The finest Garage Pop is made at the Midtown Island Studios in Tucson. Matt Rendon owns the studio and is also a member of some great bands who, of course, record their songs there.
In 2019 you told ‘Lenguas Largas, Freezing Hands, Free Machines, Sea Wren, Anchor baby, The Resonars, Harsh Mistress – they’re all made up among the same 10-12 people. How does the Midtown Island circle work? Do you see each other daily or weekly? And is there always a reason to get together, or are you always searching for songs together?
That quote from 2019 was undoubtedly true at the time. However, since covid, that’s all changed. I only see the bands I’m an active participant in – Exbats, Freezing Hands, Groovy Movies, and The Resonars. Freezing Hands are here to record/rehearse every Wednesday at 7 pm like clockwork, and it’s been that way for ten years.
The Exbats I see pretty regularly as I now play guitar in the band. Sea Wren and Harsh Mistress are no more. Free Machines are going to record here soon, probably in late winter. The Lenguas/Anchorbaby guys I don’t see very often anymore.
Travis from the Freezing Hands and Kenny/Inez from The Exbats are the most prolific songwriters I know. There’s always a song in their pockets, and the quality is always high. Kenny lives 90 minutes away, so he will often call just to say that he wrote another hit and talk me through it. Travis has a new song nearly every Wednesday night. So yeah, the songs are always discussed, and production/arrangement ideas are in place by the time we start rolling tape.
I can endlessly enjoy the way the harmony vocals sound on your records. Is that your specialty or ‘just’ the most fun part of it all?
I would have to say that harmonies are my specialty and, for me, is the most fun part of recording. It’s always a laugh riot. These days most harmonies on Freezing Hands, The Exbats, or The Resonars records tend to be 3 to 6 parts. A lot of call and response or three-part backup vocals behind a lead vocal. It’s a source of wonder and exploration. Always chasing the overtones, always trying to create beauty with human voices no matter the tone of the song. The look on the singers’ faces when a perfect harmonic blend is played back on the monitors is priceless.
So yeah, the most challenging, the most fun, the most work, and ultimately the most rewarding part of recording.
2021 was about re-releasing past releases and putting out music that seemed lost?
As far as 2021 goes, I fully intended to have a new The Resonars LP out and a reissue of the first LP from 1998. I kind of ran out of steam in early 2021 though a new 45EP was released on Hypnotic Bridge. The songs weren’t coming, so I concentrated on other things, mainly gardening, baseball, and practicing mixing. However, we did record and release the new The Exbats LP that came out in October, as well as a Freezing Hands record due out next year, and The Groovy Movies LP coming out in January/February.
Never a dull moment.
Releasing on vinyl, cassette, and on Spotify. Is that a good or a bad thing, all those different formats? Or do you enjoy it?
As far as formats are concerned, I prefer vinyl. It’s the biggest challenge creatively and financially, and if you’re going to commit to it, it has to be the best you can do. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Spotify. I finally relented when I realized that’s how most friends and family were listening to music.
Different formats are good, I believe. I’m asked if any of The Resonars’ releases are out on CD at least once a week.
Bandcamp is the best, though. It’s direct and artist-friendly and can really help a band out of a jam.
Are there already plans for 2022?
Plans for 2022 are a new The Resonars LP, that’s about 75% done right now, a reissue of Bright and Dark with extra tracks. New albums by The Exbats (they’ve already written a clutch of fantastic songs, and we start recording next month), Freezing Hands (in the post-production stage), Groovy Movies (album coming in a few weeks), and our friends from Phoenix, the Rebel Set, are coming to record a new set of tunes in December.
Also, the reissue of the first LP goes to press in three weeks and should be out late December/early January.