When your dad is the drummer in the biggest metal band on the planet, it’s safe to say music is in your blood. But multi-instrumentalists Myles and Layne Ulrich, the sons of Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, are determined to carve their own path.
Sure, Myles was listening to Black Sabbath by the time he was four, but the duo, who make fuzzy rock’n’roll as Taipei Houston (think of a punk-indebted Royal Blood drying out in the desert and you’re on the right track), have side-stepped stadium metal to take inspiration from alt. chameleons like Radiohead, Jack White and Arctic Monkeys.
And while they admit that Lars has chipped in with the odd nugget of industry advice, he’s left them alone while they developed a turbo-charged sound that’s brought them tours with Muse and Melvins.
“All the artists we like the most have their own unique thing going on,” says Layne. “That’s the most inspiring thing: to sound different and sound like yourselves. That’s something that we always have tried to aim for.”
The duo never bothered formulating a Plan B. Growing up in San Francisco, their childhood was spent learning to play instruments and devouring everything from classic and modern rock, to hip-hop, electronica and jazz.
All the while they were hanging out with their dad backstage at Metallica shows, although Myles credits his mother, physician Skylar Satenstein, for keeping them grounded and in class instead of on tour buses.
“I’m grateful for that,” he says, although by that point he already knew music would be his path in life. “We were around a lot of creativity growing up, and around a lot of people being very dedicated to what they’re doing.”
Although the brothers had jammed together casually over the years, Taipei Houston didn’t become an official project until the pandemic hit. Locked down with time on their hands, over the next 14 months they set about writing the songs that would become their stomping debut album, Once Bit Never Bored, later recorded in LA.
Hard-wiring both bass and guitar sounds from Layne’s bass, it’s an approach that is heavily influenced by Royal Blood; the Ulrichs don’t have set roles in the band, instead each of them switches between vocal, drum and bass parts throughout the tracks.
“We had planned to get a singer,” Layne muses. Then Myles started playing a lot of guitar, and I started singing, so we were like: ‘How can we actually just do it with just us two?’”
Going it alone has been a challenge they’ve relished ever since.
“What I really like about being a duo,” Layne says, “is that because it’s restrained, you have to get really creative with it.”
“You have to be constantly thinking about your limitations,” Myles adds. “And also how to break your own rules.”
Once Bit Never Bored is on streaming platforms now via C3 Records.