New release radar: Tucson indie records for Independence Day
Summer in a college town could be a vast, void, hollow wasteland devoid of entertainment... anywhere but here. Luckily, you're in Tucson, and sometime before monsoons hit and your favorite bands head out for their summer tours, there's a local tradition of midsummer local record releases.
But how to navigate the overwhelming array of new music from Southern Arizona bands, you ask? Never fear, gentle readers. Your friendly music columnist is on top of it!
This week, we sat down with a few of our favorite local artists, from Prince-inspired bubblegum punk indie rock to dreamy weird shoegaze gorgeousness, from rock and roll rave-ups to classic Americana. Behold, your guide to new Tucson independent music, in time for Independence Day!
Hannah Yeun: Desert Dreams
TucsonSentinel.com: Tell us about the upcoming album.
Hannah Yeun: "The Desert Dream album will be released later this summer in August, but the title track single Desert Dream is out today! We're working on mixing (the album) now and then all that's left will be mastering. It's coming together."
TS: Who are Hannah Yeun Band?
HY: "My live band is Marta Deleon, Michael Ford, and Damon Matal. They all played on this album. However, Michael no longer plays with us. Matt Rendon filled in on harmonies as well as percussion and bass for "Some Lie".
TS: Favorite tracks on the new release?
HY: "They all tell a story. "Some Lie" might be my favorite though. I wrote it in my friend's basement while I was visiting them in Portland. We had stayed up late recording tracks for his new album, and I guess I felt inspired. Matt calls this my "11th hour" track, because I presented it to him last minute when we were already mixing the album. I get to play cello on it too, which is always special."
TS: What's the them of this album?
HY: "This album is about love, loss, heartbreak, all those standard song tropes. The single, "Don't Wanna Dream" is about the little lies we dream up and tell ourselves and one another, and how it only ends up causing us more pain than if we just faced reality. The "pie in the sky", etc."
TS: Where did you record this time around?
HY: "I recorded with Matt Rendon at Midtown Island and it couldn't be more perfect. Obviously I'm a fan of Matt's band The Resonars and that 60s garage sound. I'm a sucker for harmonies and Matt steps in and hits those high notes. You can't really tell, but he's actually doing most of the higher harmonies on the album. When I was a kid, my sisters and I used to sing three-part harmonies together for fun cause we're damn nerds. He would've fit in with us nicely."
TS: Studio vs. live performance? Which is your favorite way to play?
HY:"Both are work, and I think people don't even realize. Don't get me wrong, both are fun and they're what I live for, but it's actual work in every sense of the word. The physical labor of lugging your gear around is enough for some people to throw in the towel."
"These days I'm leaning more towards the studio, because the payoff is more tangible, even if it is an investment. Sometimes you can be in the studio for hours working out the kinks of just one song. It's definitely a process, but once you hear the playback, it's like making magic. Performing live is always a great thing, too. Songs are meant to be heard, and sharing them with an audience is incredibly rewarding."
TS: What's in the horizon now that this new release is live?
HY:"You know, I'm not sure. I may just turn around and record another album. I don't know how to not write songs. It's how I process emotions and it's my coping mechanism."
"I'm just lucky that they're catchy and people actually like listening to them. Ideally I would like to tour again, but sometimes the songs get written and the album gets recorded before you have a chance to gather the funds or mental energy to plan something like that again. Lately I'm a big fan of the mini tours. Tucson is such a great location for a weekend tour. You can hit Phoenix, San Diego, and LA in one fell swoop."
TS: Do you have any new material on the backburner now that this has been released?
HY: "Always. My phone has no memory left because of all the voice memos of songs I leave on there. There tends to often be a melody idea working it's way in my head. I've woken up from dreams singing songs in my sleep. Ironically, the chorus to "Don't Wanna Dream" is one of them."
You can check out Hannah Yeun's new album at hannahyeun.bandcamp.com or at Friday's live show (with Weekend Lovers) at Cans Deli.
Weekend Lovers: When U Were Weird
TucsonSentinel.com: Tell us about the new recording!
Marta De Leon: "Hey, it's our debut EP! I crowd sourced the title "When U Were Weird" on social media. Which is great for including an audience and breaking down the fourth wall of being musicians. We are just as neurotic in making decisions on album titles as you. Working through things on social media isn't what I personally recommend to solve personal problems but this helped out and made it all not so serious. The winning title "When U Are Weird" is funny and awkward and could be interpreted as some angst teen stage of life as well. All emotions you might sense in our songs."
"It is being released digitally and locally June 29, though if any labels wanna help with distributing et al. - have your people talk to our people."
TS: Who played on the album? Any differences between your live band lineup and album personnel?
MD: "All members of Weekend Lovers - me on vocals/bass, Hannah Yeun McCarthy on guitars and vocals and Nick Cobham-Morgese on drums and percussion. ur formidable engineer Matt Rendon provided additional vocals and harmonic arrangements/inspiration which is nothing to sniff about expect when we all had allergy attacks in the studio. It was a dry dusty February weekend in the old Pueblo. We also had to make out with Matt's cute dogs as well. That's mandatory at Midtown Island where we recorded. Joe Novelli played "astral slide" guitar on two tracks."
Live, it's the three of us - usually in jumpsuits. I'm a manic yet patient thrift store shopper who happened upon more than 10 women's jumpsuits the last few months and we wore them for our band pics thus we tried our bringing that absurdity live which I think kind of unifies our mutual sense of silliness. We might not always come off that way but it's a sexy family style. The Prince/80s style is kind of my personal thing so I'm fine with that rearing its whimsical head. Weekend Lovers is a lyrical "Purple Rain " reference."
TS: Any favorite tracks?
MD: "I was a little worried that the tracks are all so different stereotypically stylistically. But I like to hear bands do all sorts of styles if it's not novice and has intention. It's an introduction of us as a band as well. I'm reminded of the variety pack you got as a kid. Are those still around?"
"It's my first foray as playing music in Tucson. I feel the audiences here maybe by default of how clubs curate - are open to a couple different sounding bands on a bill. Some line ups in other cities I've played can be kind of monotonous. Your ears want variety or you aren't ready for that certain loud band to assault you til you are buzzed for example. Ha. Matt R. remarked that my different vocal delivery on each song is idiosyncratic and I can live with that."
"My dad's favorite track is 'Hate' which he maybe partial to because it's dedicated to my Mom. It's not literal don't worry - it's kind of ethereal and struggling. It's about her sickness and frustration with it - on a serious note."
"'Hate' was originally based on the anxiety and frustration of the 2018 presidential campaign but took on something more personal. The parallels can still be drawn between those two. Things that are out of your control that are maddening - Parkinson's/politics. Yup."
TS: How would you describe the EP's sound? Is there an overall musical or lyrical theme for this release?
MD: "Lyrically more tongue in cheek cynical verging on bratty and tragic relationship themed songs. In the past - my old band in Brooklyn - The Meaning of Life I was writing more romantic love songs. But nothing intentional this time just what came out. Some I can point to actual experiences or things I've seen go on around me. "
"I wrote some pieces by myself, a couple ideas with my old band and a couple were built around Hannah's guitar riffs and Nick fleshed it out. I was use to writing with another guitar player in my past two-three projects - kind of like Mazzy Star or Blonde Redhead does I can imagine. But Hannah's such a good song writer and singer and we have a lot in common taste wise I knew I wanted to work with her."
"Nick, who I met backing Randall In Desert Beats, seemed to catch on right away and is a song writer as well. I felt lucky that he also could play drums with that in mind . It feels good to have their opinion when we are putting songs together- I depend on it as my quality control."
TS: Studio vs. live...what do like best about each setting?
MD: "Midtown Island is the 'little engine that could' magical all-analog with Matt Rendon at the helm. I worked mostly with digital and analog studios in NYC so I was afraid of the obvious editing neurosis. I was less anal on myself and Matt was very intuitive and one of the hardest workers I've met which displays his modesty and passion as an engineer and supporter of other musicians. He's also a songwriter, guitar player, singer and drummer so there's something to be said about knowing where players are coming from in the recording process."
"I like playing live, though, because it's more cyclical with the energy of the audience. I'm trying to be less self aware recording vocals in the studio. It's a process. I like to move as well so I guess in the studio it feel sometimes like hitting a mark like an actor. But Matt makes it fun and interesting and there's still a level of conscientiousness and professionalism. You can't check your phone onstage. The older I get I think it's important to show some sort of yourself to the audience which is an extension of the songs being played. I think people can sense that. My first show playing bass for the second time ever in my first band (I wasn't singing/fronting), I hid 50 percent of myself behind the stage curtain the whole show. I understand still feeling exposed and having to block out but be present."
TS: What's in the horizon now that this new release is live?
MD: "More new songs! Also, Hannah and Nick singing more back ups, which isn't a big deal but that takes time/practice/arrangements. I'm trying to write more on my own, differently but I still rely on the old lightening in the bottle collaborative band practice feeling. I'd love to get a music video out there soon and and a mini tour. Get out of the heat a bit before it's too long.
TS: So...when and where can folks get a copy?
MD: "Come to CANS free show on June 29! CDs, download codes and other merch will be on hand and maybe a jumpsuit raffle! 50 percent of the profits will be going towards RAICES. One hundred percent will be donated as well the week of the release here: www.weekendloversaz.bandcamp.com.
You can catch both Marta and Hannah in Weekend Lovers AND Hannah Yeun Band this Friday night, June 29 at Cans Deli with Phoenix band The Strange Lot and special guest DJ Matt Rendon.
La Cerca: Night Bloom
A new release has been a long time coming for Tucson indie band La Cerca, but the album's follow up release to 2015's "Sunrise For Everyone" is well worth the wait. Produced by Dead Meadow's Steven Kille, the new album "Night Bloom" is a dark, lush, opium haze of jangly guitar, haunting submelodies and shoegaze-infused indie rock pageantry.
Guitarist, vocalist Andrew Gardner and lead guitarist Bill Oberdick are joined by bassist Brian Green (Leila Lopez Band) on this release. The album officially hits record stores on July 27. Until then, stay tuned to this space for news on an upcoming video release and check out the band on Spotify, iTunes and the like for singles from the new record.
The band is kicking off a summer tour in a couple of weeks, but you can catch them first this Friday at Club Congress at 8 p.m. along with support from The Rifle and Stranger Touch.
Jim Howell Band: Burn It Down Bleeding Heart
Jim Howell: "Our new album is called 'Burn It Down Bleeding Heart' and is sort of a mantra to myself to be the best possible version of me in world and time that is not always fair, just, kind or good."
"'Burn It Down' speaks more to the action needed and required to do what is right and just for yourself and your loved ones and the greater good. Sometimes that action is difficult and painful but necessary. On 'Bleedin' Heart' the theme is more about the intention and keeping focused upon the good in the world."
"Reclaiming good and just and kindness and love for the right reasons and not allowing political tyranny from any side or angle to drive you to feel badly for helping others and being truthful, trusting, and loving. I released the new album digitally on June 8 of this year and plan to release a physical (CD) form sometime this fall."
TucsonSentinel.com: Tell us about the recording process this time around
JH: "For this record I performed all of the instruments (guitars/bass/piano/keys/drums/harmonica/percussion) and also did all of the vocals. This was a fast and furious process that went from writing phase to complete and final mixes in just under three months. A lot of the material is emotionally very raw and personal and I felt like I wanted to see the whole thing through myself."
"As with my first two efforts I tracked everything in my own studio which is attached to my house. My son, Nick, helped push buttons on the board and computer over Rodeo Break so that I could focus on the take and not hitting stop and start and resetting the track for a new take. This was especially helpful for drum and piano tracks. I mixed the whole thing myself in my studio and then sent it off to JJ Golden at Golden Mastering in Ventura California for mastering."
"I liked tracking everything myself this time around. Pushing myself to the max and beyond to play better guitar or bass parts was fun. Drums and piano come pretty naturally to me and I have played them the most in my life/career but after 30 years of playing guitar and singing I finally think I am finding my own thing."
"I am fortunate to have recorded two previous releases with really great players like Loren Dircks, Michael P. Nordberg, Jeremy Michael Cashman, the other excellent members of my live band incarnations, special guests, etc. To have the ease of relying upon to them to come up with cool studio parts (based upon rough demos that I create in advance, during preproduction/songwriting phases), has been great. So for this recording project I planned everything out to try to keep a certain level of musicianship while playing everything myself. It was an interesting challenge and project but I thoroughly enjoyed the process!"
"I love being inside the sound of a full band both at loud and quiet volumes. Singing and playing guitar with my pals in this band is an honor and a blast. Even in broken down versions duo and trio versions is great. We have started performing some of these tunes already and I look forward to doing more of that in the Fall. Some of the new material translates to a solo acoustic show really well and I have been working on that aspect and plan to do more of it in the future."
"For the live gigs as of late we have been performing with Loren Dircks and I on guitars, Phil Dunitz on bass, Michael Santander on cello and acoustic guitar and Kyle Hersey on drums. We are occasionally joined by Michael P. Nordberg and or Jeremy Michael Cashman or extra goodness like keys or lap steel."
"For a few recent performances we've done that line-up at a low volume with Kyle using brushes on just a snare and bass drum and added my kids, Nicholas and Sophia Howell, on percussion (conga and tambourine) and percussion (cajon and shakers) and vocals, respectively. That is my favorite line-up lately for live shows as I like exploring the lower volume playing and the extra percussion rumble and rhythms (without cymbals) really lets the vocals and guitars shine. Plus, it's really fun to perform with my kids."
TS: What are your own favorite tracks on the album?
JH: "My personal faves are the first two tracks, 'Sea Change' and 'You Changed My Life,' the songs 'Sunrise,' 'Redemption' and the last two tracks 'Drinkin' Without You' and 'All The Same.' All songs are like your kids: some are a pain or difficult or don't turn out right but you still love them. Others come out just how you picture in your head, while some take different twists and turns than you could have imagined; sometimes for the better and sometimes not. However those six tracks are closest in reality to the vision that was in my head for each of them. So getting about 50% to the exact pre-planned idea is pretty good."
TS: How would you decribe the over all sound and feel of this record?
JH: "I think of this as Americana or alt-country or whatever the heck you call country and roots-influenced rock and folk music this week. There was a musical theme of keeping the same sort of set up on every song recording, I used the same drum set and guitar amp, my acoustic piano for all of the tracks, one Fender Jazz bass direct thru the post-amp out on my favorite bass amp, and the same one vocal mic on every track. I also started with an acoustic guitar holding down the rhythm for all but two songs. So continuity of sound was a goal especially since I think musically there are a lot of different starting points and directions."
"Lyrically there is a stronger bond as the songs all tie into the idea of life in 2017 for me. I like the plaintive and simply phrased lyrical ideas of country music and that is a big influence. However at times I need to express something a bit more complicated, esoteric or intellectual that does not fit the traditional country lyrical mold. I am inspired by the classics of that genre but also things I've listened to along the way in life from classic rock to '80's and '90s alternative and indie rock."
"Some recent songwriters that I admire seem to do the same thing like Sturgil Simpson and Jason Isbell who write 'Americana'-sounding stuff but their lyrics and approach are a bit more complex than classic or traditional country. For me each song deals with struggles but has a sort of optimistic turnout or hopefulness in the end. The subject matter ranges from politics to personal spiritual journey, conflict with parts of 'the self' in opposition with each other, to mental illness, suicide and death. Its my way of purging the crap that life throws you and putting it outside of my own mind. Free therapy and artistic expression at the same time, if you will."
TS: What's in the horizon now that this new release is live?
JH: "I will likely play some more full band shows and release a CD version of it in the fall. Some of the tunes really lend themselves to a full band and some are well suited for solo gigs. I'll likely do a lot more of both locally starting in the fall and maybe even play some more out of town solo gigs too. I have done a ton of all night shows with a lot of covers both full band and solo/duo in the past and I have scaled that back and focused upon more original shows over the last year of so. I'll likely continue to stay focused upon original music with the band and solo shows but take a few more restaurant gigs solo this fall too. I have an upcoming solo gig, on July 3 at 7 p.m., at Public Brewhouse. I'll play a bunch of these tunes and a few from previous releases too."
Howell also has a some releases on the horizon as a producer and engineer for other artists, including upcoming releases by local singer/songwriters Mike Sadler and Craig Green. Stay tuned to this space for more info on those releases as they happen.
In the meantime, visit jimhowellmusic.com for more info (including links to check out the new album) and check out the Jim Howell Band live at Public Brewhouse this Tuesday, July 3 at 7 p.m.
The Gunrunners: The Raiders of the Idols Tomb
Ted Riviera: "This time around, the band decided to do an EP of cover songs, with each member picking 2 songs. We reworked the tunes and made them our own. 'The Raiders of the Idols Tomb' will be released next month on July 15.
This album is about fanboys 'being' their idols, doing songs by artists we love and painting them with a different hue. We recorded it at Syko Punx Studios in Tucson.
TucsonSentinel.com: What are your favorite tracks on the EP?
TR: "Hmm... 'Lottery,' 'Waitress,' and 'Get Me Out Of Here.'
TS: Studio vs. playing live ...which is your favorite way to play?
TR: "That's like asking which child I love the best!"
TS: What's in the horizon now that this new release is live?
TR: "We are planning to record another EP (of original music) in the fall or early 2019 and release a B-side single. Plus, we have shows coming up, including one with the band Round Eye from Shanghai. A mini tour in August to Vegas and back with a stop in Phoenix is also on the books.
Check out the Gunrunners on Bandcamp, iTunes and CD Baby or keep an eye out for their next live show to pick up a copy of the album.
Bryan Thomas Parker: Proxima B/Get That Way
TucsonSentinel.com: Tell us about the new release!
BTP: "I released 'Proxima B/Get That Way' in late May. The sessions were done at Schoolhouse of Rock with Joseph Miller at the controls... He also plays drums, ukelele, marimba, and some random percussion. Federico Pennachinni is the bassist on these songs, and my good buddy Ted Riviera (The Gunrunners) provided the 'psychedelic slide' guitar parts and helped mix the songs."
"Fed co-wrote 'Proxima B' and that song is really just a jokingly 'desert-rock' song about the verrry Arizonan subject of alien abduction. 'Get That Way' was written about my sun-bleached childhood in San Diego. The phrase 'get that way' is something my father in law says to describe getting high."
"As far as what's on the horizon, we just finished a session at Waterworks for Downtown Radio that should be live on their station and website in the coming weeks. I have also been spending a lot of time at the Baby Gas Mask studio with Chris Levesque. Our next single 'Wanna Go Together/Madeleine' should be out in August and is showcasing a more soulful sound including keys and brass. As Chris describes it 'a southwestern Dr. John sound.'"
Bryan Thomas Parker and Friends play Surly Wench on Friday at 9 p.m. with support from Other Women.
Clinton Smith: Never Forget; Die In Tombstone
Clinton Smith: "I recorded the 'Never Forget' EP at babygasmask with Seth Mauzy on drums, Chris Levesque on bass, and Melissa Mauzy did the drums for 'Cool Drink.'"
"I played all the guitars except the lead on 'Golden Ticket' - that was my friend Kevin Graham."
"It's kind of an alternative rock record, or maybe post alternative. My favorite track is 'Cool Drink' which is a nod to the mid-late '90s grunge sound. Thematically, it is about a young man who is going through struggles with drinking, aggression, fighting and turmoil."
"I play live as a one-man band using loops and pre recorded tracks in boss RC3 looper pedal, which also acts as a portable hard drive. I build all the backing tracks down in my basement using a keyboard, a bass, looper pedals.I built & produced. all the backing for the live versions of all the new stuff from 'Never Forget.'"
"I love playing live. I love to see the crowd feeling the music, heads nodding, toes tapping. That gives me a lot of confidence. I want people to be able to connect with the songs. 'Never Forget' is specifically a song to promise veterans that I'll never forget their sacrifices and that I understand how difficult it can be to do what they do and then try to flip a switch and be a civilian again after being deployed. Vets live with a lot of unresolved traumas and we haven't done a very good job historically of supporting them after they come home. I want to see that change and evolve into something better than it has been."
"In the studio, life is a blank canvas, nerve wracking, exciting, daunting and magical. There are endless combinations and sonic textures to explore. Playing 'live' feels much more limiting to me, since sadly I can only play one guitar at a time."
TucsonSentinel.com:What's the over all sound and feel of the record?
CS: "'Never Forget' and my vinyl release 'Die In Tombstone' are currently in the 'soft release' phase. They will both be officially released this fall, but I have copies of both for sale on eBay and folks can find me on Facebook and direct message me to arrange to get a copy of either album now."
Another local band with a recent album release is Michael Ely's Elegant Rabies. With an all star cast of local backing musicians, including members of local faves the Rifle, the album "Desert Cotton Candy" is a dark, dreamy psych rock-tinged summer treat with highlights including a cover of the Iggy Pop/Bowie classic "Nightclubbing."
You can preview the new tracks at https://elegantrabies.bandcamp.com
Help a Sinner out...
Meanwhile. local powerhouse blues rock duo the Sinners hope to join the new release bandwagon soon. The band is accepting donations toward their first full-length recording and you can help by pitching in at one of their live gigs, including an upcoming show Friday at 9 p.m. at the Parish.
The Tide Is High
Someday, urban legends tell us, California will fall into the sea and Tucson will become beachfront property.
Most Tucson music lovers would actually be pretty bummed if that happened, as we'd deeply miss some of our favorite West Coast bands and venues, so here's hoping that this scenario never comes to pass. Instead, this Saturday we can make do with the next best thing - Surfapalooza, a virtual day at the beach at Tucson's annual '60s style beach party of record .Surfapalooza returns to Club Congress with cold beers, fish tacos and surf inspired music by Shrimp Chaperone, Michael P. and The Gullywashers, and the Old Pueblo's premier XX-chromosome infused, metal-inspired badass surf rock band the Surfbroads
Surfapalooza kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday at Club Congress
Friday, June 29
- Miss Olivia and the Interlopers - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner Vineyards
- Austin Counts - 6 p.m. Sierra Bonita Vineyards
- Guardians, Dirty Magic, Decayer, Like A Villain, Stands with Fists, Swindy, Bordertown Devils - 6:30 p.m.The Rialto Theatre
- Adara Rae and the Homewreckers - 7 p.m. Playground
- Heat Wave- 7:30 p.m. 191 Toolean
- La Cerca, The Rifle and Stranger Touch - 8 p.m. Hotel Congress
- Al Foul - 8 p.m. Mercado San Agustin
- Baptista, JMC & His Wooden Hearts, JPB, "O" - 8 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
- Weekend Lovers, Hannah Yeun, Strange Lot - 9 p.m. Cans Deli
- Vander Von Odd - 9 p.m. Flycatcher
- The Sinners - 9 p.m. The Parish
- Bryan Thomas Parker & Friends, Other Women - 8 p.m. Surly Wench
Saturday, June 30
- Folktronic, Sharkk Heartt, Sam Rae, Catrobot - 7 p.m. 191 Toole
- Creating the Scene, Harlette - 7 p.m. Hotel Congress
- Michael P & The Gullywashers, Shrimp Chaperone, the Surfbroads - 7 p.m. Hotel Congress
- Key Ingredients of African Soul - 7 p.m. Monterey Court
- Snow Tha Product - 7 p.m. The Rialto Theatre
- Carlos Arzate - 8 p.m. Exo Bar
- Street Blues Family- 9 p.m. Cans Deli
Sunday, July 1
- Mik and the Funky Brunch - 12:30 p.m. La Cocina
- Natalie Pohanic - 5 p.m. Public Brewhouse
- Carbon Canyon, Slaughterhouse, Shutups - 8 p.m. ans Deli
Tuesday, July 3
- Tom Walbank - 6:30 p.m. Sky Bar
- Jim Howell - 7 p.m. Public Brewhouse
- Delicate Boys, the Gem Show and Pu Stinky - 8 p.m. Hotel Congress
- Dos Muñoz - 8:30 p.m. Sky Bar
Wednesday, July 4
- Miss Lana Rebel and Kevin Michael Mayfield - 6 p.m. La Cocina
- Street Blues Family, Quinn DeVeaux - 8 p.m. Club Congress
Thursday, July 5
- Born2death, Ryan Chavira, Sku:ulf03k, Zachary Reid - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- The Pine Hill Haints, Invisible Teardrops, Lana Rebel Trio - 8 p.m. Cans Deli