March - All Arizona CD's

March will feature some of my favorite out-of-print, mostly independent releases, of local Arizona artists. Most of these are from the 90's.

The Stumbles - Best Of The Greatest Hits (Volume Seven) (1998)

Unfortunately, the second and final CD released by The Stumbles, which picked up where their debut left off. Larger crowds, courting by record labels and ultimately, too much nightlife led to the demise of one of Arizona's finest near miss bands.
Adding Dusty Denham on drums for the CD but utilizing Scott Hessel live, the Stumbles were all over the musical map and their album artwork, a nod to the K-Tel records of the 70's, was a perfect fit. Boy In The Bubble is as fine a pop song as there was and San Francisco was a live crowd favorite. Moffatt and Sadler continued on minus Walker and later became Big Moxie.

The Stumbles:
Mark Moffatt - Guitar and Lead and Back-Up Vocals
Ron Walker - Guitar and Lead and Back-Up Vocals
Matt Sadler - Bass
Dusty Denham - Drums

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The Stumbles - The Stumbles (1995)

Previously featured here, Ron Walker's band after Middletown and a solo effort was poised to make it big. This 1995 debut release was sweet and pure guitar pop and quite possibly one of my all-time favorite CD's. Walker teamed with Mark Moffatt, trading vocals and both playing guitar. Matt Sadler played bass. Walker also took drumming credits on this disc. Produced by Mark Matson & the Stumbles at Salt Mine Studios.

From New Times:

Published: November 30, 1995

The Stumbles
The Stumbles

After Jefferson Airplane, but before Styx, "eclectic" became a dirty word in rock. An "eclectic" young band is one that hasn't figured out what it wants to be when it grows up, while an "eclectic" older group means even the drummer thinks he can sing (and, worse, write). The Stumbles fall somewhere in between. The band boasts two strong front men/guitarists, Ron Walker and Mark Moffatt--and Walker plays all the drums on this CD.

Any group that runs as wide a spectrum of styles in a 40-minute live set as the Stumbles can is eclectic in the best sense of the word. This band can harness the power of Sugar or Live and tack on highly polished block harmonies worthy of the Plimsouls or the Rembrandts, as demonstrated here on "SSS Man" and "Undertow."

"And She" is a whisper-to-scream pop gem that starts out with chiming acoustic 12strings like The La's "There She Goes," before launching into a nasally Bob Mouldish chorus. When he sings this song live, the large-framed Moffatt resembles Ed Wood's beloved wrestler/actor, Tor Johnson, at his eye-bulging best. In the recorded version of "And She," Moffatt states that his beloved "gets on my face." Live, however, I could swear he sings "sits." In any case, "And She" is a killer song, and the band has more where that came from: The number of new tunes the Stumbles are currently playing out indicates the band didn't succumb to debut fever and shoot their wad on one album. Good thing. A recording this good deserves a quality follow-up. --Serene Dominic

The Stumbles:

Ron Walker - Guitar, Vocals, Drums
Mark Moffatt - Guitar, Vocals
Matt Sadler - Bass, Black & Decker

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The Refreshments - Wheelie (1994)

Regularly fetching over $100 on eBay, this rare debut CD was passed out at shows, I believe only 500 exist. The songs here were later reworked for the classic (and one of my all-time faves) Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy. Psychosis does not appear on that CD and B.O.B.A. was renamed Mexico for the Mercury release in 1996.
Formed in Tempe, Arizona, their first show was in January 1994 at Long Wongs in Tempe, opening for Flathead.
The Refreshments toured with the Gin Blossoms and Dead Hot Workshop and became hugely popular on the local scene as well as Nationally. They released their final CD on Mercury as well in 1997 (The Bottle And Fresh Horses). They gained fame for recording the theme to King Of The Hill.

Lead Singer Roger Clyne later formed Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers and tours regularly to this day, with a devote following. They have put out some excellent CD's and I recommend you check them out, especially if you get a chance to check them out live.

This CD was recorded at Salt Mine Studios in Mesa, Az and engineered by Mark Matson.


The Refreshments:

Roger Meade Clyne - Lead Vocals, Rhthmn (sp) Guitar
Brian David Blush - Lead Guitar
Dustin Coleman Denham - Drums, Backing Vocals
Arthur Eugene Edwards III - Bass

(P.H. Naffah actually received drumming credits on Fizzy Fuzzy in place of Denham)

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The Chimeras - Mistaken For Granted (1995)

Sadly, this is the only release that saw the light of day to my knowledge and is extremely difficult to find, often fetching from $50 to $150.

Excerpts From New Times (Laurie Notaro)January 4th 1996:

The band was born early in 1993. The Zubia brothers (Mark and Lawrence)--fresh from dismantling their former band, Live Nudes--teamed up with bassist Scott Andrews, drummer Mark Riggs and original Gin Blossoms guitarist Doug Hopkins, and quickly became known for a style that combined Hopkins' three-minute-pop brilliance with the Zubias' soulful, blues-influenced rock. According to Mark Zubia, they took the name "Chimeras" from a Greek word that described a "she-woman fire-breathing beast, with the head of a lion, body of a goat and tail of a serpent."

The Chimeras rocketed onto the music scene. Just a few weeks after the band materialized, it became one of the most-booked and best-recognized ensembles in Tempe. The band's first gig was before a capacity crowd at the now-defunct Edcel's Attic. In record time, rumors were bouncing off the barroom walls that the Chimeras would be the next band signed out of Tempe.

But the Chimeras seemed to fall apart as quickly as they came together. Hopkins abruptly left the band after a discouraging performance at a music festival in April 1993. Riggs quit because of personal problems. Bookings plummeted and dragged the band's morale down with them.

"We went through five months without another guitarist," remembers Mark Zubia. "We were very depressed. Pete [Milner] has told me how depressed we looked when we played."

For four months, we paid for our rehearsal shed out of our own pockets," adds Andrews. "And then we'd all just go there and sit looking at each other."

After six months of limbo, Milner filled the hole that Hopkins left. The band members collectively cajoled Gary Smith--who was playing with Swamp Cooler--into sliding behind the drums.

The reconstituted Chimeras quickly started writing new material, and within weeks the band once again was a staple ofclub listings. New Times named the Chimeras Best Alternative Band of 1993.

In December of that year, however, the bad times returned with a vengeance. After suffering through several years of alcohol abuse and severe depression, Doug Hopkins killed himself. Hopkins had remained friends with the band, even after leaving. It was Lawrence Zubia who discovered Hopkins' body in the guitarist's apartment early one Sunday afternoon.

Performing was no escape from grief. Hopkins had written a large portion of the Chimeras' material, and every set the band played brought poignant reminders of his suicide.

Then, after years of his own excessive drug and alcohol use, Lawrence finally arrived at what he terms "the crossroads." He found himself fighting the same problems that caused Hopkins to shoot himself.

"I could not go any further," Lawrence says. "It came to a decision of whether I was going to continue my life like this or not continue my life at all.

"Now I look back and think, 'How did I do all of the mathematics?' Like, it would be a Thursday; I'd think, 'I gotta play tomorrow. It's midnight. Okay, I can take 14 of these pills, and then by six o'clock tomorrow evening, I'll start feeling somewhat okay. I'll drink four beers. I can play.'"

Fortunately, Lawrence checked in rather than out. He enrolled in a 28-day program at a west Phoenix rehab center for chronic relapsers, the kind of place that requires residents to wake up at six in the morning to do laundry and other daily chores.

"It was like boot camp," Lawrence says.
Although Lawrence's bandmates were supportive of his decision to take a monthlong hiatus and get clean, his peers in rehab were not so supportive of his determination to continue as a rock musician.

Mark made it clear to his brother that he would still be part of the band.
"And this is what I was telling the people in rehab," Lawrence continues. "But they're telling me, 'You can't go back to the band. That's the worst place for you to be!'

Lawrence successfully completed the program and immediately rejoined the band, which experienced a creative catharsis on his return. And Lawrence stayed sober.
"I think the real inspiration for me to stay sober is what happened to Doug," Lawrence continues. "I felt sorry for myself for a long time because of drugs and alcohol. I really pitied myself. Now it's like: How fucking hard is it to play music with a purpose?"

But if Hopkins has remained an inspiration for the Chimeras, his pop influence has faded from the band's music. All but three of the songs Hopkins wrote for the band have been excised from the Chimeras' repertoire, and none of the late songwriter's work appears on Mistaken for Granted.
Obviously, Doug Hopkins and the Chimeras wrote a lot of good songs, and his influence is still with us," stresses Milner. "He was a great guitar player and a great musician. But if anyone thinks we're up there trying to ride on Doug's songs, they should understand that we're a new band since then."

The Zubias' songwriting style has started to accommodate more of a blues/rock format and even a twist of the traditional Mexican folk music they heard as children.

"My brother and I have been blues-based writers," says Mark. "Doug was more pop, and we went to that pop thing. Now I think we're back to somewhere in the middle. We can take what we learned from Doug and apply it to what we do now."

So far, so good. Mistaken caught the attention of Morty Wiggins, vicepresident of Bill Graham Management, the promotional entity behind the Gin Blossoms and Dead Hot Workshop. Wiggins and the band's lawyer, Fred Davis (son of Arista CEO Clive Davis), plan to shop the Chimeras around, confident they can get the band a record deal.

And so the Chimeras recently returned to the studio to record a demo tape produced by Gin Blossoms guitarist and longtime friend Jesse Valenzuela. The demo was cut at the Vintage recording studio in Phoenix, a small, white building that looks more like a VD clinic than the studio where the Gin Blossoms recorded their latest single, "Till I Hear It From You."

Despite the potential that is crackling in the air, the Chimeras have come to realize that there's more to staying together as a band than cutting record deals.

The Chimeras:
Lawrence Zubia - Vocals
Mark Zubia - Guitars & Vocals
Peter Milner - Guitars
Scott Andrews - Bass
Gary Smith - Drums

Produced by The Chimeras and Mark Mattson

Recorded at The Salt Mine Studios

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