Phoenix vs. Tempe? Is a Fractious Relationship Hurting the Valley Music Scene?
See also: Echo Cloud Brings Actual Local Rock to Mill Avenue's School of Rock
Former Friends of Young Americans
See also: Behind the Scenes of Former Friends of Young Americans' Practice Pad
A couple of weeks ago, our own Anthony Sandoval penned a music feature about Phoenix-based shoegazers Former Friends of Young Americans. In the piece, the band (mostly, songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Toby Fatzinger) shared some opinions. A lot of them, actually. Fatzinger discussed Crescent Ballroom, stating he "fucking hated" the place, and weighed in on the "Tempe vs Phoenix" debate, coming in hard in support of Phoenix. Fatzinger makes some loose, not-entirely-serious references to Nazi Germany, ASU douchebags, and having sex with bears.
Actual bears, mind you, not the slang term for hairy, burly homosexuals. (After speaking with Fatzinger, he cleared up that they were referring to the homosexual slang term for burly dudes; in fact, one member of Former Friends is gay and was joking about his preference regarding men.)
The article generated a mini shit storm.
Some commenters (most didn't use an actual name, of course) attacked the band's statements, some accused the group of blatant homophobia, some were upset by the group's language. Nicole Parasida of Tempe-based promotion company-slash-blog Echo Cloud Productions, whose expressed mission is to "promote the Phoenix area music scene to join the ranks of New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Austin," wasn't offended by any of that stuff -- it was the attacks on Tempe that irked her. She responded with a blog of her own, in which she discussed her thoughts about the "Tempe vs. Phoenix divide." She didn't link back to us, as to not give the article "undeserving hits," but shared Facebook posts from Echo Cloud friends and a fairly comprehensive list of 32 Tempe alternative, rock, indie, and jam bands "that don't suck."
In a lot of ways, the whole controversy (let's use the word loosely) distracts from estas diloculo, the band's excellent new swirling guitar-pop record. It's a really good record, especially the galloping introduction of "Hopefully Deadly," which breaks down into a gorgeous, swooning vocal from keyboardist Jessica Kelley, and Trail of Dead-esque sex-groove of "Botero" (sample lyric: "Spread your legs, say my name.")
It's not the kind of music that "defines Phoenix," but I'm not sure that kind of music exists. The place is a pretty disparate, and best I can tell, it always has been. Pull out an old Placebo Records comp and try and find a thread connecting the bands beyond "weird" and cool.
But let's be fair: Our piece didn't focus much on the record. It was an attempt at a sincere conversation among bandmates and an opportunity for creative people to just kinda rap. I've had discussions with Fatzinger over the years, and he and I don't see eye to eye on plenty of things. For one, I live in Tempe, and any town that has Rock-N-Roll Fingers can't be that bad. Fatzinger's not a fan of Crescent Ballroom (though he openly gives respect to Charlie Levy of Stateside Presents on multiple levels), but I think it's a fantastic place to see shows and grab a drink. As the kind of listener who will go wherever a band I want to see is playing, it's nice to have another place I can do so in comfort.