Obituaries

Friends and Fellow Musicians Remember the Late Andy Chaves of Katastro

The members of Katastro, with Chaves on far right.
The members of Katastro, with Chaves on far right. Chris Colclasure
On May 12, Andy Chaves of Tempe reggae-rock Katastro band died in a car accident. (Chaves, 32, was one of three deaths during the incident on the Pacific Coast Highway near Newport Beach, California, alongside Crystal M. McCallum and Wayne Walter Swanson Jr.) Even before the band confirmed the news via Instagram early Friday, fans and fellow musicians began posting various online eulogies and tributes to Chaves.

Each message provided keen insight into this hugely charismatic musician. Since the band's formation in 2007, Chaves (alongside drummer Andrew Stravers, guitarist Tanner Riccio, and bassist Ryan Weddle) have helped pioneer the local reggae scene, even bringing a national spotlight to Arizona at large. The band's profile look to grow even further, as they were slated to hit the road this summer alongside Iration and Atmosphere in continued support of 2021's Sucker.

In honor of Chaves, we asked several fans and local musicians to share their fondest memories of Chaves as both a person and performer. It's an attempt to celebrate the legacy of a pure entertainer who helped display the sheer depth and sense of unity that's central to Arizona's robust rock scene.

These interviews have been edited for space and clarity.

Brad "Beef Vegan" Pfirrman, Former KWSS Host

Katastro was one of the very first bands that we ever did an event with. Watching them evolve into the real deal and grow their fanbase was a tremendous pleasure. Having Andy pass away suddenly when you knew they were about to accomplish so much more is devastating.

Andy was one of those rare talents who checked all the boxes. He was an artist, a poet, and a showman with undeniable charisma. He kept constantly evolving throughout his career. When I first heard them, he sounded like a mixture between The Beastie Boys and 311. He grew to be an amazing singer and arranged beautiful melodies and rhyme schemes that were beyond comparison. In short, he was an original, a rock star, and a true artist.

Offstage, he was kind, funny, and everyone’s friend without coming off as fake. This is a loss I feel on so many levels. For his fans, his family, and his band of brothers who together went all in and accomplished so much together.

Johnny Groove, The Irie

I'm 31 now and I started [playing music] when I was 18. My old band played shows [with Katastro], and Andy even played on some of our songs. So our friendship was built from there, hanging out and going to parties and shows. We've been friends for a long time just through music.

I think there's a lot of real variety in their music. They're so solid together, and then you bring the lyrics on top of that, just all it all meshes to like perfect. Like, the whole Katastro sound, I think everyone just fell in love with it.

But it was more than the music, and he was a good friend who was there for me through certain times. I'm gonna miss all of it. I hope the rest of the boys figure something out to keep going because we probably lost the biggest band in Arizona with Andy passing away.

I was at the candlelight vigil at Marquee [Theatre on May 15]. It was just so beautiful to see everyone there together, and everyone being a family. Andy will always be with us in spirit, especially when we're playing music.

Brett Coleman, Vibes Alive Radio/Podcast

I heard Katastro around 2013-2014 for the first time. It wasn't very reggae, but it still kind of felt close to the genre. I don't think that they were ever trying to push the genre. They'd just always find a way to be in this kind of gray area of a genre, if you will.

And then I found out that they were from Arizona, which made me even happier. I ended up moving away from Arizona to Northern California for a little bit. And they were part of that connection back to home. Then I started the [KWSS radio show] in 2016-2017 and got to represent bands from this area, and Katastro was always one of them.

I was really fortunate to see them and hang out with Andy on a handful of occasions. He was always super nice and humble and approachable. And I thought that every interaction with him was unexpectedly better than the one before it. I feel like the dude just had swagger that was beyond control. I remember they did an album release show at Shady Park. And his dad was in the audience, and he did a song like "Bad News" or something else. And it's, like, it must be kind of an interesting dynamic — all this sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll brought to you by Andy Chaves. But that was his shit, and that was his performance. That's who he was.

There was a show at Marquee once, when they'd just signed to Silverback [Music]. And I saw [founder] Jon Phillips, and we're just shouting, "These guys are the best!" Like, I didn't have to be the endorsement. It was so good to look at these guys, representing Arizona, looking at what they were doing and how good they've gotten. And Jon saw that. I think that's a great memory to have.

Ryan "Stilly" Stilwell, Black Bottom Lighters

We've traveled with [Katastro] multiple times, and it's always been a good time. I never felt like I wasn't one of the guys. It was a special thing to be a part of what they were doing — the complete culture. Andy was a magnet, and he brought people together everywhere he went. It didn't matter who you were, he was just super inviting. Powerful is definitely a word that could be used with Andy over and over.

It always seemed to me that Andy on stage was just natural and effortless. When you looked at him, he was somebody that you believed in; it's not somebody that's just putting on a show for the sake of a show. He was somebody that really cared to capture the essence and the vibe of the moment.

Katastro were definitely the front-runners of this whole movement, and I feel like the music represents a whole generation. We were sometimes outcasts or the black sheeps, and [Chaves and Katastro] gave you a sense of confidence to be who we really are. I was very grateful to have known him.

If I were to say anything to anybody reading this, I would say to take the cadence of Andy into your own lives and be who you feel like you are on the inside because that's what he did. That's what he promoted. And it's an unusual thing.

Jon Havenhill, Desert Fish

I first met them back when [Katastro's 2016 album] Strange Nights had come out, and we opened for them at The Rock here in Tucson. It was just a vibe; it was just good to listen to. The way Andy performed, he just looked comfortable. He always just did him.

As a drummer, I tend to focus on watching drummers to get influence and some inspiration from them and watch what they do. But with Katastro, it was hard to focus on just one person.

I wasn't best friends with Andy, but we got to talk almost every time they came down to Tucson. And they were never anything but kind to us. Sometimes if there's a bigger band, they don't necessarily have to be that way toward the openers, but they were always super welcoming and super friendly. Like, "our green room is your green room."

They did a double-header at Marquee [in July 2021], and they did two different sets. I got to talk to them, and it was inspiring to see because it makes me want to be better and push harder. [Katastro] helped elevate the scene a lot. It's great having a band put Arizona on the map; it just elevates the entire state. It helps every band, and everyone can be successful together.

Katastro found their own style and did it their own way. We can talk about all the stories and stuff, but their legacy is going to be the music. Their music speaks for itself.
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Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence of Sound. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. He lives in Central Phoenix with his fiancee, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.
Contact: Chris Coplan