Alex Uhrich is a photo-based mixed media artist and musician in the Minneapolis based queer-punk band royal brat. Uhrich began going to punk shows as a teenager inspiring his DIY approach to everything; film photography, design, screen printing and playing music.
Where did you grow up and how did your environment influence you?
I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, where, by adolescence, I was pretty bored. I felt like a bit of a weirdo in suburban America and I think that influenced me to start discovering DIY and subversive communities in my hometown and elsewhere through the use of social media.
What is your background in art, most specifically in the realm of photography?
I started taking pictures of bands around the age of 14 and I have continued to do so. I got my BFA in Photography in 2012 and split my college career between CalArts in Los Angeles and SFAI in the Bay Area.
You’ve been documenting and contributing to the underground music and art scene for years, most prominently in Minneapolis where you co-found the music label No Problem Records with Jordan Bleau in 2014. How did you first get involved in DIY culture and music?
Around the age of 13, right when Myspace came out, I searched for other people in the area who liked Nirvana. I met this kid named Matt who lived a few miles north in South Minneapolis and he was into all sorts of rad shit. He was my first “punk” friend.
He encouraged me to sneak onto a bus to uptown to hang out at a McDonalds and go to this all ages space on Lake Street called TC Underground. It was right next to Extreme Noise, which is this long-standing record shop in Minneapolis, and it was unlike anything I’d ever been exposed to. I was enthralled, I had never seen anything like it, but it made me want to get involved, so I started going to shows, meeting other kids, sharing mix cds, and I eventually bootlegged Photoshop and taught myself how to use it so I could make fliers and other junk.
After posting a status about wanting to start a queer punk band, you are part brainchild and vocals behind the 4-piece royal brat. How has that experience been like for you? Does the music revolve around any themes?
It has been extremely surreal. I spent my late teens and early 20s working for lots of west coast bands, touring, going to shows and documenting the lifestyle but I always considered myself as a behind-the-scenes kind of person, a voyeur of sorts.
As a queer identifying person, I felt like a bit of an outlier, or I wasn’t seeing certain parts of myself in the communities I was documenting. There is a fantastic legacy of queer people making rock and roll (and art in general obviously), but my experience was that a lot of DIY music communities were and are largely dominated by straight white dudes.
I really wanted to see myself and other underrepresented demographics represented and celebrated without being tokenized. I was very lucky to find a partner in Clara and fill our lineup out with hardworking, talented, folks who share our values. royal brat is definitely pretty campy and coquettish and playfully (for lack of a better term) bratty, but
it gives me a platform to explore a persona, or a corner of my personality I don’t get to access in everyday life.
Recently, I’ve been a big fan of the show posters you’ve been creating! What has been one of your personal favorites and the process behind designing it?
Thanks! Designing fliers is such a fun way to keep skills sharp and explore new techniques and influences. It’s one of the first practices I ever felt true unbridled excited for, and in a lot of ways is a return to my roots. I had not done much of it for years and rediscovering it has been great, and now with the band’s schedule and my booking job there is rarely a shortage of work to be done.
It’s super hard to pick a favorite because every time I do it I get to experiment and play with things that are inspiring me. I guess a recent favorite would have been for our show in March in Kansas City.
I started with this found image of a car wreck and was thinking about this failed relationship and the nature of attraction, my sort of self-sabotaging nature. I am really into Looney Tunes and constantly looking for weird source material regarding them and I had this really cool image of Petunia Pig and this other little illustration I had found of another pig and just riffed on that… I love type work and experimenting with letters and layout so the whole thing just kinda came together. I usually do fliers in one sitting and just follow my instincts.
I think it’s important for me to have a sense of urgency and fight my nature to overthink everything.
I think you tend to break the general idea that people need to stick to a single medium or need be really good at that “one thing” to be successful; whereas you tend to pursue it all - whether it’s photography, design or music. Do you feel people tend to limit themselves? What’s your advice for people that are afraid to devote energy into pursuing mediums outside of their comfortable boundaries?
I guess when I think about all the people I admire the most, they were all constantly experimenting with different ways to translate their ideas. I think about artists like Mike Kelley, Kim Gordon, Patti Smith, even Kurt Cobain… the list goes on and on and on. I think people do limit themselves or stay in their comfort zones, but I also do that too. I certainly don’t share everything I make and not every idea comes to fruition. I think it’s a fine line, because obviously you want to produce and share things you’re proud of, but part of getting better is hearing what people think, taking feedback from others. I think the internet offers a lot of low pressure and interesting formats to “dump” all sorts of ideas.
My advice would be to try not to take art so seriously because ultimately it should be fun and free and feel good and that there’s certainly a reason an art career is called a practice!
What has been the most gratifying experience for you so far this year?
I guess the most gratifying thing that’s happened is being told my a younger queer person that I inspired them to start a band and being able to watch that develop. I’d say being able to produce a record with people I respect and care for is also pretty gratifying.
What’s in your forecast for the rest of the year?
royal brat is released our debut LP on Moniker Records some time this fall and we’re gonna tour the east coast to support it, I’m working on a new zine of poetry and writing with some unreleased photo and design work that may or may not see the light of day, I’m going on tour with another band called Waveless doing live projection work for them! I’m about to launch a silk-screening textile project that I’ve been toying around with called Rainbow Run. We are planning a fun cover band for Halloween too but that’s just getting started ;)
Favorite instagram account of the moment?
Wow that’s a really hard one… I can’t pick one so here is a slew of ones I dig: I love Tim Lahan’s illustration account (@timlahan), Andrea Lukic is rad (@antonlevis), I love Clay Gibson’s tattoo work (@claygibson). I am a sucker for dark memes and I love @onapinkplanet and @scariest_bug_ever, and as textiles have been really interesting to me lately, @bidchaoswelcome is great for bootleg shirts… and big shoutouts to my friends @hanansharifa, @islandqueensatanflower, and @crisisblues, both are all very inspirational to me.