By Anthony Paull
If you didn’t already know Uh Huh Her, you do now. Leisha Hailey, one-half of the electro-indie duo Uh Huh Her and famously of “The L Word,” made headlines recently for getting kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for, as she reports, publicly kissing her girlfriend.
As luck would have it, we chatted with Camila Grey, her bandmate, before the brouhaha. But we still got the dirt on the duo’s second full-length, “Nocturnes,” which expands on their shimmery musical soundscape by turning up the volume and creating a hard-hitting big rock album, inspired by the likes of Pink Floyd, Joy Division and ’70s psychedelic electro.
UHH’s Camila Grey also chatted with Between The Lines about their tour (which brings them to Detroit’s Shelter on Oct. 18) and promoting breast cancer awareness through a partnership with the Keep A Breast Foundation.
Admittedly, I got kicked out of my last Uh Huh Her concert because my friend Scott was fist pumping and colliding into the fans. I think he was trying to get the crowd going. Which Uh Her Huh song gets the biggest fan reaction?
First off, bring your friend to every show we ever have! (Laughs) As for the song, I think the fans react best to the material they’re used to. They love “Not a Love Song,” “Explode” and “Black and Blue.”
“Common Reaction” had a shimmery rock feel, whereas the “Black and Blue” EP had a grittier rock appeal. What kind of sound were you going for with your latest, “Nocturnes”?
You know, we had just been dropped from our label, and I was upset by the way the record industry was working. I wanted to go off the map, so I approached my vinyl collection to find bands that inspired me in the first place. I listened to Pink Floyd, Joy Division and early Annie Lennox. We also had Wendy (Melvoin) producing, who worked with Prince, and it ended up being this big rock record. There are also some tracks that are electro and synth-based as well.
As indicated by the title, “Nocturnes” was recorded mainly at night. How do you feel that affected the mood of the record?
It’s definitely sinister, a little dark. It was a pretty rough year going through a big breakup, along with being dropped from the record label. A lot of life-changing stuff happened to us so it takes on a darker feel, but I think there’s a lot of hope to the songs too.
With many UHH songs, there seems to be an ongoing theme of reaching out to a lover that’s in hiding or unable to connect. What’s inspired that?
I take it from my life and the lives of others, hearing stories. It’s not all about personal love. A lot of the songs aren’t about a lover per se, but the love we had for the record company. There’s a lot in the lyrics about parting ways with the record company and managers. A lot of the material is about being dumped and feeling at odds with the industry.
After losing the backing of a major label, what was your thought in regard to keeping the band going?
We weren’t ready to be done. We were just building a fan base. “Common Reaction” was starting to hit when we lost our manager and label so we weren’t about to give up or throw in the towel. I had some knowledge of labels so I put my business savvy into it. Ownership is huge. Now, we own our label and music. So we are seeing the fruits of our labor more readily.
It’s interesting: Your fan base seems to have multiplied dramatically since you’ve taken the indie route. Other bands in the same position have seen greater success as well. Why do you think that is?
Our fans are diehards, thank god. People are rooting for us. Plus, I think the music is great. We are so grateful for our fans. Through Twitter, we are able to talk directly to them, so it’s really helped us as indie artists.
As a graduate of the Berklee School of Music, you were classically trained. At the time, had you known where you were you heading, musically?
My parents got me a 24-track digital workstation, so I started recording early. I liked classic rock bands like Aerosmith. I also loved Joy Division and Depeche Mode. I wanted to make a hybrid of that. I was like, “Why aren’t women doing music like this? Where are the ABBAs and Cardigans?” I wanted to fill that gap.
UHH has teamed up with the Keep A Breast foundation to launch a fall tour to promote breast cancer prevention. There seems to be a lot in the press about reducing cancer risks by adopting certain lifestyle choices, such as adopting a plant-based diet. What advice would you give females in regard to learning more about the disease?
I think awareness and education are so important. My grandmothers are breast-cancer survivors. Early detection is a key component to survival. Plus, a healthy lifestyle is super important. We’re truly excited to partner up for the cause and bring the fans the new music on tour.
Uh Huh Her
7 p.m. Oct. 18
431 E. Congress St., Detroit