Monday, 22 November 2010

Introducing...Arizona Bay

YMC chats to Rob and Rhys from Arizona Bay

YMC: How did the name come about ?

Rob: All of us are big fans of the late comedian Bill Hicks, particularly Rhys and I, so we decided to name ourselves after one of his albums. His ethos on life is something that’s always rung true with us and what we hope to achieve with this band. He was always outspoken against the mass consumerist culture of the time, which doesn’t differ too much from the culture and state in which we now find ourselves.

Rhys: We also liked the premise of ‘Arizona Bay’, that idea of an earthquake wiping out the epicentre of commerce and mainstream mediocrity, of something good coming out of what would generally be considered a disaster. That album has a large musical element anyway and has already influenced some of our favourite bands, such as Tool, so we felt its themes were something we could totally get behind and hopefully reflect in our desire to make music which has its own voice and is made for ourselves, rather than the current ‘X-Factor’ trend of churning out a ‘product’ merely to make a quick buck.

Rob: It also has had the added benefit of making people think and talk about the name and what it means, which is something that’s always been important to us in the bands we love.

YMC: How many are in the band, where did you all meet?

Rob: The band consists of myself on drums, Rhys on vocals, Sam Wood on lead guitar and Oli Tsakonas on bass. We all met at Leeds Music College whilst studying music. Sam, Rhys and I have been friends since we all started at LCM, and share fairly similar music tastes, so it was inevitable we’d get together eventually.

Rhys: Sam and I had played in a blues band together before, pretty much straight after arriving in Leeds three years ago. That band quickly broke up and it wasn’t until last year that we decided to try and do something else together, with Rob. That’s when we found and auditioned Oli.

Rob: He was the first and only bass player we auditioned and fits in really well with the sound we were going for.

YMC: Who writes the songs?

Rhys: I tend to get the bare bones of songs together on my own and then bring them out for the rest of the guys to flesh out. I generally have a vague idea of where a song should end up but it’s a really collaborative working process that hopefully means we’re each putting our own stamp on each song as well as creating some sort of ‘sound’ that characterises the band.

Rob: Rhys has the most songwriting experience but we are now starting to be a far more collaborative force. I wrote the last song on our EP and we’ve now started working on material together far more than we have done in the past.

Rhys: Yeah, when the band started I already had a backlog of songs and ideas that we were able to roll with. Now we’re working a lot more on completely new material which gives everyone greater scope to contribute.

YMC: Who are your main influences?

Rob: We all come from vaguely similar musical backgrounds and therefore share a common thread with certain influences, mostly 60s and 70s bands: Sabbath, Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones, etc.

Rhys: We obviously each have our own defining influences too though, for instance a lot of my songwriting influences are people like Neil Young, Tom Waits, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan.

Rob: Yeah, we each have our individual heroes. For me it’s Bill Ward, Vinnie Appice, John Bonham and Matt Cameron.

Rhys: Cameron’s a pretty important one given what we’re trying to do and his involvement with the 90s Seattle scene. Despite our eclectic influences I think the most prevalent are the 90s bands that we’re into. Bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees...they all still sound relevant today and are far more in tune with the mission-statement of this band. That energy and intensity is something that we hope to convey in this band too.

YMC: You're all from different parts of the UK, how does the Leeds music scene differ to where you are from?

Rob: I think Leeds is a great place to be if you’re a musician. I’m from Durham and there wasn’t really much of a scene there, so to have a city with a scene that is really geared towards all different types of live music and supporting unsigned bands is just brilliant.

Rhys: Yeah, I’m from Wales and there is a very vibrant scene there but it’s so spread out it’s really hard for new bands to really make a name for themselves. With the centre of Leeds having so many venues and promoters working it’s a lot easier for a band to establish themselves within the scene and build a fanbase provided you’re willing to work hard. It’s certainly something we’re constantly working on.

YMC: You are about to release your first EP (although with 8 tracks it could almost be considered an album), was it easy to decide which tracks to put on it? Tell us a bit about the recording process.

Rhys: The EP is really a collection of all the original material we were playing live at the time, and we decided that it would be best to record material which we’d been honing live for the past 6 months. In that way, it encapsulates the very early stages of the band forming its sound through all the songs we wrote together in the initial months we were together.

Rob: We recorded it with a couple of friends of ours, Tom Bramley and Simon Green, who we met through college. Tom really had a big hand in the mixing process and shaping of the record’s sound, and because we knew the material back to front we were really able to focus on just getting the best performance possible down.

YMC: You are now starting a mini tour, do you have plans to do a large tour at some stage?

Rob: Yeah, we’d love to. We’re hoping to begin organising something for next year as soon as we get through these current dates. This time we’re mainly focusing on The North and hitting venues in Leeds, Bolton and Liverpool amongst others, so we’d really like to expand on that and play a bit further afield next time.

Rhys: We’re predominantly a live band, and we feel like the only way to really grow as a band and build your fanbase is to play live, so we intend to do just that, as much as possible.

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