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The guys in Phoenix pop-rock band Anarbor were stoked to add more stamps to their passports.
After getting those passports before traveling to England this spring, they hopped on a plane in late May, flying to Japan for the "Beyond the Blue" tour, joining bands like Valencia and Artist vs. Poet. The slot helped the band score a cover story in a Japanese magazine.
It was pretty cool, at first. After landing, the guys ran around a bit, playing tourist for a few days before their first show in Osaka. They were, understandably, excited. When you combine those distractions with the natural feeling of invincibility that comes with youth and the triumphant feeling of playing your first show in an exotic country, then counteracting the effects of jet lag and staying hydrated doesn't seem like such a big deal.
Until you're lying on the ground in a pool of your own blood.
Just one day before they were set to take the stage, singer Slade Echeverria found drummer Greg Garrity sprawled outside a public bathroom, covered in blood and one of his teeth on the ground next to him. It was the first time Garrity had ever fainted, and it was quite a mess.
He'd broken his jaw in three places, so he spent a couple of days in a Japanese hospital, and got plates in his face and jaw. The guys decided not to use a replacement drummer and instead flew back to Arizona, canceling their spot on the tour.
At least they got their passports stamped, right?
Canceling seemed a step backward, but Anarbor needed a healthy drummer for this summer's Vans Warped Tour. After all, who wants to be big in Japan when you can be big in the United States?
Anarbor isn't the sort of band you'll hear people talking up in the dive-bar scene, but they've got a deal with Hopeless Records, a hyper-successful indie label, and they've had their music featured on SportsCenter and The Hills.
So, for the Warped Tour, the guys say they'll eat well and stay hydrated.
"I just cut all my hair off in preparation for it," says guitarist Adam Juwig of what most bands consider to be the most grueling tour of the year, because of the heat they'll deal with while playing during the day at outdoor venues. "And we're bringing a shitload of sunscreen and baby wipes."
Anarbor will be appearing on the tour's second-largest stage, the Alternative Press stage, the amphitheater stage that fans flock to for shade.
If you didn't know Anarbor was on the lineup, you'd think the members were just some college kids checking out the show. They profess an unpretentious attitude and forgo gimmicky stagewear. And they treat fans as friends, usually holding extensive meet-and-greets after their performances.
Just a couple of weeks ago, two of the members let the world know via Twitter that they were helping their moms paint their homes. That's not surprising, considering that the band members, who got together in 2003 while they were in junior high school, are so close with their families. (Their parents usually host family get-togethers for the guys before every tour.) While some of their peer bands have aimed for fame above all else, Anarbor have managed to stay grounded — even though their talent landed them a record deal with Hopeless Records while they were still in high school and they now tour year-round.
"We're not trying to put on this act that we're different people," says guitarist Mike Kitlas. "We're not here to lie to our fans. We're here to tell everybody to be your-fuckingself."
And when they perform, it's evident the pop-rock band stands out because of the songs' catchy melodies and ability to avoid the generalities of themes such as heartbreak and partying. Instead, Anarbor's tracks are thoughtful vignettes that give a glimpse into what the guys have gone through individually and collectively.
"We didn't hold anything back," Garrity says of their current album, The Words You Don't Swallow. "We said everything we wanted to say."
And that means Arizona is featured heavily in the band's music. There's a song called "Carefree Highway," an homage to the road the band often takes when driving back into the Valley after tours. And the members managed to take a dig at good ol' Sheriff Joe Arpaio in "Drugstore Diet," in which Echeverria sings, "No fear in dilated eyes / Sheriff Joe, where's my DUI?" Other songs touch on poisonous lovers ("Gypsy Woman"), getting harassed by police ("Going to Jail"), and trying to make their parents proud despite the temptations of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle ("Useless").
No matter where their musical careers take them, though, the guys have no plans on moving on to New York or Los Angeles: They say they'll always stay loyal to Arizona.
"This is where we all met. This is where all our friends are. This is where our families are," Kitlas says. "Arizona's going to be all over our lyrics."
Maybe their experience in Japan will make it onto a future track, too.
Other Arizona bands on the Warped Tour