Decades: a Time Capsule Interview with Banana Gun, Decker, and Wyves.

Perhaps it is the midlife event that leads a person to contemplate time as an increasingly interesting meditation. How it constricts. How it seems to pass so much faster, the further one goes on. And although we have all been told that so often that it has become cliche, there is nothing cliche about experiencing it. We think of everything in terms of ‘The Decade’: CNN documentary series that break down American history, by decade; music stations that play the hits, by decade; fashion fun days during homecoming week, by decade. The decade is a big deal, and it kinda always has been. We hold that concept of Ten Years on a pretty high pedestal in terms of attainability, sustainability, tenacity. But, I guess with age comes the realization that ten years can pass in the blink of an eye, and that realization, that scary dawning really real feeling of it, makes every part of the journey significant. If there has been a highlight to this writer’s, music lover’s life, it has been a continual reaffirmation of that concept. That fact. None of this is about the “Where do you see yourself in ten years….” goal at a self help seminar. This is about the journey…. the life…. that living…… that happens over a continuous decade as Indie staples of the Arizona music scene.

 

Decades:

A Time Capsule Interview with Kevin Loyd {Banana Gun} and Brandon Decker {.decker} with special guest Corey Gloden {Wyves}

The beginnings of Banana Gun, 2009, came at the tale end of a drought. A lot of these guys had seen the legendary “Long Wong’s on Mill” Scene, but by the time they had come up, formed bands, and were ready to go… the music scene had changed, and become a parking lot. Kevin Loyd was working as an Assistant Manager at Kinkos, were he would eventually be let go for giving too many flyer discounts to his band friends. “Yeah it was that Kinkos over on University, I remember Mikel and Meridith of Sugar Thieves coming in one time, and I would always handle the bands that would come in. I would hook em up, and yeah, that’s probably why I got fired.” He laughs his throaty raspy laugh. “Yeah, lots of band discounts.” Thus the birth of Banana Gun.”So, you are here, in Phoenix, giving away free fliers at Kinkos,” I ask with a smile, “but why Phoenix? Why did you come, and why do you stay?””I moved here with my original band because I had heard that Phoenix had a great music scene.” Kevin’s answer is to the point, almost obvious.I follow it up with a quick, “Were they right?””I think it had sorta died by the time I got here,” Kevin laughs. “There has been a resurgence, obviously, but the scene that was kinda legendary, had closed down, or moved on.”

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Corey, who hitherto was hanging out in wing-man position had come for moral support for Kevin, who is pretty shy in interviews, incidentally. It was kinda cool, because I was pretty nervous too. Within a few minutes, it was just hanging out with a couple of buddies. That is the kind of people these guys are. Just cool cats. Kids you would want at the barbecue. So, looking to get Corey involved, I turned to him and asked, “When did you get to Arizona, and what was the scene like?””I arrived in just about 2000, and I was underage. Back then I was doing my gnarly rock n roll in coffee houses, restaurants, house parties. All sorts of sketchy places. I didn’t really know anybody who could get me in to these places underage. Incidentally, Corey’s timing to Phoenix is very similar to Josh Kennedy of The Black Moods. A lot of these guys came to Phoenix together. They had heard the legends that had come out of Mill Avenue, and they wanted to be the next generation. It took time for the scene to come back, embolden, and once again surge forward, but these guys were here. Playing where they could play. Forming bands. Lurking, like surfers on polished boards watching the swells, knowing the big one is on the way, and doing everything they could to practice, tighten their chops, and be ready.”By the time we came up, Wong’s wasn’t really doing music anymore. We were struggling, scrapping around, trying to find places to play,” Corey added. “We got the Friday and Saturdays going again back at Yucca. At the time, Yucca was only doing live music on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.””No shit?” Kevin piped in.

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“There was a scene. The scene still existed. There were still people here and going to shows during that era,” Corey continued as we talked about the decade that brought them to Phoenix, and the decade in which I left. But everyone I talked to talks about a void, a bit of a black hole left in that era after the 90s were gone…. but the current exposition had not yet lit. “They were following bands like Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Pistoleros, and so was I. We could see them in really big venues, really big stages around town, like Tempe Town Lake, sold out rooms. And I was just a kid, I think I still had braces, standing in the back. But, once we came up, and were really ready, there were just not the places anymore to really go, you know, do it.”As our discussion progressed, you get the sense that the music scene of a city goes through transitions. When live music is booming, like the heyday of Mill of legend, or what we see happening right now in downtown Phoenix and Tucson, you see less reliance on DJs to fill venues. Less reliance on dance parties to get people to come out. When that shift has gone the other way, venues are reluctant to trust the draw of live bands, so they find new places to play. “We still want to get that young audience, so we start playing Bars & Grills, restaurants, coffee shops and happy hour spots, waiting for that scene to take a breath and get going again,” Corey concluded.His perspective on this early formative time was really interesting, because although Wyves did not officially form until 2014, Corey was here in Phoenix, with guys like Josh Kennedy, Chico Diaz, Kevin Michael Prier, Bob Hoag, Kevin Loyd who would all go on to be members at the ground level of this new resurgence that we feel now.

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Photo Credit: Valerie Luxicon

Brandon Decker, who joined our interview via phone and messages after the fact, has nothing but praise for Arizona. “Arizona is special to me because it is home. It is where my heart it, and where my loves reside. I have deeply enjoyed my time in California, but Arizona, Sedona in particular, is me at a cellular level.”From a musicians point of view, there is a momentum in Phoenix. What can be done to kind of propel it, how do we keep that stone rolling?Kevin thought for a moment, and then answered easily. “Putting together a good show. We work together. We try to make that happen. And by working together we are able to prove to people that when they come out they are going to get consistently great shows.”Corey Gloden added, “To the point now, that you know, we have been friends for what, 12 years now, and you guys are playing this great show, and we get to back you up across Arizona. That’s pretty cool. I mean we haven’t written songs together, but we write songs together, we share and collaborate ideas. We even call each other, we might be in the middle of a recording session, and we call and just kind of run over stuff. It doesn’t mean that we are writing together, we own our own stuff, but we are looking for that last minute green light, that compass. These guys, Kevin Loyd and Brandon too, are two of my compasses.”

Looking to connect the Tempe scene I remembered from the 90s boom with what I could feel happening, I offered, “One of the things I really enjoy about those 90s Tempe legends, Roger, Dead Hot, Pistoleros, Satellite, is all of the inner references and nods to each other and the inspiration they derive from each other. Its almost like what you are describing between the three of you reminds me of that.”Corey was nodding assent before I finished the question. “Absolutely. Absolutely. Kevin, Josh, Kevin Michael Prier, Brandon, these are the guys you are calling at all hours. These are the confidants that you turn to. These are the guys, you know, we came up together, we jammed together, we wrote so many unreleased little things that led to who we are, together….. so yes, absolutely.””We all have such a deep appreciation for each other’s stuff, each other’s work,” Kevin concluded.Speaking of the depth of these friendships, both singers got a bit candid, and their genuine friendship was quite obvious. “These friendships really pervade our writing, and the shows that we try to provide. These are the things that make this life really, really fulfilling,” Corey began.

“We don’t really create… new friendships. We are gigging, we are working, we are meeting so many people…. but these deep, formative friendships, become our litmus. We help each other get better. We push each other.”Kevin said, “It say a lot that we are still here. Still pushing each other. These friendships just get deeper, and they show in the music that we record and the gigs that we play.”Corey added a really interesting perspective, which I feel is key to building community. “When we were coming up, we were going out like almost every night. Playing shows. Seeing shows. And we saw those great Tempe bands playing those big shows, but we didn’t sound like them. When we were going out, seeing these new bands, there can be a tendency in the old guard to surround yourself with the familiar, rather than reaching out and including the new. It is important to come back into town, go to some of these smaller venues, put together a killer show, and keep supporting that growing scene. Reach out to some of these newer, younger bands. Try to cultivate that scene.””We always try to do that,” Kevin added. “I hate going to see five bands that all sound the same. It is about reaching out, building new and different shows, and building that consistency.”

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August 9 Phoenix

Brandon Decker, had this to say about the upcoming Decade Show at Crescent Ballroom, and his reminiscing of Phoenix.

“I remember tending bar in Sedona one day, while still very much trying to wrap my head around *all-the-things* of music – having a strong & consistent band, writing better songs, making better albums, delivering a compelling performance, reaching people, finding larger stages, booking better shows, and so on – and I saw that one of my favorite bands of the time, Blind Pilot, was playing a show at a place in Phoenix called Crescent Ballroom. I’d never heard of the place. I looked at their calendar and it turned out it was the venue’s inaugural concert. It also turned out that my very favorite band of the time, Deer Tick, was playing there soon after.  I bought tickets to both of the shows.When I arrived at the Blind Pilot concert, it was easily one of the most striking, cozy, classy music venues I had ever encountered. I remember watching the band deliver a masterful performance and thinking, “I want to play here someday.” I was eager to return for Deer Tick.A few weeks later, in what was truly an unbelievable turn of events, especially for the reality of where our little rag tag Sedona band was both geographically and otherwise, I got a call the night before the show asking if we’d like to open it, which we of course did, and I’d like to think we kicked ass on a level appropriate to open for a band like Deer Tick.A new standard had been set. I know that any band around in Phoenix back then felt the same way and furthermore felt great pride in being able to be on that stage. And that has never changed.It is a fitting and special honor to bring our 10 year Phoenix celebration to Crescent with fellow decader’s Banana Gun plus OG homies Wyves and New G Homies Ali A and the Agency.  Join us.”

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In ten years, really, what I have I learned? I have learned that making music is expensive.” Brandon adds via Messenger. “But, in earnest, making music for me is all about creating that space for it to come through. I’ve not known it to work any other way than to make myself the soil for the seeds to grow. And they seem to grow very much on their own. So, it’s about getting there, which can be hard in a life that is so demanding. And I mean demanding for all of us, not just those making music or making art.”It’s an interesting perspective, and gets back to what I was trying to allude to a bit in the beginning. It is easy to sound cliche when you talk about just enjoying a journey, but it really is all about that. Business concerns, selling art, selling music, selling books, streaming royalties, all of these concerns alter the ocean in which we all swim in, but it does not change the fact that we would still choose to swim in that ocean. It happens very much on its own, in many way, and capturing it and selling it almost become completely separate, mutually exclusive things.

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Photo Credit: Valerie Luxicon

Brandon Decker continued, when discussing the business side of music over the last decade.

“As far as business, I’m thinking less and less about business. I don’t like business. I like connection. I like emotion. I like creation. Business is some other thing that is less sincere and less meaningful. What drives me to keep doing it? I do not know the answer to that in a succinct and defined way. It’s some amalgamation of magic, possession, fear, desire, love, my son, pride. I couldn’t quit if I wanted to and I don’t think that I want to. Like Angel Olsen said, “I just want to be alive, make something real.”

So when we talk about building that Phoenix scene, that community of music that says that we are a destination, how does Phoenix compare to other cities you have played. Wyves just played Austin around and during South by Southwest for example. Is Phoenix on that map, are we even in that conversation? Is Phoenix a music town?”I definitely get that sense. Phoenix has that sense, but in comparison to an Austin, it is more about continuous longevity. Austin experienced this southern rock, blues boom, decades ago, and it has just never really stopped. You can just see so many great, legendary musicians there, all of the time, and the town has sustained it, and the music has stayed. Here you get a sense of that, and of that history, but on a much smaller level.” That said, Phoenix also has its own crop of festivals and events that are creating large draws for the Valley. Innings Festival, McDowell Mountain, Scottsdale Culinary Arts Festival, to say nothing of the Decade of Apache Lake Music Festival, are not small endeavors and are gaining massive attention with each year they return.”As Phoenix continues to grow, what are some of the biggest challenges faces bands?”

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“Driving,” Kevin answered quickly. “Everything is just so spread out, I mean other than that triangle of places downtown, everything is pretty far flung across the Valley.””My wife loves to throw odd questions at me for my band interviews. When I interviewed The Black Moods, Josh talking about Hair of the Dog playing during his presidential acceptance speech came from a Karla question. If you could play on, or write a song on, a famous person’s instrument, who would it be and what instrument?”Kevin answered first, “Willie Nelson. It’s gotta be Willie and his guitar.” Corey’s answer, which involved a trip to LA, and duets sung with other dudes over a white piano, was much more interesting, but it lead to the answer of, “well, it was Prince‘s piano. So there is that.” I will chalk that up to the biggest surprise of the evening, the Wyves front man would write a song on Prince’s piano; how cool is that!

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Both decker. and Banana Gun are celebrating their first completed decade as bands. Each has recorded that milestone in ways perfect to their persona and mystique as bands and identities. decker. celebrated ten years by recording a live musical experience back in May at Last Exit Live. “In my view, Friday, May 10 is one of the most meaningful decker. engagements to date, and I have not looked forward to a performance quite so much,” Brandon wrote on the band’s Facebook page. “Simply put, we’re looking to imbue 10 years of decker. performance, energy, love, and intensity into one night and capture it all on film and tape.” After the event, Brandon tied to sum up his depth of overwhelming emotions.

“Friday night was easily the most powerful and memorable occasion of my life apart from the birth of my son. For nearly three hours non-stop, we experienced exactly what the band and I had hoped for – electric, authentic connection and elevation. Sincere tanks to each of the beautiful people that were a part of Friday’s show – the musicians, the production, the venue, the attendees. You all were a part of the magic. Can’t wait to hear what we created together.”

I have no word on whether decker. is releasing a recording of that live performance this August or not, but the intensity, the beauty, and the passion of a decade recording the sounds of their souls will be repeated on their ten year anniversary AZ mini tour with Banana Gun and Wyves.

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August 8 Tucson

Speaking of milestones, Brandon said this to the city of Tucson when announcing this series of shows. “10 Years Tucson. There was a time when we were fortunate enough to make a record with Craig Schumacher and company at Tucson’s WaveLab Recording Studio, responsible for so many albums which influenced and inspired me. We posted up in the studio for some extended chunks, sleeping on its floors, and gathered a formidable cast of Tucson’s finest to touch and infuse the record with the genuine spirit of the land. Our album Patsy remains one of my proudest endeavors and an authentic snapshot of my fierce hunger of that time. I will always cherish my time in downtown Tucson, at that studio and with those talented people as further evidence of the rich gifts I have been able to receive through making music. And I am always eager to return.

“On Thursday, August 8 we will make our way to the hallowed, haunted halls of Club Congress to kick off our 10 Year Celebration run across Arizona with our buds Banana Gun and Wyves. Hope to see you there, Tucson!”

Turning back to Kevin, I continued, “So for this Ten Year Retrospective album that you are releasing on this mini Arizona tour, Banana Gun went up to Curtis Grippe’s cabin outside of Flagstaff in Mund’s Park to record. How did you guys decide what songs were going to be on this special collection?”Yeah it was awesome. For this celebration of ten years, we wanted to record not a best of album, but a re-imagining a recording that showed that growth and that change and that journey. It’s us a celebration our ten years and showing appreciation for Banana Gun still being here and still doing it. We had a heated debate on what songs would be included, and in the end we all just kind of made our own lists of songs we wanted to show changes to, or maybe we had developed along the way into something different, and then when we diplomatically compared those lists, songs that popped up multiple times made it deeper into the conversation. We also provide a new song, Born to Lose, which is kinda a little debut for that single.”

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August 10 Flagstaff

“At the end of June, we spent a weekend in Mund’s Park recording live and new versions of 10 of our favorite Banana Gun songs from our back catalog. This includes new versions of May June July, Not Dead Yet, and Screen Time. We’re gonna have a limited run of CDs available for super cheap at our anniversary shows Aug 8th at Club Congress Tucson, Aug 9th at Crescent Ballroom and Aug 10th at Monte Vista in Flagstaff. Hope to see you there.”

“So we went up to Curtis’s cabin, and I walk in, and it looked just like Curtis’s studio over Stem Recording moved up to the mountains. It was awesome, I was walked in and it was a singer’s paradise.””So the memes are true…. about singers?”

“Well…. I had a gig,” Kevin laughs as he defends himself. “But we had a great couple of days, had a celebration, and recorded that milestone with our friends. Whatever we captured… we captured. “Kevin… Banana Gun is on many many shortlists of one of the best bands in town. To many happy returns sir. To decades.”

Via Facebook…. Brandon has added a ten year message for each town on the mini tour.  Here is what he had to say about Flagstaff and Sedona.

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“15 years ago this summer I moved from Corona, CA to Flagstaff, AZ to finish my degree at Northern Arizona University. I was 24 and studying Philosophy. Completing my undergrad meant vastly more to me than an education. It represented redemption to a decade of drug addiction and seeming failed attempts at recovery; a decade of wreckage, depression, hopelessness, the darkest depths and so on.  I soon found myself again in a tailspin. The reality that I did not die, end up in a serious jail scenario or getting rolled is itself a miracle. The anecdotes from this time reveal a sad, desperate boy lost and on the brink of personal catastrophe. As I was moving back to Arizona last week I came across journals going back to this time and I felt such compassion for that person. While I can no longer identify, I can very clearly recall the anger and futility of such hopelessness. I experienced nothing short of a divine intervention – in no way a testament to my will or character but rather a gift of mercy.I left Flagstaff for the summer of 2005, regrouped and then returned. I was humbled and rattled; embarrassed for who I had been. I finished college and did what any Philosophy major does – went immediately to work at PF Chang’s in Scottsdale as a server, two years later moving back north, this time to Sedona, where so much of my process of rebirth has occurred.So what’s the point? I’ve always made music from the place of acknowledging the shame, regret and hurt which I’ve experienced and as a way of acknowledging that we all have these processes and wounds, in hopes that together we might shine a light into those dark places, so that that light might begin to penetrate the deepest depths of our beings and we may begin to find ourselves, not alone but together, in relief, release, and, with any luck, in joy, hope and laughter.My time in Flagstaff has always encapsulated that process for me. I am grateful for the opportunity to wrap up our 10 Year Anniversary shows next week in the city that is not only mine, but also Amber Johnson and Dante LoPresti‘s alma mater and a place that, to me, is so full of tangible, living evidence that we can change.Join us Saturday, Aug 10 at MonteVista CocktailLounge along with Banana Gun & Wyves for the final show of our AZ weekend.”

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“We have a bunch of new material we are excited to get into the studio and start working out as soon as possible, this milestone of a celebration just has us hungry to keep doing what we do!”What I got from these guys in the end… was a conversation that was much less about where do you see yourself in x number of years, and much more about what story does your journey share. I was reminded that we collectively write our history, we collectively build our community, and we collectively bask in the scene that it creates. It becomes so much less about getting somewhere…. and so much more about staying vibrant.And isn’t that the best answer to where do you see yourself in a decade?Burning bright. Staying vibrant.Yes. Yes it is.

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Keep the Greasy Side Down, my Friends.

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