Under The Radar Bands Coming
To Phoenix In September
The September Music Lineup In The Valley Is Highlighted By Standouts Like Seattle’s Sleeping Lessons And The Throwback Sounds Of Cigarettes After Sex
Editor’s note on Undiscovered Sounds: Every so often, Modern Times Magazine talks to bands or other musical performers who have yet to hit the jackpot both in the Phoenix metro and beyond. For some of those featured, it may be the first time they have been interviewed. Others may have been working for years for their ship to come in. But all of them have the dream. They may make Undiscovered Sounds, but their sounds are not unworthy.
By Mandi Kimes
Modern Times Magazine
Sept. 14, 2017 — The Phoenix music scene —which has welcomed a slew of venues in recent years like Rebel Lounge and Crescent Ballroom—added a new name to the mix when The Van Buren opened its doors in August. The venue, located in the historic Phoenix Motor Co. building in downtown Phoenix, kicked things off with a Cold War Kids show on August 23.
The medium-sized venue’s calendar over the next few months is a mish mash of big names and lesser-known acts from around the country. Charly Bliss, our first callout in this month’s lineup, will support indie pop legends Death Cab For Cutie when they visit the Van Buren early in the month.
If it’s true that listening to just the right record at just the right moment can psychically transport you to some other time and place, then Charly Bliss, a New York City band responsible for having crafted some of the finest guitar-crunched power pop this side of an old Weezer record with a blue cover, can pretty much turn any space into an adult-friendly version of your old teenage bedroom, a candy-scented safe space for extreme fits of happiness and angsty teen-level explosions of romantic ennui.
Though Charly Bliss has been a band for over half a decade, the path that led to its first full-length record Guppy has been anything but straightforward. After spending years playing shows in and around New York City, the band eventually released an EP (2014’s Soft Serve) and scored opening gigs for the likes of Glass Animals, Darwin Deez, Tokyo Police Club, Sleater-Kinney, as well as a touring spot for its own musical forebears, Veruca Salt. Even though the band had amassed a sizable fanbase and a reputation as a truly formidable live act, the goal of making a full-length record proved to be a fraught series of false-starts. Given their propensity for making hooky, ebullient pop songs, the band often felt out of step with what was happening around them in Brooklyn.
They eventually set about recording an album on their own—and then recording it twice—before figuring out what had been staring them in the face the entire time. The 10 tracks that make up Guppy show the band embracing all of its strengths—a combination of ripping guitars and irrepressible pop hooks, all delivered with the hyper-enthusiasm of a middle school cafeteria food fight. That every track is loaded front-to-back with sing/shout-worthy lyrics and earworm melodies is a testament to the band’s commitment to the art form of pop songwriting. Catch Charly Bliss opening for Death Cab for Cutie on Friday, September 8 at The Van Buren, 401 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix.
Sleeping Lessons is the latest Seattle indie-rock band on the block made up of Charlie Deane, Paul Kowalczyk, Dan Moretti, and Terence Bonsey. The collective resume of Deane, Kowalczyk, Moretti, and Bonsey precedes them, as they have played in a variety of projects ranging from international b-boy sensation Don’t Talk To The Cops, Seattle surf staples The Echo Echo Echoes, and backing the indie-folk prodigy Sophia Duccini. While Bonsey was championing basslines to breakdancing competitions around the world; Deane, Moretti and Kowalczyk were busy sharing bills with artists such as Car Seat Headrest, Washed Out, Deep Sea Diver, Diet Cig, STRFKR, and Odesza.
In less than a year since its debut on Seattle’s famed Big BLDG Bash Festival main stage, Sleeping Lessons has started to create some serious momentum for themselves across the world with its self-produced debut album Red Sprites. Already the band has had support from influential radio stations worldwide such as Seattle’s KEXP, Boston’s WEMF, and Paris’ RKC. Things keep going from strength to strength for the young Seattle band, which returned from its second west coast tour and played a slew of the Pacific Northwest’s most exclusive bills including Capitol Hill Block Party, Fisherman’s Village Music Festival, and Freakout Fest. With two west coast tours under its belt and more on the horizon, the future looks bright for Sleeping Lessons. Catch the band at Rebel Lounge, 2303 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, with fellow Seattlites Iska Dhaaf and Phoenix locals Pro Teens, Red Tank, and Elna Rae on Thursday, September 14.
Cigarettes After Sex
Cigarettes After Sex frontman Greg Gonzalez had a clear vision for his band's debut album, a gorgeously cinematic work. After the phenomenal online break-out success of "Nothing's Gonna Hurt You Baby" from the early EP I.
The self-titled Cigarettes After Sex unspools like the most achingly romantic of movies: immersive, cohesive and transporting. Swooning in the spirit of influences such as Mazzy Star and Red House Painters, its sumptuous songs of love elevate Cigarettes to the ranks of those acts who create worlds of their own, exciting the most devoted kind of following – for Gonzalez, The Smiths were a reference point. If the result is the spirit of pop-noir romanticism distilled, it’s also grand pay-off for Gonzalez’s band’s slow-burn gestation.
Although Cigarettes seemed to spark into life over one breakthrough weekend in 2015, Gonzalez ignited the project in 2008. Early iterations nodded to 1980s-vintage New Order, Erasure, and Madonna, before Gonzalez harkened back to darker influences such as Joy Division for a band makeover. Meanwhile, an amorphous band line-up began to solidify as keyboardist Phillip Tubbs became more of a permanent member. To mirror his woozy romanticism in music, Gonzalez rejected conventional studio routes for his band, which numbers Randy Miller on bass, Jacob Tomsky on drums and Tubbs on keyboards. Taking influence from The Cowboy Junkies’ The Trinity Session (recorded in a church, single microphone), Cigarettes recorded most of the album in three days at its rehearsal space in Bushwick. Like the best movie, Cigarettes After Sex holds you in a hell of a spell. Don’t miss the thrill and haunting romance of Cigarettes After Sex at Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. 2nd Ave., Phoenix, on Saturday, September 16.
The Stone Foxes
San Francisco’s The Stone Foxes, spearheaded by brothers Shannon Koehler and Spence Koehler, has remained dedicated to keeping rock engaged and succulently alive since its 2008 debut. It bears the torch of its predecessors with the knowledge that rock n’ roll can move a new generation. The band has played in front of thousands at festivals like Outside Lands and Voodoo Fest, headlined the legendary Fillmore Theater in its hometown, and supported acts like The Black Keys, Cage the Elephant, and ZZ Top.
With the release of 2015’s Twelve Spells, they have solidified a place in its city's rich rock 'n roll history. The Stone Foxes invoke the audience with their commanding stage presence, sometimes even by jumping down into the crowd if the mood strikes. Fans know they are in for something action-packed and they light a fire in the band, just as the band spreads fire back into them. Guitarists digging in, lead vocals changing between two unique voices with impassioned nuance, and keyboard and organ sounds fill the space with smoke and burning embers. There are crunchy drum tones, wailing harmonica draws and violin cries that can silence even the most raucous of rooms.
But this is not a sit-down-and-watch kind of event. Like Elvis once said about rock n roll, “If you feel it, you can’t help but move to it.” The Stone Foxes' live show brandishes this kind of dynamic passion on stage. It's impossible not to feel it, so don’t miss it at Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. 2nd Ave., Phoenix. on Sunday, September 17 with support from Thee Commons and Wyves.
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