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Weekend roundup

Musical charmers: The smart, harmonic indie psych pop of Tucson's Untied Snakes

In the early days of pop music, starting a band and picking a name might well have been a little easier than now. You could assemble a little gang of your Beatles or Elvis-loving peers, set up a practice space in your parents' garage and christen yourselves "the Warlocks" or "the Roadrunners" or "the Primitives" all while remaining blissfully unaware of all of the other bands who shared your name and confident that you would eventually all kick ass even if literally none of you knew how to play your chosen instruments.

Later on in the rock and roll timeline, the advent of rock magazines and international radio airplay led to many a revelation of a shared band name, which is how American record stores began selling so many records by bands with "U.K." at the end of their names or names that began with "Theee" instead of "The." (Recall too the lawsuit that helped stall the career of locals the Sidewinders.)

These days, bands have it easier and harder at the same time. Finding an original name is as simple as a quick Google search and some creativity. That's the good news. The bad news being the obvious epiphany that most of the good band names are taken, many a few times over. Your best bet as a novice ensemble is to come up with a novel two word pairing, or flat out get creative with grammar and punctuation. Or, like Tucson's Untied Snakes, which began its existence in 2014 as the cleverly monikered, but hard to format Un:ted States, you can simply do both.

Though the band is on its second name, second rhythm section and its sophomore foray into recording at local recording mecca Midtown Island Studio, its music remains true to its origins — smart, harmony laden, indie psych pop laced with vintage Laurel Canyon sound and twenty first century self awareness. 

Founded by guitarists/vocalists Jason Leo and Ariel Anderson, the project itself was the result of online dating gone decidedly sideways.

TucsonSentinel.com: Who are Untied Snakes and how did the band form? 

Ariel Anderson: "Jason and I met originally on Tinder, and instead of doing the expected thing (casual dating) started a band instead.  Although after about 6 months in, when we’d just played our first few live shows, we did end up dating."

"We started 4 years ago with Eyal Ron as our drummer and Loren Breen as our bass player. Our first album was recorded with them locally at Midtown Island Studios."

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"For our first record we laid down all 8 initial tracks for with our original drummer and bassist (Loren and Eyal) in one day, because they were about to leave town indefinitely for jobs and grad school. We  then followed up throughout the following 4 months or so building on those initial tracks with vocals, carefully constructed harmonies, some subtle organ tracks, and contributions from a few session violinists on the tracks 'Roswell' and 'Equinox Shadow.' Recording now is a bit different, although we are in the same studio, because we have the whole band for more than one day, everyone is singing and contributing ideas now, and our music has evolved."

TS: Who is in the current lineup?

AA: "There are currently four members,  Ariel Anderson, Jason Leo, Nicholas Agar on drums, and Kat Choyguha on bass. We’ve always seemed to have a four person set up. Jason and I, as the founding members, have written the majority of our songs, mostly together, and kept the band in existence for four years now."

"There is no particular specific approach (to songwriting in this band) and that’s why all of our songs have like six parts to them and change a lot. We like songs with parts that may or may not repeat that do not have a traditional pop structure that are a pain in the butt to learn.  With our current line up, we have been collaborating more on the songwriting part, and a few of our newest songs include contributions from all four members, which maybe says something about our musical compatibility!"

TS: What's behind the name Untied Snakes?

AA: "The current name, 'Untied Snakes' came about as a sort of mutation on the original name, which was 'Un:ted States.' In some ways were still in the name transition process, for example, the email address we are sending this from uses our old name. We changed the name in part because of the colon (which can be tricky for online formatting) but also because we felt we had evolved our sound and lineup to a point we deserved a do-over on the name. "

TS: What other artists have most influenced you?

AA: "Oh jeez, I personally love vocal harmonies and bands such as Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young and Fleet Foxes who really direct their music with their vocals. Both Kat and I have a choir background as well as some music school training, so there is some influence from there for sure."

Jason Leo: "I’ve always felt I had a really unique appreciation for music on the very fringes of the subcultural fabric, but as I’ve gotten a little older and gained perspective, I can see my musical taste is actually pretty typical for people of my generation. I’ve also loosened up a bit, and allowed myself to enjoy great music from classic popular artists like Neil Young, or Bob Marley, or contemporary alternative pop like Twin Shadow, Grimes, or Lorde who I would have shrugged off thinking they were too mainstream when I was younger. One thing that has remained true is I am constantly looking for new sounds and genres, and I’m attracted to music that sounds both nostalgically familiar and uncomfortably new all at once. Lately at work I’ve been exploring a bizarre but really interesting genre called vaporware."

TS: What's on the horizon (tours, album release, etc?)

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AA: "We’re all pretty busy, most of us have full time jobs, Jason and I live with Jason’s kid, and for those reasons we may have less flexibility than some bands out there. We plan to release a new EP towards the end of the summer/early fall this year, and we have been talking about planning some mini tours, like just Phoenix and Flagstaff, or maybe San Diego and LA, but at this time these are no more than conversations we have after band practice."

"It’s fun to meet new people who have seen us play. Occasionally that happens in Tucson. We’ve played some really fun shows. One that stands out was at the one year anniversary of Pueblo Vida, where we got to play outside right downtown. Playing outside is fun, especially downtown. We also did that once for 2nd Saturdays. "

TS: Tell us about your upcoming gig.

AA: "We’re very excited to play with some of our favorite local bands, the Rifle and Shooda Shook It. The show is at Sky Bar, Saturday, June 2, and free, and it starts around 9 p.m. We will be playing a few songs that we’ve never performed live before."

Also this week...

Old punks never die, nor do young ones for that matter. It's time to dust off your Doc Martens and get out of the house as two legendary hardcore punk bands,  D.O.A. and MDC, visit 191 Toole this Friday night. 

Saturday night you can check out some more home grown legends as the fabulously weird Bob Log III graces the stage at Cans Deli and Texas Terry Trash holds court at Che's Lounge. Meanwhile over at Flycatcher the loudly gorgeous Whispering Wires and  Jeff Lownsbury pair up for a show with Brooklyn based Las Rosas. 

Another highlight of Saturday's live music roster is a rather epic localy heavy metal showcase at Rialto Theatre, with a lineup that includes Sacred Groove, Mr Wiley, Push, Tribulance, Exit Dream, Pyrotechnica 

Also happening Saturday is Meet Me Downtown's music showcase featuring performances at Joel Valdez Main Library by Leila Lopez and Gertie and the T.O. Boys and Shrimp Chaperone with Santa Pachita  at Armory Park. 

Check your local listings

Each week this column compiles a choice selection of live gigs in and around Tucson with the help of great venue and band event announcements from the web and social media and other resources, including local musician Chris Black's site www.whoplayswhere.com. 

Friday, June 1

  • Las Cafeteras & Making Movies, Alex Cuba - 7 pm Club Congress (Downtown)
  • D.O.A., MDC - 8 pm 191 Toole (Downtown)
  • Vox Urbana - 8 pm Cans Deli (Downtown)
  • Ghastly, Riot Ten, Nitti Gritti - 8 pm Rialto (Downtown)
  • Paint It Blue - 9 pm Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown)
  • Windego Crossing - 9 pm The Edge Bar (North)
  • Velvet Panther - 10 pm Owl's Club

Saturday, June 2

  • Leila Lopez - 12 pm Joel D Valdez Main Library (Downtown)
  • Gertie and the T.O. Boyz- 2 pm Joel D Valdez Main Library (Downtown)
  • Santa Pachita, Shrimp Chaperone - 6 pm Armory Park (Downtown)
  • Loveland - 6 pm Mercado San Agustin (W of Downtown)
  • Sacred Groove, Mr Wiley, Push, Tribulance, Exit Dream, Pyrotechnica - 7 pm Rialto (Downtown)
  • WAND, C57BL/6, Silver Cloud Express - 8 pm 191 Toole
  • Bob Log III  - 8 pm Cans Deli (Downtown)
  • Las Rosas, Whispering Wires, Jeff Lownsbury 6 - 9 pm Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Shooda Shook It, Untied Snakes & The Rifle - 9 pm Sky Bar (Downtown)
  • For Love or Absinthe - 9 pm Dusty Monk (Downtown)
  • Texas Trash - 10 pm Che's Lounge (Downtown)

Sunday, June 3

  • Mik and the Funky Brunch 12:30 pm La Cocina (Downtown)
  • Sunday Sessions w/ Kevin Pakulis - 2:30 pm Borderlands (Downtown)
  • Natalie Pohanic - 5 pm Public Brewhouse

Monday, June 4

  • Cryptic Void, Apocalyptic Noise Syndicate, God Awful Noise, Heinous, Magguts - 6 pm Spark Project Collective (Downtown)
  • Algiers, Lié, Egrets On Ergot - 7 pm Hotel Congress (Downtown)

Tuesday, June 5

  • Tom Walbank - 6:30 pm Sky Bar (Downtown)
  • Amped Up Open Mic - 9 pm Club Congress (Downtown)

Wednesday, June 6

  • Miss Lana Rebel & Kevin Michael Mayfield - 6 pm La Cocina (Downtown)
  • Petunia & The Vipers, Al Perry - 8pm Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Steff and the Articles, Infinite Souls, Ben Anderson - 8 pm Club Congress (Downtown)

Thursday, June 7

  • Alan Parsons Live Project - 7:30 pm Fox Theatre (Downtown)
  • Collie Buddz - 8 pm Rialto (Downtown)
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