It’s a Couples’ Thing: Round Two

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by Mark Anderson
Senior Editor

“Being in a band is tough. Being in a band with a significant other is even harder – just ask Greg Allman and Cher, Lindsey and Stevie or Liam and Noel (OK, so the Gallagher brothers weren’t really a couple but they sure did act like one). A band, any band, is like a big ol’ dysfunctional family. There’s the creativity. There’s the arguing about what gets written and what gets played. And, musicians are just a handful. Throw in all that and then add the dynamics of a personal relationship and it’s amazing anyone stays together.” – Frank Ippolito, original introduction to “It’s a Couple’s Thing”.

Although I’ve never experienced the situation myself, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of being in a band with a significant other. My partner and I do run music publication together so that’s reasonably close, I would say. I’ve also experienced being in a Family Band playing with cousins. Still, not the same thing.

So when Staff Writer Frank Ippolito originally submitted his Couple’s Thing article I was thrilled. Now, here was some insight on the very thought that had oft occupied my mind.

Then, the years drifted by and I came to know my own fair share of couples in bands, bound by the state &/or not-so-casual cohibitants. In honor of Valentine’s Day 2017, I decided it would be fun to revisit Frank’s questionairre of yesteryear with some new participants, including: Ariel and Kalen of Snailmate, Dana and Pete of JJCnV, Stacie and Erick of Citrus Clouds, and Sharon and Frank of both Battered Suitcases and Labor Party.

This Valentine’s I thought it’d be sweet (and a lil’ corny) if we learned a little more about being a couple in a band. And of course, a big thanks to all the bands that participated.

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Sharon and Frank

How long have you two been together?

Battered Suitcases: 32 years, where the hell did all that time go?

Citrus Clouds: We just celebrated 4 years together this February.

JJCnV: We didn’t start living until we were together. So we’ve been together all our lives.

Snailmate: A fucking eternity.

When was the first time you two got together and jammed?

Battered Suitcases:  I first joined Frank on stage at a Halloween show in 1984 performing The Small Faces’ “Get Yourself Together”.

Citrus Clouds: The first time we jammed was at the first Citrus Clouds practice in 2014. We decided to start a band as a fun little project after I bought her a bass for our first anniversary.

JJCnV: Before we said ‘I Do’.

Snailmate: Kalen sat in with Ariel’s old band 4 years ago.

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Stacie and Erick

Were you a couple before that?

Battered Suitcases: Yes, since July of that same year.

Citrus Clouds: Yes we were.

JJCnV: A couple of what?

Snailmate: A couple of weirdos.

When you did decide to be a couple, was jamming together the same or a little weird?

Battered Suitcases: We were already a couple…

Citrus Clouds: Since we were previously a couple, it really wasn’t weird. It was frustrating at first because Stacie was learning the bass but she picked it up extremely quickly. She’s musically gifted!

JJCnV: Once Jeff [the drummer] got over it, it was fine.

Snailmate: Our band started like any other relationship: we had just gone through a bad breakup and we were desperate and lonely.

Does the music ever become bigger than the relationship?

Battered Suitcases: No, we always matter more.

Citrus Clouds: Music is bigger than almost anything. With the Clouds it’s so intertwined that it is never an issue.

JJCnV: Every aspect of us is larger than life.

Snailmate: Music is our whole world. The relationship is a suburb.

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Pete and Dana of JJCnV

When it comes to your music, who is responsible for writing? Pretty sure it’s both of you…

Battered Suitcases: You’re correct, it’s both of us 🙂

Citrus Clouds: Erick usually writes songs on his own then we get together and play them. Some songs like “Imagination” were written really naturally from a jam. Those are special and are celestial gifts.

JJCnV: Both of us.

Snailmate: We each write our own parts and then shit on whatever the other person wrote.

Say someone writes a song about a “relationship” do either you ever go, “Uh, is that about us?”

Battered Suitcases:  Of course now and then… used to happen more in earlier days.

Citrus Clouds: Not really, because it is vague enough that other people can relate to it as well.

JJCnV: It’s best for our partnership if there aren’t a lot of questions…

Snailmate: Kalen writes about the meaningless of existence in a cold, uncaring universe. Ariel writes songs about girls.

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Ariel and Kalen. Photo by Paul HIckey

What advice would you give other couples in a band?

Battered Suitcases: Don’t take any advice 😛

Citrus Clouds: First, enjoy the fact that you get to create sounds with the person that you love. Use music as a way to share and enjoy the unique experiences that playing music offers. Carry her gear!

JJCnV: Eat at the tastiest restaurants you can, always try to out-do each other in the song writing department, and never take yourselves too seriously (unless you’re writing about death).

Snailmate: Put the music first.

~

Make sure to check out Frank Ippolito’s original It’s a Couples’ Thing article and check out the Artist links below –

Battered Suitcases

Citrus Clouds

JJCnV

Snailmate

Why You Should Listen: Joyriot

joyriot 00Who loves Indie Dream Pop? This guy.

by Frank Ippolito
Associate Editor

Swirling vocals? Check. Fuzzy, sweeping guitars? Check. Smash bang drums accompanied with interesting bass lines? Check.

If you dig Indie Dream Pop, you’re going to love, and I mean, love, Joyriot.

Max Encinas, vocals and guitars, has written a terrific dreamy album. And although this is Joyriot’s first effort, it sounds like Encinas, bassist Kyle Gutierrez, and drummer Seji Butler have been together for quite some time.

When I saw the name of the first song on the album, “Zen Jam,” I was like, uh-oh, but that notion changed when I hit play. It starts with a simple guitar riff. Then the bass and drums come in from behind it with another simple but powerful back beat. But the thing that makes the song so wonderful is the lyrical melody – Encinas nails it on this and on the rest of the album.

Like most Dream Pop, the lyrics aren’t necessarily the main focus, and while there are some nice moments, the music is the star here. Especially when Encinas steps on the overdrive/fuzz pedal. He uses it sparingly, but when he does, it fits perfectly. Oh, and btw, his lead guitar work is nothing to gloss over. Again, he uses it to extenuate – not show off – perfect for the vibe of the album.

Why you should listen: Because the tracks will make you feel good. And isn’t that what music should do – make you feel something?

What you should listen for: The surprise time signature change that comes out of nowhere and makes you go, “Hey, that’s pretty cool.”

What they sound like: Let’s say the band Phoenix met-up with No Joy, had a few drinks, and decided to jam. Trust me.

Perfect listening for: Long drives out of the heat, sharing a bottle of wine, doodling a minimalist cartoon.

My favorite part: The fact that Joyriot lives up to their name and the fact that Indie Dream Pop is alive and well and living in Tucson.

Listen to Joyriot by Joyriot below.

Why You Should Listen: Shawn Skinner and the Men of Reason

Shawn Skinnerby Frank Ippolito
Associate Editor

One of the best things about writing for the mighty YabYum is that I get to listen music before anyone else. The only thing that makes it better is when I get to listen to music when it’s as wonderful and heartfelt as Shawn Skinner and the Men of Reason and their new album, Letting Go and Holding On. The last time I saw Skinner was at Last Exit Live solo, so I was very jazzed to hear him with a full band.

Side story (you knew this was coming): I was heading out the door taking our pup to the vet (yes, I lead an exceptionally exciting life) when who pops onto my porch but none other than Shawn himself.

“Just heading over for a sound check and I thought you’d like a CD,” he said.

“Hey man, thanks!”

“I hope you like it. We recorded it live over at Jali’s [i.e. Jalipaz, owner of Audioconfusion], and, well, I’m very happy to get it completed, because, well, you see my dad is really ill and, well, that’s him on the cover…and when I gave it to him he said that he can’t stop listening.”

You see, here’s the thing, I wrote a piece about “Why musicians do what they do” and never ever was there a whisper about becoming famous or “making it.” And here’s yet another musician who only hopes to finish a record for his pops. Man o’ man, if you ain’t crumbling into the fetal position after hearing that you’re cold, man, really cold.

Dear Shawn, you nailed it and I can hear the emotion dripping from your words and music.

So here we go.

Why you should listen:

Because you ain’t going to Austin any time soon (have seen the airfare?), but never fear, this album will take you there.

What you should listen for:

The raw, dripping emotion of Skinner’s voice. That combined with the lyrics, pure awesomeness.

What he/they sound like:

Like a storm rolling in. Powerful and intent on hitting you as hard as it can.

Favorite song:

“Don’t Play With Fire” but in truth? All of them.

Perfect listening for:

Drinking straight Jack pondering what you’re going to do with the rest of your life as your world burns. You see, even though the material here is pretty heavy, SSATMOR still infuse hope into every song – as all the best Americana does.

PS. Has Jalipaz made a deal with the dark one of recording/mixing/engineering? This is one of the best live studio recordings I’ve heard in a very long time and I was really paying attention.

The album isn’t out but I have it from the man himself the CD release will be sometime in late June. You can preorder Letting Go and Holding On here.

Additional Links for Shawn Skinner & the Men of Reason:

Facebook

Website

Why You Should Listen: Sonny Santos

sonny santos 01by Frank Ippolito
Associate Editor

And now, a story.

One day in July Mark Matos was hanging out in a thrift store in Tucson. Amidst the crappy, smelly old clothes and novelty items of a bygone era, he spotted an old boom box that he then purchased (good taste to be certain).

So, dude goes home, presses the eject button and a generic white cassette is revealed. Written in black marker on one side was: Imagine, Star Nation. Turning the tape over the name, Sonny Santos, was written in red marker.

As the legend goes, Sonny Santos had drifted in and out of the Old Pueblo in the late 90s. And the last time he was seen it was in the early ‘oughts (sitting in front of a plate of cheese tots in the now defunct restaurant, Grill, in the spring of 2003).

In the summer of 1999, a longtime music editor in Tucson had stumbled on one of Santos’ performances in a local joint, but it seemed like Santos slipped out the backstage door before he could be interviewed.

So Matos played the tape, tried to salvage as much of it as possible despite the erosion that had occurred over the span of years, and released it as an album.

Crazy, right?

The only other story that even comes close to this one is the remarkable story of Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, also known as Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who couldn’t make it as a rock star in Detroit and all but gave up music, until a bootleg cassette made it into the hands of a DJ in South Africa. That cassette made him a rock star.

Back to Sonny. One rumor floating around had him joining the Native American Church and becoming a Peyote caretaker.

Crazy, right?

OK, let’s talk about the music. It’s an absolute freaking folk gem. There are 7 tracks, one track is as short as 49 seconds which is a bit of an interview where Santos speaks about his writing process. It’s pretty damn awesome and musicians everywhere should hear it and take it to heart.

Why you should listen:

Because not only are the songs terrific – if you listen with the mystery, the legend, and the lore of Santos in your head – it makes it even more stellar.

What you should listen for:

The lesson I mentioned up there.

What he sounds like:

As if Santos was partaking in Peyote and was possessed by Nick Drake.

Perfect listening for:

Morning coffee whilst sifting through a thrift store.

My favorite:

The song, “The Wheel.” Only 2:00 but the lyrics are mesmerizing. And, once again, if you listen while thinking about the mystery surrounding this found piece of art, you can imagine this was one of the last songs before he disappeared.

Listen for yourself below. You will not be disappointed.

Why You Should Listen: Mariah McCammond

Mariah McCammondby Frank Ippolito
Associate Editor

You know, I can count on one hand how many of you have listened to avant-garde, folk, harp music. I for one, have not, until I gave Mariah McCammond’s Vaulted Heart Box a virtual spin.

And, I gotta tell ya, it’s pretty beautiful stuff. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to head bang, jive or even bob your head, even a little, but on the whole, the record is delightful.

Lyrically, it’s a tapestry of feelings and emotions. And McCammond’s vocals are haunting. But not in The Shining kind of haunting, but more like looking-up-at-the-moon-from-underwater haunting. As far as the music goes, the harp is the main instrument and she plays it wonderfully. I can’t handle 6 strings on a guitar so I can’t even imagine navigating 47…

Here we go…

Why you should listen: Because when was the last time you heard Avant-garde Folk Harp music? Hmmmm? I thought so.

What you should listen for: The lyrics. Definitely the lyrics. They are sublime. “I can plant these dreams but we both know it don’t mean a damn thing.” Love it.

What she sounds like: One day Björk and Joni Mitchell decided to have a baby and their baby daddy was a harpist.

Favorite song: “Pleione’s Waltz”

Perfect listening for: When the power is out and you’re reading Tarot cards by candlelight. Or having tea on a rainy day would be good, too.

Listen to Mariah McCammond’sVaulted Heart Box below.

 

Why You Should Listen: Bears and Airplanes

bears and airplanes 02by Frank Ippolito
Associate Editor

A Life of Color is the debut recording from Bear and Airplanes and wow, what a debut it is – they had me at a mix of jazz, rap, funk and pop.

First, the music. It’s stellar. Garrett Bowers is featured on guitars and tuba. Tuba? Wha? Pablo Bastidas serves up a great groove on drums. And Ian Graham fills in this quartet on bass and piano. The one thing you’ll instantly love is the time signatures. Changing time and keys keep the music interesting, and thankfully, because, well, sometimes this genre gets pretty stale after three or four bars.

Justin Tullis gives an outstanding vocal performance. Smooth and silky is what to expect. And the lyrics are uplifting, forward-facing and very positive (okay, they threw in a “booty” reference, but hey, who’s counting…).

Why you should listen: These cats touch on a lot of musical genres and do it very, very well.

What you should listen for: Take a listen to the words. These guys, (in the liner notes the band is credited for the lyrics), are terrific. While they stay clear from controversy, “Welcome to the Middle Class” touches on the strife inner city kids struggle with…nice job guys.

What they sound like: Like Arrested Development meets The Roots.

One more note: The last track “So Good to be Bad” is a live recording, and I’m very happy to report they sound as good as they do on the record.

Make sure to give a listen to A Life of Color by Bears and Airplanes below.

 

Why You Should Listen: Sundressed

sundressed 01by Frank Ippolito
Associate Editor

I almost feel bad writing about Sundressed and their newest release, The Same Condition, mainly because it’s because it’s like writing about my favorite Unicorn Snuggie. I mean, I love that thing and I couldn’t possibly say something bad about it.

Backstory: I’ve been on the Sundressed emo train since their first release and I’ve interviewed guitarist/vocalist Trevor Hedges and have written about them several times…anyway…my love for pop punk is well documented so I won’t go into the details of our relationship, but man, there’s just something about this band that I can’t get over.

And here’s why I can’t get over these guys. First, Hedges’ vocals. They are simply dripping with emotion. I mean, here’s a guy that has gone to hell and back, so it’s no wonder his lyrics really hit home with my former high school sophomore self who just got dumped by the girl who never spoke to him.

Like I said, been there from the beginning, and I can safely say that this is by far their most mature record to date. Which brings me to a very important notice:

Dear Sundressed,

We’ve been through a lot, and you know how much I dig your music, and I pray to the sweet baby emo Jesus that you don’t go the way of all those other pop punk bands that went all mature. Because if that happens I don’t think we can be together anymore.

Sincerely, Frank

Why you should listen: Because Pop Punk. And, quite frankly, these guys do it really really well.

What you should listen for: I think Hedges has a real gift for summoning up all his emotions and penning some really great lyrics.

What they sound like: They sound like fun. Even though their hearts are dripping blood all over their sleeves.

Perfect listening for: You just broke up over text.

My favorite part: The song, “Beck and Call”. But, alas, while I dug whole EP, but I do think pounding out that last chord on the last song was a bit much. (Uh, oh, did I just go crazy negative there?)

This just in: Hedges just dropped me a note, quite by happy accident, and he told me that him and the boys are recording 12 more new tracks, so we have that to look forward to in the coming year.

~

Listen to The Same Condition below. For more info on Sundressed, hit up their Facebook page.

Why You Should Listen: Broken Horse

broken horse01by Frank Ippolito
Associate Editor

Tell me your vibe is Psyche/Death Rock with retro Jazz/Country and you have my attention.

Alex Oropeza (guitars/vocals), “Yuma Joe” Byrnes (drums) and Bill Cuevas (bass) execute this sound, by the way, and they had my complete and utter absorption from the very first drop of the virtual needle.

To Tucsonans, I’m sure Broken Horse is very well known. They formed in 1986 and played Club Congress all the time before moving to San Francisco in 1992 according to their site. But to a Valley dweller like me, I had no idea this band existed, and that is a bloody shame.

I’m telling you, I’m not sure if vocalist Oropeza’s voice could be any smoother, any velvety-er. There’s an unstated bass, provided by Cuevas, and (the late) Byrnes’ drums are powerful when they have to be.

Can I say a little something about the lyrics? So epic. Like, Greek tragedy epic. Which is good because they would pale in comparison to the music. Which is Spaghetti Western epic.

Why you should listen: Because you won’t hear tales of death, killing, revenge and gun slinging combined with a mix of music special-ness like this.

What you should listen for: In a word: All of it. [Actually, Frank, that’s three words. -Eds.]

What they sound like: Like a Quentin Tarantino film meets The National meets a great storyteller with a big ol’ guitar and something to say.

What you should do while listening: There’s a lot of ways I could go here… (Wait what? Is that a Rhodes? Man, that was cool…first listening comment aside…)

Let’s see. You could get into your Lincoln Continental – not the ones Matthew McConaughey is schlepping – the kind with the suicide doors. A black one, preferably, and go on a road trip to Tijuana.

Or, if you’re not that adventurous, grab a bottle of Jack Daniels, a shot glass, and hole yourself up in a darkened room and get the demons outta your head.

Here’s where you can hear this gem:

Why You Should Listen: Prize Fight

prize fight 01by Frank Ippolito
Associate Editor

When I was in high school I was forced, I mean, there was an assignment to pick a city in Arizona and write an essay on it. I chose Prescott.

Music in a sec, first, a little history lesson.

Prescott is known for being the first State capital, before it was moved to Tucson, and then was relocated to Phoenix. (Tucsonians say, “stolen,” but I digress.) It’s also known to be home to one Vigil Earp, of the famed Earp brothers, and of course, its infamous “Whiskey Row,” well, I’ve heard there’s a street, lined with bars, not that I’ve ever gone from one to another drinking everything alcohol…at least I don’t remember doing that.

And apparently, Prize Fight is looking to make Prescott known for one more thing: punk rock. The trio, hailing from Prescott , and their new self-titled album just might do that.

I’m a big ol’ school punk rock fan. And after a couple of listens to Prize Fight, I’m not too sure if their sound is punk, but Josh Rezek (bass/vocals), Stephen Hernandez (drums), and Justin Ames (guitar/vocals) sure do put a lot of “punk energy” into their songs. And that’s exactly what gets them a free pass for the genre faux pas.

First off, the guys can play. Fast. Like, real fast. The musicianship is pretty spot-on, and lyrics are pretty decent. They tread on some well-traveled themes, but all in all, not bad in the least.

Why you should listen: Because if you’re a metal fan, you’re in for treat.

What you should listen for: The mixing on this album is really good. And I’ve got to say Ames has some solid guitar chops.

What they sound like: Metal.

Perfect listening for: That night when you had a crummy day at work, but instead of punching your supervisor, you thrash about in the safety of your home. You know, that way you don’t get fired.

My favorite part: In all seriousness, I can feel these cats dig what they’re doing and believe in the music. So yeah, good on them.

Check out Prize Fight by Prize Fight below.

Why You Should Listen: Elephant Weather

elephant weatherby Frank Ippolito
Associate Editor

Elephant Weather is Emilio Couchee and is based in Tempe, Arizona.

Before I begin, I want to state: I hate this album.

I mean, the only way that I could garner up any more vitriol for Odd Skies is that if Couchee records another record – because what he has here are 8 songs of absolute pop goodness, with ungodly toe-tapping melodies, and ridiculously catchy hooks.

Did I mention I hate this record?

The piano is Couchee’s instrument, I’m assuming, because it’s prominently featured on every track, (Dear, Emilio, please include more information on your social sites, thank you, Frank), and the rest of the instrumentation is crazy wonderful. I mean, I caught myself tapping my foot to “It’s Okay” the second track on the album. Damn you, Elephant Weather.

And as I get to the fourth track, “82 or 23”, I find myself really getting agitated. Starting off with a simple guitar and uke, I’m helplessly sucked in. I didn’t want to but it’s like Mulder to an alien.

Whew! Finally! A track that I’m not too keen on titled, “Mind Back”. Here the artist launches into kinda of a rap-ish sing-songy thing and it didn’t really work for me.

Thank god.

Why you should listen:

Because this album will put you into a good mood, immediately.

What you should listen for:

The lyrics – they are very well written. The melodies. Let’s just say the lot of the album

What they sound like:

Like the band Beirut, Regina Spector and The Dresden Dolls had a love child. (Relationship status: Complicated.)

My favorite part:

There’s a moment on the track, “It’s Okay,” it’s a small moment, in fact the music stops and he utters, “Okay.” For just a beat mind you, but it simply makes the song.

Listen for yourself below.