leave AJ to ponder that one and stick with pepperoni, mushroom, and hot peppers. And then dip in a side of blue cheese to book that future heart attack.”
When did you first get interested in cooking?
Tobey: “I was at an afterparty for a show at someone’s house once, and the bass player for the headliner made Cornish hens on beer cans, along with something I couldn’t even identify that was cooked in banana leaves, for everyone at the party, at like 2 am. I knew at that moment my life had new goals.”
Tardif: “That’s funny, I have an opposite experience. I remember while on tour with my old band staying at some kid’s apartment in Ohio after a show and we made and ate the most disgusting spaghetti ever assembled. I don’t recall how something so simple was so bad. I think that may be the origin of the sandwich lifestyle for me.”
Do you have a favourite chef?
Tobey: “Does Guy Fieri count? I feel like he probably doesn’t actually know how to cook, but based on Ty’s suggestion, the first thing we type into Google Maps when getting into a new town is Diners Drive-Ins & Dives to see what pops up with that badge of honour.”
What sort of cooking set-up do you have at home?
Tobey: “Grill, stove, blender, bread machine, fire pit, skillet, coffee grinder, kettle, toaster, Sodastream, waffle maker, donut maker… should I keep going?”
Tardif: “My four-year-old has a killer play kitchen. He’s into learning about exotic fruits lately so I get a lot of pretend pizza topped with durian and rambutan.”
Have you ever owned a George Foreman Grill?
Jontz: “Oh, hell yeah. Those dried slabs of meat never tasted better.”
Tobey: “Remember that episode of The Office where Michael burns his foot on the Foreman Grill he has set up next to his bed so he can wake up to the smell of fresh bacon? That scarred me because I think it’s maybe one of the best ideas anyone’s ever come up with. That said, I would absolutely end up with a busted foot within a day or two. It’s really made me weary of good ideas.”
What is your favourite fast-food chain restaurant?
Jontz: “Taco Bell for Mexican. Five Guys for burgers.”
Tobey: “White Castle for sliders. Yes, this is the hill I die on.”
Jontz: “White Castle used to be on my list. Back some years ago, on more than one occasion after a good night out, I used to order a ‘suitcase’ of White Castle burgers and eat them all in one sitting with a friend of mine. I’ll leave it to you to look up how many sliders are in a suitcase. Felt fantastic the next day. Anyway… so… where’s the closest White Castle?”
Pearson: “Probably Sonic just because I grew up watching commercials for it but the closest one was about 400 miles away. (I looked it up.) I finally got to have it at 21 on a road trip. It was worth the wait. Plus my first time on shrooms I ordered like 25 of those little Cinnabon things and it was the third-best meal of my life, first two being both times eating the Swinery ‘Spectacular.’ This is not a joke.”
Tardif: “Do you guys remember the Pizza Hut book club? Read a book at school and get a coupon for a free pan pizza. They should bring that back.”
How do you usually get your groceries? In-store? Online delivery?
Jontz: “Delivery mostly, in these COVID-19 times.”
Tobey: “The grocery stores near me hired the bouncers from all the clubs in my neighborhood that have been closed since March, and they stand at the door to make sure everyone wears a mask and uses hand sanitizer on the way in. It’s a pretty solid Karen deterrent. I’m still very careful, but I definitely don’t freak out about having to pop in for a few things every now and then.”