Although they have nothing but kind words for a great many Phoenix bands, Stewart Alaniz of the prog-rock power-trio Chief Beef and Tony Poer of the experimental outfit Emperors of Japan are anxious to leave the confines of an overly saturated music scene in their hometown.
Their need for exposure, coupled with a desire to temporarily vacate a city with "a ton of rap-rock bands that still think it's 1999," has brought these two bands together for a four-city tour with stops in Las Cruces and at Albuquerque's Atomic Cantina to promote each ensemble's newest release.
New Mexico newbies Chief Beef feature a pairing of husband and wife on guitar and bass, respectively. Alaniz, who provides the percussion for CB, believes this dynamic helps create the chemistry the band thrives on. "John and Christine (Lipfert) have been playing music together for over nine years. The way they understand each other and the different tones on their instruments is truly incredible," says Alaniz. "How close they are really effects how honest we all are with each other. We don't hold anything back because if you keep a lid on certain feelings it just creates bigger problems later on."
2006's Something About Rock is CB's debut album and, although it is certainly prog-rockish in many respects, you needn't be a die-hard fan of the genre to appreciate where the band is coming from. There are flashes of Fugazi and Queens of the Stone Age. The regimented drumbeats and punchy guitar give many of the tracks a punk edge, made sharper by John Lipfert's vocals (reminiscent of a warmer version of The Offspring's Dexter Holland).
Something About Rock was engineered by Larry Elyea, who has worked with Arizona standouts Jimmy Eat World and The Format. Alaniz is hopeful that the band can record a follow-up EP (possibly with Elyea at the controls) late this spring.
Also releasing their first record, Your Freak Majesty, in 2006 (see last week's "Sonic Reducer" for a taste), Emperors of Japan have gone from making dance-pop to pushing more boundaries as the band increases their comfort level with their sound and each other. "The dance pop stuff was more a result of that type of music being the easiest thing we could create when we first started," Poer explains. "I feel like now we've been in such a frenzy of writing that we're changing stuff up quite a bit. One day we'll be talking about breaking out the mandolin and the cello, and the next one of us is saying we should hook up with some hip-hop band to do a couple tracks."
Poer hopes to start recording a new album within the next six months, and you can currently find tracks from Your Freak Majesty on iTunes.