Tucson sounds: Carbon Canyon's perfect score
One of the somewhat unique things about Tucson’s music scene is the persistence of the “once and future bands.” If you’ve been here a while, you know of what I speak. Bands who’ve been around a while but don’t play more than once a year or so and maybe put out new music once or twice a decade. But damned if that annual live gig or new record isn’t absolutely stellar. In Tucson, you see, though some bands build their chops playing multiple gigs a week, others take the slow route and build their body of work over the course of years, not days or months. And often, their music is only ever the better for it.
Case in point, Carbon Canyon, an instrumental noise-rock band whose roster can trace its pedigree to Tucson’s late great Downtown Performance Center, and whose members have floated in and out of some of the finest rock ensembles to ever grace Tucson stages in the past three decades or so. Carbon Canyon makes one of their increasingly rare live appearances this weekend, with new material to boot, so it seemed like the time was right for your friendly neighborhood music chronicler to pin the band down for an interview before they slip back into temporary dormancy once more.
TucsonSentinel.com: What's the "origin story" for Carbon Canyon? How did the band form, who's who and how would you describe your sound?
Andy Bell: “Carbon Canyon is myself on drums, Jarrod Mingus on bass, Brandon Ugstad on other bass and Brian Bollt on guitar.”
“The band formed in an organic way. Brandon and I had started a project called Mascaron many years ago, which was a duo of bass and drums. We had to halt that project because of life related reasons and a year or two later Jarrod and I had a class together at the U of A.”
“Jarrod and I decided to resurrect the spirit of Mascaron and add another bass. After about a year Brandon, Jarrod and I decided another instrument was needed and Brian stepped in to fill the void wonderfully and effortlessly. The addition of Brian solidified the band and its sound. Of all the descriptions we've heard of Carbon Canyon's sound, our favorite came from Flagstaff where we were dubbed as southern desert stoner instrumental metal.”
Jarrod Mingus (bass): “The deeper origins go back to the early '90s when a band I played in called Block would play shows with Brandon's band Spill Blanket at the DPC (Downtown Performance Center.)”
“Andy used to go to these shows too, but I wouldn't meet him until the late '90s. Later on, my band Hobart needed a drummer, so we brought Brandon aboard and stayed together for about seven years before falling apart. I've pretty much had a music project, or two going with Brandon ever since then.”
”Hobart would play shows with a band Andy played in called Mala Vita and later with a band Brian played in, Line of Fire. So that's how they came on my radar.”
“Since then, I've played in a bands with Brian (Bear Fight, and currently Free Machines) and Brandon and Andy have played in bands together (Found Dead on the Phone, Mascaron) and Brandon and I have been in half a dozen projects together. So it was only a matter of time before this line up came together.”
“As far as our sound goes, I just tell people that we're an instrumental rock band and usually don't need to elaborate any further because that's where most people stop listening. Seems like only other musicians like instrumental bands.”
TS: In Tucson, though, “other musicians” can be a pretty formidable audience! Coming from the musical DNA of that early DPC scene, what local bands and musicians have influenced and shaped the band?
JM: “I am extremely influenced by all the bands that I've seen live in Tucson over the last 30 years. There is an abundance of talent and creativity that is expressed in a low-key, non-pretentious environment here. It seems to perpetuate itself with new bands and venues starting regularly, while maintaining some continuity with older guys like Lenny Mellow or Cliff Taylor or Matt Rendon or Travis Spillers consistently making great music for so many years.”
TS: Of course, I’ve got to ask about the two basses dynamic, being in a two-bass band myself. How did that idea evolve in Carbon Canyon?
JM: “The bass guitar was my first instrument, but this is the first band I've played bass in since about 2005. I started out playing guitar in this band, but since I'm better at the bass we decided to play to our strengths and just do it with two bass players and drums. We played out like that for a while until we got Brian to play guitar, which was the icing on the cake. He's a way better guitar player than I am.”
TS: Carbon Canyon shows are more rare than some of the band members’ other projects like Free Machines or Lenguas Largas. But attendees of your shows swear the wait is always worth it. What's different about this band compared to the other projects you’re all part of? Other than the obvious fact that CC is an instrumental band!
AB: “Because we all have long histories of playing in Tucson and other ongoing projects, we decided as a group that we would try and make Carbon Canyon shows a rare and special occurrence. Ultimately we want to make Carbon Canyon shows that are memorable.”
“Visuals were the first thing that we started playing with. We wrote a 20ish minute piece to the old film "Fall of the House of Usher" and performed it live a few times. We really enjoyed the way footage helped the music for both us and the audience. Lacking a singer allows video footage to have a greater impact. The visuals become the singer and tell a story. We did a tour using a theme of "that guy" actors from the 80s action era and had a lot of fun with that. So in the end if you come see a Carbon Canyon show we hope to provide some sort of extra punch to make it memorable. We also shamelessly support local art in all its forms.”
JM: “Because we've been around for so long we're fortunate to get asked to play more shows than we could realistically ever play because of work, family and other band obligations.”
“We played more often when we first started, but made a conscious decision a year or two ago to play out less often so that when we do play we have something new to offer, something that we haven't done before. It keeps it fresh for us and the people that come see us on a regular basis.”
“Also it takes us a long time to get the music to a place where we think it's finished. There is a refining process the never really ends, so it can end up taking a year to write 35 minutes worth of music. And we're all fine with that. Sometimes playing out can be hard work. We've had the same rehearsal space for 25 years and it's at the top of a huge flight of stairs. Hauling our shit up and down those stairs over the years has been a real pain in the ass. I can't believe I haven't been crushed by an amp loading out drunk after a show at three in the morning on those stairs!”
TS: Thoughts on Tucson’s music scene these days?
JM: “There are too many good bands and venues to list by name so I just wanna give a shout out to Wooden Tooth Records for bringing a steady flow of awesome vinyl to Tucson. They're also putting on awesome shows. But the vinyl!
TS: This show will also be an album release party for Anchorbaby, right? Isn't the new record AMAZING?
AB: “We are very excited to have Anchorbaby at this show. Not only will it be their album release but also their debut show. In all honesty the record is the best music I've heard from Tucson on wax in a while. It makes me proud of Tucson music.”
JM: "I'm pretty jealous that Shimo has his first record out before playing his first show, and it is really good. He put together a band full of incredible musicians (including our Bollt) to play it live, so I'm really looking forward to seeing them.”
TS: Tell us about the piece you'll be performing at the show..
AB: “We will be performing original music played to an edited version of "Hausu," (which is) a Japanese art horror film from the '70s. It is, quite frankly, an insane explosion of creativity and campiness. We've worked with our close friend and artist Roland Brooks to visually bring various elements together on stage and on screen.”
“This gig is for all the Tucson local music fans who are hiding from the sun in their caves. We all know what the summer is like when you live here. We thought a free show at 191 Toole on a Friday in the middle of the summer would be a proper prescription.”
JM: “The piece took us a long time because we were writing the music to an edit of the film we made with that cut guiding how we wrote the music. And we want to play it in sync, with the film live in real time, so it took a lot of practice to lock in things like tempos and transitions between movements. Brandon edited the original film down to 35 minutes. If we tried to score the whole thing it would take us years.”
“The whole exercise was a dry run for an original film we are going to make and score with Roland and some other artists we regularly collaborate with. That might take years to come to fruition, but it will get done eventually.”
TS: That sounds like a pretty worthy endeavor, so wishing you luck with it! Any favorite moments as a band so far?
AB: “We played in the employee break room at Yosemite with Free Machines. We had no idea what to expect and I don't think the employees did ether. No one knew if park rangers would break it up. In the end it was one of the best shows I've played with any band. It was lots of people having fun in the middle of one of the prettiest places on Earth. Tucson was the first to turn guitar amps to 11 in Yosemite!”
JM: “Yosemite was definitely one of the funnest things we've done as a band. But with this band, more than any other band I've been in, I find a lot of reward in the usually mundane process of writing music. We are constantly writing new music, then deconstructing it and putting it back together with changes and rearrangements in an attempt to make it better, or at least more interesting for us. We apply music theory, which is not something I thought I would ever do as a musician. I've learned a lot about music and art from playing with these guys and that is extremely rewarding.”
Carbon Canyon and Anchorbaby play a free show at 191 Toole on Friday night, July 26. Show starts at 7 p.m.
Anchorbaby gets 'christened'
Speaking of Anchorbaby, the solo brainchild of Lenguas Largas guitarist Ricky Shimo is becoming a live band in its own right, at least for a couple of upcoming gigs. This Friday night, of course, Shimo and friends take to the stage at 191 Toole along with their friends in Carbon Canyon, and, while the Anchorbaby live lineup is sort of a surprise, rest assured that it reads like a who's who of Midtown Island Studio's finest. Check out the first appearance of "the baby" as Shimo and friends unveil the live version of the psychedelic, tropicalia, border rock, garage, indie rock noisegasm on a steamy monsoon summer evening.
Just for the record
Local musician Katie Haverly and her band the Aviary are headed to LandMark Sound next month to record a new album. But rather than the standard closed door recording process, with maybe a few photos to show what’s going on in the studio, Haverly is giving some special fans a chance to help fund the new project by bidding on a front door pass to witness the recording process in action.
Katie Haverly (Katie Haverly and the Aviary): “On Sunday August 4th from 5-8 pm,eight special fans will have the opportunity to come and see my band and I record.”
“It will be my eighth record, we are recording eight songs [for the upcoming vinyl release) and we are recording in the eighth month of the year. Numbers are important to me, and eight is the number for this next album!”
Haverly has created an eBay auction to award the eight slots to witness her and the band in action. Winning bidders will get the chance to listen to the entire day’s recording session live via headphones and visit the control room, main recording room and an isolation room where Haverly will record vocals and piano followed by an after session meal, gathering and q and a session with Haverly and her band, as well as recording engineer Frank Bair. The session will be videotaped and photographed by Julius Schlosburg.
More info can be found via Haverly’s Facebook page or at the eBay auction link for the event.
A landmark loss
It's been a little over a year since Fourth Avenue bar, lounge and live music venue the Flycatcher (formerly known as Plush) closed its doors for good to make way for a mid-rise apartment complex planned by student housing developer EDR, but the loss of the beloved local establishment is still felt by many in Tucson's music community. This week, those folks mourned a second time as bulldozers slowly tore apart the 95-year-old building to make way for new construction.
Musician and former Flycatcher/Plush employee Paul Jenkins documented the building's demise over the course of a few days, posting video and photos on Facebook and scavenging a few souvenirs, including an ancient pull tab soda can circa the 1970s. Last Thursday night, a few days after the final demolition, Jenkins dedicated his Sky Bar piano set to an impromptu memorial for the building many lovingly refer to as "Plushcatcher."
An empty lot may now stand on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street, but Plushcatcher still lives for many. May it rest in peace.
Check your local listings...
Friday, July 26
- Carbon Canyon, Anchorbaby - 7 p.m. 191 Toole
- Street Blues Family - 9 p.m. Boxyard
- BTP & Friends, October Intuition - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
- Lady Sol, United Snakes - 9:30 p.m. Sky Bar
- Sunny Italy, Get Right Rounders, Subnormal Trio - 10 p.m. Surly Wench Pub
- Black Sabbitch - 8 p.m. Club Congress
- Like A Villain x Order 66 - 6 p.m. House of Bards
- Party with a Purpose - 7 p.m. The Libertine
- Shell Shock - 8 p.m. Rockabilly Grill
- Al Foul - 8 p.m.Westbound
- Naim's A Jazz Trio - 8 p.m. Exo Roast Co.
Saturday, July 27
- Al Foul - 10 p.m. Che's Lounge
- What Really Happened? (Comedy) - 9:30 p.m. Sky Bar
- Mac Sabbath & Okilly Dokilly - 8 P.M. 191 Toole
- The Great Punk'N Doughnut Pig Out - 3 p.m. Spark Project Collective
- Rite to Remain - 7 p.m. House of Bards7 – 10:30pm
- ROH Band - 7 p.m. Rockabilly Grill
- Key Ingredients w/ Kudzie Jambwa - 7 p.m. Monterey Court
- John Coinman with Blair Forward- 7 p.m. ExoPouya - 8 p.m. Encore
- Sugar Stains - 9 p.m. The Quarry Bisbee, AZ
- Disco Doll Summer Party with Humphouse - 10 p.m. Club Congress
- Inna Vision with Rilen' Out and ZeeCeeKeely - 10 p.m. The Hut
Sunday, July 28
- Kristen Nelson, Natalie Pohanic - 2 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
- Billy Sedlmayr - 7 p.m. Che’s Lounge
- James McMurtry - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Meet Cero Tucson - 8 a.m. 5 Points Farmers Market
- Pyrotechnica Album - 6:30 p.m. Encore
- Jonica and Friends - 7 p.m. Crooked Tooth
Tuesday, July 30
- Natalie Pohanic - 6:30 p.m. Sky Bar
- Shamarr Allen & The Underdawgs - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- Lovataraxx, Lav Andula, Glacier.WAV, Sally Roundhouse - 7:30 p.m. Blacklidge Community Cooperative
Wednesday, July 31
- Nocturnal Theory Album Release - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Tribal Seeds & Matisyahu - 8 p.m. Rialto Theatre
- DH Scott, Robert Quijano & Sun Riah - 8 p.m. Exo
Thursday, Aug 1
- The Butcher's Block - 7 p.m. Iron John’s Brewing
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.