Uptown Boyband straddles multiple worlds. The Toronto-based trio is equal parts dancey K-pop, infectious rap, and catchy trap beats.
Named after the area of Toronto where they grew up, UBB is singers Joe Rascal and Roc Lee, who first met in their high-school breakdancing club, and rapper Justin Trash, who they later met through a mutual friend.
The band’s duality is well-represented on their debut album, Club Ubb, which will be released later this year. Split into two sides, on Heartthrob the trio embraces their poppier sound, while the other half, Heartbreak, is full of hard-hitting trap anthems, like their latest single “Kult Freestyle.” “We wanted to create a record that was a blend of all of our influences. We didn’t want to restrict ourselves sonically,” says Lee.
In 2016, they added the word “Boyband” to their name as a way to reference and subvert the image of K-pop. The trio, who all have Korean roots, grew up listening to K-pop groups like Big Bang and 1tym, and were heavily inspired by H.O.T. But unlike perfectly-coiffed groups like BTS, they also have facial piercings and tattoos, and bring “sprinkles of grunge and punk” into their music.
Although K-pop is one of the most popular genres in the world, there aren’t a lot of homegrown bands in Toronto – at least not yet. “From our experience there doesn’t seem to be a big scene, but it’s slowly growing, and we’re honoured to be a part of it,” says Rascal. The trio didn’t have a lot of other mainstream Asian-American and Asian-Canadian artists to look up to while they were younger, an experience that now pushes them creatively.
“The lack of representation helped us create our own path without any restrictions,” says Trash. “There was no rule book, so we want to be the role models we never had.”