Why Taipei Houston's Ulrich brothers are more than just 'Metallica nepo-babies'

Taipei Houston
(Image credit: Press/Taipei Houston)

Van Halen. Pantera. Gojira. AC/DC. There’s a long history of brothers in bands in rock and metal, and it tends to result in either the music being driven by an incredibly fractured relationship, as with Rich and Chris Robinson in The Black Crowes, or an almost telepathic tightness and closeness, à la Vinnie and Dimebag in Pantera or Joe and Mario in Gojira. 

“We’re definitely the latter,” smiles Taipei Houston vocalist/bassist Layne Ulrich. “My older brother Myles [drums/guitar] showed me a lot of the music that I got into for the first time. We both think about music in the same way, we’re both there for each other, and we both push each other to get to as high a place as we can musically.” 

Of course, when your dad is Lars Ulrich, the drummer in the world’s biggest metal band, it’s natural that you’d have lofty ambitions. Thankfully, the Ulrich progeny don’t feel too much pressure to escape their father’s shadow. 

“Honestly, it’s not something I ever really think about,” shrugs Myles. 

“We spend much more time thinking about our songs, the state of rock, and where we can carve out our niche in what we do,” Layne adds. 

“The desire would be that we succeed on our own merit,” Myles nods. “I guess other people think about it a lot more than we do. All the bands we love have these singular voices, and we hope to have that one day.” 

Formed during the pandemic when the brothers reunited in their parents’ house, Taipei Houston drew on their shared influences with an express intent of recapturing the magic of the music they love.

“We both grew up listening to AC/DC and Black Sabbath, but we also love Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead,” explains Myles. “So there’s a pretty wide net we’re casting. We spent a lot of time thinking about Jack White.”

Taipei Houston’s debut album, Once Bit Never Bored, certainly takes a big dollop of inspiration from outside of metal, but Myles and Layne haven’t forgotten to worship the riff, wrapping their influences into something super-heavy and massively punishing that also just happens to have huge choruses.

“It’s always been our intention to write songs with big choruses like indie bands, but also make it really heavy,” Layne admits.

They’ve certainly managed to do that, with Once Bit Never Bored following in the grand tradition of two-piece rock bands such as ’68, Death From Above 1979, Winnebago Deal and Royal Blood in making a noise that sounds way more expansive than that of just two people. 

Getting the duo right is like pulling off a grand magic trick, and is one of the greatest challenges in music. It’s something Taipei Houston are more than happy to tackle head-on – although they also know neither of them can afford to have an off day.

“Definitely not,” agrees Layne. “I think what I like about being a duo is that we can give Taipei Houston the illusion of being bigger than it actually is.” 

“It’s an interesting concept that is very freeing but very limiting at the same time,” Myles tells us. “If we were a five-piece then I’d just let the two guitarists take control of the guitar parts, but here we can’t do that. We do everything – we both come up with vocals, bass and guitars, swapping instruments and trying things out. It’s full of roadblocks but it’s such an interesting challenge.” 

One of the things that Taipei Houston are vocal about during our chat is their desire to be seen as a band that can inspire the same feelings in new fans as they found in what Layne refers to as “the golden age of alternative rock” – the early 90s to mid-2000s. It raises the question: what do the brothers think about the state of rock music in 2023? 

“The traditionalist sense of rock as a counter-culture is more fractured these days,” says Myles. “To me, a lot of the stuff I hear that comes out nowadays leans in different directions, it leans into pop rock or leans into something way heavier. It feels like bands with a signature sound and charisma are lacking – we really want to make it as unique and uncanny as possible. How do you do that with a style that has had such an insane history? That’s the real challenge.” 

If Once Bit Never Bored is just the jumping-off point, then you would be a fool to bet against the duo doing it. After all, history says there’s little more potent in music than an Ulrich with a vision.

Once Bit Never Bored is out now

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Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.