By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
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Authority Zero just finished a lengthy European tour, but no amount of international success would make them leave the Valley behind. The boys from Mesa now find themselves back home preparing for the Summer Sickness Tour to promote their fifth album, The Tipping Point.
Not that Europe wasn't great. "We had a really good time. We didn't know what to expect as far as people knowing the band," says singer Jason DeVore, "but we had a good turnout and kids were going ape-shit." Now, the band finally is back in the United States, settling down after a six-week tour that took them from Russia to Spain, Greece, France, and the UK.
But however far Authority Zero's sound reaches, it always emanates from the local community, which spawned their unique blend of ska and punk rock nearly 20 years ago. The band knows how important it is to give back, and it spends as much time as it can doing it, mostly by promoting the next generation of aspiring musicians.
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"It's a matter of going out and trying to support local bands and the music scene, in general. When we're not on tour, we always try to support something [like that]. It's about local shops and buying local and keeping it all local."
For years, the members of Authority Zero have spent much of their free time showing their love for Phoenix. The band sponsors welcome-home events after extended tours, as well as album-release parties for fans to attend. Authority Zero's devotion to its local fanbase is a small but important part of the band's allure. Before and after shows, members of the band can be found mingling with their audience at the bar or thanking everybody who stops by the merchandise table.
The punk scene in the Valley has seen its share of ups and downs since well before Authority Zero was founded at Mesa's Westwood High in 1994. Shifting demographics have always made the Phoenix area a volatile mix of natives and ever-expanding groups of transplants who bring with them a broad scope of musical influences. Isolated in the desert, local bands somehow continue to thrive and tap any available resource, including each other. Authority Zero has been at the front of this rollercoaster for a long time, knowing that the key to success and a long career lies in the connections like-minded musicians can make with each other.
"[Phoenix] is a melting pot of different styles of music," DeVore says. "Back when we were first starting out, bands were working together and helping each other out, trying to create a scene and not be every band for themselves. I feel like that went away for a little bit.
"With us taking off [to go on tour], we missed some of the transition, but what I have seen of late is bands starting to work together again and being there for each other, which I think is great. [They're] collaborating with each other and trying to pull it all together to create a scene again."
The local scene has also been derided, at times, for its fans' perceived lack of energy, but DeVore says Authority Zero finds some of its loudest crowds here. Of course, it helps being the epitome of a successful Arizona band. The appreciation the group shows for its fans is returned tenfold once it takes the stage and the audience crams together to shout every lyric. Authority Zero always has drawn influence from the local music scene, and five albums and two decades into the band's existence, it's found the opportunity to spread that sound abroad.
The Summer Sickness Tour will be Authority Zero's first stab at promoting its new album within the United States. Mixing East and West Coast styles of music, Authority Zero will be performing with BALLYHOO! and label-mates Versus the World this summer. All three bands have known each other for years, and Authority Zero is excited to headline the show and its variety of musical aesthetics.
"They have their fanbase and we have ours, and it's really good helping each other out as far as getting more kids out [to the shows]. I think, all-around, it is going to be complementary because there are so many styles of music from the reggae, the rock and the punk stuff."
Authority Zero was experimenting from the beginning. While paying homage to its punk rock predecessors, the band forged an original sound all its own with a combination of unique beats and catchy lyrics that have stuck with fans ever since. Today, the band is as confident as ever in where its career is and where it's heading.
"[The Tipping Point] shows the band's progression and its current state," DeVore says.
It will satisfy Authority Zero fans, and DeVore is proud to say as much: He would recommend The Tipping Point as a first stop for anyone who's new to the band.
"I feel great about it, and I'm really excited about it. [Even] overseas, it was really cool seeing kids singing the new stuff already."
It hasn't come as easily as most musicians would prefer, however. Authority Zero has seen multiple lineup changes. DeVore acknowledges former band members' need to take care of responsibilities and families as a reason for their departures, and he still supports them in their endeavors.
"The people who come in are typically ones who are extremely excited about music as well, and a lot of the time, [we] know people before they join the group, so you already have that connection. This has been a wild transition year with people coming and going, but we have good people who came in to play, so it's made it easy to adapt."
One of the first stops on the Summer Sickness Tour will be the Marquee Theatre in Tempe, and the band could not be more pleased. The energy and enthusiasm within Authority Zero is at an all-time high with The Tipping Point, and the band plans on bringing excitement to its fans with a revamped set list that integrates the newest material.
"We have incorporated a good deal of new songs into [the show]. We are trying to push a lot of the new album as well as get people excited about it, because we are excited about it. We're hoping to see that at the shows."
They plan to play plenty of classic tracks as well, spanning their entire discography, to appease longtime fans. After a detour across the Atlantic Ocean, Authority Zero is ready for the Copper State yet again.
"Arizona," DeVore says, "always brings it home pretty hard."