Catching up with Uh Huh Her

Photo: Janelle Sorenson

"Five Hour Energy drinks and Red Bulls, I feel awesome," declares Camila Grey, settling onto the leather seat of a white stretch limousine. After an overnight drive from a show the night before, the sunglasses are less diva and more necessity.

“She said she’d be up all night to talk if I needed it,” Grey gestures to Uh Huh Her counterpart Leisha Hailey, who absently flips through a wedding brochure found next to the empty brandy snifter, “But then I get a call saying 'I’m going to bed, but enjoy your ride!'”

“Hey! I said ‘be safe’!” Hailey laughs.

On the first date they've played together in months, Uh Huh Her wax poetic on music, life and…hippos? "I'll say 'amazing' five times within the same interview," Grey says. "It's my go-to adjective." Grey and Hailey consider the dicey politics of phonics while checking out the '90s décor.

“We need five syllables," Hailey says, brightening. "Hippopotamus."

Coming from diverse musical backgrounds and the somewhat chaotic start of Uh Huh Her itself, it’s clear that these women are on a renewed mission to own what they do and to launch this album under a new brand of confidence.

“We wanted to make a rock record and not a lot of people are doing that anymore,” Grey says, then stops herself “But, I mean, it’s not a Pantera record.”

Holing up in a small studio in Los Angeles, the girls spent a healthy amount of thought and energy while crafting the follow-up to 2008’s Common Reaction. Bringing in Prince Alum Wendy Melvoin to lend a hand, Grey and Hailey devoted themselves entirely to making this new project organic.

After an almost two year long hiatus, and now working independently from a label, they have relished in the process of taking control back into their own hands. “It felt like we were always trying to catch up to ourselves,” Grey says, speaking of the whirlwind that was the release of their first EP which was almost immediately followed up by a full-length record. “And this time, we thought, we’re not on a label anymore, we have the luxury of time and being together and this time, we’re going to do something really thoughtful.”

The energy between Hailey and Grey is palpable, and their excitement about the record is contagious. “It sounds a lot different [than Common Reaction]…it’s heavier and lush, and less hi-fi. The vocals are the same, but the music is a lot richer.”

Shooting for a spring release date, the girls are keeping busy; Grey is on tour with Adam Lambert and Hailey is holding down the Uh Huh Her fort by acting as business manager. “When she was off shooting The L Word, I was managing it, and now it’s the opposite. The tables have turned,” Gray says, feigning a menacing laugh.

“Oh, I am such a good manager,” Hailey shoots back.

There’s a pride in what they have accomplished with this album, both musically and as a business. The mutual breakup with Nettwerk Records left the girls solely in charge of the new album’s destiny. So much so that when it came time to mix the album and funds were tight, they turned to their fans “We had this amazing opportunity to get this killer mixer,” Hailey says, perking up, “but we couldn’t do it because we didn’t have the money so we did an auction on eBay.”

“It was crazy. We did all this artwork and these cool little things and we raised over 10,000 dollars. Our fans are amazing,” adds Grey, shaking her head in a way that conveys the magnitude of their appreciation. “It was a labor of love on everyone’s part. We got a lot of help from a lot of amazing people.”

Though not completely turned off to the idea of working with a label again someday, Hailey makes it clear that not just any deal will do, “We have this thing that we did all on our own with no help from a label, and that’s a hard thing to want to give away. And it was all because everyone believes in the music. It was made for the right reasons.”

When asked about making music and what moves them the most, Grey asserts, “This is probably so cheesy and redundant, but touching lives and meeting fans. I’ve had people come up to me and say things that are so eloquent and sweet and those things really make me feel okay about what I do. Evolving as a musician and discovering new sounds is part of what makes the journey of music so meaningful.”

Hailey agrees, “We’re lucky to do what we do, I feel like this is an honor.”

A disco cover band playing in the distance has Jungle Boogied to a stop and it is time for Uh Huh Her’s pre-show rituals to begin. It’s very obvious that Grey and Hailey work very well together, and that the changes in the band’s structure have only been for the best. “Yeah, being together for this process was the big crux of everything,” Grey says.

Hailey nods, “The hippopotamus if you will.”