Tucson sounds: Community chorus edition | Weekend music
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Tucson sounds: Community chorus edition

with: Sharkk Heartt, Birds and Arrows, Silver Cloud Express & Hannah Yeun Band

In the couple of years that your trusty local music columnist has been documenting the Tucson music landscape, a lot of musically inclined folks have begun to make their way to our desert outposts, many from other college towns and hipster art meccas.

Brooklyn, Portland, Austin and the like have been gentrified to death, it seems, and Tucson isn't "ruined" yet. The rents are still comparatively cheap, the service industry is still pretty healthy, and we're spoiled for choice when it comes to affordable practice spaces and really good recording studios.

But the real secret appeal of Tucson, the thing that makes us more than just some kind of junior "Portlandia," in this reporter's opinion, is that Tucson's musicians and creative folks are just insanely prolific. It seems like every musician one encounters is in multiple projects, or guesting in someone else's video, or recording their second EP of the year. And not only that, they're showing up at each other's gigs and spreading the word about each other's projects and sometimes teaming up for the most unlikely collaborations you can imagine.

In short, Tucson's music community really is a community, and in that spirit, this week we feature a handful of bands and artists (including some native Tucsonans and some far flung transplants from cooler climes) who help make up our musical "neighborhood."

Sharkk Heartt

Sharkk Heartt's Lara Ruggles turns '90s-style piano rock of the Tori Amos kind on its head by introducing synth beats, looping effects and other elements of modern electronica production. She's also the only musician in this week's dispatch who hasn't been featured yet in this column.

TucsonSentinel.com:  Introduce yourself! Do play solo or with a full band? And how did this project start?

Laura Ruggles (Sharkk Heartt): "I play solo, as Sharkk Heartt. I sing, play keys, and trigger Ableton sounds and vocal loops during my sets. I started producing in Ableton and performing as Sharkk Heartt a couple of years ago, around the time I moved back to Tucson from Colorado. Before that, I was playing folkier stuff under my own name. And, let's be honest, I still have a real soft spot for piano ballads."

TS: Since moving back, how has Tucson treated you as a musician and creator?

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LR: "I tend to be a little too much of a musical hermit, keeping to myself and making music in my studio alone, and I have to really push myself to get out and experience the scene and collaborate. But Tucson has a couple of really supportive outlets for that. I have really enjoyed being part of Pushing Buttons and Sonoran Beat Collective. Jed Baker started Sonoran Beat Collective as a way to give local artists a push to create something regularly and release it on a series of compilations, and there are several songs I wouldn't have created without a nudge from him."

TS:  Has the local music community changed/grown since you first left?

LR: "I feel lucky to be part of a group of really supportive women in music, both online and occasionally in person. There are a lot of really strong women looking out for other women in Tucson, and it's a pretty sacred thing to have and be invited into. There has been a lot of intentionality around creating a safe space where we can all share resources and experiences, and that has really continued to get stronger over the last year."

"For my own part, I try to show up for the causes that matter to me and offer help in areas where I have a solid background, like fundraising. Iff musicians have questions about how to run a succesful crowdfunding campaign, they should hit me up!"

"Watching this community grow stronger and flourish has taught me that it's really up to us to fill the needs that we see in our community, and create the safe spaces we want to exist and work in and that we have the power to do that. "

TS: Any local music folks you'd like to give a shout out to?

LR: "Jed Baker & Sonoran Beat Collective! Also, local musicians Jillian Bessett and Katie Haverly."

TS: What do you have in the works these days musically speaking?

LR: "I've been working on an EP for a very long time now, and it's at the point where we have a batch of rough mixes, so that's pretty exciting. It seems like every new release takes me about four years to finish. I've also been writing a lot of feminist anthems and protest songs lately, and I've releasing drafts of those on my Patreon page  more or less as I write them. And I'm trying to compile a book manuscript out of letters I wrote in 2017. I wrote a letter every day for the entire year and that's super overwhelming. I don't have enough objectivity to choose what makes it into the final draft!"

TS: Favorite bands and influences of all time? And how did you fall in love with music in the first place?

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LR: "More recently I've been really into Perfume Genius, St Vincent, and Haux. But I will never stop loving Tori Amos, Tracy Chapman, Natalie Merchant, and Sarah McLachlan. Also Florence & the Machine and Imogen Heap are undeniably awesome."

"I grew up with a piano in the house, and my mom taught me the basics of reading music, but it wasn't until my sister got better on violin than I was on piano that I finally wanted lessons. I think I was always pretty in love with music. I have a piece of super repetitive, simplistic sheet music I wrote when I was 9 or 10 titled, 'The REAL Lara's Theme.'"

TS: As in, "Lara's Theme" from Doctor Zhivago?

LR: "That's the one!"

TS: That's fabulous.

LR: "Music kind of saved me when my family moved out to a super rural plot of land, and I was an isolated angsty teenager writing songs and practicing until my family begged me to stop. That was when it evolved into a more feverish kind of love."

TS: That's kind of the best way for it happen, I think. That's the whole plot line of the Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll!"

TS: And now, to the heart of the matter. Or, you know, the 'Heartt' of the matter. Couldn't resist the band name pun. Sorry! But, seriously, tell l us about your next gig!

LR: "I am playing a happy hour set at Whole Foods on River Road this Saturday, June 29, from 6-8p.m. They have a garage in the front, and they bring a beer tap up there for happy hour and open the garage door if it's nice weather (it'll probably be too hot on Saturday). Because it's two hours of music, it'll be a little bit of everything - older acoustic songs, newer Sharkk Heartt songs, and a handful of my favorite covers."

TS: Thanks for filling us in! We look forward to hearing more soon.

LR: "Thanks, Julie!!!"

You can see Lara Ruggles aka Sharkk Heartt Saturday at the E River Bar inside Whole Foods Market at 5555 E. River Rd. in northeast Tucson.

Hannah Yeun

Guitarist/vocalist Hannah McCarthy, who performs under the name Hannah Yeun, made her way to Tucson from Portland a couple of years back and was the mastermind behind last year's femme focused music gear workshop Electric Witch.

Though the first local lineup of Hannah Yeun Band dissolved a while ago, McCarthy has been performing pretty steadily as a solo artist ever since. This week she plans to debut a new, full band lineup at a midweek show at Exo.

Hannah McCarthy (Hannah Yeun Band) : "Hi, Julie!"

TucsonSentinel.com: Hi, Hannah! It's been a minute! I suppose the big news is that, after about a year of solo shows and a rotating cast of guest musicians, you're back to a full band lineup again. Tell us about the newest incarnation of Hannah Yeun band.

HM: "The new lineup is three really wonderful and talented people who  I feel very fortunate to have playing in my band. I hope they feel the same!"

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TS: Who's onboard in the new version of Hannah Yeun?

HM: "Linus (Schief), Ricky (Tutaan) and Dane (Valasquez)."

TS: How did the new lineup come to be?

HM: "I played a show with Karl Blau several months back, and we stayed in touch since then. After he heard my music, he encouraged Linus and I to get connected and play music together. Karl produced an album from Linus' old band from the Pacific Northwest, LAKE, and he thought her drumming style would be a perfect fit for my music. After talking about meeting up and jamming for months, Linus reached out and said she knew of a show available that we could rehearse for."

"This really put the fire under by belt, and so I reached out to Ricky (of Droll) to play synth and Dane Velasquez to play bass. Dane's played in several bands over the years and owns lots of amazing gear, and both Ricky and Dane happen to be tech and gear wizards, so I'm thanking my lucky stars for playing with such talented folks."

 "It's now a month later, and we have a full band and our first show at Exo on July 3, opening for Faun Fables!"

TS: What's next, now that the new lineup seems to have gelled?

HM: "After this show, I hope we keep playing! We want to record a music video (ourselves) and do a photoshoot with Julius Schlosburg."

Hannah Yeun Band debuts their brand new lineup this Wednesday night, July 3 at Exo Bar in Downtown.

Birds and Arrows

Birds and Arrows is a Tucson rock duo originally from North Carolina, consisting of  husband and wife Andrea Connolly and Pete Connolly. The band's recordings are great, but their live gigs are simply astonishing. Drummer Pete's  steady, rhythmic pulse and structured, pitch perfect vocal harmonies keep the band grounded and more or less keep Andrea from launching straight into the stratosphere with her incredibly kinetic, almost physically punishing performance style, dynamic and aggressive guitar gymnastics  and soaring, Zeppelinesque vocals.

Each live gig inevitably culminates in a finale with Andrea on her knees, bent backwards, lost mid quitar solo in a synesthetic sonic haze while Pete loses all sense of measured percussive propriety and just lets loose Keith Moon style into glorious cacophony. At the end of each shows, however, this sweat drenched, exhausted, badass looking rock and roll pair often look up to find a cadre of friends and fellow musicians surrounding them, at which point their rock and roll edge melts away revealing smiling eyes, huge "glad to see you" grins and generous hug and handshake distribution all around.

Your friendly local music scribe caught up with Andrea recently to talk about music, community and what's up next for the band.

Andrea Connolly (Birds and Arrows): "Hey, Julie! Thanks so much for reaching out, and for taking the time to interview us!"

TucsonSentinel.com: Always a pleasure! What's up with Birds and Arrows these days?

AC: "Since the last time we spoke,  we've been touring around the southwest and southern California and also making new videos, all while writing some pretty kick ass material for our next album. We've also been doing some collaboration with Daniel Martin Diaz and Trees Speak. Just staying busy and always pushing ourselves to create new shit."

TS: New material, you say? Intriguing! Tell us more!

AC: "We have a bunch of new songs that we're sussing out right now, which we're super excited about! They're pushing us in a new raw emotional direction direction while combining all the favorite sounds of our past songs.  We'll have to wait and see what they become but as of now we're deep in the process, so we'll have to report back when they're closer to being finished.

TS: Can't wait to hear them!

TS: When we last spoke, we talked a lot about your origins as a band in North Carolina. Now you both have been here for a while and are kind of honorary Tucsonans, more or less. How has being based in Tucson treated you as musicians and creators? And what have some of the highlights been so far?

AC: "Tucson has been creatively life changing for us. It's like this bottomless well of inspiration, visually and spiritually.  We absolutely love this place!  And although we're not religious or overly superstitious, we really do believe we were called to be here. Maybe by "the aliens" or something! We are meant to be here."

"Some of the highlights for us so far have been exploring, hiking, and always discovering something new about the desert.  And also getting to know the art and music scene here and being completely taken aback by the talent here in this desert town."

TS: In your opinion, how has the local music community grown in the past year or so?

AC: "It seems like just in the last 3 years that we've been here this scene is constantly growing, stretching and inspiring artists around us. There's a vibrant energy here that's hard to describe. One thing I love is how almost every artist we work with or get to know appreciates the awesomeness of Tucson and is truly excited to collaborate with other artists that love this place."

TS:How do you see yourselves contributing to that sense of community?

AC: " I feel like so far our own contribution to the scene has been sharing our art freely and openly and being wide open to collaboration with younger artists and also with very established artists here. And it's all happened so naturally. Sometimes we find ourselves acting as a mentor to some up and coming Tucson creators, and other times it feels like we're helping to reignite passion about Tucson in some artists that have been here a long time. I have also been working really hard as a guitar and voice teacher and trying to inspire very young artists here to write and perform."

TS: So, who are some of your favorite collaborators and co-conspirators in Tucson's music community?

AC: "So many to name, so here it goes. We'd love to give a shout out to Gabe Sullivan for helping us create our new record and taking us under his wing when we first moved here. David Slutes of Hotel Congress has always been a wonderful supporter of what we do. Sophie Gibson Rush (at KXCI Community Radio) has helped us keep our finger on the pulse of what's happening here in Tucson and is such a genuine force of joy and energy about music. Daniel Martin Diaz gets props for inspiration, collaboration and just being embracing the absurd.  You!!!  Julie Jennings Patterson for giving so much of your time and energy to show up at shows, writing about everything going on here and keeping people informed about this scene in this amazing place.

TS: Aw, thanks! But, really, I just report the news, so that kind of doesn't count. Who else?

AC: "Tyler Lidwell for his energy and inspiration and always being game for our ideas and willing to go out and find crazy places to in the desert to make art. Ben Nisbet for being such an amazing force in this scene and collaborating with us on so many songs. It's rare we invite other musicians play in our little Birds and Arrows world but he is really something special and makes us better for playing with him. Marta Deleon for being our guide to everything Tucson, introducing us to everyone we need to know and always inspiring us with her creative projects and dedication to making music that is her vision."

TS: Marta's a one woman ambassador of the Tucson music scene if ever there were one.   

TS: Outside of the Tucson music incubator, what are your favorite bands of all time? And how did you both fall in love with music?

AC: "This is a tough one, both of us have a very long relationship with playing and creating music and have a very wide array of influences! My earliest memories are singing with my Mom and watching my Dad play guitar they loved music and pretty much let me listen to whatever I wanted as a kid.  As a toddler (on my Fisher Price record player) I would listen to The Stray Cats' 'Sexy and Seventeen' and Joan Jett & The Black Hearts'  'I Love Rock and Roll' on repeat."

"My first sort of religious experience with music was finding my Dad's Led Zeppelin I tape and putting it in my Walkman. I accidentally started it on side B, immediately hearing that John Paul Jones organ intro to 'Your Time is Gonna Come.' That was the real deal! That tape didn't leave my Walkman for a very long time."

"I asked Pete  the same question and for him, it was experiencing  '70s AM radio in real time and hearing things like Bowie's 'Fame' for the first time and thinking it sounded like the future. Also, going to his first Alice Cooper concert at nine years old really made an impact. Pete's own first religious musical experience was seeing Peter Gabriel's Security tour in 1983."

"Our influences? Well, as far as song writers and vocalists go, Peter Gabriel, early Genesis, Talking Heads, the Faces, XTC, Bjork, Otis Redding, Zeppelin, Stones, Pink Floyd, Sting and the Police, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Brown, Radiohead and so many more. But, I'd say that sums up some of the biggest early influences."

TS: An admirable cast of characters, I'd say!

TS: Now, to the business at hand.  Tell us about the new video!

AC: "The song 'Animatronic Heart' has kind of an intense subject. It comes from a place of struggling with how hard life can be and battling with depression, anxiety and keeping your head above water. We wrote it during a time when Pete and I were in the middle of living with and being a caretaker for his elderly dad, which we did for a few years. It was one of the most challenging times of our lives and our relationship. It really made us reconcile with what it means to be human and how we're all connected on a deeper level than any of us can understand." 

"So, because the song deals with such heavy subject matter, I came up with the idea of juxtaposing it with weird nostalgic visuals, making a music video that was a strange art film nod to one of my favorite nostalgic action movies, which had one of the first bad ass female figures I'd seen in movies as a tween girl. So it's a total tribute to the character of Sarah Connor from Terminator 2.  I thought using that movie and her as an influence for this creation would be a very fitting way to find my own strength while still revealing vulnerability. And also bring some levity to a very heavy subject matter."

"Our talented friend Tyler Lidwell helped us realize this vision and make it look professional and beautiful. He's always game to try anything, which is such a fun collaboration!"

"I love cinema almost as much as I love music and these are the two creative outlets that make me feel like I'm here for a reason and give me purpose. So, we keep putting out these short video projects we make with friends to give our music one more dimension. Our plan was to make a music video for every song on our record 'Arbitrary Magic' and we're almost there. Only a few more songs to go.

You can check out the new video for Birds and Arrows 'Animatronic Heart' in the sidebar of this week's column. Or check it out here.

Silver Cloud Express

Once upon a time, there was a fun, catchy, well loved local rock band called the Modeens. And they were excellent indeed.Then, a couple of years after the Modeens had more or less ceased to be, a new project emerged from the ashes of that band.

Tucson psychedelic indie rockers Silver Cloud Express have been around a few years now, and have long since shed the mantle of their old band. And now it's safe to say the new band is just about as well loved as the old. The band has some announcments to share this week, as well as some thoughts about Tucson's current collaborative musical zeitgeist.

TucsonSentinel.com: Hey, Cristina! I hear that Silver Cloud Express has a few new things up your sleeves these days. What have you all been up to since the last time we checked in?

Cristina Williams (bass and vocals, Silver Cloud Express)L "Hi, Julie! Mainly, we've been really focusing on growing as a band. We finally feel like we've found our sound. We just finished doing a whole slew of gigs in a short amount of time and though we don't like to gig too much in one area, playing a ton of local shows in Tucson has been really energizing!

Jamie Laboz (guitarist, Silver Cloud Express): "Agreed! It was good playing a lot of shows in a short amount of time, to get people familiar with the band. It's hard for people to catch us when we're only playing every once in a while."

TS: In your eyes, how has the local music community grown or changed in the past year or so?

CW: "It's been great to see more local music stores and record swaps crop up. It's putting a serious hurt in my wallet, but the curation is just great between Old Paint, Wooden Tooth and many other individual collectors who stuff the bins at record swaps through downtown. The last swap at Crooked Tooth Brewery was especially fun!"

"Also, the womxn of Tucson's music scene are really banding together and supporting each other, with more and more bills that meld genders or just happen to have mostly or all womxn fronted bands (and you don't even have to call it the "Women in Rock" night or whatever anymore!) I'm doing my part to encourage that trend as much as I can!"

JL: "There's been a new and interesting crop of bands popping up in the past year. I'd like to contribute to the scene by recording and mixing some of them, instead of working exclusively with our band and my day job of producing commercial music."

TS: "Any folks  in the local music community who you feel deserve more recognition?

CW: "Jillian Elizabeth of Jillian and the Giants is always involved in really cool stuff. You should hear what she does with just her voice and a looper! What many people don't know is that she's also a producer and is recording albums for artists out of her house, with a baby on her hip! I mean how badass is that? She's also become a den mother of sorts for a large chunk of the local femme arts scene and this has been sparking collaboration and bonding like I've never seen before."

CW: "Yeah, Jillian's stuff is wild! I also really dig music we've heard recently from Weekend Lovers, Ex Bats and Louise Le Hir, and we always enjoy seeing our good friends Leila Lopez & Brian Green. There's also a great singer/songwriter in town, Chris Sahlin. He has a fantastic voice and some interesting pop tunes. I've been producing his latest music. Desert Beats and Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra are also lots of fun live, but they're Phoenix based, so not exactly local."

TS: "What does the band have in the works these days musically speaking?"

JL: "We kicked off our summer of singles with our new track 'Postcards from Outer Space' and there are two more songs we'regetting ready to post called 'Here and Now' and 'Silver Lining.' 'Postcards' is packed with space imagery and is sung from the point of view of an astronaut trying to make it back home. Kind of a 21st century version of Bowie's Major Tom character, but trippier."

"Then we still have a backlog of other songs that we're getting ready to record. We're not totally sold on the idea of albums anymore so looks like we're sticking with singles and EPs for the time being. "

CW: "One major, but bittersweet change has just happened. Daniel Thomas, our drummer from the beginning and a major part of Silver Cloud Express's evolution, is one of the busiest drummers in town, and for good reason! But because of that, he holds down an insane schedule. Jamie and I have been feeling the need to spend more time rehearsing and recording together as a band, but short of cloning Daniel, the best solution was to welcome another great local drummer, Rick Bailey, into the SCX family. Rick brings with him a powerful background in rock from his time with Texas Trash and the Trainwrecks, La Cerca and Pygmy Death Ray. He's also a walking rock encylopedia!"

TS: Rick Bailey? Love that guy!

CW: "We do too!"

TS:  So, when can we witness all these new developments in person? In other words, can you tell us about your next gig?

CW: "We're playing this Saturday at Sky Bar starting at 9pm. It'll be our first show with Rick, so that's exciting! We're opening for a really cool band from Brazil, Ted Marengos, who give riff-heavy 70s rock a modern take. Tropical Beach was going to play that gig, but unfortunately they had to bow out. Fortunately, Marta de Leon's metal neu wave goth project Glass Walls is filling in, so it'll still be a great night of music!

TS: My gosh, Marta does get around! Wonder when she has time to rest?

Silver Cloud Express, Ted Marengos and Glass Walls play this Saturday night at Sky Bar in Downtown Tucson. Show starts at 9 p.m

Check your local listings...

Friday, June 28

  • Wooden Tooth Vinyl Night - 6 p.m. Tucson Hop Shop
  • Leila Lopez & Brian Green - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
  • Twighlight of the Groove - 6 p.m. Dusty Monk Pub
  • Jay Faircloth - 6 p.m. Saguaro Corners
  • Breaking Trail - 6 p.m. Arizona Beer House
  • Flyboy Seranade w/ Mike Sadler and Big Grin - 7 p.m. Monterey Court
  • 80s and Gentlemen - 7 p.m. Playground
  • Sixes, Atala - 8 pm. House of Bards
  • Sweet Willie D Blues Man - 8 p.m. Rockabilly Grill
  • Stereo Riots, Defeat the Band, Sur Block - 8 pm. Sky Bar
  • West Texas Intermediate, Hans Hutchison - 8 p.m. Exo
  • Pro Teens, Harriet Brown, Lano, Suis-je-Riche - 8 p.m. Club Congress
  • Indigo Girls - 8 p.m. Rialto
  • Comedians Who Aren't Boys - 8 p.m. Hotel McCoy
  • Rockers Uptown - 9 p.m. Chicago Bar
  • Juliana Warkentin - 9 p.m. Dusty Monk Pub
  • Disco 2000 - 9 p.m. R Bar
  • El Tambo - 10 p.m. Hotel Congress Patio
  • Neon Prophet - 10 p.m. The Hut

Saturday, June 29

  • Sharkk Heartt - 6 p.m. E River Bar at Whole Foods 
  • Johnny VInal w/ Richard Lepre - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
  • Adara Rae - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
  • Afri-Can 6 w/ General Tchefary, Jaliya,Moxie, and Ballet Folklorico Tapia - 6:30 p.m. Armory Park Center
  • Fury, Dizort, Get A Grip, Construct - 6 p.m. Club Congress
  • Belinda Esquer - 7 pm. Hotel Congress Patio 
  • ThundHerStruck, Mean Streets, Sugar Stains - 7 pm. Encore Tucson
  • Santa Pachita - 7 p.m. Monterey Court
  • Lana Rebel, Kevin Mayfield, John Mount, Grip Jensen - 8 pm. Exo
  • Witch Alley, 7th of Never, Psycho78, Legion - 8 p.m. House of Bards
  • Tongs - 8:30 p.m. Tap & Bottle
  • Silver Cloud Express, Ted Marengos, Glass Walls - 9 p.m. Sky Bar
  • Escape Goat, The Earps, the Ohmlauts - 9 p.m. Irene's Donuts
  • Cruize: A Queer Hanky Dance Part
  • Real Countrified Corn - 9 p.m. Dusty Monk Pub
  • Dirt Friends vs. Asian Fred - 10 p.m. Che's Lounge
  • Santa Pachita, Sueno Azul - 10 p.m. The Hut

Sunday, June 30

  • Mik and the Funky Brunch - 12 p.m. La Cocina
  • Sunday Sessions with Kevin Pakulis - 2 p.m. Borderlands
  • Fairwell, In Lessons - 6 p.m. House of Bards

Monday, July 1

  • Peter Dalton Ronstadt - 8 p.m. Chicago Bar
  • Chuck Ferris - 9 p.m. Elliot's 

Tuesday, July 2

  • Alvarius B, Invisible Hands - 8 p.m. Club Congress

Wednesday, July 3 

  • Faun Fables, Hannah Yeun - 8 p.m. Exo
  • Street Blues Family - 8 p.m. Hotel Congress

Thursday, July 4

  • Mattea, the Timebeing, Saint Augustine - 7 p.m. Irene's Donuts
  • Fourth of July Fireworks Afterparty - 9 p.m. Club Congress

Each week this column compiles a choice selection of live gigs in and around Tucson with the help of good venue and band event announcements and other resources. If you've got a gig coming up and you'd like your event listed in this space (or if your local band has a major announcement or a new release) drop me a line at arts@tucsonsentinel.com.

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Kerry Whelan

Laura Ruggles performing live as Sharkk Heartt

Youtube Video