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Tucson sounds: Taking aim with the Rifle and Sauced Up

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Tucson sounds: Taking aim with the Rifle and Sauced Up

  • The Rifle en route to a Southern California gig
    Nelene DeGuzmanThe Rifle en route to a Southern California gig
  • The Rifle's yearly
    Courtesy of the bamdThe Rifle's yearly "Christmas Card" picture
  • Calvin  Dancil, Colin McGovern and Ben G. of Sauced Up!
    Courtesy of the bandCalvin Dancil, Colin McGovern and Ben G. of Sauced Up!

Get to know Sauced Up! Plus, new music from the Rifle, a video release from Katie Haverly and friends, music news, weekly listings and more in your music roundup.

Catching up with the Rifle

For a while, it seemed like the Rifle was the hub of Tucson music, whether representing Southern Arizona on tour with bands like the Exbats or The Elegant Rabies, or making an impact on top albums lists from far beyond our dusty "shores." In truth, it hasn't been that long since we've heard from them, but the past couple of months' live show hiatus seems, in Tucson terms, inordinately long, like when John Lennon took a five-year sabbatical from recording.

And, much like Lennon's extended exile, the Rifle's slight hiatus was prompted, among other things, by domestication. The band's frontwoman, guitarist/vocalist Nelene DeGuzman and her longtime partner, bassist Kevin Conklin were married last November, in a service officiated by their good friend (and Conklin's Elegant Rabies bandmate) Michael Ely. The couple also bought and are renovating a house and even drummer Randy Rowland has been doing a bit of nesting, having recently moved to a new apartment.

With a Rifle-shaped hole in our musical hearts, many local music fans are psyched to hear that 2019 is set to bring a followup to the band's breakthrough album "Anabasis," and that new music is on the horizon. And, much like the proverbial groundhog, they are emerging from hibernation with an eye on a glorious spring.

Your friendly neighborhood music reporter caught up with one of Tucson's favorite bands and wisely refrained from making any band name related "shotgun wedding" jokes in the process. Hey Rifle! It's been a while. What have y'all been up to in the last few months?

Randy Rowland: "Moving into a new apartment. Working on new drum parts for songs we've been working on."

Kevin Conklin: "Honeymoonin', hanging with family, reading new books, listening to Nelene's sick Spotify playlists and writing new basslines."

Nelene DeGuzman: "Kevin and I bought a house. She's a fixer upper so we've been making a lot of trips to Home Depot, a lot of home renovation, manual labor. I have started making monthly playlists on Spotify sort of as an exercise in seeking out new music, forcing myself away from just listening to the same 'comfort food' albums on repeat."

TS: Those playlists are great! And congrats on what sounds like some succesfull adulting, not to mention two thirds of the band being newlyweds! Historically, in the rock and roll canon, when bands' members have reached the life stage of mortgages and spouses, their material changes and matures somewhat to reflect it. And so, I've got to the next album going to be the Rifle's "Rubber Soul?" Just kidding. Kinda. But in all seriousness, what can we expect from the newest stuff when it finally sees the light of day?

RR: "Some real focused, practised shit. I mean that in the best way."

KC: "I think we are becoming more intentional. I certainly have been focusing on when I should hang back and support Nelene and Randy making cool sounds, or let it really rip on the low end."

ND: "Honestly, 2018 was so busy in our personal lives that I started to feel really artistically hungry, if that makes sense. It was like an involuntary hibernation period that stirred up a lot of emotional stuff for me. Some of the newer songs that we've been working on are a bit more personal and self-reflective than our songs have typically been. Musically I think we're all just continuing to challenge ourselves to come up with things that are new for us."

TS: Your last record made a lot of local writers and radio hosts best of lists for 2017 and you definitely made an impression some of the places you've toured. Was there any pressure in the wake of that or did writing new music come naturally?

RR: "No, I don't think we ever stopped writing. The first three songs we recorded for this next album we recorded at Midtown Island Studios in early 2018."

KC: "I'm focusing on playing the best i can and writing better basslines. So the pressure is HUGE."

ND: "Lol. Yeah, I think the main pressure is pressure we've put on ourselves to keep getting better."

TS: You guys are heads and shoulders above a lot of bands already. I can't imagine what "better" will sound like! That being said, how would you say you've matured musically as a band over time? What's changed about each of you as players as far as style or skill or inspirations in the past couple of years?

RR: "Practicing three times a week for almost 4 years we've gotten damn tight. I have achieved personal drum goals over the years we've been a band by putting parts that I want to be able to play into songs and forcing myself to learn to play them."

KC: "I'd say as a band we're getting pretty groovy. For me, I have been listening to lots of funk, among other things, and letting my eardrums soak up whatever sick bassline I can hear. And I'm really into podcasts about other musicians, like The Third Story. Its inspiring to hear others stories."

ND: "I think our technical skills have really grown over time, and like Randy said we do practice a lot. I think there was a time when I had a real chip on my shoulder about having to prove that I had some technical skills as a guitarist, what with the semi constant 'are you the singer?' kind of attitudes I ran up against early on. I think I've made peace with some of those feelings and now feel a little less of the compulsion to over analyze song structures and just let some guitar parts be simple and straightforward if that makes sense for the song."

TS: In addition to being in this band, the members of the Rifle seem to be at the epicenter of a few like minded local musicians and friends. Any other local folks you'd like to give a shout out to? Thoughts on Tucson music in general?

(In Unison): "Matt Rendon!"

RR: "Matt Baquet, cause that guy always puts on really great shows. Like, he does all the booking for HOCO fest and does a lot for the Tucson music scene. Molly Ragan, she's just done a good job over at Club Congress and Lano with Chick Magnet."

KC: "Kenny and Inez McClain (of The Exbats!) The scene at large seems...hungry. I hope we all get to eat at the table together."

ND: "Yes, Kenny and Inez! And Weekend Lovers! Also shoutout to all the awesome womxn-centric music communities that have been popping up like the shop talk music group for women to just talk music thangs. Shoutout to you, JJP, for the giving a voice in your columns as well!

TS: "Well, thanks, Darlin! I only report the news, though. You folks are the ones making it! Now, for the REAL question. When can we hear the new stuff?

ND: "At our shows! We are debuting a couple of brand spanking new songs at Che's Lounge this Saturday. We've also got some songs that we've been playing live but haven't been released. We're gonna be recording some stuff at Midtown Island in April and we're still probably a couple sessions away from finishing the album after that, so the next one will maybe come out late 2019?"

TS: Your audience awaits with bated breath! Until then, though, we'll just have to catch you live. So, tell us about your next gig.

ND: "Che's Lounge on Saturday, Feb. 2, with the Midtown Islanders. We're gonna play a long one this time. Usually, we stick pretty close to the 30 min set mark, but for this one we're going to be playing the full Rifle history! We'll be playing some songs from way back to the Spill EP all the way up to a couple of totally new ones that NO ONE'S EVER HEARD!"

TS: Can't wait! And since it's Groundhog Day, maybe you can play them over and over.

The Rifle plays Che's Lounge on Saturday, at 10 p.m. Midtown Islanders (the acoustic duo of Resonars mastermind Matt Rendon and Freezing-Hand-in-chief Travis Spillers) will open.

Reimagining the local music scene, one venue at a time

In Tucson social media circles, a common topic of debate is "who will take on the mantle of Plush/Flycatcher?"

The popular Fourth Avenue bar and lounge was a fixture of the Downtown music scene and a place where new, young bands, touring acts, and established local favorites played and mingled virtually every night of the week. It was the site where many bands played their first or second "real" gig and served as a kind of defacto networking space for local musicians, who often met or reconnected over a drink or sharing a smoke on the back patio.

After Flycatcher shut its doors last spring, the emergence of short-lived music venue Cans Deli for a while promised to fill the void. But, by the end of the year, that space had folded as well, due to the continuing struggle of Downtown live music venues trying to make rent in an ever-gentrifying part of town.

So, where should we look next to find new bands and local music unity? Short answer, everywhere. A number of local establishments are definitely stepping up to to pick up the slack, in the wake of a need for new show spaces. Sky Bar, Saint Charles, Che's, District Eatz, and Owls are all offering up solid lineups while the "big guys" like Club Congress and 191 Toole have recently stepped up their game. And dance night friendly spaces are beginning to dip their toes into live music more and more, including Surly Wench Pub, who recently invested in upgrades to their sound system.

With all that activity, though, this reporter suggests looking past the usual Downtown area suspects to find some of the best in new and thriving local music. Some of the greatest shows you've never seen are taking place at nontraditional spaces, such as the recurring House Show scene and at places like The Ervice and tattoo shop turned sometime punk and rock show venue, Spark Project Collective.

Our next profile is a band is a fixture of the house show and Spark scene and have been name checked at least a half-dozen times by the teen bands who haunt this column practically every other week. If the kids say you've gotta see Sauced Up! then you probably want to see Sauced Up!

Introducing Sauced Up! Hey guys! Nice to finally meet you. Lots of young, local bands have told me to check you out. How do you all feel about the attention?

Calvin Dancil: "That's news to me! Sometimes I feel like we're trying so hard to entertain ourselves that a lot of stuff flies straight over our heads and we're all just kinda like 'whoaaa, hahaha.'"

Colin McGovern: "Man, that's the coolest thing ever! I honestly wouldn't have expected that ever, because to me it just feels like jamming with my friends. But to hear that people talk about us in a positive way is so fucking cool."

Ben Ghemrawi: "I don't think any of us knew that people were shouting us out like that ha. But that's really good feeling that people are into what we are doing with our music and all. It's very humbling and reassuring."

TS: So, what's the origin story of the band? And who's who?

CD: "Colin plays guitar and does vocals, Ben plays bass, and I play drums. I joined the band a while after it was formed. I had tried to be in a project with Colin and Ben a few months before I joined and it never really went anywhere, but then they asked me if I wanted to drum for a project that they were doing called Sauced Up! and I said that I would jam with them to see what happened, and it just sort of felt right, so we started writing more music and we all really enjoy it."

CM: "The band originally started with Ben and me, when we were at show and one of our friends was throwing a 4/20 party. We said our name was "Charismo" at first, but shortly after, we changed it to Sauced Up! after we played that show. I play rhythm guitar and do vocals, Ben is the bassist and plays funky ass basslines. Calvin is the madman on the drums, banging his heart out. We had another drummer for a bit who wasn't the best fit, but then after bugging Calvin for a while to join the band, he finally agreed and after jamming the first time was instantly ready to join."

BG: "The guitarist Colin and I knew each other vaguely in our freshman year of high school and three years later our girlfriends at the time were friends with each other. Cause of that he and I started jamming, and then a few months later we got Calvin on the drums, who we meet through shows and found out is an amazing drummer. All in all it was very natural, the band name came to be because Colin was eating chik-fil-a sauce on bread and he said Sauced Up!"

"Colin sings and plays guitar, his vocals are definitely responsible for a lot of the songs energy levels and why they're so fun for me at least. And his guitar playing is a big part of our sound since he plays with a lot of unique and weird chords and rhythms. Calvin plays drums and does a majority of our show booking. He absolutely kills it on drums and is always bringing new levels of technicality and pushing me as the bass player to play more intricate rhthyms all the time. And I play the bass. I've also tried to do more of the art for fliers or stickers and other designs."

TS: What made you each fall in love with music and with your instrument? And how'd you start playing in bands?

CD: "I guess I've always listened to some sort of rock. My earliest memories are me sitting in the living room of my childhood home listening to Tool, Led Zeppelin, Fugazi, Jane's Addiction, Sublime, etc. If I listed all of the bands I grew up on, I don't think anyone would have the patience to read the whole thing, but I don't know, my parents have always kept a variety of different types of music around me, which really shaped my music taste."

"I fell in love with drums because of Danny Carey from Tool and Tim Alexander from Primus. A lot of my inspiration stems from watching them play as a kid and being completely awestruck, and eventually constructing a drum kit made out of shoeboxes and plastic boxes so that I could at least beat on something. I did that for a while until I was 10, when a family friend came over and gave me the old drum kit from the school she taught music at. That drum kit really sparked my dedication to learn how to play a full kit, and in 8th grade I joined the jazz ensemble in middle school. I've been playing drums for around 10 years, I'm completely self taught aside from one drum lesson I had when I was 10, which I didn't really pick anything up from except for the proper way to hold a drumstick."

"In high school I studied voice and classical guitar and performed in ensembles for both, which inspired me to write my own music, and I started an acoustic band with Isaiah Mastrianna and Bianca Tellez, two outstanding local musicians.That band carried on through the end of high school until about 6 months after I graduated. I was in another band right after high school, a punk band with former members of another local band, OPU, called Paid To Play-which was my first band that gigged regularly. However, being a young person who hasn't been in very many bands isn't a good mix with a group of people who are, at the very least, 10 years older than you. They and I had different interests, and I quit the band after almost a year, and they had no intention of carrying on. From then until I joined Sauced Up! I didn't play in any bands, aside from being a stand-in member for another local band, BYOM, who are definitely worth checking out."

CM: "I fell in love with playing guitar when I realized I could turn those sounds I'm always thinkin about into a reality, and even if it doesnt sound exaclty like it does in my head yet, there's still always the possibility of playing it right. My brother would always listen to pop punk when we were growing up and I just grew to like that kind of music. Then in high school, this girl in my culinary class was playing the band Ceremony in the kitchen and I walked in and was like, 'what is this?' She said 'It's punk rock.' After that, I fell in love with punk."

"I've never really been in a band before, but I've bugged everyone to be in a band and tried to start a band with practially everyone I knew for the past four years. Then I met Ben again earlier last year, and he was actually down to start a band with me! I don't have any training in guitar really, and I barely know any covers either. I've always wanted to develop my own style of music, so I just watched a couple of tutorials and spent hours making shitty nonsense noise till something worked."

BG: "When I was in like fourth grade I got my sister's old iPod nano and all her music was what I first got into. I especially liked MGMT, Bright Eyes, Vampire Weekend when I was little. It was till later when I found bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and what not and I got super into rock and roll.""

"I've been in two other bands before this one, Im also in five other bands currently playing bass and drums. The only reason I'm in so many is so I can play as much bass as possible. As far as training, I've self taught by just leaning as many songs as I could. I had played guitar for maybe a month until the band I was in needed a bass for a Royal Blood cover (this band is only bass and drums, so we didn't wanna cover it with two guitars, leading me to pick up the bass). Since then I've adored the bass, the limit of four strings makes me feel like I need to proactively try and be more creative and that's a good and constant reminder to keep things fresh."

TS: Who are your favorite bands of all time? And your fave local bands?

CM: "Some of my favorite bands ever are Nirvana, Ceremony and Primus. I've also been in a big kinda Sublime mood recently, though. Some of my favorite local bands are Somniac, B.Y.O.M., J.T. Rivers, Hiroshima, Defx and Spank! Too many sick ass local bands!"

CD: "My favorite band of all time, if you can't already tell by the name drops, is Tool, but I have an equal love for Primus, Mad Season, Sublime, and Deftones. My favorite band currently is not a current band, but I've really been enjoying a number of Mike Patton's projects lately, such as Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk, and Mondo Cane, and his '60s Italian pop style record that he did with an orchestra. His voice is so diverse and interesting to listen to. Another current favorite is a band from Petaluma, Calif., called Nuclear Rabbit, which is not for the faint of heart, but they're amazing musicians and actually played in the same music scene as Mr. Bungle. My favorite local band is another that doesn't currently play, but made probably one of the best albums I've ever heard, including bands signed to major labels. They're called Am.Are.Is and their music is available on Bandcamp."

BG: "My favorite band currently is King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. I love them for how expansive all their music is plus all the art that goes with the music. My favorite local musician is J.T. Rivers and my favorite local band is Alien Jacket. Other bands and musicians that have shaped me are bands like Early Eyes, Vulfpeck, Fever the Ghost, Tool, Primus, Kamasi Washington, and Monobody."

TS: Future plans?

CM: "Our future plans for the band are to record, make new shit, play shows and big chill!"

CD: "We're trying to record some tracks to release on Bandcamp soon."

BG: "From December till February we have been/are trying to do as many shows as I can and just meet more people and bands. But throughout February and next month we are planning on recording demos for an EP. We also plan on a state wide tour or anything more we could do as soon as possible. We plan to record and master our own music."

TS: Favorite band moment so far?

CM: "My favorite band moment so far is playing with this sick ass band Hot Mom. We played with them on last minute when they first came to Tucson on their tour. Then when they came back, we played with them again and then they crashed at Calvin's house and we all just hung out and lit a fuck ton of firecrackers at like 2 am in the road!"

CD: "We played with these bands from Texas called Hot Mom and Mudd twice. Their music was sick and they were really cool people. And, yeah, we ended up having then stay over after the second show and we lit off a belt of firecrackers in the middle of the street, waking up all the neighbors. That was pretty cool."

BG: "Mine has also been meeting Hot Mom and Mudd. We played with them twice on their tour and it was really fun and comforting to meet a band/people that were really similar to us and were out there on a multistate tour. It made touring and doing this whole music thing feel like it's possible."

TS: It never really gets better than 2 a.m. fireworks in the street, I guess. Tell us about the next gig!

BG: "All of February we have shows scattered throughout, including this week's Spark Project Collective show. We always look forward to playing at the Roach Ranch and specifically the Harm Reduction shows that are held there. These shows raise money to fund the Syringe Access Program for the Tucson community. "

Sauced Up! plays this Wednesday night at Spark Project Collective with Los Diablos Gordos, Some Kind Of Nightmare, and Dark Shine. Show starts at 7 p.m.

This Titanic won't sink!

One of the cooler happenings in the local music scene of late has been a growing community of local women and femme musicians networking, sharing lessons from the road and tricks of the trade and, in to paraphrase local musician Jillian Bessett, forming kind of a local "girl gang" in the best sense of the term.

The fruits of such collaboration are apparent on the stages of events like Ladytowne Live, the efforts of the Electric Witch team, and in the creative output of local musicians themselves.

This week unveils such an effort, as Katie Haverly and the Aviary unveil the video for their song Titanic. Produced by KXCI's Hannah Levin and shot by local photographer/videographer Julius Schlosburg, the video is a love letter to Tucson, featuring 38 local women from Tucson's music, creative and business community.

Katie Haverly and the Aviary's Titanic release party takes place Saturday at Exo at 8 p.m. with support from Jillian Bessett. At press time, the show was sold out, rare for a local live gig, but never fear. If you can't score a ticket, Katie and Jillian promise on encore performance later this month on Feb. 23 at Exo.

Check your local listings...

Friday, Feb. 1

  • Edna and the Musicians, Batty Jr. - 9 p.m. Sky Bar
  • Flying Half Full - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
  • Mute Swan, Grivo, Moontrax - 8 p.m. Club Congress
  • Retrolesque w/ The Furys - 9 p.m. Surly Wench
  • Natalie Pohanic - 9:30 p.m. Dusty Monk Pub

Saturday, Feb. 2

  • Eugene Bonorow Duo - 9 p.m. Dusty Monk Pub
  • Moon Bass (DJ meetup) - 10 p.m. Sky Bar
  • Stockton, Spider Cider, Amateur Palm Trees - 8 p.m. Brodie's
  • the Rifle w/ Midtown Islanders - 10:30 p.m. Che's Lounge
  • Amigo the Delvil w/ Harley Poe 7 p.m. Club Congress
  • Aztral Folk w/ Missing Parts - 8 p.m. Tap & Bottle
  • Gitane Demone Quartet, Mission Creeps, Psygoat - 9 p.m. Surly Wench
  • Grey Skies Blue - 7 p.m. Tucson Hop Shop
  • Titanic release show w/ Katie Haverly and The Aviary w/ Jillian Besset - 8 p.m. Exo
  • Paul "The Piano Man" Jenkins - 8 p.m. Hotel McCoy
  • Phobia, Magguts, Phoenix Hooker Coprs, Olden, Egregious Act, Single Finger Theory, Never Reborn, Dead Inception - 6 p.m. House of Bards
  • Tom Walbank - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
  • Día de las Luchas w/ Surfbroads - 8 p.m. Rialto
  • Miss Olivia & the Interlopers, Miller's Planet - 7 p.m.191 Toole
  • Amigo the Devil, Harley Poe - 7 p.m. Club Congress

Sunday, Feb. 3

  • Al Foul w/ CW Anyon - 8 p.m. Exo

Monday, Feb. 4

  • Natalie Pohanic - 7 p.m. Royal Sun

Tuesday, Feb. 5

  • Amped Up! Open Mic - 8:30 p.m. Club Congress
  • Atmosphere w/ Dem Atlas, The Lioness, DJ Keezy - 7 p.m. Rialto
  • BTP & Friends at Royal Sun
  • Gabe Sullivan w/ Billy Sedlmayr 8 p.m. Owls Club

Wednesday, Feb. 6

  • Tracyanne & Danny - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
  • Maggie Golston - 8 p.m. Dusty Monk Pub
  • Sauced Up!, Los Diablos Gordos, Some Kind Of Nightmare, Dark Shine - 7 p.m. Spark Project Collective

Thursday, Feb. 7

  • Efrim Manuel Menuck - 7 p.m. Club Congress
  • The Home Team - 7 p.m. House of Bards
  • Keli and the Big Dream - 8:30 p.m. Tap & Bottle
  • Still Life Telescope, Silver Cloud Express, The Minds - 8 pm. Sky Bar

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


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