Travis James Is Raising Hell and Having Fun

It's 2014 and high time you got some new music into your playlist -- seriously. And that's doubly true when it comes local music, of which there's an abundance in metro Phoenix. The Valley's music scene is gifted with burgeoning bands and emerging artists who will be making waves and getting attention this year.

Up on the Sun is highlighting more than a dozen such acts for our series 14 Bands You Need to Hear in 2014. Today, writer Nicki Escudero profiles anarchistic and nihilistic musician Travis James.

Travis James not only doesn't care about convention, he strives to disrupt it as much as possible. As such, the local musician is known just as much around town for his stick-it-to-the-man antics as he is his raucous punk music.

The frontman for Travis James and the Acrimonious Assembly of Arsonists has committed rebel acts such as taking over downtown Phoenix for an urban game of Capture the Flag with 100 or so friends, as well as organizing punk shows at permit-less spots like underpasses and squat houses. Heck, he even helped create a bizarro hybrid music genre as part of the eight-piece "fantasy folk metal band" Wizard Teeth.

"I prefer to surround myself with and appeal to trouble-causing creatures who value reckless abandon over being accommodating for people's sensibilities or respecting surroundings," James says.

Now he and the Arsonists have buckled down (a bit) to record material for an album due out this year, appropriately titled Over Dressed & Under Arrest, on which James promises to have "at least something for everyone to get upset about -- that, and more piano."

James and bandmates Aaron Hjalmarson and Mark Sunman, both of local "punkgrass" band The Haymarket Squares, promise tunes like "Special Delivery," a fast song about sending letterbombs to authority figures, as well as an autobiographical track of James' called "Broken Kids and Bad Friends."

"While I'm not necessarily opposed to the fact most people make boring music and have boring lives, I try to make sure my music and my life make each other more interesting," James says. "Otherwise, neither is worth it for me."

The upcoming album's tracks aren't all about being a rebel, however, as James promises a few "embarrassing" love songs thrown in for good measure.

When he's not concocting ways to disrupt the live music scene, James also works on a 40-minute, 12-song punk rock musical about opposing authority and society, to be released this year. He promises scenes of fire-setting, blood-spilling, "and other assorted bits of charming idiocy reflecting on the psycho-social implications of existential pointlessness."

Plus, he declares there will be an acoustic punk show in a storm drain this year. "Come get gross in the gutter with us," James says. Very punk, indeed.

Check out more bands and artists that you need to hear in 2014.

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