Arizona is pretty much as Southwest as it gets. What other state can claim Southwestern staples like the OK Corral, Grand Canyon and SB 1070. (We said claim, not be proud of.)
It's only natural that our local bands get some serious stage presence at SxSW, Austin' yearly arts and music gathering, and two local music aficionados are out to make sure that happens.
Spike Brendle of Tempe's Sister Cities and graphic designer/local music appreciator Nicole Parasida got together in December to form Echo Cloud Productions, an organization that seeks to see Phoenix as a main music hub. To establish Phoenix's place among America's music cities, the duo is raising money through a series of SxSW fundraiser shows. Locals Future Loves Past, Dry River Yacht Club, Japhy's Descent, William "Fucking" Reed and more will all make it to Austin thanks to Echo Cloud's efforts.
The second show in the four-part fundraising process takes place Saturday, February 11 at Rogue Bar and will feature Sister Cities, Sun Ghost, Doctor Bones and Dry River Yacht Club.
We spoke with Brendle about what Phoenix artists can do to get Arizona on the musical map.
Up On the Sun: I don't know if I'm late to the jump here, but I haven't heard of Echo Cloud before now. Can you go into when and how the idea came to fruition?
Brendle: Echo cloud is fairly new. We launched early December 2011. It came about after my business partner, Nicole Parasida, and I kept bumping into each other local shows. Every time we would talk about how amazing the bands are here and talk about ideas on how to make it better and to expose it to the rest of the world. The best way to get anything done is to work as a team -- and since we started, it feels like I woke up one day and BAM! A whole team of talented writers/photographers fell in our laps ready to help out. We couldn't be more thankful.
What is something that the local music scene can add to the tremendous talent at SxSW? Why do you feel like it's necessary that Phoenix artists are there?
Can you ever have too much of a good thing? Arizona has some of the best talent and creativity when it comes to music. With that said, no, I have not fully experienced any other music scene, but this is my music scene, and we are doing whatever we can to expose it to everyone possible. Most local acts that have done extensive touring around the U.S. come back home and say, "Man, the AZ music scene is so much better than [fill in the blank]." I feel that it's necessary for us to make a presence at SxSW and change people's minds about Arizona music in general and shine a spotlight on this tremendous talent pool. Arizona has been somewhat neglected when it comes to music. Some of my favorite touring bands have completely skipped over us when on tour, even if they haven't signed that anti-SB1070 campaign or whatever. We need to show the rest of the music community that we not only love music, but we can make it too.
Are there any local artists you'd like to see at the SxSW showcase that can't make it?
Yes! I wish we could bring everyone, but obviously not as many people can make the trip. I really wanted to bring along Mergence, What Laura Says, and Super Stereo. Not everyone's schedules agreed, though. With every band added, it becomes more challenging to synchronize things. We are also in the progress of locking down gigs on the way to and from Austin with the bands playing at the showcase, so there is a lot to coordinate.
Do you think it'll ever be possible for Phoenix to have a truly fruitful and popular arts scene like Austin does?
Absolutely. That is part of our mission at Echo Cloud, to expose the Phoenix area as the next, up-and-coming music designation. I think we have enough creativity and positive attitudes to really draw outsiders here. We are also geographically located in an ideal place between California, Las Vegas, and Texas that would make it ideal for touring bands to come here and enjoy our scene. Take downtown Phoenix for example -- City Center, Civic Space Park, Crescent Ballroom [all] host many talented touring bands and caters to local bands. These are all key elements to a flourishing scene. This may be a ridiculous dream, but wouldn't you much rather hang out on Mill Avenue with 20 different music venues to go to, not 20 different dance clubs? Yeah, me too.
You already played one fundraiser show and have three more to come. How much money do you hope to raise and are you on your way to that goal?
The first fundraiser was January 9 at the Rogue Bar. Manny [Tripodis] from the Rogue has been super-supportive and helpful with this whole process as well, because Rogue hosts a lot of out-of-town bands coming and going from SxSW. We obviously hope to raise enough money to cover the booking costs for the venue in Austin, and once that is reached, all extra will be split up between bands for gas money. We were able to reach half of our goal at the last show, and we have three more fundraisers coming up: February 11 and 24 at the Rogue Bar, then the tour kickoff on March at 910 Live, which will include nearly all the SxSW bands, and then a few additional bands who are kind enough to play to support us. Thus far, the community has been very supportive, so I think we will reach our goal just fine.