By Vanessa Joy
The current state of punk rock is debatable. Are you from the camp that fully believes punk has positively passed away? A punk rock elitist who thinks just the good punk has? A punk pragmatist who knows that the genre will thrive as long as there is an establishment to oppose? Sidebar: This conversation is so not punk rock. No matter your thoughts on the current state of affairs, the Arizona scene is a honeypot of memorable punk rock acts and we caught up with of one the more sound-fluid bands of the genre. You’ve probably seen their sticker in an oddly conspicuous location around town. If bands were bars, these guys would be that rowdy dive where you can also go to “escape it all”. You know the one–it’s open on Christmas. Meet Burgandy Jurk.
The band, which is currently sans drummer, is comprised of lead singer, guitarist and founding member, Mike Kurtz, bassist Casey Kendel, and Ian Perry on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. “The original lineup, we were all just a bunch of dumb kids who had no idea what we were doing…” says Kurtz. “[Now we’re] dumb adults,” quips Kendel. Originally formed in ’94 by a then 17-year-old Kurtz, Burgandy Jurk has survived many manifestations since moving from Pennsylvania to the Valley. “I’ve been lucky that every incarnation it’s always been people with massive amounts of talent,” notes Kurtz. Since adding Perry and, most recently, Kendel, there’s been a newfound camaraderie amongst the guys that is quite apparent in their music and live performances. Kurtz’s vocals have been the constant element keeping this band on stages. He’s gathered influences from multiple rock sub-genres, and is able to effortlessly swing the pendulum between each. His voice possesses the quality of being both nostalgic, yet modern. Kurtz, essentially,has been in Burgandy Jurk for the better part of his existence. He’s deeply entrenched in his own brainchild, and it’s that kind of unwavering commitment to a band that enables the creation of music that’s worthwhile for listeners.
Perry aka Mr. Dr. Ian, the self-proclaimed “asshole” of the outfit, has proven to be quite the utility man for the band. As well as complementing both Kurtz and Kendel’s alternative and skate-punk sensibilities, respectively, with his inherent metal edge and being a talented singer/songwriter in his own right, he is also their de facto promotional/booking department. “Actually, we get put on a lot of metal shows. More so than pop-punk shows or punk shows in general. We get stuck with a lot of metal bands mostly because I like metal, and I just want to be there for the rest of the bands,” he divulges. Meanwhile, Kendel is your quintessential, Epitaph Records-lovin’ Southern California skate punk fan. Shaped by bands like Pennywise, the laid-back, savvy bassist is also adept on the bagpipes(yes, bagpipes!).
The guys of Burgandy Jurk are able to seamlessly walk the blurred lines between punk, alternative and metal. They refuse to be typecast as just a “punk band”, and rightfully so. “We’re more just any kind of music that’s angry and aggressive,” states Kurtz. While anger and aggression might be driving the band’s sound, their campy, facetious stage presence draws us in and it is that duality that’s intriguing. On stage, Burgandy Jurk casts polarizing figures in tattered bathrobes. Some might say it’s gimmicky, but the thing is–they’re in on the joke. We at Azmusic.org are ecstatic to see the boys of Burgandy Jurk bring rebellious, irreverent fun back into modern punk.
PHOSPHENES: PURVEYORS OF THE TEMPE SOUND
By Vanessa Joy
The early ’90s ushered in what we now know as the “Tempe Sound”. Any musician and fan alike was proud to be a part of the scene that major labels began to hail as “the new Seattle”. An intangible groove flowed down Mill Avenue where the college set, local scenesters and an array of other colorful characters congregated at the rock clubs that anchored the city’s musical mile. It was places like Edsel’s Attic, Gibson’s, Hayden Square and Balboa Cafe, among others ,that provided a home away from home to the live music crowd of the time. But, it was the closing of storied venue Long Wongs in April of 2004 that indicated the end of an era. These venues gave a ripe audience to bands such as the Gin Blossoms, Dead Hot Workshop, The Refreshments, The Meat Puppets, and Phosphenes. Like flannels and Doc Martens, Phosphenes are back to rock a whole new generation of Tempeans.
“Are you calling us seasoned?!” David Lawitz jokes indignantly. He’s the lead guitarist, backing vocalist and resident funnyman of the band. The quick-witted David, with even quicker fingers manipulating over frets, is truly mesmerizing to behold when he’s making his guitar bleed. The classically-trained Arizona State University alum is a rhythmic fireball of energy, and live music fans would be doing themselves a disservice not to catch this boisterous force in action on stage. David, along with older brother Bernie Lawitz–the band’s drummer–,founded the group in ’91, and soon after found a kindred spirit in lead singer/guitarist Jim Wiskerchen. After numerous changes in the band’s personnel over the years, Phosphenes are now the tight foursome we know today with the addition of steadfast, talented bassist Bill Harrison last year (whom the others lovingly refer to as “the glue”). In ’93, the band released their buzzworthy full-length album Peace and Open Minds. With this, their magnum opus,they drenched local stages with a sound that was more Tempe than underage drinking and Sparky. Says David, “Everytime we play [these songs] it’s kinda like the first time we’re playing it. It’s gotta have that type of emotion,” he adds. “David and I were the primary writers from the get-go…a lot of our influences–musically–was what was driving us,” says Wiskerchen. “[’90s] bands like R.E.M were a big influence on me and my writing.” Adds David, “[Jim was] able to really pick up on the sound of the times. That was always his gift.” Wiskerchen, the youngest of the group, showcases the uncanny ability to project any sound, and excite any emotion into Phosphenes’ tracks. There are points in their live performances where you can almost swear you’re watching a different band, yet they remain effortlessly cohesive. Wiskerchen grew-up in a musical family (his mother was an opera singer), and one of the benefits of fostering his vocal talents at such a tender age is that he hasn’t even begun to peak. “[My voice] has actually gotten better over the years,” he notes. Wiskerchen’s rich vocal cadence is a major stand-out amongst his scene counterparts, but his first love? “I’m still addicted to writing.”
The Lawitz brothers,while originally from Hauppauge,New York, are your quintessential Valley boys. “I grew up in Scottsdale, hungout in Tempe, now live in Tempe,” says Bernie. “Mill Avenue was amazing in the ’90s. The music scene was much better for rock bands. You go down [Mill Avenue] now and you have DJs going and house music. It’s just completely different. Going down [Mill Avenue] back then, every bar had a live band. You could see 10 bands in one night. You had Edsel’s Attic, you had Chuy’s, you had all these other clubs. It was great. It was just like Austin is now. It’s terrible what’s happened,” he expresses. “Mill Avenue will never be the same…” Wiskerchen adds, “corporate America took over.”
With an ever-changing music scene in the Valley, Phosphenes have remained a constant. “I’ve always loved the Phosphenes,” says Rob Tasso the former owner of Edsel’s Attic. “They’re one of my favorite bands.” Tasso, who currently owns and operates the popular Tempe Tavern, has kept the band as a fixture on his stages since he was a 21-year-old kid running Edsel’s. He’s not one to mince words, so the compliment is a bonafide endorsement. However, one change that has become apparent is the band’s sound evolution. While inherently not abandoning the magic that helped them define the “Tempe Sound”, they are able to deftly oscillate between influences from Pink Floyd to twenty-one pilots. This band is definitely not “set in their ways” so to speak. To keep a firm grip on such staying power, Phosphenes have had to overcome many hurdles to remain relevant. The hardest of all: “life,” Bernie emphatically states. “Marriage, kids, divorce, but we’re all good friends…” It’s that bond between this band, a meeting of the minds, that has kept them resilient in the face of inevitable adversities that all too many bands have succumbed to. Bernie, in addition to being a powerhouse percussionist, has also taken over the Lawitz family business of Beads Galore located at Priest Drive and Southern Avenue in Tempe. The store is a Mecca for jewelry makers, craftspeople and bead enthusiasts. “We started in my parents’ garage with $126 worth of beads to a store with over 6,000-square-feet full of beads,” Bernie exclaims. Even with the pressures of their daily grinds, Phosphenes is the bandmates’ common infatuation. “We do this because we love it,” states Bernie. The best advice he can give to up-and-coming bands following on the path that they have paved? “Compromise…for each individual person…as the whole band.”
In their own right, Phosphenes is still an up-and-coming band simply because, unlike a lot of bands from their era, they have not stagnated. their musical ebb and flow is undeniably thrilling for any fan of live music. Change is the only constant, and this band is perpetually evolving with the times. We at Azmusic.org were lucky enough to get a sneak peek at some of their upcoming material; Tempe hasn’t heard the last from this timeless band. You can catch them Friday April 8 at Tempe Tavern, and at our next event Country’s Crazy Passover Party also at Tempe Tavern April 22.
BY VANESSA JOY
We music-hounds here at Azmusic.org got to sit down with the guys of Interfate recently. Nowhere near an overnight success, Interfate is an Arizona group that we’re all too pleased to follow as their popularity rises quicker than the outside temps. We got the pleasure of delving into exactly who this band is and their plans for future clout . We might as well–they’re here to stay.
Fronted by Jordan Sanchez, a soft-spoken character with smoldering eyes who wields a big vocal “stick”, Interfate has seen a surge in interest over the past year. It’s mainly due to their enthralling hard rock anthem “Fear” released in 2015. The track showcases the band’s plentiful musical layers and perked up the ears of fans, colleagues and onlookers alike. When asked why he thinks Interfate has garnered such relevance in the scene as of late Sanchez replies, “I think we’ve just been fortunate enough to be booking these awesome shows and getting our music out there–slowly and surely.” Hopefully, you made it out to the band’s inaugural Livewire performance in Scottsdale last Sunday. They provided the opening entertainment, and gained a flood of new fans for themselves, for heavy metal supergroup Hellyeah. They’ve also provided local support for the likes of: Nonpoint, Taproot, Smile Empty Soul, Static X, Boy Hits Car and In This Moment to name a limited few. We all know the protocol for getting your band heard: promote, gig and fucking rock. These guys seem to have received the memo.
Like an incredible lover, Interfate takes you on an emotive roller coaster of visceral feelings that are lovely to feel and yet hard to reconcile when it ends. They wrap you in a flannel of melodic hardcore, whilst kissing you in the morning and just walking away–they leave us wanting more. “[We shoot for] a modern sound,” says Sanchez. Drummer, Charles Kendall adds, “I think we’re between Breaking Benjamin and Seether. [Our style] keeps changing. Our new stuff is way different…well, not too different,” he assures. With undeniable grunge roots as well, these Phoenix ingenues have grown up in the scene, and are now the men we hear on tracks such as “Tremble”. “We just released “Tremble” about two months ago–it’s a little more laid back,” states Sanchez.
Something that seems to be rare in the AZ music scene, is witnessing a band give another their due. But, the guys in Interfate know exactly what kind of gifts they possess musically/vocally, and their love for the scene is free-flowing and refreshing–these guys are true musicians. “We’ve played a lot of shows in California, and it’s a whole different attitude,” says Kendall. “The bands there actually like each other. They work with each other and bring each other’s crowds together.” “Their fans are there to see other bands…not just their band and leave, which I feel happens a lot [in Arizona],” adds Sanchez. When asked which of their contemporaries they enjoy seeing as fans, the band replies in unison, “Bear Ghost!” Ethan 103, Frequis, Nomada and Tome all received honorable mention from the guys.
In addition to seeing these guys at the regular haunts(i.e. Joe’s Grotto, Marquee and a myriad of Tempe/Scottsdale venues) you might be lucky enough to catch them making ear holes wet just for fun with their side project, The Grunge Sponges, at Devil’s Advocate on Tuesday nights during open mic. “Just [something] to keep ourselves busy,” says Sanchez. With the assist from cocksure bassist Ty Koile and the restorative rhythm guitar from band newbie Carl Martinez, we’re certain “them Interfate boys” will be very busy in the coming days. Escape the heat this weekend, and catch the band this Friday at The Drunken Lass Irish Pub in Prescott, Arizona.
Recently I was approached by Paul Levesque to do a review of his band Light Speed Go’s Sophomore EP “Just a Memory”.I don’t consider myself much of a writer but, I have known Paul for going on 5 years now and of course I am happy to get a sneak peek of an album before anyone else, especially this one.
This 6 song EP is something I have enjoyed listening to. I have had it on a loop for hours, not just to do this review but because it is a damn good album and very well rounded. Its quite the emotional roller coaster in the 6 songs that are on the EP but, Its an awesome ride.
The first track titled “Go” empowers a feeling we can all relate to. The feeling of knowing that your significant other is on their way out. Knowing that its just a matter of leaving that you feel just needs to be done. Realizing you’re different and never really had anything in common to begin with. “Lately I just want to see you go”.
“Go” builds up nicely into “Get Away”. Another all too familiar feeling for a lot of us. The feeling of being stuck and wanting to get away.
In “Last Flight” they really show not just their Punk roots but their definite Punk Rock Chops.
As we fade into “Not You” the story continues with the rich emotional journey we have been on all along. About becoming the man your father never was or could be.
As it plays along, the melody continues, you grove along right into the title track “Just a Memory”. Its another feeling we have all had, especially listening to punk music. Its a great hate love song. Its a middle finger that screams “I love you, bitch”.
To wrap up the 6 track EP is an amazing acoustic punk ballad titled ” Runaway”. Finding that one girl at the show with the same patches on her vest and smokes the same cigarettes you do. Hoping and wishing she thinks about you as much as you think about her. She is the first thing you think about when you wake up. The last thing you think about before you go to bed. The girl you would do anything for.
To wrap up this review, I have to say it has to be one of the best local punk albums I have heard in a long time. I couldn’t be a bigger fan of Light Speed Go then at this moment.If I didn’t already have this album I would buy it. Twice. So, hit up the band or Go to a show and grab your copy of “Just a Memory”!!
They have an upcoming show on Feb 26th at Rebel Lounge (Fire Marshall Permitting). If you don’t go see them there you can always check them out on…
Add them to your playlist on
ARIZONA’S GOLDEN BOYS: AMERICAN STANDARDS
By Vanessa Joy
We at Azmusic.org recently caught up with the jovial young lads of American Standards–the most famous band in the Valley you’ve probably never heard of. These guys are the band your cooler, younger brother told you about, but you take all the credit for when introducing this four-piece to friends. Sitting down with the members(excluding guitarist and recognized heart of the band, Corey Skowronski), they answered some unadulterated questions like why Tempe venues smell so distinctly weird.
Frontman and founding member, Brandon Kellum is a lethal combination. Possessing the oxymoronic state of being a well-heeled West Phoenix kid with chiseled good looks, who happens to wail like a chained banshee and produce the kind of guttural screams that most “scene” girls’ panties drop for–I introduce you to the Patrick Bateman of the modern hardcore-punk sound. He’s quick to crack a beer and flashes a disarming smile. With consummate vitality, Kellum explains the band’s goal,”It’s not how we can go heavier and heavier, but how we can go in every direction more”. An American Standards album is a musically all-encompassing one: hardcore,melodic,experimental, which is made apparent on their most recent effort, Hungry Hands. But, all the while, never forgetting the punk rock ties that bind. Since the inception of the band–a nod to the ubiquitous porcelain throne brand–the seemingly well-mannered boys have made their not-so-polite display of power in Arizona’s music scene by showcasing a superlative brand of thrash, metal, punk and–for lack of a better word–screamo that appeals to all hardcore tastes alike. They quickly gained a following that went from cult to devout with their DIY punk ethic. Brooklyn-born bassist, Steven Mandell who joined the band two years ago muses, “When they first started, they really had the raw punk rock feel to them. Really thrashy…” Formerly of AZ local band Ape Kill Ape, Mandell is much more than a bass-slappin’ rhythm keeper. He has a certain ear that allows him to meld effortlessly with the other members to create an oddly perfect union. But as time progressed and the band’s personnel changed, so did the direction of the sound–with awesome results.
Mitch Hosier is the unassuming one in the backwards baseball cap with the bill curled like Dennis the Menace. He’s thoughtful. He chooses his words carefully. he declines a beer for a bottled water. There’s a thousand guys that look like Hosier, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one that plays drums like him. The newest addition to the band, Hosier is the punk anchor of the outfit with his incomparable percussive speed. While the band is able to explore creatively, it’s Hosier’s drumming that keeps them in the punk section of iTunes and Spotify. Even though his adolescent musical tastes began with nu-metal and such, he was–thankfully–introduced to punk for our sakes. “[My dad] had an Offspring album, so I got really into punk music…that fast punk kinda stuff…,” says Hosier. Feeling old yet?
With an unequivocal sound and a highly-marketable look, it was only a matter of time before major labels started seeking out the desert-bred act. Enter Victory Records. The Chicago-based, controversy-plauged label has included on their roster such acts as: A Day to Remember, Streetlight Manifesto and Hawthorne Heights. All of which have filed lawsuits against the label for reasons ranging from breach of contract to fraud. The guys inked a deal with We Are Triumphant, Victory Records’ Boston-based distribution partner. “Having our name attached to a larger label [helped],” says Kellum. “But, the actual work behind [the band] was all us. When it came to booking tours, recording…all the money and time that goes into all that–it was all us.” After cutting ties with the label in 2013, the band released the five song EP The Death of Rhythm and Blues, which has been highly-regarded as a major creative turning point for American Standards.
If you’ve ever caught an American Standards show, you’re seeing one that the guys themselves would attend as fans. “We only want to play shows people want to come see,” says Kellum. They’re not playing on a bill that consists of bands that they wouldn’t personally listen to and rally for. It’s that same discretion that has made them a sought-after act. Not only in the Valley, but nationally as well. A lot of bands fall into the all too comfortable rut of playing the same shows, at the same venues, with the same bands and the same people in attendance–an easy way to become stale and shorten your popularity’s shelf-life. American Standards found that out a long time ago, and it’s paying off. They opened up for Atreyu in Tucson last month, and their response? “That was pretty cool for us…” A cool, calm and collected reaction that can only come from a band who’s played with the likes of GWAR, Sick of it All, Norma Jean and Danzig. These hometown boys are making good and you can’t expect to see them on the local circuit without keeping your ear to the street, which makes their charismatic sound that much more alluring. Some in the local scene feel that there are certain bands or individuals holding other acts back by sheer networking muscle, but these guys have avoided the dramatics of a merciless Valley music community. Conspiracy theories aside, American Standards has shown so much love to the stages that nurtured their beginnings and ran up formidable bar tabs at some of our favorite venues. “I really like the Underground,” says Hosier–The Nile, for all of you neophytes, has gained a bigger draw with their newly acquired liquor license. Tempe Tavern, Yucca Tap Room and Joe’s Grotto also received honorable mention from the band. You can also witness this hardcore act at your local perk place. They recently played Gurley Street Coffee in Prescott and the boys enjoy Tempe’s 51 West. “It doesn’t quite smell like farts yet,” Kellum states matter-of-factly. The one thing that can’t be masked by the smell of fresh-brewed java is the inevitable trajectory of this substantial band. No one can accuse these guys of being an overnight success, but we at Azmusic.org are ecstatic to see where the coming days take these critical Arizona darlings.