Every Wednesday is Heritage Hump Day! That's because every Wednesday from now to the end of the year or before someone really big stops us, Heritage Hump Records (a temporary subsidiary of Onus Records) and New Times will be bringing you a limited edition collector's item of a much beloved Phoenix band that walked the scorched earth of Arizona before the year 2000 A.D. We will honor that band with a commemorative digital single that you, the digital public, will have only seven days to download to your computers and smart phones before this single gets marked up to an exorbitant price as determined by the mp3 collector community. When that happens, a new Heritage Hump subject will be chosen and the free-for-a-limited-time-only cycle begins anew.
There are joke bands and bands of jokers, and The Stumbles fell into the latter category. No one else would have the nerve to name their second album Best of Greatest Hits: Volume Seven, complete with a parodied K-Tel album cover (which we've altered slightly here for our Heritage Hump single). Originally called The Stumbles Good Time Band for about one hot second, this band formed in the early ’90s featured Mark Moffatt (guitar, vocals), Ron Walker (guitar, vocals) and Matt Sadler (bass), who points out "Just like Spinal Tap, a revolving line-up of drummers. We released our first cd in 1995 with Ron on drums for the recording."
In their brief time on the Phoenix scene, they came up with a great parcel of songs, as evidenced by my November 30, 1995 Desert Discs review of their self-titled, self-released debut:
"After Jefferson Airplane, but before Styx, "eclectic" became a dirty word in rock. An "eclectic" young band is one that hasn't figured out what it wants to be when it grows up, while an "eclectic" older group means even the drummer thinks he can sing (and, worse, write). The Stumbles fall somewhere in between. The band boasts two strong front men/guitarists, Ron Walker and Mark Moffatt—and Walker plays all the drums on this CD.
Any group that runs as wide a spectrum of styles in a 40-minute live set as the Stumbles can is eclectic in the best sense of the word. This band can harness the power of Sugar or Live and tack on highly polished block harmonies worthy of the Plimsouls or the Rembrandts, as demonstrated here on "SSS Man" and "Undertow."
"And She" is a whisper-to-scream pop gem that starts out with chiming acoustic 12-strings like The La's "There She Goes," before launching into a nasally Bob Mouldish chorus. When he sings this song live, the large-framed Moffatt resembles Ed Wood's beloved wrestler/actor, Tor Johnson, at his eye-bulging best. In the recorded version of "And She," Moffatt states that his beloved "gets on my face." Live, however, I could swear he sings "sits." In any case, "And She" is a killer song and the band has more where that came from: The number of new tunes the Stumbles are currently playing out indicates the band didn't succumb to debut fever and shoot their wad on one album. Good thing. A recording this good deserves a quality follow-up."
Sadler recalls "'And She' was written very spontaneously at a party when Mark broke a string and we were trying to fill time while he changed strings. Ron just started playing that super hooky riff that starts the song and it basically wrote itself. I think we literally wrote that whole song in about 15 minutes. And your original review was right, it was always ‘sits’ live. As for the recording, the giggling you hear at the end was Mark and Ron laughing at me because I was trying to play a Black and Decker Power Drill into a mic for rhythmic ‘texturing.’ Personally I think I nailed it."
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The song and the self-titled album from where it came got The Stumbles a lot of attention and ultimately led to the band being courted by several labels including Mercury Records and an ASCAP showcase in New York at CBGB’s. "Unfortunately, nothing came of that trip, perhaps because our manager at the time chose that night of all nights to get drunk for the first time ever in his life."
Sadler recalls The Stumbles playing hundreds of super fun shows with bands like Stone Bogart, Pistoleros, Satellite and Dead Hot Workshop and releasing a second CD which the band recorded themselves and Sadler feels didn't match the recorded recording quality of the first cd.
"Like most bands, we suffered from internal arguing, personal lives falling apart and them damn drummers! Although our final incarnation included the ever so-awesome drummer Scott Hessel (currently on tour drumming with the Gin Blossoms). After a good run, the band ended around 1999, as Ron decided on a more spiritual course for his life, ultimately becoming a pastor for a church in Phoenix.
Sadler, Moffat and Hessel carried on after a short break, adding guitarist Allen Zwolle and reforming as Big Moxie. Big Moxie released a CD in 2003 and continues to play once in a blue moon around town when Hessell is on break from touring with the Gin Blossoms. Sadler also currently plays with another local band, The Andys, which features members Andy Mitchell (9 Volt) and Andy Mendoza (The Royal Normans).