Ironic Youth

A Canadian lass once wrote a song that millions starving for a catchy melody thought was solid gold. But mostly, her ode to occasions she thought were ironic was really a tune about things that just kinda suck, plain and simple.

So how's this for irony? An artsy rock trio, made up of high school buds who've been playing together for nearly 10 years, finally gets around to releasing its first CD with one helluva shindig -- and then officially parts ways the same night.

Ah, yes, we have a winner.

And it isn't lost on Kortland Hetzel, vocalist and guitarist for Tempe's A Soft Heart Break Beat.

"Yeah, we sorta planned it that way," Hetzel, 23, says with a tinge of sarcasm. "Actually, in hindsight, it really makes the CD itself even more appropriate."

On Saturday, March 26, Hetzel, bassist Michael Dunford, and drummer Sean Meltzer bid adieu to their band, their fans and one another with A Soft Heart Break Beat CD Release Festival/Last Show Eva', where concertgoers can see nine bands all in one place -- at Neckbeards in Tempe -- and get a copy of ASHBB's first and, apparently, last CD, From: Posture, With Love.

The album itself, according to Hetzel, is "about coming to the end," he says, part homage to the trio's first incarnation, called Posture, when all three were still attending Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee, and part farewell to three friends' collective genius -- mixing heavy power chords and subtle melodies with Meltzer's spot-on, off-rhythm skins and Hetzel's impassioned vocals. A sound, Hetzel says, that has run its course.

"I'm probably our biggest fan," he says, "so [the breakup] depresses me the most.

"But I think we're just pretty much sick of each other. And I'm sure Mike and Sean are sick of me."

Blame it, partially, on the tight living quarters of their home in Tempe, where Hetzel and Dunford have shared a cramped bedroom for more than three years, and their living room doubles as a cluttered rehearsal space.

But that's certainly not cause for a breakup, right? There has to be more to it. Did anyone drink straight from the milk carton? How much was the pay-per-view bill last month? Who was player-hatin'?

"No, it wasn't any of that," Hetzel says, grinning. "It's really not anything superficial."

Rather, he says, it's his own cabin fever. For years, Hetzel's been telling friends he'd be leaving the Valley for a city with "an actual scene." "I've done plenty of bitching about the lack of one here," he admits. Just a couple of months ago, Hetzel found what he was looking for after a trip to Chicago, home of Hum, Slint, Smashing Pumpkins, and 90 Day Men, his "primary influences."

"Sometimes I hate me for doing this," he says, "but when I went to Chicago, I felt something different there. I was inspired by the history, the culture. You could feel it and smell it."

So, a few days after the CD release show -- which includes The Necronauts, Ember Coast, Wax Vultures, Tucson's Camp Courageous, and Dunford's and Meltzer's now-primary bands Batter the Drag and The Ticklers, respectively -- Hetzel will load up his two-door Honda Accord and head north on a very lonesome highway.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

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Joe Watson