Introducing the Frecks; The nice guys of Big Mean; Remembering Gene Ruley
When your humble writer first saw the Frecks play, she must admit that she initially wondered if the "teens in a band" thing was an in-joke of some kind. These girls are loud, snarling, aggressive, edgy, fun, vocal and did we mention loud?
As it turns out, the Frecks are a fully fledged teenaged rock band, hailing from the storied halls of Tucson High (also home to their fellow band Rough Draft.) They're also crazy busy, with at least three live shows in the past two weeks, regular band practices and, you know, homework and stuff.
This week, we checked in with the band, who answered as a collective unit, because high school punk bands are the best kind of gang.
TucsonSentinel.com: ; Every superhero, legend or decent rock band has an origin story. What's yours?
The Frecks: "We all met each other through school. After going to a Together Pangea and Playboy Manbaby show together at 191Toole, we decided we wanted to do the same thing they were doing. We all learned our instruments to be in a band, and have been a band for a year."
TS: Band lineup?
;The Frecks :"Juliet - drums, Erica - bass, Izzy - guitar and vocals."
TS: Name origin?
;The Frecks ;:"We originally wanted to be the Freckles but that was taken so we are the Frecks kinda like the Strokes."
TS: What inspired each of you to fall in love with music and to start playing?
;The Frecks ;:"We were always in love with music and wanted to be in a band — we just had to find each other."
TS: Favorite bands of all time
The Frecks:"Ty Segall, ;Playboy Manbaby, ;Fidlar, ;Together Pangea, ;Twin Peaks, ;Wavves, ;The Unicorns,Junkie, ;Beach Goons"
TS: Favorite current bands? What about local bands?
The Frecks:"One of my favorite current bands is The Garden. My favorite local band is Yum. Some other really sick local bands are Rough Draft, Spank!, and B.Y.O.M."
TS: As a younger band is it harder to get gigs? Is it weird playing 21-plus venues or do you find that older bands treat you with due deference and respect?
The Frecks: "It isn't that hard. Most of our shows are from knowing people and other people seeing us on social media. Honestly social media makes it so much easier. Playing 21-plus shows are weird only because our friends can't be there. Most older bands assume we are the same age, so it isn't that bad. When they do find out our age, I think they respect us even more."
TS: I once saw you call "girls to the front" at a house-party gig and I was both impressed and a little sad that that still has to be said. Thoughts on the matter?
The Frecks: "Fems to the front and anyone who is not an asshole. Our shows are safe environments for women but when we play with old punker bros sometimes 'fems to the front' just needs to be said."
TS: What are your thoughts about punk as a genre and a lineage?
The Frecks: "I don't know anything about punk music. I think just when your angst compels you to pick up an instrument you should."
TS: That's kind of exactly the point! Until you get really good at your instruments, which is when "indie rock" will want to claim you. In the meantime, though, what's next for The Frecks (besides world domination?)
The Frecks: "Right now, we are planning two tours.We have days assigned to record too. Honestly, we're just trying to do it all."
TS: May you do it all and do it well!
The Frecks will next be playing Saturday night, along with Rough Draft and Feverfew, at an all-ages benefit show for LPFM station KMKR Radio. The show takes place in the courtyard of Steinfeld Warehouse (home of KMKR and Xerocraft Hackerspace) Doors open at 6 p.m. and bands start at 7 p.m. ;
In praise of the Slits
Once upon a time, in 1970s England, there were some other women whose angst compelled them to pick up some instruments and learn how to play. The Slits formed in the first wave of post, slightly Sex Pistols British punk and are often credited as the first all-female punk band (depending on how one quantifies such things) and were a brilliant band both because of and in spite of their collective gender, reinventing punk as primitive, tribal rock. In their heyday, the band featured the legendary Palmolive on drums, Tessa Pollit's pulsing reggae bass, Viv Albertine's self taught, weirdly gorgeous, slightly Eastern-toned guitar parts and the dominant, wild, definitely "unladylike" stage presence of 14-year-old front woman Ari Up.
This Friday night at Cans Deli, Wooden Tooth Records presents a special screening of "Here To Be Heard: The Story of The Slits," a new documentary about the band, with special guest host Slits bassist Tessa Pollit. Show cost is a sliding scale of $10-$20 at the door, with proceeds going ot help reimburse Pollitt's travel expenses as she tours to promote the film.
Big Mean means business
Tucson is kind of a small big town. And, while some of us are badass teenagers starting our first bands, others of us are, well, parents of teenage rock fans, and no matter how hip and cool we might hope we still are, grown up duty calls. And the beat goes on.
Case in point, the other night, when your friendly neighborhood music columnist made a trip to Tucson High for her spawn's Open House night and ran into what seemed like half the local music community, including Louise Le Hir's kind and soft-spoken spouse, a fellow LPFM DJ and the ever talented (and not at all "mean") Mike Mihina, formerly of the band Love Mound.
Tucson music fans of a certain era remember Love Mound shows as fun, loud, energetic and generally a blast to be at. At the core of the group's madness and talent were Mike and his brother Chris "Sparky" Mihina, and the duo are at it again in their latest project, Big Mean. The band just released a new CD this week.
TucsonSentinel.com: The brothers Mihina are well-known and respected in the Tucson music scene, after your work with Love Mound and other projects. What do you have up your sleeves for us these days?
Mike Mihina: "Sparky and I just keep on truckin, keep on rockin' like we do. We've been playing together for a long time so it would be weird to not be in at least one project together. Tucson has such a cool music scene, it's really great to be a part of it."
TS: Tell us a bit about the new recording? Sound? Process? What are we gonna love about it?
MM: "It's been a work in progress for a little bit. The sound isn't too different from what we usually do. Heavy blues? That's the way I like to think about it. It was originally designed as a side project where I would write and record songs with buddies of mine near and far. I think people will appreciate the awesome musicians that contributed their talent to the songs."
TS: For those unfamiliar, how long has Big Mean been around and how did the project come about?
MM: "Big Mean has been around for a few years. It came about because I had a bunch of tunes and pieces of tunes hanging around after making the last couple of Love Mound albums. I wanted these songs to be recorded so I recruited friends to back me up on the tracks."
TS: Who all contributed to the record?
MM: "Bass players were Sparky, Elvis Hogjaw and Vikas Pawa. Drummers include Michael Hummer, Jason Kowalski and Ryan Janac."
TS: Future plans?
MM: "I already have a lot of song ideas for the next one (Viva Big Mean). I think I'm gonna stick with one crew this time to get it done faster. Sparky and I are having a lot of fun making some behind the scenes videos. We'll put those up on YouTube in the next couple of weeks. I hope to play around a bit in some other towns to reconnect with some old friends who haven't seen us in a while. Europe would cool!"
TS: Favorite local bands past and present.
MM: "Tucson is such a cool place. All of my friends' bands. All the bands I've played with in other capacities Shrimp Chaperone, Michael P., JMC and the Wooden Hearts. So many I can't even list them."
TS: Thoughts on the local music scene then and now?
MM: "It seems similar today. I'm Old Man Mean (third album) now so I don't get out as much. Trying to change that now that my kids are teenagers."
TS: Tell us about the upcoming show!
MM: "Saturday, September 1 at Che's Lounge! Freezing Hands open. I'm excited about that, Travis Spillers is one of my favorite local singer/guitar player/bass player/songwriter/neighbors. And Matt Rendon? I'm stoked."
You can check out the new album at bigmean1.bandcamp.com ;and see Big Mean with Freezing Hands on Saturday at Che's at 7 p.m.
Hardest working musicians In Tucson: The accidental bassist, Kevin Conklin
The role of a bass player in rock and roll is sort of weirdly subjective and dependent on the band in question and, as such, some of the best bassists in rock and roll history were folks who stepped up to fill the role at unexpected moments. Case in point, Kim Deal of the Pixies, a guitarist by training, or Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon. OK, a lot of them, in fact, seem to have been named Kim. But some of them are named Kevin.
Kevin Conklin was just a mild-mannered guitar hobbyist hanging around his friends' band practices when his partner, Nelene Deguzman, the incredibly talented guitarist/songwriter and front person for Tucson band the Rifle, drafted him to pick up a bass and fill in on the low end. All in all, it was a pretty wise decision and these days Conklin has definitely come into his own as a bass player, having developed a strong affinity for his instrument and playing regularly in a total of four different projects and counting.
Mr. Conklin, who, incidentally is celebrating his 30th birthday this weekend, took some time to answer our questions as part of the ongoing "hardest working musicians in Tucson" segment of this column. ;
TucsonSentinel.com: What bands are you currently in in town? Do you always play the same instrument or does it vary from band to band?
Kevin Conklin: "I play bass in a few projects at the moment. The Rifle, the Elegant Rabies, and the Exbats (when they need the low end). I play with Jess Matsen occasionally, too, though he rides solo most of the time."
TS: What do you love (and what's similar and different) about each band you are in?
KC: "The Rifle is my main jam. I love creating music with Nelene, and we've been in the habit of getting in the zone on a particular riff that she likes, or that I bring to rehearsal. We play the same thing for maybe 10 minutes at time and start fleshing out ideas from recordings."
"Playing in the Elegant Rabies lets me explore more of my influences. I can get all Phil Lesh melodic and 60s groovy without worrying about running into aesthetic contradictions."
"The Exbats is super fun because the songs are really simple and catchy, and its all about Ken and Inez, so I get to hang back and play along."
"And playing with Jess Matsen really taught me how to hold back when needed, and get musical when appropriate. His songs have a folky goodness that lend themselves to mellow bass lines."
TS: What makes you "tick" as a rhythm player?
KC: "Syncopation, a consistent beat, and 3rd octaves."
TS: What is your favorite instrument to play and why?
KC: "My Peavey T-40. It breaks my back and shoulders every once in a while, but I cannot deny the quality of the punch and zing. Its beefy, and has a nice long neck for exploring every part of the fretboard. Solid, U.S.-made, and older than I am."
TS: How did you fall in love with music and why did you decide to learn to play?
KC: "I had a little toy guitar that I played around with when I was growing up, and I finally got an electric guitar in 6th grade. As I started to hear more bands that my brother would listen to (Nirvana, Sublime, Blink 182), I started getting more interested in learning how to play covers of songs I liked. I fell in love with playing music because I could reproduce something that I thought was beautiful, with tools that I could manipulate well."
TS: What was your first band?
KC: "Technically, my first band is the Rifle. I sang in choirs throughout high school, and played in some musicals. A lot of my origins are playing Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, and The Who covers by myself."
TS: Current and upcoming projects you're working on right now?
KC: "The Elegant Rabies and the Rifle are going to Los Angeles for a couple shows over Thanksgiving weekend, really looking forward to that. And the Rifle is creating material for a new album."
TS: Musical influences past and present?
KC: "I binge on repeat, and listen to all kinds. For the most part, I used to listen to a ton of Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, The Who, lots of classic rock genre, and more recent go to artists are the Beach Boys and Grateful Dead. In the mix with Ravi Shankar, Crosby Still and Nash, Kikagaku Moyo, Jamiroquai, and pretty much anything that catches my ear. When I was learning to play bass for the Rifle, I listened to Jamiroquai, Jaco Pastorius, and John Entwistle material on repeat.
TS: Advice to other players about playing in multiple bands or getting started in the local live music scene?
KC: "Playing in multiple bands with other musicians has been the greatest asset to my growth as a player. Learning to play with other people's styles, ideas, and approaches have given me better insight into the kind of player I work toward being. Show up, be respectful, and practice, not just at rehearsal."
"For those looking to get started, it helps to hang out at shows, and in the music community. Meet people, talk about the kind of music you like and what you like to play. An opening will manifest and then just do your thing. Or make your own."
You can see Conklin and the rest of the Rifle this Saturday night at HoCo fest at Club Congress. In the meantime, check out some of his low end at the following links:
Remembering Gene ;
While there are definitely a lot of fun, joyous and exciting things going on in the local music scene this weekend, the mood of the Tucson music community was in fact pretty somber for the last few days as news of the passing of a beloved member of our city's collective rock and roll family spread across town.
Gene Ruley was a brilliant, understated, masterful guitarist, a wealth of information about rock and pop music and an all around lovely human and his death this past Sunday was devastating to all who knew and loved him. While this space ran its own small tribute a few days ago, many of Ruley's friends and bandmates have been sharing their own, much more eloquent memories throughout the past week. We're sharing a few in this space for posterity's sake — please comment with your own.
Chris Holiman - River Roses
"Gene Ruley stood to my left on stages for seven years when we were in the River Roses. Hundreds of shows but I knew I never had to look that way because Gene knew what to play, he understood how we should sound, what the right guitar part should be. A constant in my musical life."
"After he left the Roses we played dozens of shows with the Downtown Saints or River Roses reunions or just random shows at KXCI or Wooden Ball sets. Still always on my left, a force in my musical life to be counted on and accepted. Gene will never be on my left playing guitar in his own beautiful style again and 30 years of someone to rely on to my left has ended. I will never really play a show the same way again but I will continue to play music because Gene would want to keep playing until the end. Rest In Peace Gene. Thank you.
Mark Perrodin - The Sidewinders/Sand Rubies, Little Sisters of the Poor
"Gene was always a generous musician. When I played the bass in the Sidewinders/Sand Rubies. there was always a subtle competition between us and (Gene's band) the River Roses. I always thought that if you were to compare our bands position vs. position that the Roses were easily better. Plus I remember that they wore sport coats at that time. And yet somehow we got signed and they didn't. I never could figure that out because they were my favorite band then. They were so good."
;"When they played this one song, Last Light, it seemed like the panties dropped and the guys kinda pogoed. I loved the way Splat beat those drums and Sean played the bass and Chris floated his words over the top, but most of all I loved how Gene played. He was funny as fuck and as good a guy as you'd meet. He excelled at the guitar. He seemed to rev up when it was time to solo."
"The first time I saw Gene play was the second night Club Congress had live music. He was playing with the Phantom Limbs with his beloved Ventura es-335 copy. Awesome show. Later when Dave Slutes and I started Little Sisters of the Poor as a side mess, Gene gladly lent his guitar to my stupid songs."
"Gene was a generous player. I never once in 30 years saw him be a dick to anyone. He was a kind soul and I feel heartbroken that he is gone."
Dave Slutes - Sidewinders/Sand Rubies, Zsa Zsas, Little Sisters of the Poor
"It's hard to sum up in a post what someone means to you, what impact they had in your life and the shocking sense of loss you feel when they go. I spent the better par of the last 30 years carousing, hanging out, rehearsing, touring, cracking up, but mostly making music with my pal Gene Ruley."
"As late as this past Saturday, we were sorting out chords to a few songs we hadn't finished. He could barely breathe and his energy was low, but he could still point out to me how I had forgotten that we were actually using a train shuffle beat rather than a standard 4/4 beat, demonstrating vocally, while rapping his hands against his emaciated legs. with every last bit of effort - ba BA BA ba BA BA ba."
"Wanting to make sure I got it right - as always being my teacher while making me think I was writing the damn thing. Man, we did so much together. A big chunk of my life is missing today."
Betsy Scarinzi - Silverbell
"Gene did not ever like being the center of attention... did not want people to fuss over him. Ever. Seems funny that someone who played on endless stages would not be comfortable with attention but this was part of the beautiful dichotomy of Gene. We did not always see eye to eye. We disagreed on many occasions, but he was my friend. He saw me through so many difficult times. He was always there when the need was present. He saw me through broken hearts, injuries, struggles that arose in my life and always reassured me that all would be OK."
"We had our share of absolute silliness and laughter, road trips, and of course the endless hours of music we played together. He was my Saturday morning breakfast buddy for too many meals to count. He dropped off Gatorade when I was too sick to get it myself. He tracked down and found the exact vintage Barbie Doll camper taken away from me as a small girl and presented it to me one Valentine's Day after a recent breakup. Complete with a punk version of Barbie and Ken hanging out the window looking perfectly ragged and yet it was the most beautiful gift anyone had ever given me."
;"I would like to think I too was there for Gene, but I feel certain he was a much better friend to me than I was capable of being to him at that time. He was and is a gem, a good man, a true talent and one of the best friends I could ever have. Thank you for everything, Gene! You will be greatly missed and even more beautifully remembered by all of us!"
"With the help of friends, we started a memorial for him in front of his house by having some flowers delivered along with a candle outside of the gate of his home. ; The hope was that this would catch on and that others would join in and leave flowers, candles, mementos and cards. Please tell people they are welcome to join in. ; It is a really beautiful way to honor both Gene and his family."
Terry Owen - Fish Karma
"In all the decades I've known of Gene Ruley, I don't think I exchanged even one word with him. Despite this lack of formal introduction, I feel that we were, in a sense, old friends. Such is the nature of music and shared energies. Gene would want to keep playing until the end. Rest In Peace, Gene. Thank you."
" Of all his musical projects, The Drakes were my favorite. They featured Ruley at his most contemplative and complex, and they were hugely popular in Tucson in the '90s. A great collaboration with Tom Stauffer."
Miss Frankie Stein ; — the Mission Creeps
"We had some silliness and a lot of good times. Thanks for the good times, Gene. Love and miss you!"
James Arr —the Mission Creeps
"Gene Ruley was such a rascal with a wry sense of humor and an encyclopedic knowledge of music. He played in our band for about a year and in that time I learned so much from him. The pure definition of a cool dude and so freaking talented, but not in a flashy or intimidating way, just pure class - a guitarist's guitarist who did it for all the right reasons."
"Trading licks with someone like that was the best! And he wasn't afraid to get creepy and dive right in with all the madness — totally fearless. It's hard to put into words what effect people have on your life. I just wish I could drop him a line right now and pick his brain about a pedal or a band or something."
Also happening this week
Tucson's annual Club Congres- centered local music fest HoCo Fest continues through the weekend! Check out the event's schedule and night by night lineup at ;hocofest.com. Juliana Bright, formerly of local bands Rotary Speed Dial and Switch Affect returns to Tucson this Friday night with Royal Agaves at Sand Reckoner Vineyards. Local red haired sirens of strings, Mariah McCammond and Deanna Cross prove at long last that they are in fact, NOT the same person as their duo Hatpin Trio debuts at Surly Wench this Friday night. Austin based band the Schisms rock Sky Bar this Wednesday night while down the avenue at Cans Deli Juju Fontaine and Cool Funeral play with Myster E.
Check your local listings
Each week this column compiles a choice selection of live gigs in and around Tucson with the help of good venues, word of mouth and band event announcements. If you've like your event listed in this space, or if your local band has major news or a new release, drop me a line at email@example.com.
Friday, Aug. 31
- HOCO Fest 2018: Blunt Bad Gyal, Topaz Jones, Destruction Unit, SpiritAdrift, Mexican Institute of Sound, Orkesta Mendoza ; - 6 p.m. Club Congress ;
- Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits (Special Live Screening w/ Tessa Pollit) - 6 p.m. Cans Deli
- Zines at Night - 9 p.m. Cans Deli
- Dos Sueños Plays - 7:30 p.m. ; Borderlands
- The Unday, Jillian Bessett, & Hatpin Duo - ; Surly Wench
- Coyote Keyes, Séamus Hennessy, Cory Hill, Lizzy Page - 10 p.m. Bar Passe
- Juliana Bright, Royal Agaves
Saturday, Sept. 1
- HoCo Fest 2018 Sur Block, The Rifle Black Marble, Boy Harsher, S U R V I V E, The Dream Syndicate, RobynHitchcock , Giant Sand - 6 p.m. Club Congress
- Belinda Esquer - 8 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
- The Marcus King Band w/ Bishop Gunn - 7 p.m. 191 Toole
- Big Mean, Freezing Hands - 9 p.m. Che's Lounge
- KMKR Radio Presents: The Frecks, Rough Draft, Feverfew - 7 p.m. KMKR?Xerocraft (101 W. 6th St)
- Ben Harper w/ Charlie Musselwhite - 7 p.m. Rialto ;
- Freddy Parish Album Release - 8 p.m. ; Exo ;
- Xception - 8 p.m. House of Bards
- Bird Violence, Dayak, Sunn Trio - 8 p.m. ; Owls Club
Sunday, Sept. 2
- HOCO Fest 2018: Negative Gemini , Sasami , Kyle Kinane AlexZhang Hungtai, Anjelica, BEARCAT, Buyepongo, Chris Thayer - 6 p.m. Club Congress
- Loveland - 6 p.m. Che's Lounge
- M. Crane, Liquid Summer, The Deep Shadows ; - 8 p.m. Cans Deli
Monday, Sept. 3
- The Lucky Devils - 7 p.m. Cans Deli
- Farewell To: Summer Camp - A Comedic Talent Show - 7 p.m. The Hut
Tuesday, Sept. 4
- Residente - 7:30 p.m. Rialto
Wednesday, Sept. 4
- Kevin Pakulis- 7 pm. Public Brewhouse
- MysterE, Juju Fontaine, Cool Funeral - 8 p.m. Cans Deli
- The Schisms - 8 p.m. Sky Bar
Thursday, Sept. 5
- Monti, Crystal Radio, Language Barrier - 8 p.m. Cans Deli