Tucson sounds: Shedding light on the scene with Tonight's Sunshine
Tucson youth bands play a lot of shows. As in, a LOT of shows. But when you check out a typical line-up, a certain band's name pops up again and again. Tonight's Sunshine seemingly loves to play whenever asked, especially when it's for a good cause. More importantly, maybe, the band is fun, eclectic and hard to pin down to a genre — so they more of less fit in with any lineup.
Though the band spends a lot of time opening for others, your friendly scribe decided they deserved a little spotlight of their own.
TucsonSentinel.com: For those who aren't already familiar with the band, introduce yourselves. What's your musical "origin story?"
Tonight's Sunshine: "The boys (Cougar, Isaiah and Diego) had been in bands together for some years. The winter of 2018 however, Isaiah, along with Cougar's dad saw Anastasia perform at an open mic. They exchanged information and it later led to the four-piece band now known as Tonight's Sunshine."
TS: How did you discover rock and roll? And how did you fall in love with and start playing music?
Anastasia Lopez (vocals, ukelele): " In middle school I began to religiously watch MTV all day. Not stuff like 'Sixteen and Pregnant' or 'MTV Cribs' but the times when they played music videos all day. It wasn't like the radio, confined to pop, and led me to discoveries like MCR, Paramore, Hey Monday and Fall Out Boy. Music was always in my household and I can't remember not having been in love with it always. I've been a classically trained percussionist since the age of 10 and have been singing for as long as it's been possible. Music for me is just something else. A drug, a natural high. I all but nearly ache to be in a wall of sound all the time."
Diego MacKean: "I fell in love with music at such a young age. Both of my parents were heavy music listeners. My father listened to lots of classic psych rock, country and lots of grunge, and my mom listened to a lot of Spanish music, dance and international music. I spent nearly every waking hour listening to all kinds of music just dreaming that I could do the same. I began to play when I took my sister's old guitar that was stored in the closet and just started to learn by myself. From then on I never really put it down, and it's really become part of me."
Cougar Bellinger: "I discovered rock and roll when I was kid listening to bands like Tool, Rush, and Led Zeppelin. I think the drummers in all three of these bands are amazing and it was great always having one of their CDs in my dad's truck. I started loving music because my parents would listen and dance to a lot of EDM and trance music when I was young and the rhythmic part in those genres rubbed off on me. "
Isaiah Kortright: "My mom would place the big ear muff headphones on her belly while I was still a fetus and play an incredible variety of music. I like to say the love started at - 6 months, so I just came out ready to groove. It was in seventh grade that I got my first guitar, a cherry red Fender Squire Strat, and I spent hours upon hours at home and around the complex just strumming my new best friend. I quickly tried other instruments and just rocketed right into making music when I joined drum line and jazz band in high school; shout-out to Amphi. Can't stop, won't stop."
TS: Thoughts on recording and live gigging? What have been your past experiences? What about the future?
Tonight's Sunshine: "Live gigging is THE BEST. We wait all week long, and then the weekend comes and THEN WE COME ALIVE. Then it's Monday and we wait all over again."
"It's a pretty special experience. One where we get to become different people on a stage, or rather not different people, but instead our most unapologetic version of ourselves. We get to create an experience with each other as well as the audience and would venture to say there's some sort of lingering feeling that everyone takes with them at the end of the night."
"We've played all over town. Between house shows, the downtown scene, and community/nonprofit events,we've seen quite a lot but nevertheless are insatiable. As a new exciting endeavor, we're beginning to venture into different towns such as Flagstaff, L.A., Phoenix and Bisbee. We're pretty enamored with the newness of it all, the different sounds and culture that every city/town has, and feel pretty good to be the band hailing from Tucson, Ariz."
TS: Most memorable gigs you've played to date?
Tonight's Sunshine: "Honorable mention to one of the times we played at our home and residency at Thunder Canyon Brewery. It was a pretty late show, later still because Anastasia had become dehydrated, couldn't keep anything down and was headed to the hospital. But just shy of midnight, she returned, hospital bracelet on her wrist, and pale faced, but determinedly went through the whole set and then proceeded to fall asleep in the van..
"Our last show (Anastasia's Birthday Bash at Iron Horse Fabricators) was probably the most hype, exciting, wild thing we've done in a while. A real punk, DIY experience complete with a pop up venue, moshing, Diego playing on top of a speaker, Anastasia crowd surfing and one of the band's emerging staples in which they discard their shirts on stage."
TS: You come from diverse backgrounds and cross genres a bit in your music. How would you say that each of you contributes to the band's unique sound? Do you feel like it's important to the band to be able to blend styles and experiences and weave something new as opposed to the way that many bands have a "main" songwriter or stick to a single vision.
AL:"Out of all of us, I am the pop element. Oh, and play the electric ukulele, haha."
"I draw from a lot of alternative pop, indie pop, punk, alt, hip hop, reggaeton and k-pop. I am the skeleton of our songs, using ingredients from the genres that I listen to. I write the lyrics and chords and provide a direction I want it to go in. However, because I am the bones, the body is left to the boys. I may provide the direction, but the destination is usually unknown. We just play and shake our heads until we feel it pull together and say 'This is it. This is the vibe and feel of the song. This feels good.' Bonus: I scream."
IK:"We kinda do both. We add the meat around Anastasia's song skeleton and have the creative freedom to add our own color, while keeping the OG vibe and feel of the song present. I aim to add groove and fill in the spaces underneath in between things that bolster the uke and guitar. I listen the most to Cougar on the drums. Bonus: I make deep 'fart' noises with heavy strings."
CB:"For the drums, I try to make beats that match the energy of the songs and the rhythms of the ukelele through my own interpretation. I think it's good for bands to blend musical styles because not only does it create a unique sound as a band, it allows us as musicians to expand our own styles. Bonus: I hit the drums for the songs."
DM:"I try to bring a hard psychedelic energetic edge to the music not just audibly, but visually too. I believe it's important to have different elements in music because it allows listeners to experience something they might have not felt before, plus it pushes us to learn to coincide with each other's musical tastes. Sometimes it poses a bit of problem because we all listen to starkly different music, but in the end we can always create something very unique. Bonus: I make heavy sounds, cause I'm angry."
TS: What have you been up to more recently, musically speaking.
Tonight's Sunshine: "Recording!!! After the long strong struggle of being poor (we are still poor but, mayhaps, a little less so) we've finally been able to raise enough money to begin recording our album. It's very exciting knowing that we're finally going to be able to have our music accessible to anyone at any time. Live performances are special in which we form an experience together, but recordings are special in which individuals can now tie their own experiences to our music in their own way. Road trip playlists, shower music, parties. It lets us into our fans' lives in a different manner."
TS: Future plans as a band? Long term and short term?
Tonight's Sunshine: "Go on tour!"
"In March we'll be kicking off our Sun-Cannon tour, a joint endeavor with our best friends Annie Jump Cannon. We'll be playing cool venues like the the Smell in L.A., the Toybarn in Albuquerque, and stopping in towns like Las Vegas, Flagstaff, Phoenix, and a special midway stop back in Tucson in the middle of it all."
"Ultimately, we want to get famous, change the world, support diversity and inclusivity and be active in changing things that we believe to be wrong. Our platform is important to us for that reason, beyond just loving music and wanting to do it as a career. We get to be a voice for lots of people and that's definitely supremely important to us."
TS: Favorite bands and musicians of all time? Influences.
AL:"HALSEY, HALSEY, HALSEY! I'd dedicate my life to finding Treasure Planet if Halsey told me to. Paramore, Hobo Johnson, the Regrettes, McCafferty, the Front Bottoms, Grandson, Twenty-One Pilots, Sloppy Jane, Phoebe Bridgers."
IK:"All time faves include Jimi Hendrix, Animals As Leaders, and Alabama Shakes."
CB:"My favorite bands are Animals as Leaders, Tool, Slothrust, Highly Suspect, and Daft Punk. Influences include: Brittany Howard, Anderson .Paak, and Steve Lacy. My most influencial bands are Tool, Rush, and, recently, Paramore."
DM:"Some of my favorite bands are Queens of the Stone Age, the Sword, Soundgarden, Jimmie's Chicken Shack, Tool, and Kyuss. My influences are, the Eagles, UFO, Mana, Hum, Psychedlic Porn Crumpets, Pink Floyd, Robin Trower, Led Zeppelin, Gypsy Kings, Cafe Tacvba, Santana and MGMT.
TS: Favorite current bands? Local ones?
AL:"I adore AJC (Annie Jump Cannon.) They belong in my veins right next to Paramore. Communal, Mattea, Blu Joy, Sad Gal Nina and Pelt are my other faves."
CB:"Currently, I've been listening to FKJ, Cigarettes After Sex, and some Suicideboys. Locally, I've been jamming out to Stripes and Annie Jump Cannon."
IK:"Annie Jump Cannon, Communal, and Psyiritual."
DM:"My favorite current bands are Fuzz, the Districts, the Dead Pirates, Slothrust, and Peach Pit. Local bands are so good it's crazy. I love Stripes and listen to them, like, every day. Same with Sad Dance Party, Annie Jump Cannon, Monks and Telepathy, and Blu Joy."
TS: So, I had never heard of Blu Joy before, but I've checked them out and I'm really digging them a lot. Thanks, guys.
TS: Moving on, though, what are some of your favorite venues to play?
Tonight's Sunshine: "Some of our favorite local venues are Ironhorse Fabricators, Thunder Canyon Brewery, House of Bards, and Boxyard. They are all incredible places with amazing people running them and we're grateful to continue playing them.
TS: Tell us about your next gig.
Tonight's Sunshine: "Our next gigs are Sky Bar on Feb. 22, MOCA on Feb. 28, in Phoenix at the Cosmic Jam Hole on Feb. 28, the Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee on Feb. 29 and Thunder Canyon Brewery, March 6.
Tonight's Sunshine plays Sky Bar this Saturday, February 22 at 8 p.m. with Dead West, Le Trebuchet and Cosmic Cowboys.
Also happening this week...
Saturday night shows at Che's are always the place to be on the weekend, and this one's "for the kids" in a sense, even though it's actually a 21+ show.
Musk Hog, Pigmy Death Ray, and Technical Difficulties join up this Saturday night at 10 p.m. at Che's Lounge to benefit Tucson Skate Park Alliance. The show should be a blast and your secret teenage inner self will respect you all the more for your support.
When Tucson's favorite international chanteuse Marianne Dissard comes home for a visit, she always brings little gifts to her adopted hometown. This time, it's the gift of Lunatraktors, a dark-eclectic alternative duo from Kent, UK who specialize in what they call "broken folk." Think of the territory somewhere between your average Nick Cave song and the original text of the Brothers Grimm and you'll be on the right track.
Given the overly booked nature of Tucson's musical landscape in February, the band's Tucson appearance this time around is an invite only pop-up house show, but it's not too late to get invited. Meantime, you can check out the duo's music in the sidebar of this column.
Lunatraktors plays a Tucson house show gig this week hosted by sometime Tucson resident Marianne Dissard this Tuesday night, Friday February 25. Contact the band or event hosts for details and an invite.
Speaking of Nick Cave, did you know that one of the man's long-time collaborators lives in town these days? That would be the one and only Kid Congo Powers whose band Pink Monkey Birds will be joining him this Thursday for a special show at Wooden Tooth Records along with Tucson legend Chick Cashman (aka Clif Taylor) and NYC band Miracle Mile. Show starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27, at Wooden Tooth.
Check your local listings
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, February 21
- Funky Bonz and Santa Pachita - 6 p.m. Monterey Court
- Sorry Party, La Cerca (Australian Wildlife Relief Show) - 6 p.m. Gentle Ben's
- Habitation Speakeasy: Hank Topless & The Dead Horsemen - 6 p.m. Habitation Realty Tucson
- Jacob Acosta and Hannah Blair Akins - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
- Paul Opocensky Project - 6 p.m. Sentinel Peak East
- Taken By Drones w/ Mean Streets - 7 p.m. Encore Tucson
- Brother Ali w/ Open Mike Eagle and DJ Last Word - 7:30 p.m. 191 Toole
- Steel Pulse - 8 p.m. Rialto
- Dry and Dusty with Freddy Parish - 8 p.m. El Crisol (Exo)
- Kinda Cool Quintet (Jazz) - 8 p.m. Dusty Monk
- Mary After Dark - 9 p.m. the Edge
- Zona Libre - 9:30 p.m. Brother John's
Saturday, February 22
- Rhythm & Roots Presents: Riders In The Sky - 4 p.m. Hotel Congress Plaza
- Acerekó and Tucson Casineros (Cuban Night) - 6 p.m. Crooked Tooth
- Santa Pachita - 6 p.m. Playground Rooftop
- Naim Amor Trio - 6 p.m. Mercado San Augustin
- Bry Bread & Darling Dee (Bryan Thomas Parker & Deanna Cross) - 6:30 p.m. Dillinger Brewing
- Illiterate Light w/ Shane T - 7:30 p.m.191 Toole
- Caleb's Spirit, the Cobras - 8 p.m. House of Bards
- Oliver Ray - 8 p.m. El Crisol (Exo)
- BTP and friends w/ Gutter Town - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
- Jon Black - 9:30 p.m. Thunder Canyon
- Musk Hog, Pigmy Death Ray, Technical Difficulties (Tucson Skatepark Alliance Benefit) - 10 p.m. Che's Lounge
- Tonight's Sunshine, Dead West, Le Trebuchet and Cosmic Cowboys - 8 p.m. Sky Bar
Sunday, February 23
- Tucson Jazz Guild Saigon Sunday Session - 6 p.m. Miss Saigon
- Golden Boots, Wonder Boy & Gene Tripp - 6 p.m. Che's Lounge (Patio)
- The Bust Down in TucTown (Hiphop Show) - 6:30 p.m. Thunder Canyon
- Dylan LeBlanc w/ Anthony da Costa - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Maoli with CRSB - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
Monday, February 24
- Destroyer with Eleanor Friedberger -7:30 p.m. Club Congress
Tuesday, February 25
- Lunatraktors hosted by Marianne Dissard (contact host for invite) - 7:30 p.m. House Show
- Ezra Furman - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
Wednesday, February 26
- Black Label Society - 7:30 p.m. Rialto
Thursday, February 27
- The Rare Occasions w/ Stripes, Carnival, and the Sinks - 6:30 p.m. Club Congress
- Syko Friend, Itasca, Charlie Moses - 7 p.m. Golden Saguaro
- The Unlikely Candidates - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
Friday, February 28
- Hot Snakes - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Paul Opocensky Project - 7 p.m. Caps & Corks
- iLe - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- Naim Amor Trio - 8 p.m. El Crisol (Exo)
- Silver Cloud Express, Birds & Arrows and Weekend Lovers - 9 p.m. Sky Bar