Tucson band bring psychobilly sound with a twist | Music
Andrea Morabito for the Arizona Daily Star
It’s a sweltering summer evening and the members of local rockabilly-punk fusion band The Reztones are sweating in the back room of drummer Tommy Hardy’s house in downtown Tucson.
Surrounded by “Star Wars” action figures and models, one of Hardy’s favorite movies, the group shakes the room harder than a Memphis nightclub, while 3D prints of Chewbacca, R2- D2 and Princess Leia are watching.
It’s not exactly your classic rockabilly sound, said Reztones frontman Wallace Book.
“I would say we’re playing psychobilly,” Book said. “Although it is complicated to register our music in a specific genre. We like to do something different. Rockabilly is great… Elvis, Johnny Cash, retro. Our music is more punk, very dark, like the kind of horror films of the 50s and 60s.
The group also incorporates elements of the Navajo language into their music. Bookseller and guitarist Chris Yazzie are both from the Navajo Nation.
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“We put little Navajo words in a few songs as a reference to whatever the song is about,” Book said.
Music fans can determine the sound for themselves when the band performs at Che’s Lounge, 350 N. Fourth Ave., on Saturday, August 6.
The bar hosts Bob Fest, a fundraiser for longtime patron Bob Friel, who is recovering from a recent stroke.
The Reztones are one of the youngest bands in the lineup, formed in 2019, but its members have long loved music.
Book said rockabilly had an impact on him from an early age.
“Classic rockabilly has always been part of my house,” he said. “Many Navajo listen to KTNN radio on the reservation. They were playing classic Sun Records songs.
His father’s record collection, spanning a wide range of artists including Bob Marley, The Police, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, The English Beat and The Specials, also influenced his musical tastes, as did his early life. in Tucson.
“Psychobilly came into my life in the early 2000s when I first heard Nekromantix and Zombie Ghost Train, but didn’t experience them live until I moved to Tucson in 2009 when I ‘ve seen The Last Call Brawlers at the Surly Wench,” Book said.
Hardy, who is originally from Maryland but has lived in Tucson since 1995, started playing bass in high school. He was in a band called Pasta Rocket in the early 2000s that was pretty well known locally, he said.
Hardy said he and Wallace started jamming together in 2016, “playing Tom Petty, Beatles, ‘Twilight Zone’ songs.”
When they decided to form the Reztones three years later, after their original guitarist left for personal reasons, they turned to Yazzie to help them complete the band.
Yazzie, who is working on her Ph.D. in environmental engineering at the University of Arizona, learned to play the guitar when he was 6 or 7 years old. He played in California Bay Area punk bands, but had been absent from the scene for a decade when Book contacted him.
“I was bored and posted videos on Instagram,” said Yazzie, who knew Book from singing karaoke together. “Wallace saw them and asked me if I wanted to join them.”
The newest member of the group, Robert Bailey, is the new kid in town; he recently moved to Tucson from Ozark, Missouri.
“I met these guys just because I liked their band,” Bailey said. “I came across them playing shows. I spent years working as a session musician and they needed an extra member. Now we’re on the fourth show together and they haven’t fired me yet.
Bailey, who plays double bass, jokes that none of the members play the instrument they play best.
“I’m a bassist,” said Book, the vocalist.
“I think I’m really no good at anything,” Hardy joked. “Sometimes we change instruments during our rehearsal. We are thinking of doing this in a concert in the future.
The pandemic hit just as the Reztones were getting started. The band formed in 2019, but didn’t play their first gig until 2020 – with another guitarist – a week before everything was shut down.
Still, over the past two years, the band has managed to play with some notable bands in the genre, including The Meteors, Nekromantix, Delta Bummers, and Three Back Jacks.
“There’s a festival in Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas, where we go every year,” Book said. “This last time, a lot of people recognized us. It was surreal. A lot of these famous guys recognized me and knew who I was. It was truly a lesson in humility. Having idols who know and like you is really amazing.
Not all shows are perfect: strings can break; the voices become raw and hoarse; but the group learned to navigate through these small difficulties.
“Every show we bring everything we have, all our energy and passion,” Book said. “We like to have a good time, show our positivity and our stage presence.”
The Reztones have a new album in the works, “Custer Had it Coming”, which is tentatively slated for release in August.
They’re also talking about playing more outside of Arizona, but “you have to understand gas money,” Hardy said. “You have to save money to shoot. You don’t make money with a tour.
Bob Fest begins at 6 p.m. at Che’s Lounge, 350 N. Fourth Ave with a lineup that includes Greyhound Soul, B Cinco, Leila Lopez and The Brian Green Machine, The Demons and Pork Torta. Free entry.
Follow The Reztones at facebook.com/thereztones or thereztones.com.