Formed in early 2002, One Up was a Philadelphia-based band flying the straight edge hardcore flag. Though they only lasted for a few years, the young outfit made it count.
Through their time together, One Up released a demo, a full-length album (2003's It's Time to Believe), 2 EPs (2004's The More Things Change and 2005's The Single), plus the group kept busy playing shows, including a full US tour and 4 appearances at Positive Numbers Fest in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Later this month, Hellminded Records (Shades Apart, Honey) will be issuing Many Miles Long, the official One Up discography which will include all of the material mentioned above, plus 2 previously unreleased tracks from the band's final recording session.
No Echo spoke with One Up vocalist Greg Polard (he also co-hosts the Where It Went podcast) about their time together, the forthcoming discography, and what the future holds for them.
What was the impetus behind the formation of One Up?
One Up was originally supposed to just be a side project. In the fall of 2001, I was playing guitar in the band Go Time and thought it would be cool to do a no-frills straight edge hardcore band where I got to sing and write lyrics, both of which I'd never done before. I knew that Donny (guitar) had a bunch of riffs and had tried to start a band with some other mutual friends that didn't work out so I approached him first and he was in.
I had recently met a couple of young straight edge kids from South Jersey that played in a band called Straight to the Point and asked them if they'd be interested in taking part in this project and they agreed as well, so that's where Jude (guitar), Brian (bass), and Fidge (drums) came in.
What was the sonic blueprint that you wanted to follow during that early phase of the band?
Donny handled all of the music at that time and his blueprint was "Chain of Strength with Floorpunch mosh parts." My biggest influences at the start were Youth of Today and Uniform Choice.
We had our first practice in February of 2002 in Jude's parents living room because the basement was being worked on. We left that night with an original song completed ("Rally the Troops") as well as a cover of "To Lose" by Turning Point. Things really clicked right from the onset and we really knew we were onto something special.
It just so happened that around the time One Up convened at that first rehearsal, Go Time was having trouble finding a drummer and fizzled out. As a result, I was able to focus all of my time and energy on this new, exciting project.
Did you get a great response out of the gate, or did it take some time for people to find the band/music? Tell me a bit about the early shows and some of the other bands you shared the bill with.
I remember recording (on a boombox) some of the early practices and Donny and I sent the tapes to Jeff Lasich (Start Today Fanzine, Bottle Up Records) and he was so amped on the band right at the start. It really did seem like a buzz was generating around the band before we even played a show or recorded anything. We played our debut show a few weeks after that first practice, alongside Down to Nothing, Dead Serious, and The Disaster. It was a quick set. Three originals and the aforementioned Turning Point cover and people were really into it.
A month later, we recorded the demo with Mike Stankovich of Striking Distance at his Basement Screams Studio in DC. We had a bunch of friends do backups and Stephen from The First Step even did a quick guest spot on a song. It's crazy to think that demo was recorded when I had just turned 21 and Jude, Fidge, and Brian were seniors in High School.
Once the demo came out, people seemed to be really jazzed on it! We got asked to play the Positive Numbers Festival in Wilkes Barre, PA, which was the event of the summer on the East Coast and at that point we'd played maybe 5 shows. I will never forget selling out of demo tapes on the walk from the van into the venue. What an amazing weekend!
How did One Up come to be so closely linked with Posi Numbers?
What's funny is that the year prior to our Posi Numbers debut, I had really wanted Go Time to play. I think we may have sent Bob Mac (Posi Fest organizer) the demo but we never heard back. I was super bummed, especially once I went to the fest in 2001 and saw how awesome it was. Donny actually played bass for Carry On that year and it was nuts! Bob was a fan of the Straight to the Point demo and had known me and Donny for a while, got a hold of the One Up demo and immediately asked us to play. We were so excited!
We played every year from 2002 until the end. Bob was a huge supporter of the band and even released our second record, The More Things Change, on Walk All Night Records. We were so fortunate to have people like Bob, Jeff Lasich and Robby Redcheeks in our corner early on.
You recorded One Up’s sole studio album, It's Time to Believe, with Dean Baltulonis, a producer/engineer who was very hot at the time.
We actually recorded everything we did besides the demo with Dean. In the early '00s it seemed like so many bands were working with him and we loved the way the records sounded. I remember hearing [No Warning's] Ill Blood for the first time right before we went in to record It's Time to Believe and knowing we made the right choice.
Dean was super cool to work with, very easy going. The studio was in Brooklyn and we were too broke to stay in a hotel and didn't have anywhere to crash so whenever we recorded (it was usually only 2-3 days) we would stay at Atomic and just sleep on the floor. It was super fun recording there and working in a real studio.
Matt Henderson from Agnostic Front and Madball would work with Dean sometimes so when we were recording the first record he was there for a bit, hanging out and bobbing his head to the music which made me happy.
The material began to shift gears stylistically during the last phase of One Up. You even began shopping a few newer songs to labels at that time. What led to the change and how did fans of the band react to the style switch?
Also, are you happy with the way things turned out on that final recording session now that you’ve had many years to reflect on it?
I could be embellishing but I swear that after that first practice I made a joke about how I wanted to mirror Turning Point's trajectory with a raw demo and first record, more melodic second record and then really melodic final record. It's funny...at the time it was such a big deal (those last songs recorded at the end of the band) because of how different it sounded than previous material but when I listen back, they're still hardcore songs! A little more progressive, sure. But nothing completely out there.
One song kinda sounded like Burn and Quicksand and the other was just fast melodic hardcore. Originally when we went into Atomic Studios to record those last 4 songs, two were for the 7 inch we did called The Single ("...The More They Stay The Same" and the Texas Is the Reason cover) and the other two were supposed to be for two different compilations. One of the comps was going to be for Jeff Lasich, who listened to the track and said, "you know this is a hardcore comp, right?," and the other one...I don't even remember what that was for.
We made some CDs with xeroxed covers to send to labels to see about doing an LP but also gave them to friends. The guys in Blacklisted and Charge loved it, if I recall correctly. I definitely would have liked to see what it would've been like to do a full-length album in that style but alas, it wasn't meant to be. While I am proud of those final songs, I feel that the second record (The More Things Change) is the definitive One Up release. There's very few things I'd like to change about that one.
How did the discography and working with Hellminded Records all come together?
I had known and been friends with Joe for a while from going to shows and attending/vending at the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market. I was super excited when I heard he was going to be doing a record label again and was a fan of the label from the jump. Towards the end of 2020 there was a Hellminded post that they were looking for bands and as a lark, I pitched the discography idea to Joe thinking he'd chuckle and we'd move on.
Luckily for us, he was into the idea and we immediately started working on putting it together. I'm so happy to be a part of the Hellminded family. Joe is an amazing friend and all of the releases on the label so far look and sound great! Jason Mazzola did a phenomenal job on the layout, too. I can't wait for everyone to see it.
Now that the discography is coming out, can we expect more One Up shows again? I know you played in 2007 and 2010.
One of the things we told Joe upon agreeing to do the discography was that we'd be up for playing some shows to promote it. So far we have two shows scheduled—as main support for Field Day at Ortliebs in Philadelphia on October 15th, and then at Still Won't Break Fest in Pittston, PA on October 22nd-October 23rd with Ekulu, Mindforce, Struck Nerve, and more.
We are beyond excited for these! As of this interview, we have already met up and rehearsed and things are going really well. I've learned to never say never as far as shows go. If people ask and we can make it happen, we will play. We have so much fun being together and playing these songs.
Many Miles Long will be out at the end of August via Hellminded Records. Pre-order options are up now at this link.
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