Quarantine has been tough on everyone, but it became a little less tough for local hip-hop trio the Ugly Boys when, a few weeks after the stay-at-home orders were announced last year, they almost immediately got a million views on one of their TikTok videos.
“It was really jarring to go from no interest at all to having random people on the internet interested in the music that we were making,” says Jacob Pfefferman.
The group, which consists of Pfefferman, Sam Bortnick, and Quinn Cury, all 19 and recent high school graduates, had been making music for over a year before then, but upped their game when their lives came to a screeching halt in mid-March, and they suddenly had a ton of time on their hands.
The three guys got together every day to work on new music and videos. Some were lighthearted and made really quickly, like the one that featured a minute of the trio rapping over the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song—originally performed by They Might Be Giants for the Disney show, which ran for a decade in the 2000s. This was one of the clips that helped them rack up 1 million views in 24 hours.
“That’s something we like doing for fun, sampling theme songs of shows we loved growing up. So it gives it that nostalgic feel, which can be cool,” says Bortnick.
The video has a loose feeling, starting with them announcing, “Remember that show the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse? We’re turning it into bars.” Then it cuts to different members spitting verses over a version of the song with a hip-hop beat.
Prior to the lockdown, the group already had an album recorded, and they’d been recording and releasing new singles. New fans loved the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse song so much, they asked them to record a full version of it, something they hadn’t planned to do. They called the song “Welcome to the Clubhouse” and uploaded album art of them wearing shirts that said “Please Don’t Sue Us”—just in case any Disney lawyers got interested.
This sudden attention inspired the trio to focus on writing new music and creating entertaining videos to promote it. For months, they literally posted a new video every day. But as the year progressed, they slowed down to posting a new video every other day. They estimate that in 2020, they wrote at least 200 new songs.
At first, the TikTok plays didn’t translate into Spotify streams, that is until they released their breezy hip-hop tune “Life Could Be a Dream” to Spotify. It now has over a million streams.
“Before, we were worried that we were going to be linked to this persona on TikTok, but we’ve definitely been able to get out of that,” Pfefferman says.
Not only is the production on the group’s videos really good—Pfefferman is a film student—but the three member’s genuine friendship is palatable.
“We’re really friends, and we actually enjoy doing this. I think they can feel the energy that we bring. That’s another thing that people like about our videos,” Bortnick says.
In all this excitement, the Ugly Boys have never played a live show. Before the lockdown, they were working so hard on their first album, they hadn’t gotten around to it. And then for the past year, it hasn’t been an option. They can’t wait to hit the stage in the post-Covid era.
“The cool part about having our music actually do well,” Bortnick says, “is by the time we perform, we might have more than five people there.”
The Ugly Boys’ latest single, released at the end of January, is ‘Down Down Down.’ Go to instagram.com/theuglyboyssc for more information.