8 Southern Arizona Musicians to Look Out For

Southern Arizona is home to plenty of cacti, wildlife, and ravaging sunsets. It is also home to a vibrant music scene. Though the region encompasses some large cities such as Phoenix and Tucson, the "hometown" vibe is strong in this music community. Musicians support one another and cheer each other on. Opportunities like the Tucson Folk Festival, Country Thunder, Gem and Jam Festival, Arizona Roots Festival, and the Arizona State Fair offer a wide range of live music for all.


Having started my music career in the Tucson area, I was blessed to see the Southern Arizona scene blossom and grow over the years. I have shared the stage with many talented artists and am excited to acquaint you with a few I am familiar with, as well as some newer artists I have yet to meet in person.


Without further ado (and in no particular order), here is my go-to list of 8 Southern Arizona Musicians to Look Out For:


1. Steff and The Articles


"Alternative pop from the desert." Steff and The Articles have been around for quite some time now. Having formed back in 2009, I remember playing one of my very first shows alongside this band down in a U of A student lounge. To keep a local band together for this long is quite a feat, and some of the members have been around for years!


Their lineup is unique. While Steff leads the group with stellar vocals and piano chops, the group also features multiple violinists alongside the bass, guitar, and drums. The group "touches on jazz, classical, and folk styles while maintaining an accessible, pop-oriented sound. They’ve opened up for national acts such as A Great Big World and Copeland (whose record Ixora features Steff)."



In 2017, Steff and The Articles released their full-length album, Timekeeper (check it out below). They also just celebrated their 10th anniversary at the beginning of this year. Congrats!



Side Note: If you are looking into piano lessons for yourself or a family member, check out lead singer/pianist Steff Koeppen's online option!



Follow Steff and The Articles:

Facebook: @steffandthearticles

Instagram: @steffandthearticles

Website: steffandthearticles.com

Twitter: @SteffArticles

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/steffandthearticles/


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2. Sophia Rankin


With a unique, folky sound and a mature voice that speaks levels above this artist's current age, Sophia Rankin continues to bring joy to the Tucson area. A pianist, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter, Rankin has spent her most recent years at the University of Arizona, securing a degree in Music Integrated Studies. She has received multiple awards for her original music.



"Rankin’s music style is an Americana-like blend of folk, rock, and pop [...] With a collaborative mix of genres and a strong foundation in folk roots, Rankin’s band provides a unique blend of folk rock and alternative sounds to their original music."



Sophia's next performance is scheduled for Friday, August 14, 2020 at Desert Southwest Open Mic:




Follow Sophia Rankin:

Website: sophiarankin.com

Facebook: @sophiarankinmusic

Twitter: @SophiaRankin_

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsLTIFuMlF0euquu_F5e37A



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3. Desert Fish


I remember playing at Tucson's "The Rock," alongside Desert Fish, when their band was newer to the local scene. I dig their atmosphere and rock reggae vibes! They blend multiple genres in a fun, unique way.


Photo by @ladyhush_

One of my personal favorite things about Desert Fish is their professional, standout logo. A good logo can really differentiate newer bands from more established ones, and a logo like Desert Fish's makes for some great merchandise. They often have this logo displayed behind them while playing live shows and I truly believe that this helps them be more memorable in the minds of audience members. Check out how the "D" and "F" are blended into a reggae fish design; way cool!


Desert Fish paves the way for an entirely new genre that they dub "desert reggae." They "blend together reggae, rock, and heavy harmonies." About their name, the band says: "Our band name originates from the idea that we were born and raised in the desert and want nothing more than to live by the ocean where we can thrive, hence we are all just Desert Fish." Amen to that!


Some of Desert Fish's musical influences include Sublime, 311, and Dirty Heads. Check out their tunes and let us know what you think in the comments below!



Band Members:

Dillon Abell: Guitar/Bass/ Vocals

Nick Balta: Ukulele/ Vocals

Jon Havenhill: Drums

Austin Land: Guitar/ Vocals


Follow Desert Fish:

Facebook: @desertfishbowl

Email: desertfish.azmusic@gmail.com

Website: desertfishmusic.com

Instagram: @desertfishband

Twitter: @DesertFishBand


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4. Idle Lights


Formerly known as Creating The Scene, I have really witnessed this group blossom over the years. I shared the stage with them back in 2012 or so and can honestly say that Jake Walters (Founding Member / Vocals / Keys) is one of the kindest musicians around. His gentle spirit off stage turns into a fiery energy while performing. A young combination of Freddie Mercury and Tame Impala's Kevin Parker, Walters certainly has the vocals (and hair) to boast.


Idle Lights' current lineup consists of Jake Walters (Vocals / Keys), Nic Fricke (Bass / Guitar), Jace Hampton (Drums, Vocals), and Cory Raio (Guitar). Walters is the only founding member left in the band. Even amidst multiple member change-ups, Idle Lights continues to push forward. A+ for dedication and heart!



Fun Fact: Band Interest = "Finding a way to get fries after every show." Same here, bros. Same here.


Follow Idle Lights:

Facebook: Idle Lights

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClWi26-gya78o6ZZ4tC7oLg

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2FCaorlbQML9E6W6FtJHre?si=7uBxguupRSO6DfwbcpLnFw


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5. Sundressed


I first found out about Sundressed through Matthew Graham (@mattstagraham), a throwback musician friend who played bass in a couple of my sets many years ago. Graham was known for his former work with Secret Tunnel Storyline (STSL) and has been heavily involved in the Southern Arizona music scene since he was a teenager. I have followed his career along the way!



Graham is now a part of Sundressed, a Tempe-based band with a positive message and an inspiring backstory.


According to the group's bio, Sundressed was originally created by lead vocalist and songwriter Trevor Hedges back in 2012 "with the initial purpose of maintaining his sobriety. Now, 8 years later, Hedges has refocused the project’s mission, writing songs that tackle mental health issues for others to take solace in." Awesome! Other members include AJ Peacox, Vic Chan, and Justin Portillo.


Sundressed has recently signed to Rude Records and is on its way to bigger and better things. Check 'em out!



Follow Sundressed:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0KlYEaj5sigNA1iixOstiH?si=km6KNSFWSlWtIisi3ZBc8Q

Facebook: @sundressed

Twitter: @sundressedband

Instagram: @sundressedband


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6. Dreaming Awake


Currently boasting 28,000 Facebook "likes," Dreaming Awake symbolizes success for many Tucson hopefuls. Members include Vaughn Bell (Scream Vocals), Phil Lepistö (Guitar - and one of my favorite hippie acquaintances in high school), Jacob Alms (Clean Vocals), Andrew Demelo (Drums), and Frankie Presnar (Guitar). These are some seriously dedicated musicians. Tucson is not the easiest city to "make it" in, but these dudes have truly made a career for themselves.



Dreaming Awake is currently signed to Imminence Records and classifies themself as Post-Hardcore / Progressive / Alternative. They are endorsed by brands such as EarPeace (a fantastic company), Explore Apparel, Voiceless Clothing, and Clear Voice Vocal Spray (highly recommended!). Dreaming Awake has shared the stage will well-known acts like Eyes Set To Kill, and I Prevail.



Follow Dreaming Awake:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3LQUlDhOIKKs2GZm6804G6?si=1_C-8zuPTaePw4hqVjyu0w

Facebook: @DreamingAwakeMusic

Twitter: @dreamingawakeaz

Instagram: @dreamingawakemusic


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7. Calexico


With 179,000 Facebook fans, Calexico may be the most well-known Tucson-based band currently in the area. "For the better part of two decades, nine studio albums, and countless trips around the globe, Joey Burns and John Convertino have embraced a multitude of diverse styles and well cultivated signature sounds." Besides Burns and Covertino, other members include Martin Wenk, Jacob Valenzuela, Sergio Mendoza, Jairo Zavala Ruiz, and Scott Colberg. The name Calexico has become synonymous with the Tucson music scene, and with hundreds of shows to date since 1996, it is no wonder why.



Initially set to be a headliner at the 2020 Boise Treefort Music Fest before its cancellation (my band, LUX, played this festival last year and it was a blast!), Calexico certainly makes their way around. They have labels in North and South America (Anti Records), UK/EU (City Slang), and AU/NZ (Spunk).


The making of Calexico's "The Thread That Keeps Us" involved "gathering musicians from across the globe to dream up an earthy yet expansive sound spiked with jagged guitar tones and flashes of distortion." Though released back in 2018, it has a timely message. “There’s a little more chaos and noise in the mix than what we’ve done in the past,” says Burns. "That chaos has much to do with 'where we’re at right now as a planet.' [...] The Thread That Keeps Us captures the anxieties and unease of living in tumultuous times."



Follow Calexico:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1OmdWpAh1pucAuZPzJaxIJ?si=bGygeLqySg-kKZzKtEIxNA

Facebook: @calexico

Twitter: @casadecalexico

Instagram: @casadecalexico


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8. Pyrotechnica


I am always happy and excited to hear about other female-fronted hard rock bands. When Pyrotechnica and I were both featured on KFMA's Local Noize last year, I knew that I had to look them up. Based out of Tucson, Pyrotechnica brings alternative metal with "heavy riffs, dancey synths, pop feels, and catchy choruses." They have opened for acts such as Shinedown, Papa Roach, Asking Alexandria, Escape the Fate, and Trapt. That's quite the list!


Pyrotechnica just released their latest single, "Grey," in cooperation with "Rudy Rudy Rudy," Shadow Born Group, and PinUp Artist Management. They have merchandise for sale on their official

website and continue to post content for their dedicated fans - even amidst the pandemic. Cheers!



Follow Pyrotechnica:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6lONzKi5RuUQjJmNL6K0NN?si=MXnPc9pWQs266feG6-uJ1w

Facebook: @pyrotechnicaofficial

Website: pyrotechnicaofficial.com

Instagram: @pyrotechnica_band

Twitter: @PyrotechnicaAZ


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What other Southern Arizona musicians deserve some attention? Comment below!

Alisha Peru

www.alishaperu.com

For write-ups, press releases, music reviews, band biographies, and more, email alisha@alishaperu.com.


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