The Tempe band Katastro was at the beginning of a national tour in March 2020.
“We’d hit Vegas and Flagstaff and our tour got canceled two days in,” bassist Ryan Weddle recalls.
The band, like the rest of the world, had no idea how long the pandemic would last. Without any certainty or shows, the members at first had no idea what to do.
“We are all relying on that tour to pay our bills, to feed our cats and our families,” Weddle says. “When you get that rug pulled out from underneath you it’s like, 'What are we doing? How is this sustainable?'"
If they couldn't tour, they'd write, and the result is their sixth full-length album, Sucker, which came out last week. To celebrate the release of the album, the band is playing a pair of dates this weekend at Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
Sucker is a blast of bright summer sounds and sick reggae beats that’ll have you dancing. The album, released via Silverback Music’s Controlled Substance Sound Labs, reflects the band’s usual effortless blend of funk, hip-hop, reggae, and rock, but has retreated from the darker tones of their 2016 album, Strange Nights.
The opening track, “The Way I Feel,” is poised to be a hit. And while the lyrics discuss heartbreak, the music floats on a feel-good cloud that stays in your head. This positive tone is deliberate, according to Weddle, who says the band wanted to make people happy after an especially bleak year.
Sucker represents a completely new writing and recording process for Katastro, who usually only have two or three months home at a time to see their families between tours.
When it's time to write new songs, “we normally have a couple of weeks,” Weddle says. "We generally will go and get a cabin or something and we’ll retreat, and whatever we write becomes the album.” They’ve even gone without the internet for weeks, simply cooking, drinking, and writing tunes.
This time around, they wrote the 12 tunes for Sucker with producer Matt Keller at a Tempe recording studio with 24/7 access.
“There was no time crunch on anything,” Weddle says. “We had the ability to write a ton of songs and then cut songs we didn’t think fit. We really got to cure it.”
The band, who have been together since 2007, when they were in high school, have never seen as explosive a response to one of their albums as Sucker has received so far. The first four singles Katastro dropped on Spotify from Sucker saw record streaming action for the band, Weddle says.
After the Marquee Theatre shows, they’re set to go back on tour in Colorado and California by the end of the month, where they'll keep riding the high of Sucker.
“Before, every album in our career was like, ‘Wow, I really think people are going to love this," Weddle says. "Then it comes out, gets good notice, and a few more people come to the shows. It’s always been a slow thing.
“We all put so much work into this group just over the last 14 years and it feels so good,” he adds. “Like, we’re actually doing the right thing right now.”
Katastro. With Kash'd Out and Barefoot on Friday, July 23, and Denm and Cydeways on Saturday, July 24. Marquee Theatre, 730 North Mill Avenue, Tempe. 8 p.m. show, 6:30 p.m. doors both nights. Tickets start at $15. marqueetheatreaz.com.