“Sometimes you just have to throw it out there”: As the Tucson band discovered over the course of making their new album, patience will out.
BY ERIC SWEDLUND
Arizona-based La Cerca’s latest album is a project that began around 2006, the songs coming slowly, changing over time and being shaped by different musicians along the way.
“The songs were around for a very long time, but they change form time to time,” says Andrew Gardner, La Cerca’s singer, songwriter and guitarist. “Different players play on it, different people are coming in and out of the band to change things. We all sort of reflect each other, but have our own musical energies that we bring into it.”
Sunrise for Everyone, released as a vinyl-only artifact by the North Carolina (but previously Tucson) –based Fort Lowell label) was an exercise in patience: patience for Gardner as a songwriter, patience as band members, patience in recording. In the end, that’s what pushed the best stuff to the top.
“We’ve been playing together for a very long time and there have been changes in our lives. I’ve taken breaks off to travel and when I get back I don’t really say anything. Someone will ask about playing again and then we’re back again,” Gardner says. “It’s not easy being in a band. Some people don’t like the road. But this is what I want to do. It’s not always the right thing for playing with your best friend. Sometimes you have to reach out to make new friends to play with you and complete the cycle.”
The record is a snapshot of the ever-evolving Tucson band. At the time the basic tracks were recorded, La Cerca was a six-piece: Ernie Gardner (the album is dedicated to Ernie, who passed away in 2012) on drums, Malcolm Cooper on keys, Kevin Dowling on guitar, Miguel Villarreal on bass, Bill Oberdick on guitar and, of course, Andrew Gardner on guitar and vocals (no relation to Ernie).
“That was the band for a good six months, but we started changing again, explains Gardner. “We’ve had shows where Bill has played the drums because somebody couldn’t show up. That was a whole turning point for the band in itself. We just try not to let it faze us, try not to let it affect us. Just keep on moving. I don’t like to cancel show. I want to keep playing as much as I can.
“Everybody affects the band. Everybody affects what’s happening and therefore it changes the songs, ever so slightly, or even very drastically. We don’t play the songs the same way as we used to. It changes because we feel differently. We need to embrace the change. It will change again. I feel it. I don’t know when.”
After the main tracks were done came the vocals, typically the most difficult part for Gardner.
“I’m being more careful. I started meeting more people and it’s like ‘Oh you should sing on this,” he says. Seven guest vocalists show up on Sunrise for Everyone, including Matt Rendon of The Resonars and Tracy Shedd. Whether it’s guest vocalists, someone brought in to record a couple instrumental tracks or core band members, every contributor impacts La Cerca in specific ways.
“I would say I’m the director of the band maybe, but I don’t tell people what to play necessarily. I think every musician has their own input,” Gardner says.
Gardner’s first vision for Sunrise for Everyone was to emphasize the inspiration that comes from place – the landscape and the climate of the desert.
“There is a sense of the desert in the songs, in the music I hear it in my guitars, in the dusty amplifiers. There is something that does come from the desert. As a musician, I can feel it and hopefully allow it to come out in my music. It’s different than if I were someplace else.
“I had an idea that I wanted a record to be somewhat weather-related, or atmosphere- related. It’s taking another meaning into desert rock, if you will. We’re making music that is reflective of the land, or the atmosphere. ‘Weather Festival’ is a perfect example: it’s a sunny day and you end up in a very different place. It can change your mind. It can change everything.”
Sunrise for Everyone is a summer record, but one that spans the very end of spring to the very beginning of fall. It’s not about just the height of summer, but instead about changes.
The songs that gave the album its director are the first and the last, “Arizon” and “Mountain Villager,” which were the last two written. The melancholy vibe of the end of summer is captured in the opener “Arizon.” The song came together after Gardner had returned from a trip to Germany. The name reflects on both the big broad space of the state, but also the very specific place of their practice spot, on Arizona Avenue.
But while the album starts on an introspective and wistful note, it soon gives way to a tightly wound guitar churn.
“There’s a sorrowful pace in the beginning to start, it’s bittersweet. An unsteadyness kind of fills in. It’s something that’s sort of hidden in there. It’s the foreshadow, getting ready to really build it up,” Gardner says. “‘Climate Control’ is to smack you out of it. It’s a rocker. It has this anthem aspect to it.”
“Sunrise For Everyone” and “Sorry XO” were written together and the band still plays them together.
“‘Sunrise for Everyone’ is about trying to move out of depression, trying to move out of any sort of sorrow or hurt. Hey look, there’s always a new day. In ‘Sorry XO,’ I’d like to say that I’m speaking for someone. Not necessarily in any particular moment, but it’s a common thing where words come out that you don’t mean. I relate to that as well. We just started playing it again and it’s kind of a new song for us because we hadn’t played it in three or four years.”
In “Weather Festival,” the hook and the chorus is actually the guitar line, which is something that La Cerca has been known for. Across Sunrise for Everyone, the “voice” in Gardner’s guitar stands out.
“I feel that the guitar is trying to say something too. Along with lyrics, it’s trying to be complementary to the vocal lines. There’s a feeling that comes through the guitar
Playing music is emoting and that’s what I’m doing when I’m playing these things,” Gardner says. “I’m becoming less and less conscious of it. It’s better to lose yourself to it and let it be its own self without analyzing it too much.”
Closer “Mountain Villager” is another favorite of Gardner’s.
“I like to look at it as two songs. It has a part one and part two,” he says. “It’s just a sweet song. It kind of gets out of hand a bit, but I’m super happy about that too. It grabs your attention in a mellow way. It’s relaxing you, hopefully.” [Below: vinyl rules, La Cerca style.]
Gardner plans to record La Cerca’s follow-up quicker.
“The new material, the new song cycle, started two years ago. And I’m still revisiting some songs that aren’t on this that we recorded. There’s a lot to explore,” he says. “The new songs are wide open, they have a spark to them. At the same time, there’s still a grip of material to draw from that hasn’t been recorded yet. I feel like there’s a desire to make another piece. I’m starting to feel an idea of what can bring it all together already.”
Sunrise for Everyone is definitely a pinnacle for La Cerca, a rock ‘n’ roll journey that brings to mind Big Star, Badfinger and Guided By Voices, musical alchemists who, like Gardner, mastered the powerful combination of sad songs and big hooks.
Gardner says his most memorable inspirations came at a young age, leading him to music in ways he couldn’t really understand at the time.
“When I was young, I went to my neighbor’s house and I wasn’t able to go downstairs, but the music was coming up. I remember this huge sound and it was keyboards and guitars just doing this jam. And I was feeling the vibrations of the floor. I remember receiving records in the mail from a relative and putting on this white label record and hearing this dance music going and not really understanding what was going on but thinking ‘wow I want to make that noise. I want to do this thing,’” he says. “There wasn’t one thing that inspired me, but I found myself with a guitar, taking music lessons, growing up around music, seeing bands play at a young age, forming a band when I was 11 years old.”
And decades later he says he simply has to keep doing it.
“I do keep feeling that fire. It’s an every day kind of thing. I can’t wait until the next time I get to play,” he says. “I was walking down the street and I saw this dude riding his bike, with a guitar on his back and I wondered if he wanted to jam. Not that I would ask somebody off the street, ‘Hey come jam with me,’ but it’s that spirit of I want to play music as much as I can. That’s why there can be more members than just the core in this band ‘Let’s jam, let’s try it out sometime and see how it goes.’”
In that regard, Sunrise for Everyone is a representation of everyone who’s work went to creating the record, not just Gardner’s songs.
“It’s really just a postcard from us, at a couple different time periods. It’s a post card from three years ago, but it’s also from us now,” he says.
“The last time we had any sort of momentum was this last record (2011’s Rock ‘n’ Roll To The Rescue), which was a long time ago and it’s very much like starting over. But I’m sure I will run into those people who found us back in the day. They’re out there. Every once in a while I’ll get an email from somebody saying ‘Hey, I have your record Goodbye Phantom Engineer. You guys are great.
“We have some shows with really cool bands we’re excited about what could come of them. I’m thinking three or four shows in particular I’m very hopeful for,” he says. “There are some strange and good and excellent times ahead. I would say those are three different categories.
“Sometimes you just have to throw it out there and see what happens.”
Photo credit: Omer Kreso. Follow the band at their Facebook page.