Following up last year's New Times Soundcheck, a two-day festival at Club Red in Tempe -- which featured performances by The Love Me Nots, Sugar Thieves, 2 Tone Lizard Kings, Jason Devore, The Insects, Crusher Sound System, and more -- was a serious task.
But challenges are cool, right? Up on the Sun and New Times are proud to present a brand new music event for 2013: Carnaval Eléctrico at Crescent Ballroom. The following profiles will give you a taste of what to expect on Friday, March 8, when local bands join touring acts Cold War Kids, Hanni El Khatib, Sir Sly, and In the Valley Below in taking over two stages at Crescent Ballroom.
Read on to get to know each of the acts performing.
Cold War Kids
Nathan Willett of Cold War Kids says that when it came time to make the band's new record, the forthcoming Dear Miss Lonely Hearts, they decided to play less to what the band "should be" and more to what it "could be." "I feel like we started to do that with the last album [2011's Mine Is Yours]," he says. "But we continued on with this record." The shift meant some shakeups. Guitarist Jonathan Russell departed, and in stepped Dann Gallucci, formerly of Modest Mouse.
Gallucci joined Lars Stalfors in producing the record, and his passion for synth-pop marks some clear departures for the band. The pulsing "Lost That Easy" could almost serve as the band's (unexpected) entrance into the world of club music, while "Loner Phase" taps into gothy Depeche Mode drama. While Mine Is Yours received critical lashings for its arena-rock ambitions, the stylistic ambitions of Dear Miss Lonely Hearts sound like less bids for a mainstream breakthrough and more like earnest experimentation.
When the band plays with straight-ahead abandon, like on lead single "Miracle Mile," it sounds triumphant, even if the lyrics exemplify Willett's short-fiction ambitions, concerning a vaguely nasty character out of some P.T. Anderson flick set loose across the verses. "I was supposed to do great things," Willett howls over charging guitars. "I cut my ties, I sold me rings, I wanted none of this." -- Jason P. Woodbury
For someone not old enough to legally drink, Sareena Dominguez sure has accomplished plenty. After signing to the River Jones Music label less than a year and half ago, she played at South by Southwest, released debut album Moonbeams, and starred in a music video of the same name, directed by Laura Belle of Tobacco Films. But now, the Gilbert singer-songwriter is taking a step back and giving herself a little alone time.
As eager as she is to move forward, Dominguez says she's still trying to baby her first record, because as she puts it, "I haven't broken up with my old album yet . . . It's kinda weird, but that's how it feels." As for writing new music, Dominguez is taking her time, hoping to refresh herself after touring. But first, she wants to take vocal lessons and music theory classes, explaining that she think it's better to "fine tune" before jumping into anything else. "When I'm done with Moonbeams, I'll just 'Bon Iver' it and go in a room, become a musical hermit for a month or two and just write a bunch of stuff," Dominguez muses. "I think that sounds amazing, so that's kinda what I want to do." -- Troy Farah
Sir Sly exists under a shroud of mystery. An extensive Google search was fruitless, aside from a weird Foster the People conspiracy (does Sir Sly feature members of FTP?) and news that the Los Angeles trio released its debut EP on March 4. The four-song album, Ghost, is full of pulsating darkwave synth hooks that flirt in the middle ground between pop and witchhouse. There's a sense of isolation that vocalist Landon Jacobs builds upon with his lyrics that address mistakes, regrets, and loss. The album is rich with motifs: "Ghost" deals with a sense of aimless weightlessness, and Jacobs changes the perspective in "Where I'm Going," singing about gaining trajectory, physically rising above a crowd.
We'll get a better look at Sir Sly's clandestine identity when the band performs at Crescent Ballroom. Mystery is fun and all, but we want to meet these guys. -- Melissa Fossum
Local DJ Miguel Ivery -- better known as DJ Seduce -- is best-known for hipping world music fans to Brazilian music via his label, Afro:Baile Records. But every Friday night at the Crescent, he showcases another musical love: Motown and Stax soul 45s. The selector's got a pretty sweet gig: As soon as the rock 'n' roll bands finish up, he gets the lounge dancing with crisp R&B snare drums and classic girl group vocals. Following the hard rockers of Carnaval Eléctrico will be no problem, but Seduce's most direct link to the show will be soul singer Stan Devereaux, who just might cover a song or two with his Funky Suns -- maybe Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give it Up" or Dyke and The Blazers' "Funky Broadway" -- that could end up in Seduce's normal set. -- Jason P. Woodbury
Stan Devereaux and the Funky Suns
Singer Stan Devereaux has been playing R&B and soul in Arizona since the 1960s, growing up in Tucson before exploring the Phoenix soul scene after college, then departing for Europe, South America, and Georgia. His journey led him back to Phoenix, and ever since he settled into a groove here in town with the Funky Suns, he's noticed something about his crowds. They're young.
"These are all new people, just getting in touch with me now," he says with a chuckle. "It's a younger crowd, and they're starting to get hip. They're getting hipper. [Younger people are] getting into the Otis Redding-type stuff -- stuff they need to get into." Indeed, Devereaux's sound, with hints of jazz, country, and "chitlin' circuit" R&B, is easy for new fans to latch on to. The guitars blaze, the drums bounce, and Devereaux himself is a dynamite frontman. He doesn't mind sharing the stage with indie rock bands because, though he's humble about it, he knows he can keep up with just about any of them. He's on a mission, too, to share his soul sounds. "I think the emotion of it [connects with audiences], I really do believe," he says. "The emotion -- the sounds also, of course -- but the emotion that the singers sing with, I don't hear sometimes nowadays from the singers." -- Jason P. Woodbury
Hanni El Khatib
Hanni El Khatib and The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach met in a Paris nightclub where both were spinning records at an after-hours party. "We were vibing off of each other's records and instantly hit it off," El Khatib says via e-mail. The pair soon joined forces again, this time at Auerbach's Nashville recording studio to lay the groundwork for Khatib's forthcoming album, Head in the Dirt, due April 30. The former skate punk is still "playing the world's worst guitar" (but "Guitar Hero is helping out," he jokes) and still dabbling in garage, psychedelia, bubbly rhythm and blues, reggae, and punk, only now his songs are tighter, more realized.
They're still menacing in places but never filled with the raw, reckless abandon that marked such all-out thrashers as "Fuck It, You Win," "Build Destroy Rebuild," and "Roach Cock" from Will the Guns Come Out. Instead, that tension now gives these songs a pulsating edge. Auerbach is, of course, all over the album, playing on every track and filling in the holes with cool sounds and shapes. "Can't Win 'Em All," the fuzzy blues rocker that debuted during Audi's controversial Super Bowl "Prom" commercial with a signature Auerbach riff, should give the album -- and El Khatib's career -- a nice jump start. -- Glenn BurnSilver
Tyler Broderick of Phoenix pop combo Diners is charmingly self-deprecating when discussing the band's new work, an as-of-yet untitled LP followup to 2011's stellar Throw Me a Ten. "I'd say it's not too different from the old stuff," he says. "Having a longer album lets us put more variety, as far as slow songs, instrumentals, fast songs, goofy, serious, and whatever. Inspirations from this album are: The Zombies, Fleetwood Mac, Mac Demarco, and, of course, The Beach Boys. So . . . nothing too radical."
Maybe not radical, but certainly something pleasurable. The band will show off new songs at Crescent Ballroom. "This is my favorite batch of songs I've ever had. I feel like the new songs are the best songs I've ever written," Broderick says. "But that's kinda what everybody says about their new work. All I know is that it's so hard not to play only new songs at our shows." -- Jason P. Woodbury
It's no coincidence that local rockers Mergence have been likened to California's Cold War Kids. Not only is the Phoenix band a foursome, but it also has a knack for crafting bluesy, soul-inspired opuses -- kinda like those other guys. So it seems only natural that Mergence would get the nod to rep. Although they're also known for dabbling in funk and jazz, anchored by some righteous rock riffs, Mergence's newest material sees them stepping outside a bit, producing sounds that are bound to surprise even the staunchest fan.
"There's one track that we're calling a surf-samba that I think is going to surprise people," drummer Jason Roedl says. "There are one or two tracks that most people are going to hear and say, 'Man, I didn't think I would hear that come out of Mergence.' We really took our time this time around during recording." Much to fans' delight, Mergence will unveil some of those new tracks at the March 8 show. "When they contacted us to do this I was just like, 'Oh, hell yeah, man,'" Roedl says. "This is going to be a real good time." -- Anthony Sandoval Read more about Mergence.
When he was young, Wally Boudway of psych/folk/art-pop band Wooden Indian saw mythic Tucson guitarist Rainer perform. It left a definitive mark on the songwriter, one that can be heard coursing beneath the fluctuating psychedelic textures and fluttering guitar trills of Wooden Indian's 2011 LP, Color Is Work.
It would be tempting for a band with a notable blues and funk influence (listen to the strutting "Finally Older") to play up the blooze rawk angle (after all, The Black Keys did just take home a bunch of Grammys), but Wooden Indian takes a different path, instead incorporating elements of a wide record collection -- Afrobeat, Latin twitches, symphonic indie rock, jazz -- into its well-blended sound. It makes the band harder to define but provides a richer listen, especially on the gorgeously restrained "St. Jeffrey" and the taut "Harem in My Pocket." -- Jason P. Woodbury
In the Valley Below
There comes a time in every music snob's life when he or she realizes that pre-judging a band based on its hometown and RIYL tags is just stupid. In the case of L.A.-based synth-pop duo, In the Valley Below, a new musical project comprising singer/multi-instrumentalists Angela Gail and Jeffrey Jacob, it might be easy to read some keywords, lump them in with all rest in the over-saturated sea of synth-poppers, and put off actually listening to their music until Pitchfork tells you what to think about them.
However, the joke will be entirely on you, dude.
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The duo's sound is as catchy as it is heartfelt, a rare quality in the cynical world of indie rock. "We just try to write stuff we want to hear and just do it as well as we can and, you know, see what happens," says Jacob. "We're happy to have anyone asking about us, so we're flattered. Most of the time, I like to let the music do the talking." -- Nicole Smith
Carnaval Eléctrico with Cold War Kids, Hanni El Khatib, Mergence, and more, is scheduled for Friday, March 8, at Crescent Ballroom.