Tucson sounds: Mudpuppy love! Catching up with the artists formerly known as Hang the Bassist
When last we met the band Mudpuppy, they were still known as Hang the Bassist, an up-and-coming duo in Tucson's emerging DIY punk and indie youth band scene with a ton of enthusiasm and not that much experience. It was a blast talking to a pair of rock and roll obsessed teenagers taking on the big bad world with guitar and drumsticks respectively and your friendly neighborhood music chronicler could only wonder what would happen to these girls as time transpired. Would they make the world their oyster? Run into setbacks and frustration? Get better over time or more jaded?
Well, now half a year has passed — which is like a decade in high school time. And the band is now Mudpuppy: a serious, hard working pair of dedicated punk rock women who happen to not be old enough to vote yet, but aren't about to let that stop them from speaking up as much as humanly possible. And Mudpuppy is not a good band. Mudpuppy is a great band. Well, of course they are.
Because the thing about the bands and musicians currently making up Tucson's teen and youth live music scene is that all these kids constantly practice and constantly gig. And now that summer is here, some of them even constantly tour.
If you play all the time and have a following and play like you mean it, you're going to get good at what you do. And you're going to develop a sound all your own.
For Tara and Odalys of Mudpuppy, this translates to primal, rhythm-driven indie rock with a hint of goth punk ala the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and P.J. Harvey with a hint of the Cramps and the Damned for good measure.
As for the constant gigging part? They're still at it, with at least one gig a week on average but more that make a social impact, like a recent Pride-themed performance at Crooked Tooth and another gig aimed at protecting abortion rights.
We caught up with Mudpuppy this week to get up to speed with the band's evolution.
TucsonSentinel.com: Hey there, Mudpuppy! What's new with the band?
Tara Belger: "Summer's going great. We took a break for a month while I went to see my mom, and now that I'm back we're kicking into it right away!"
"Summer is bringing some exciting things for us. I feel like Mudpuppy has grown a lot in the past couple of months. I think it started with changing our name. From then on it seemed like we were getting stronger, and playing more and more gigs. What really hit me was our first [Club] Congress show. We have both grown up seeing shows at that venue, and playing our own music on that same stage was unbelievable.:
Odalys "Pigeon C" Catalan: "It's really crazy how much Mudpuppy has grown since January! We've played with some pretty big bands and met such awesome people and have been approached with really incredible opportunities. The name change, I agree, marked a big turning point for us. At first, our old name was a joke. It was a direct jab at someone and just had such a negative connotation. It felt like it pushed negative energy onto us. So I feel like the name change definitely gave us a positive push forward. We went through a few different ideas before we went with Mudpuppy.I just read it in a biology book and found it cute, so here we are!
TS: Tara, I know you're also part of formal music training at Tucson High as part of the choir program. How does formal music training differ from DIY rock gigs and what are you learning by practicing in both settings?
TB: "Being in choir is very different than being in a band. The music is different, the tone is different, the attitude is different. Choir concerts are very formal. Even when they are so different, choir helps my performance and experience in Mudpuppy, and Mudpuppy does the same for choir. I learn things in each that I can use in the other."
TS: You've started to become a really vocal part of Tucson's female and femme-oriented music community in your own right. Why is this important to you and why should it be more important to the rest of us?
OC: "It's super important to me because I finally have a platform where I can directly affect people. Before, I was really just screaming into the void that is Twitter, but now I can hold a microphone and look at this crowd and say 'Hey! Look at all this injustice going on around you! You have the power to make it stop!' I have this platform and audience of people who are willing to listen, and I can be pretty aggressive about my agenda, but it's super important that creating these safe spaces is on other people's agendas, too."
"It should be important to everyone, whether you're involved in a small scene or not—LGBT, women, and POC face injustices every day, even big-name musicians (Taylor Swift, Jessie Reyez, Kesha, Jessie Woo; the list goes on) have to deal with it. It's impossible to not be worried in these toxic climate. Artistic spaces should be places where love and acceptance are cultivated, and we should all strive to make it happen. It affects every single one of us, not just an isolated few. Also, we all have some level of influence upon each other, whether you're a well known musician or someone with a few friends on Facebook, and we can enact change. changing the scene into a safe place that cultivates creativity should be important to absolutely everyone."
TS: Any favorite gigs or band moments since we last talked?
TB: "A favorite Mudpuppy memory of mine is of the show where people first started moshing to our music. It felt so good to see people moshing and dancing to our own music, and to know that we could get people to move like that."
OC: "Playing a semi-acoustic set at the Stop the Ban protest was pretty radical. We got people to show up to support us, but most importantly it brought awareness to the abortion ban and people were able to receive more information and got to participate in the protest. It was so beautiful to see so many bodies coming together to show support and drown out the hate being spewed back. Also, at our show at Crooked Tooth's Pride night, this little girl was right up front, dancing to our music, and she was so happy and just looked like she was having so much fun! It's crazy seeing little kids have fun at our shows because I remember being that little and going absolutely feral at shows. I hope we inspire another generation!"
TS: Any advice to pass on to your musical peers?
TB: "Stay hydrated! Eat an apple or something! Be safe and create safe spaces! Create art! Take a deep breath! Have a good time! Be respectful! Be kind to everyone including yourself!"
OC: "Always put the jelly on first, then the peanut butter if you're using the same knife. Peanut butter always gets mixed in the jelly, but jelly never gets stuck in the peanut butter."
TS: Thoughts on the current state of Tucson's youth music scene?
TB: "I have only been part of the Tucson scene for almost a year, and I don't have a lot of experience. I have heard and seen both good and bad things about the scene. There are some problems in our scene that need to be solved, and I think we can do so by doing whatever we can to make everyone in the scene comfortable, no matter what race, sexuality, or gender they identify with. We need to empower and uplift others so that everyone can enjoy this amazing world that art is."
OC: "The more I delve into the scene, I find a lot of beautiful souls who are making change and positive progress. There's a lot of young artists who want to change the scene for the better. It's super inspiring to us. There's definitely a lot of negative things we can address, as the scene can and has been a breeding ground for misogyny, LGBT phobia, racism and all-around bigotry, but if we work together and stop shutting down those who are speaking up, we can make a lot of change. We have a long way to go until the scene is safe and welcoming to everyone, but it's definitely not impossible."
TS: So, what's next for Mudpuppy?
OC: "A lot of fun stuff is coming, and we really can't wait to announce it. All we can say is that soon people won't have to listen to that one awful iPhone recording on our Soundcloud anymore!"
TB: "We'll have a lot of updates soon, and we have a fancy-shmancy website now where users of the World Wide Web can read all about us, shows, and other funky stuff! It's called Mudpuppyband.com, and it's super cool. Also we have a show at the Owl's Club July 9, and we'll be playing again at Club Congress with Gauche on August 7!
Mudpuppy plays Owls Club on Tuesday, July 9, at 9 p.m.
Rough Draft turns in their Final Draft at last
Another major name in the Tucson teen DIY scene, pop punk band Rough Draft, has released their long await debut album this week, recorded with Justin Tornberg at Diet Pop Records. An ambitious ten track release, the self-titled recording is available for listening or purchase via Bandcamp at https://roughdraftaz.bandcamp.com/releases or you can just pick up a copy at one of the band's live shows. Tune in next week for a full review.
Live feminist talk show/variety show Ladytowne has been on summer vacation for the last couple of months, but Miranda Schubert and her guests will be back this week to bring a new dose just in time for the kick off of monsoon season. Comedian Rebecca Tingley, Lisa O'Neill talks about the Matriarchitects, Jillian Bessett and Najima Rainey discuss JIANTT Recording and Vegan pop up business Cero Tucson represents, along with live music performances by Flor de Nopal Music and Mattea.
Ladytowne Live returns Wednesday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Club Congress.
Check your local listings...
Saturday, July 6
- Charlie Stout w/ Joe Novelli, Zaya Briggs - 10 p.m. Che's Lounge
- Raised on TV - 8 p.m. Sky Bar
- Joyce Luna - 5:45 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
- Santa Pachita - 7 p.m. Playground
- Pedro y Los Lîricos - 8 p.m. Exo
- Gene Moran & Keith Perrillo w/ Van Christian - 9 p.m. Dusty Monk Pub
Sunday, July 7
- Loops! With Jillian Bessett, RogueViolin, Vicki Brown and Julius Schlosburg - 7 p.m. Che's Lounge Patio
Tuesday, July 9
- Harm Reduction Show w/ Feverfew, Mudpuppy, Muddle Of Pud - 8 p.m. Owls Club
- Juliana Warkentin - 7 p.m. Iron John's Brewing
Wednesday, July 10
- Ladytowne Live w/ Rebecca Tingley, Lisa O'Neill, JIANTT Recording, Flor de Nopal Music, Cero Tucson, and Mattea - 7:30 p.m. Club Congress
- BoscoMujo,LavAndula,MuddleofPud,Centra and SummerOfMan - 7 p.m. Blacklidge Community Collective (DIY Venue - contact bands for invite)
Thursday, July 11
- Demonyms, Sleeve Cannon, BreakingGlass - 10:30 p.m.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.