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Prom Body Leads a New Wave of Tucson Bands

Phoenix might have an issue with Prom Body. The Tucson-based scuzzy-yet-musical punk outfit has tried again and again to play in the Valley to no avail, plagued by misaligned schedules or vehicular woes. Their luck may be turning around, however, as the band has two shows scheduled in the coming week: an all-ages throwdown at Crescent Ballroom on Saturday, March 7, and a 21-and-up affair at Rampage Fest on Friday, March 13.

Hoping that the stars align for singer/bassist Michael Fay, guitarists Ryan Chavira and Gilbert Flores, and drummer Matt Baquet, Tucson's most-talked-about band likely will find fans to the north, having recently returned from playing to a ravenous crowd in Hermosillo, Mexico as forerunners of a burgeoning indie scene in the Sonoran state.

"Hermosillo -- and [that part of] Mexico, really -- is just hungry for a scene there," Baquet says. "We played a hour, which is something we had never done before. It's a four-hour drive from Tucson. There's toll roads. It's safe. There's some money and genuinely enthusiastic promoters."

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Having played in both Canada and Mexico in the past year, what started as a bedroom side project for Fay has blossomed into a full-fledged four-piece with nationwide attention, capturing the affection of national music outlets. With driving, fuzzed-out melodies at the core of Prom Body's infectiousness, the act represents a set of exploratory sensibilities for Fay.

"Once it becomes formulaic for me, I bail," he says. "I want to keep this continually upbeat because it's fun. When we were in Mexico, somebody at one of the shows was just, like, 'You can't stop the party; you just make music that makes me feel alive.'"

Fay, who's been in bands since he was 9 years old while growing up between Kansas City and Tucson, had to strip things back to their basic state to bring Prom Body to life. As the drummer for ambient math-rock projects like Lifers and Sleep Like Trees, it was an eventual disenchantment with Tucson, a move back to Missouri, and a return to the desert that fueled a new passion for a simpler approach.

"I think I had just gotten really burnt out in Tucson," Fay says. "I had just been playing technical drums, so just playing punk or pop punk-geared music -- and the power I was able to apply to just playing straightforward stuff, and how people responded to it -- the energy was just completely different."

The response to Prom Body in Tucson alone is indicative of the band's staying power. Though Fay writes almost all the instrumentation, it's Chavira, Flores, and Baquet who add a live dimensionality to Fay's recordings. All members are involved in other acts, and for Flores, who also plays in hardcore heroes Sex Prisoner, Tucson is a prime place to delve into unfamiliar content and take it to a stage.

"Any time I go on tour, I come home and I'm already starting a band with a friend who wants to sing, and I have another band on the side," Flores says. "I feel like here, all the idle time can get to you, but if you use that time, you can do anything."

There's a renewed spirit to the city that Prom Body embodies, one that's slightly off-kilter, approachable, and full of vigor. They're the unlikely, dusty poster children of Tucson's next chapter.

"It's about to be a new era," Baquet says. "All I listen to are local bands, and it's not fair that Calexico is the only band that people know about from here, because how many great bands are there? This is the beginning of that changing. The better you treat Tucson, it gives it back twice as hard."

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K.C. Libman
Contact: K.C. Libman