[ there's no place like home ]
by Craig Young

Sometime in the early part of 2000 I started receiving e-mail newsletters from Dave Hill, mainman for Cleveland band Uptown Sinclair. How I ended up on Uptown Sinclair's mailing list I have no idea, but at the time the updates from the band about their various road adventures were some of the funniest, most witty things ever to land in my inbox. Arriving infrequently enough that I would completely forget I was at their mercy, they always seemed to show up at times when my life could use a little levity.

Here's an excerpt from their first missive:

"After the CBGB show, we drove out to Long Island and stayed at drummer Rob's parents house, where they always have one of those Entenmann's chocolate cakes in the refrigerator, a saucy concept to say the least and definitely something you should think about implementing into your own life. Having a good day? Celebrate with a piece of cake! Feeling down? Make things better with a piece of cake! That sort of thing. This also works with malt liquor should you be avoiding dessert items for some reason.

"The next day we went back into the city to load up on some more flattering and luxurious outfits. Tim got some cool pants. I bought a fake plastic butt to break up the long drives. I also went and had some acupuncture done to myself, partly for 'health reasons' and partly so I would appear more complicated and interesting to people when they read this."

I eventually conned Dave into mailing me their debut CD, 8 Songs (or simply self-titled, depending on which version of the album you bought, borrowed or nicked), a highly infectious album of pop rock bliss. While Dave's e-mails have waned over the past year, my love for Uptown Sinclair's hooks and melodies have not. Their CD remains one of my all-time fave albums, and after listening to it recently and prodding Dave via e-mail about his digital absenteeism on the haps of Uptown Sinclair, I finally caught up with him on his mobile for an interview while he careened on foot through he streets of New York, a few drinks under his belt and on the lookout for a Joe Millionaire viewing party at a nearby bar. If you see the band's debut album in your local record store, pick it up. If they don't have it you can order it via links on the band's website to online stores. And if you ever have the chance to catch the band playing live, don't pass up the opportunity -- Uptown Sinclair are a deliciously guilty pleasure worth fessing up to.

[ joe hanna, bill waterson, dave hill, tim parnin ]
photo by timothy devine

What's new in the life of Dave Hill?

Dave: Well... I'm just walking around New York right now. I've been writing for a TV show.

Really? Which show?

Dave: A new show on TNN. I sort of randomly got hired. I came here to hang out for a few days, and then I randomly got hired for a TV show. So I've just been here and I just keep showing up as often as they tell me.

What kind of show is it?

Dave: It's a new... It's... I'm not sure if I can even talk about it. It's not on the air until August.

Aw, c'mon.

Dave: It's basically a comedy show. But... they could fire me tomorrow. In fact, they probably will.

So have you relocated to New York then?

Dave: I've always gone back and forth between New York and Ohio paying the bills as a freelance writer. Most of the work that I do is based either here or in Los Angeles, so I'm always shooting up here and then going back to Cleveland. I'm always drifting.

How's life in Cleveland?

Dave: It's pure magic, as you can imagine. Have you ever been there?


Dave: It's kind of like... Maybe it's like Seattle without all the "stuff" to do.

Have you been to Seattle?

Dave: Yeah. You know, it's very gray and rainy most of the time in Cleveland.


Dave: It's nice -- it's not a bad place at all. But the weather is very gray. I think we get 60 days of sunlight or something like that.

That would drive a person crazy.

Dave: Isn't it bad [in Seattle]?

[ uptown sinclair ]
[ give a listen! ] "Face Down" MP3

It is. You can feel the mold growing on your brain. What's the music scene like in Cleveland and the surrounding area?

Dave: It's good. For awhile it seemed kinda bad because there was no focus to it. For awhile there was a lot of modern rock radio stations that would play a lot of local bands. So a lot of stuff hinged on that. That's disappeared. Lately, there's been a bit of a scene coming back together.

Over the past few years it seems a number of working artists have been migrating that way due to a cheaper cost of living, affordable rents, etc.

Dave: Yeah. It's insanely cheap in Cleveland. My two bedroom apartment is $450. I've been looking at places out here and it's insanely expensive. For $1,200 you get a ten-by-ten room.

Here's your shoebox -- hope both feet fit inside! On to the meat of the interview: what's happening with Uptown Sinclair?

Dave: We're going to do a new record. We've been putting it off and putting it off, and finally now we're at the point where we're ready to get started on it. I have to head back home and we have to figure out how to do it. Tim and I are trying to teach ourselves ProTools so we can make it ourselves. I'd be happy if we can make it completely an analog record, but the economics of it is that if we can work on it in ProTools we can sit there and play with ideas and track stuff without worrying about the clock in the studio or the cost of tape. I think we'll still try to do it very "live" -- moreso than the last record, which was done without first playing shows.

You pretty much had your first record in the can and available for purchase before D-Text Records picked it up.

Dave: Exactly. We almost started making the record before we realized what we were going to do. So we went out and played a bunch of shows. With this record I don't want to say that the label is more involved or anything, because it's not like we're signed to a major or anything.

Have you been happy with D-Text's level of involvement and support? Would you like to see something more come out of your label relationship?

Dave: Well, I don't know. I'm not sure everyone else in the band would have the same answer to that question, but I just want to make music. In the end it's not like most musicians are going to be sitting around in the house that they bought from making music. Very few people get rich from it. 40 years from now I'd rather look back and still be excited about the music we made. I think we can probably continue making music if we stay with indie labels. I think if any bigger label wanted us we'd probably do a good job of getting ourselves canned pretty quickly.

We don't take ourselves too seriously. I just want to make music that we care about and just have fun. The rest will follow.

The band seems to have a pretty strong work ethic. You toured for the better part of the past two-plus years. How has the response been in terms of building a following, and how has having the album re-released on D-Text affected the band?

Err... no, I'm afraid I haven't

Dave: Well, they're considered geniuses in Canada.

[ dave hill ]
photo by kelly kennedy

That's quite the bestowement.

Dave: Anyway, they went up to Toronto and contributed a bunch of stuff for their record.

Everyone has been staying pretty busy. I've been trying to stay in and write songs, and so haven't been much outside of Uptown Sinclair. No one can stand me, basically! I can just be honest -- I'm a pain in the ass. [Laughs]

Why is that?

Dave: I'm just unbearable to be around and so no one wants to play with me. [Laughs] No, no... I've actually been playing bass with a Cleveland band called Blue Eyes. Helping them out with their record.

So Coach replaced Rob Pfeiffer as Uptown's drummer? When did this happen?

Dave: Coach's real name is Joe Hanna. He used to play with Bootsy Collins and other like funksters, so he has a different background from the rest of us. He's a great drummer, but don't worry -- we're not going to go funky on anyone.

You were involved for awhile with Cobra Verde. How did that come about and what part did that play in the genesis of Uptown Sinclair?

Dave: I was Cobra Verde's bass player. The line-up for that band revolves constantly. I knew John [Petkovic] the singer and one day he asked me to play for them. As I did that Tim and I also began writing songs for Uptown Sinclair. Once we started playing live and things got busy I felt spread a little too thin and I was replaced in Cobra Verde. There was no time to do both, really, and it's hard to try and play in two bands and tour. Eventually they will overlap too much and you'll have to give up one.

I really enjoyed both because the roles in each were so different. Playing bass in one versus guitar and singing in the other.

That, and it seems the big step from being a backing musician in Cobra Verde to the primary songwriter with Uptown Sinclair.

Dave: Definitely. But I enjoyed both. I love playing on other people's songs. But they were definitely apples and oranges. I love playing bass live and the whole approach to playing another's songs.

When was it that Uptown Sinclair really started to coalesce as a band proper?

Dave: Two and a half years ago. So that would be late 2000, early 2001. I started doing Cobra Verde a little bit before that, but once both bands started playing live I felt like I was running around so much, and it was understandably frustrating for the guys in Cobra Verde, so it was time to let that go.

It's hard. Even with Uptown Sinclair everyone has a lot of other things going on, so it's always a juggling act. When someone calls about a show you can't always get a "yes" right away; you have to call around and make sure everyone is avaailable. Unless it's a great show where you know everyone will drop everything to play.

What kinds of shows have those been?

Dave: We've done some fun opening shows. We opened for Blondie a few months ago. Something like that where you know everyone would be gung ho about it.

[ joe hanna ]
photo by kelly kennedy

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