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Weekend music

Band trip: Getting cosmic with Miller's Planet

From the ashes of Sockfight! arose Miller's Planet. Seriously, this is true, but it's also a terribly fun sentence to write. Science fiction inspo and '80s New Wave retro vibes courtesy of a quartet of seasoned vets of the Tucson live rock scene? Sign me up!

Miller's Planet was formed by former Sockfight! bandmates keyboardist/vocalist Uma De Silva and songwriter/guitarist Neil Armstrong Dennau, who still had a ton of new material after the demise of that project last year.

De Silva and Dennau, both veterans of a ton of area bands, share a love of science fiction and theatrical soundtracks and the music they write together reflects this.

De Silva: "Neil wanted to call the band Miller's Planet, one of the planets in [the film] 'Interstellar.' It turns out two of the songs we had recently written really fit well with some of the themes from the movie. That was pretty serendipitous as far as I was concerned, especially since we started writing one of the songs, 'What Happens In the Future Stays In the Future,' a year before the movie came out.

Some of the song collaborations betweeen De Silva and Dennau date back to the formation of Sockfight! in 2012 while others weren't fully finished until last year. A handful made the cut and thus began the backbone of the new project.

Dennau: "We had a name and five solid songs and all we needed was the right combination of players to complete the band."

De Silva: "We knew we wanted proficient players who could also sing and would enjoy this new music we were creating. [Bassist] Troy James Martin and I have been playing together in bands since 2006, including Episodes, Smallvox, and Minstrel's Ghost, and knowing Troy's musical taste, abilities and desire to enlist in a new original project, he was an obvious choice."

Next to join was drummer Daniel Thomas (Miss Olivia and the Interlopers, LeeAnne Savage, Wallpaper Prison, Cobra Family Picnic, Silver Cloud Express,The Desert Beats.) Thomas had once been a stand-in drummer for De Silva and Martin's old band Minstrel's Ghost and had mind melded with them well. That intuitiveness and shared vision promised to carry over into this project.

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De Silva: "I knew that there was obvious musical chemistry between the three of us. I also knew that Neil, Daniel and Troy's influences overlapped immensely and they would really appreciate each other musically. We reached out to both of them with poor quality phone demos and without hesitation, they both committed in January of 2017."

Less than two months later, the band played their debut gig at The Loudhouse, one of just a handful of live shows this year for the fledgling band. In the meantime, they've been practicing — and writing.

De Silva: "Neil comes up with riffs daily in abundance. It's just a matter of putting them together in just the right way. Once he's satisfied with a combination, he gives it a title and shares them with me to add vocal melodies, keyboards and lyrics. The songs are then introduced to Troy and Daniel through rough phone demos with a click and the homework begins. Troy and Daniel really put in the time to come up with just the right complementary parts on their own. They'll often add their ideas to the demos through recording software at home and then I superimpose all the tracks into a new improved demo. We all come ready to put the pieces together into a full song within a couple rehearsals."

For all its science fiction ambiance and homages to movie scores, Miller's Planet is, at its heart, kind of a New Wave band. The collective members cite influences ranging from De Silva's love of They Might Be Giants, Bjork and The Pretenders to Dennau's love of Duran Duran, Vangelis as well as proggy bands like Rush and Yes. For Thomas, inspiration comes from The Fixx, The Police and solo era Peter Gabriel. Bassist Martin is the classist of the bunch, with many of the great rock and roll bass players as influences, including Chris Squire, Dee Murray, Tony Levin, and "Sir Paul" [McCartney].

Dennau: "We are heavily influenced by '80s New Wave and Progressive Rock; we like playing clubs that welcome musical exploration."

While still in the early stages of its history, Miller's Planet has a long road ahead, but as past members of other bands, they definitely have some wisdom to part with

De Silva: "Being in a band is like being in any relationship: you have to be willing to put in the time and creativity, be patient, work at it and communicate at all times."

Meanwhile, said Martin, "The best bands to play with are those who understand that we are all performing as a team, not as competition."

The band, who returns to the Loudhouse stage this weekend has a great new year planned out already.

De Silva: We have many more tunes on the way in 2018, but first we'll be laying down our E.P. beginning December 10, 2017, and will have songs out by early next year."

Dennau: "We have no shortage of ideas at this point. If you can hear it in your head, make it happen."

Luckily this weekend, you don't have to hear it in your head. You can catch Miller's Planet live with Still Life Telescope and Finite Fiction on Saturday night at 8 p.m. at The Loudhouse in North Tucson.

More barn

There's an old story about Neil Young that posits he once played demo tracks of an album using his house as the left speaker and his barn as the right. As Mr. Young rowed former bandmate Graham Nash into the middle of a small lake on the property, Young reputedly called for the sound to be adjusted by shouting "More barn!"

The Canadian songwriter and rock and roll legend has also just released his online musical archive, covering decades. Presumably he had to get the sound right — you know, more barn. He's also released a new album, "The Visitor" last week.

This columnist was recently challenged by the little birdies in her inbox to review Young's new work, but as this is a local music column, it makes sense to do so with a local take, through the ears of the musicians of Tucson.

If you and/or your band would like to contribute to a collective review, or share your thoughts on Young's extensive back catalog send an email to julie@corbid.net or private message me (Julie Jennings Patterson) for details. To Be Continued.

Also this week...

It's Winter Street Fair on 4th Avenue and a number of venues are upping their game in response to the vast number of folks expected to venture into Downtown Tucson this weekend. If you can brave the crowds, your club-hopping game will be strong on Friday and Saturday night, with many live gigs including the likes of the Resonars and Phoenix's Nanami Ozone at Che's, Miss Olivia's "Holiday Spectacular" at Saint Charles, Half-Broke Town and M. Ward at Flycatcher and tons of daytime shows including a Roller Derby set from Juju Fontaine, a street fair performance by The Unday, and the one and only Al Foul gracing Che's patio.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for a ton of local songwriter focused shows, including repeat live sets by Natalie Pohanic and La Cerca's Andrew Gardner and the long-awaited first night of this year's Great Cover Ups on Thursday at 191 Toole. More on the Cover Ups next week, as nights two and three loom large on the horizon.

Friday, December 8

  • Natalie Pohanic - 5:30 p.m. at The Flycatcher Lounge , 340 E. 6th St. (Downtown)
  • Bryan Thomas Parker - 5 p.m.. Boca Tacos y Tequila, 533 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Sissy Brown - 9 p.m. at Saint Charles Tavern, 1632 S. 4th Ave. (south of Downtown)
  • Half-Broke Town, Panic Baby, Midnight Divide, M. Crane - 9 p.m. at The Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St. (Downtown)
  • World To Come, I Pariah, Los Perros - 8 p.m. at The Loudhouse, 915 W. Prince Rd (North Side)
  • Pedros y Los Liricos - 8 p.m. at Exo Roast Co., 403 N. 6th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Santa Pachita w/ Funky Bonz - 10 p.m. at The Hut, 305 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Heather Hardy - 8:30 p.m. at The Chicago Bar, 5954 E. Speedway (Central)
  • Gigi & The Glow - 8 p.m. Coach House Tavern 7011 E. Indian School Rd (Scottsdale, AZ)

Saturday, December 9

  • Al Foul - 3 p.m. at Che's Lounge Patio, 350 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Miss Olivia and The Interlopers Holiday Spectacular! - 9 p.m. at Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown)
  • The Resonars w/ Nanami Ozone - 10 p.m. at Che's Lounge (Downtown)
  • Juju Fontaine at Skate Wars! - 7:30 p.m. at Tucson Indoor Sports Center, 1065 W. Grant Rd (West Side)
  • Miller's Planet, Still Life Telescope, Finite Fiction - 8 p.m. at The Loudhouse (North Side)
  • Golden Boots & Gene Trip - 9 p.m. at Owl's Club, 236 S. Scott Ave. (Downtown)
  • Orkesta Mendoza - 7 p.m. at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. (Downtown)
  • Battle Royale (Battle of the Bands) - 7 p.m. at The Rock, 136 N. Park (Downtown)
  • Larry Diehl Band - 1 p.m. at LB Saloon, 6925 E. Broadway Blvd (East Side)
  • Heather Hardy - 7 p.m. at Rockabilly Grill, 3700 B Oracle Rd (North Side)
  • Gigi & The Glow - 9 p.m. Jersey D's Tavern 5945 Ray Rd (Chandler, AZ)

Sunday, December 10

  • The Unday - 12:30 p.m.. Fourth Avenue Street Fair (5th Street Stage)
  • Keli and the Big Dream - 3 p.m. at Che's Lounge Patio, 350 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Black Smurf, IDK Jeffery, Positive Satan - 7 p.m..at Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Casey Donahew - 8 p.m. at 191 Toole (Downtown)

Monday, December 11

  • Andrew Gardner: Songs, Guitars, Moods - 9 p.m. at The Flycatcher (Downtown)

Tuesday, December 12

  • Tiki Boots (featuring Golden Boots) Tropical Holiday Paradise - 7 p.m. at The Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St. (Downtown)
  • Weed, Black Baptist, Bird Violence, Needle Nest - 8 p.m. House Of Bards, 4915 E. Speedway (Central Tucson)

Wednesday, December 13

  • Cypress Grove - 5 p.m. at House Of Bards (Central Tucson)
  • Adara Rae, Natalie Pohanic, Andrew Gardner, David Velasco - 8 p.m.at Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Saliva - 8 p.m. at 191 Toole (Downtown)
  • Tina and Her Pony - 9 p.m. at Bar Passe 417 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)

Thursday, December 14

  • The Great Cover Up! Part One - 7 p.m. at 191 Toole (Downtown)
  • Amy Mendoza and Strange Vacation - 9 p.m. at The Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Hannah Yeun, HOTT MT, Floating Limbs - 7 p.m. at Club Congress
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