Note: Since this story was published, the band has changed its name to Ultra Beauty.
It's bizarre how we fetishize "bands to watch." What's the use of placing bets on an artist's hypothetical popularity? Why play forecasting games when the music is already hitting our ears? Why act like wannabe tastemakers when we can be legitimate taste-havers?
Ulta Beauty might help us defeat that divination reflex by reminding us that there's plenty of nowness to hear in a band's newness. The District duo — now a trio with the addition of Luke Reddick from Bless — recently posted its first song online after playing just a couple of shows, but you can already hear the sparks. And so can they. "Everything about this band feels really fresh and exciting," says drummer-vocalist Madeline Joey Rose. "The boundaries seem so open. It feels like the first day of school all the time."
That helps to explain all of the playfulness packed into the band's topsy-turvy rock songs. Rose works as an actor while guitarist-singer Raina Martens is a ceramist, but both artists say that writing songs for Ulta Beauty allows for a levity and a freedom that isn't available in their daytime disciplines.
"I've felt the deadening that comes with the professionalization of making art," Martens says. "With this band, I'm able to redo that experience and hold onto what I want to hold onto, instead of listening to the voices in my head — the critics and professors who are telling me the 'right' way to do things."
So the wrong way is the right way? Totally. That's one of Ulta Beauty's guiding paradoxes. Here's another one: "We've both been very committed to never feeling like something is finished," Rose says of the band's writing process. "We're always open to the idea that the song can become something else." So listen now, but keep listening. This group is just getting started. Hopefully, they'll never really be finished.
Show: Opening for Glove and Faunas on Friday at 8 p.m. at Slash Run, 201 Upshur St. NW. slashrun.com. $10.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Madeline Joey Rose is a guitarist and singer in Ulta Beauty. Rose is the band's drummer and singer. Raina Martens is the band's guitarist and singer.