The Persuaders' Lawrence Zubia on Major Labels, The Tempe Scene, and New Album

Featuring former members of Tempe jangle-pop kings The Pistoleros, Dead Hot Workshop, The Gin Blossoms, and Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, The Persuaders debuted earlier this year, cranking out the same kind of melodic pop rock that defined the sound of their earlier bands.

If you've spent any time near Mill Avenue, you've no doubt heard tales of the glory days there, before the place was lousy with chain stores and vacant buildings. Up on the Sun caught up with Lawrence Zubia of The Persuaders to discuss the Tempe scene, his time on a major label, and The Persuaders new album, which may or may not wind up being called Ghost Ship Sailors. 

Up on the Sun: The Persuaders started off as a recording project with no intention of playing out live. What changed?

Lawrence Zubia: All of the guys had taken some time off from playing out. Pre-producing the songs for the record, we set up like we play live and played loud, [with a full] PA, Les Pauls, full drum kit...it didn't take very long for us to figure out that it would be great to play these songs live. So I got on the phone and started asking around for shows and here we are.

You guys were all involved in key bands that defined the Mill Avenue scene of the '90s- what local bands do you like right now? Who's making music that you respect?

I'm digging The Love Me Not's -- who we will be playing with at Foundry on First on July 15 along with Jed's A Millionaire. I really dig The Love Me Not's sound - Farfisa and crunchy guitar. Michael Walker and Nicole make a great team - songwriting and otherwise. I love a band from Tempe called Los Comapneros -- it's like an Iggy Pop meets The Stranglers thing...high energy, great sound, and a great message well disguised in rock 'n' roll songs. To me The Meat Puppets have always been a local band and I love them and always have. They have checked all of the pertinent rock 'n' roll bullet points including their latest record which is great. I am one of their oldest and most loyal supporters of their music, art and "Up On The Sun" lifestyle

Your bio talks about how the major labels from L.A. came calling. What is your take on the music industry right now? Do you feel like label deals are still important, or do you think that a band can get by releasing music themselves?

Major labels are important if you are the Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus. Other than that, major labels pretty much suck. I was on one and I know. They entice you with money and what lifer starving artist doesn't want to be able to make their rent and drive a car with A/C. They have your career and livelihood in the palm of their hand and they are flying by the seat of their collective pants - speculating on singles, tours, radio and everything else. There was a clause in our recording contract where the label was able to take out life insurance policies on the entire band...now think about that for a moment.

I think the days of getting a conventional deal are either over or very very rare. In my former band The Pistoleros - after 10 years of playing on Mill Ave. with my brother Mark, a man came up to me after a show and handed me his card and said to call him on Monday. A year later we were recording a record at A&M Studios for a division of Disney -- Hollywood Records. I applaud the closet artist with pro-tools or Apple Logic making great sounding records in their garage and selling them on iTunes. Jumping in a van with your band and doing regional tours. Drinking beer and smoking. Having fun. Keeping it light and having fun. I learned a lot by signing a record deal. Mostly things about navigating the mine field of taking any of this too serious. The Persuaders are having the time of their life sans label, manager, publishers, etc...

What's the story on the new album?

We are still deciding what to call it. I saw a show the other night about ghost ships. Wild concept. My vote? Ghost Ship Sailors. I haven't even told the band of that one yet. Ha. The new Persuaders record has 10 songs recorded and will be out in September 2011. We recorded the record at Room Sound - produced and engineered by Jamie Woolford.

The new songs sound very much in line with the classic sound you guys all played. Do you feel like there was a defining shared element of the Mill scene at the time you guys were all getting down?

I don't think there was a defined shared element in regards to the "sound" of '90s Tempe-rock bands. I think Dead Hot Work Shop sounds nothing like the Gin Blossoms or The FeedBags. However, I do think there were some imitators that consciously tried to sound like the more popular Tempe bands and like everything in life that second generation spawned and multiplied exponentially to where we eventually had what seemed like a collective sound. Some of those bands went on to national status and are still riding the wave of an emulated "Tempe sound."

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.