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Tucson sounds: A new, not so viral edition

Note: This story is more than 1 year old.

Tucson sounds: A new, not so viral edition

  • Nicky, Nelene and Kevin of Tucson band Female Gaze
    Alyssa JaneNicky, Nelene and Kevin of Tucson band Female Gaze
  • Miss Olivia and the Interlopers at RendeVous Urban Flats
    Kerry WhelanMiss Olivia and the Interlopers at RendeVous Urban Flats
  • Miss Olivia and the Interlopers
    Kerry WhelanMiss Olivia and the Interlopers

By now you've probably heard the story of the preteen punk band whose anti-racist video just went viral. Did you hear they got signed to a record label? Pretty lucky for kids that age, right?

So, why hasn't your band been that "lucky" yet? You've got drive and talent and ambition. You've put in countless hours at your favorite local studio. You've emailed every rock blog you've ever heard of (and a couple that you haven't.) You've even been played on a few indie radio shows. What more do you need to do to be "discovered" and go viral?

While it's true that the Linda Lindas just got signed by Epitaph, the truth is that the deal was in the works long before the band's now-famous public library performance made the rounds of social media. The young but ambitious rock and roll quartet has already been featured in a major motion picture and opened for Bikini Kill on tour.

How does a band whose members range in age from 10 to 16 get gigs like that? By being talented, of course, no doubt about that. But also by getting heard in the first place. Not usually an easy task in an era when record companies and commercial radio are less likely than ever before to take chance on artists outside their factory-esque standard output of produced, polished and autotuned R&B infused dance pop or loud, over-compressed mainstream "alternative" rock.

And how did they get listened to? Well, to start with, it helps when your dad has won a Grammy.

That's right. Behind the feel-good story of a young band conveniently captured on video and catapulted to indie stardom, there's a true tale of second-generation L.A. music industry kids learning from talented parents and working hard to make the most of the connections they inherited by accident of birth. The Linda Lindas' Lucia and Mila de la Garza are the daughters of Grammy-winning music producer Carlos de la Garza, who has worked with bands like Paramore, Best Coast, Tegan and Sara, Bad Religion and Cherry Glazerr. And Cherry Glazerr's Clem Creevy is the daughter of Emmy-winning television producer Nicholas Wootton. And then there's Lydia Night of the Regrettes, whose dad is director/producer and club owner Morgan Higby Night.

"But, wait!' you say. "I don't have any relatives in the music industry. How can I be famous too?"

Well, my dears, that's kind of the point. The odds of getting rich or famous from your music career are likely slim or nil unless your five-year plan includes marrying a Kardashian or winning American Idol. And you know what? That's totally OK.

Lots of your favorite indie rock and rollers have day jobs as bartenders, sound engineers, record store clerks, graphic designers, television production assistants, or whatever else will pay the bills and still give them time off to tour once a year or so. And it doesn't make them any less great at what they do.

I don't tell you these things to discourage you, nor do I mean to belittle the fortunate few whose very real hard work and talent had an extra boost from the famous family Rolodex. But I do want you to keep writing. And playing. And growing as artists. And that can't happen if you feel like you've failed in pursuit of a shot at fame that was never as easily achievable as it seemed like on TV or in the movies.

If you made $5 from your Bandcamp account this year or got asked to play a benefit show with three other bands or even just made somebody dance at your first live gig since lockdown started to lift, consider yourself wildly successful. You're making music and someone is appreciating it and that's the point.

Are you going to need a day job? Probably. Unless you're one of those tough, resilient souls who thrive on giving music lessons and playing weddings or cover band gigs.

Will you ever make it on commercial radio? Most likely not, which has nothing to do with you and everything to do with formulaic, canned playlists and corporate monopolies. But never fear, because you live in a town with at least three independent, non-commercial music stations and we're but one of dozens of musically curious college towns across the country. Will you ever have a fan base beyond Tucson? This part of the equation is as much up to you as you'd hoped the "getting famous" part was. Make great music, hone your craft, practice every chance you get and then take your act on the road. Make friends with other small bands in other towns. Check in with college rock DJs and small record stores. Build a network and you'll get heard by somebody somewhere who will love what you do.

And keep your head up, my dears. You're all Tucson famous in my book.

Now on to other matters...

And we danced...

I got my first vaccination in late spring and by April or so was stir and ready to see familiar faces. A series of outdoor shows at RendeVos Urban Flats, a flea market gig my own band played, a musician-focused art show at a Revel (sponsored by the Tucson Vibe) and a friend's band debut at Arizona Beer House were my early ventures into a reemerging local scene. But it was one of those RendeVous shows that, for me, marked the beginning of a new, more hopeful chapter in Tucson live music circles.

The return of Miss Olivia and the Interlopers brought out a crowd of musicians, downtown regulars, friends and loved ones all congregated in the shadow of the Fox Theatre at the point where all city addresses begin (where "0" Congress meets "0" Broadway) and it felt like the musical equivalent of someone throwing out the first pitch at the first baseball game of the year.

And, speaking of pitch, Olivia's was damn near-perfect, but you already knew that, didn't you?

From Zeppelin covers to Beatles tunes to Erykah Badu, they were all right and the band was all together and yeah, thank god, their songs went on forever. Three full sets on a warm spring day and the band never lost their cool for a moment. Your humble scribe found herself fielding long overdue and slightly awkward hugs from friends and friends of friends. The "Cloud People" (Little Cloud's Joshua Butcher, manager Andrea Butcher and friends) were dancing in their adorable cloud masks. OK, maybe I danced a little bit too.

What's in a name? Catching up with Female Gaze

While live music is slowly coming back to life, creative folks around town have had a full year or more to percolate on new ideas, record new tracks, write, start new projects or transform the ones they're in. And your trusty music scribe, newly returned from an extended hiatus, has a LOT of catching up to do.

Where to begin? By checking in with some old friends with new identities. One of the first bands I ever interviewed for this column was the Rifle, a project helmed by Tucson guitarist and songwriter Nelene DeGuzman, along with her partner Kevin Conklin on bass and drummer Nicholas Cobham-Morgese. After two full-length releases and a debut EP under that name, the band retired its original name in March of this year, releasing new music under a new name, Female Gaze. I caught up with Nelene a few weeks back to talk about the band's transformation.

Tucson Sentinel: Hey Nelene, I hear you have some big news! Just to be clear on the subject, did the old band get a new name? Or have the folks behind the Rifle just evolved into something new?

Nelene DeGuzman (Female Gaze/the Rifle): "I look at it as the next step in a slow but steady evolution."

TS: What was the process behind the transformation.

ND: "I was making music as the Rifle for around eight years and the lineup changed quite a bit from the start until recently but something extra special happened when Nicky joined the band. Then 2020 happened and we weren't playing shows. I felt I identified less and less with the previous name. I still have a lot of affection for it but felt I was ready to move on."

TS: How has your pandemic been, anyway?

ND: "It's been alright. It's all been an adjustment!"

TS: Is there new music happening any time soon? Can you tell us about it?

ND: "On March 26 we played a live set on Cobham-Morgese. online that included some brand new things. Tune in if you missed it.

TS: Cool. I've added a link in the sidebar of this week's column so people can check it out! (

TS: Lots of folks, myself included, have struggled to be creatively productive in these weird and isolated times. What's been working for you to keep the fires lit?

ND: "Morning pages (from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way) are helpful as are daily and weekly routines. But really I've opted to try to be very gentle with myself and others right now."

TS: Good advice always, but especially now. On a related note, what can we do to keep local music alive and well in this new reality?

ND: "I have no idea. I've become more interested in video as a way to fill the gaps where (more frequent) live shows used to live but I also recognize that it's not the same."

TS: We'll get there soon, but it's definitely a low process. Every little thing we can do to keep connected helps, I think. A more fun question - what're you listening to lately?

ND: "So much Mitski! And Adrianne Lenker."

TS: Parting thoughts?

ND: "Love you Julie."

TS: Tucson Sounds loves you right back.

And in other news...

Also renamed during this pandemic: Feverfew, Sissy Flowers' project with nicest drummer in town Johnnie Rhinehart has changed its moniker to the Soft Ones, The sounds of Bryn Parker's "lizard flavored folk and roll" give way to mature and nuanced indie pop in latest project These Loud Thoughts and recent Tucson expat Gabi Montoya (Juju Fontaine/Taco Sauce) has launched Seattle based solo project Gat Moony with a series of newly unveiled recordings made at Tucson's Saint Cecilia Studios.

But one local band who's not changing their name anytime soon is Tucson heavy rock ensemble Shit Knife. The band whose name cannot be uttered in polite company (who needs polite company anyway) just unveiled a follow-up to last summer's eponymous debut LP with "Shit Life" a digital EP release and limited edition vinyl pressing on Midtown Island Records. Also new on deck from the Midtown crew is Free Machines' Cursive Moon. Meanwhile, the resident studio engineer and analog recording evangelist behind the Midtown machine, Matt Rendon, has been hard at work producing new music for Tucson's own Wanda Junes, putting final touches on a forthcoming album for Bisbee's finest (the Exbats) and is gradually re-releasing the entire Resonars back catalog via Bandcamp and other digital platforms.

While those bands have been indoors cutting records, Andrea and Pete Connolly of Birds & Arrows have been outside making movies. Tucson's favorite adopted desert dwellers seen to be most in their respective happy places when making cinematic mini-masterpieces to accompany their rock and roll flights of fancy, and "Dark Watchers" features one of their funnest romps yet. A jofully dystopian road trip video (think Mad Max, but in an El Camino) set to a guitar-driven soundtrack that's a little bit Springsteen, a little bit late '80s U2 and 100 percent Birds & Arrows. The video was filmed and directed by Tyler Lidwell and the music was recorded by Gabriel Sullivan at Tucson's Dust and Stone Studios.

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

Thursday, June 10

Golden Boots / Jim McGuinn and the Cosmic Cowboys - 8 p.m. Hotel Congress Plaza

Black Hat Karaoke w/ Dang - 7 p.m. Surly Wench Pub

Bryan Dean Trio - 6:30 p.m Monterey Court

Brooke Sample - 7 p.m. Casa Marana

In-Rave and A3 present After Sessions - 10 p.m. The Rock

Natalie Pohanic Livestream - 6 p.m. Arizona Arts Live (formerly known as UA Presents)

Friday, June 11

Hotel Congress Jazz Friday with Paul Green Quartet - 6:30 p.m. Hotel Congress Plaza

Good Trouble - 7 p.m. Monterey Court

Saturday, June 12

Duo Vibrato - 6:30 p.m. Hotel Congress Plaza

Baba Marimba - 7 p.m. Monterey Court

Method to the Madness - 9 p.m. The Edge Bar

Mike Tanzillo - 7:30 p.m. Downtown Clifton Courtyard

Sunday, June 13

Congress Cookout with Bad News Blues Band - 5 p.m. Hotel Congress Plaza

Brunch w/ Febbo Fuentes - 10 a.m. Monterey Court

Paul Green & Midnight Blue - 9 p.m. Monterey Court

Monday June 14

Veins to Wires - 5 p.m. Noble Hops

Tuesday, June 15

Heather Hardy and the Dusty Cit Blues Band - 7:30 p.m. Hotel Congress Plaza

Wednesday, June 16

Sweet Ghosts (album release) - 7:30 p.m. Hotel Congress Plaza


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