Ultrababyback! For now...
Enduring Atlanta Band Reunites to Celebrate Two Decades of The Earl

By Lee Valentine Smith

In strange synchronicity, the twentieth anniversary of The Earl just so happens to fall on a rare free date on the calendars of busy musicians Shonali Bhowmik and Michelle DuBois.

The duo fronted Babyfat and then Ultrababyfat in the '90s, releasing a series of impressive albums and singles over the years, including Silvertone Smile, Eight Balls In Reverse and their last (for now) collection, No Ringo No.
Bhowmik is now a Manhattan-based artist with her own band Tigers and Monkeys and hosts a popular podcast called "We Don't Even Know." Likewise, Michelle remains Atlanta-based and busy with her own projects including three beguiling solo releases. But it took a prodding email from a fellow indie band in North Carolina to get the band back together - even for a weekend - regroup for a couple of shows in the Atlanta and Charlotte markets.

Shonali spoke with INsite by phone from her New York home and Michelle spoke recently from her office in Atlanta.

How'd this all come together?

Shonali: I think this was in both Michelle and my heads at the same time, but our friends The Husbians from Charlotte - who are also reuniting for these shows - emailed us around seven months ago. They asked if we'd like to do some shows with them this summer. It was weird because we were both already thinking we should do just that. The other band on the show is The Alternative Champs and they share members with the Husbians.
Michelle: We're both just putting out stuff all the time, like little engines that could, just to keep doing things. And our friends who are doing this 'East Bound And Down' show proposed this weekend idea. It sounded like a summer fun project. So we were like, 'Ok, let's do it.'

So it was like an invite to a family gathering.

SB: Yeah, we have some of these brother bands, all across the country. There's at least fifteen of them and it's turned into a family affair. We have this long-time extended family from across the country. The Champs are in this new Danny McBride show so the date came together because we were all finally available.

But this isn't an official reunion because you guys never really broke up.

SB: No, we never broke up. Michelle and I, since we were kids, swore that we'd never break up and we'd play till we're 80. Ok, so we aren't 80 yet but let's do it. As children, we really did think about one day being old ladies onstage with each other. And the only way to keep that happening is to keep doing it. So with that goal, you can never lose or never freak out about where you stand.

At 80, nobody can argue that you aren't cool. You'll be rockin' on stage and that's cool no matter what. But this is no farewell tour.

SB: No! In fact, I think what's great about it is, so many of our former bandmates - and you know all of them - most of those people are still in our lives. People are coming in from out of town just to hang out.

There's no way you can invite them all up to play at this point.

SB: No, we'd like to, but we just can't. So what we are doing is sticking to the lineup we played with on our last few years and on the last album and I'm very exited about it because I love those guys so much. So we'll have Jeff Holt on bass and Jody Belinsky on drums.

You've had such a long list of collaborators; did you ever consider doing a retrospective show only featuring you two?

MD: Yeah, I was thinking it could just be Shonali and I - just going back and forth with songs. Because our history goes back to forth grade. But I think because these guys have a full rock band, we called up the last line-up we had. I think if they couldn't do it, it would have just been the two of us.

You can't have a guestlist for this show because it would have 180 people on it.

SB: We are gonna see so many people we love and we've worked with over the years. I'm hoping it's like a huge family reunion.

It's like a High school reunion but with people you actually like. And to add some icing on the cake, it's the 20th' anniversary of The Earl.

SB: Yeah, talk about synchronicity! It's all happened without us even trying or pushing for it to be a show. We played the first-year anniversary of The Earl and I have a VHS of that night.

What do you remember about that night?
SB: I remember we played "We're An American Band," the Grand Funk song. So that was around 19 years ago and it was a crazy night. But see, I left town and we never really got to do a real album show for our last record No, Ringo No. I'd left town by then and we never really toured on it. I'm going to bring some copies of it for the merch table.
MD: We played the one-year anniversary and I remember it clearly. We brought a cake up on the stage and R. Land, who Shonali was dating at the time, made these 'The Earl Turns One' t-shirts. I don't even have one.

How do you rehearse for a show like this?

Well we were just texting about this yesterday. Michelle and I've both been playing with our other bands, but we've made these playlists and we've been sharing them back and forth. And you know what? Muscle memory is a real thing. I can vouch for it. Literally the stuff just comes back when I think about it. It's crazy.
MD: We'll have maybe two long practices before the show. But I haven't even started cramming yet. She told me about the memory muscle thing and I'm like, 'Oh ok, fine I've got time.'

Is this part of a tour or is this the only show?

SB: The other bands on the bill are from Charlotte and so we'll play there and Atlanta. And I love Charlotte. That's a town I play with Tigers and Monkeys and that's a town that has supported us since the beginning. So we picked those two towns and we'll see what happens.

What do you think will come from this gathering?

SB: I don't know - and I think that's what makes it so great. I know good things come without planning. Just having the guts to try something new and see what happens, is great. It's all down to people who like playing music together and who are excited to be with their old friends. It's an important time to do this and we both have fires under our butts to do something while we can, in the moment. Michelle is still recording her music and I'm doing Tigers and Monkeys. After we did a show together in Atlanta last December, it just felt right. So it's time to do it.

Ultrababyfat plays Friday, July 19 at The Earl. The Alternative Champs and The Husbians open. Doors open at 8 p.m. For more information, please visit badearl.com.

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