Local bands do it best. The Tucson musicians known as The Basements have already achieved greatness after making their debut onto the Tucson music scene just a short while ago. Winning the 2021 DUSK Battle of the Bands competition, this band is prepared to go up against some of the best, and they are only gaining momentum as they continue to release new music and expand their live performances.
With Alex as the drummer, Brandon as the lead guitarist, Dylan as the bassist, and Seb as the lead singer, the foursome have been able to reach impressive levels of musicality and lyricism with their original songs. For as good as the music sounds on streaming services, the music only gets better when performed live. With an energetic atmosphere, heart pumping instrumentals, and wonderfully rich vocals from the lead singer, The Basements create an epic environment for their audience when performing on stage together.
I got to speak with The Basements about their latest EP, Long Stories Get Short, the benefits of being a musician in a city like Tucson, and their plans for upcoming music and a west coast tour.
In five words, how would you describe The Basements?
Seb: We would describe The Basements as energetic, as bold…
Brandon: But also relaxing…
Alex: Relaxed! Groovy! We’re very groovy.
Seb: And unapologetic!
You guys are an incredible local band from Tucson, Arizona. You even have a song called Tucson “Tucson,” so I wanted to ask, what are some pros and cons of creating and performing music in Tucson?
Seb: Definitely, Tucson’s awesome because of a few reasons. The main pro that we could think of is that it's a smaller community compared to other music scenes. It’s a really good sense of community. We feel like everyone that we play with we get to know really well. In just the year and a half that we've been playing together, we've come into our own and met a ton of people that are some of our best friends just through this scene. I would say along with that, though, there's obviously the con that Tucson is smaller than other places. You're not going to get as good of a reach. Your potential audience is smaller than it could be in bigger cities like Phoenix, but then also along with that, since Tucson is so close to big cities in California and Phoenix, we have the opportunity to kind of get the best of both worlds with that.
Your most recent project, Long Stories Get Short, dropped earlier this year. What were the inspirations behind both the title and artwork of the EP?
Seb: The inspiration with the aliens, the artwork came from my sister. She's an artist. Originally when we were just starting and having our first show, we were like, “Okay, well we need shirts, obviously!” We had our logo of the stick people walking on the stairs, but then we needed something for the back of the shirts. I hit my sister up and was like, “Hey, can you draw some aliens?” And then that just kind of stuck, and we really liked it. It’s a cool extraterrestrial kind of theme. The original idea is based off this Johnny Cash poster of him walking in the desert with a guitar on his back, so then we kind of took that idea and put the alien aspect into it so that he’s on this desert planet.
One of my favorite songs from the new EP is “Walk Around.” How would you describe the song and what it personally means to you?
Seb: Yeah, so I wrote the words to that. It's pretty much a breakup song. It’s about being in a relationship that isn't really working out for you anymore, and the idea is you want to get out and walk around. The lyric is like, “Walk around this life,” but it's meant to be more of a positive thing. Most breakup songs are not happy, but it’s also not like a “good riddance” kind of song. It's just more of now seeing the bright side. Like, you have all these new opportunities now that you can kind of do whatever you want.
Last year, you won the DUSK 2021 Battle of the Bands competition. Congratulations! Other than winning, what are some of your favorite memories you have from competing?
Dylan: Meeting Noah Martin!
Brandon: We met a lot of different bands through it, and also just connections. It was kind of when we broke into the Tucson music scene in a way, because we were meeting all these other bands that play and that already were a part of the scene. We were also meeting people from venues that have other connections. It was a really big deal to finally get our foot in the door through that. Also, it was a great time.
Alex: And, I mean, that night we went from a band that played one show before to suddenly knowing all kinds of people in the scene, hanging out with people in other bands after that show. Like, it just really kind of pushed us into the Tucson music scene.
Dylan: It made us start taking the whole deal more seriously as well, too.
How meaningful did it feel to win the competition, and how do you think it’s impacted your music career since?
Seb: Oh, it was awesome!
Alex: It still blows my mind! I still don’t believe it happened.
Seb: Yeah, I think it gave us the confidence to be like, “Okay, well, wow. If we're just starting out, and we're able to win this competition and play at this big festival alongside big bands, then we actually can probably do something really cool with this.” It kind of got us on track to start recording our own songs. Being able to know that what we thought in our heads was pretty good, actually other people think it's good as well. Like, they were listening to it.
You guys are playing at the DUSK Music Festival again this year! What song are you most excited to perform there?
All in unison: “Dr. Dirty” [laughs]!
Alex: I’m pumped for “No Fly Zone.” We’ve got a bunch of really cool new stuff in the works.
Dylan: Our whole repertoire has taken a whole 180 turn from last year. We're basically playing one or two songs from the same set as last year… if that.
Seb: Yeah, I mean, we really had only been seriously performing gigs for like a couple of months when we played at DUSK the first time, and now we've had a whole EP come out. We're working on a new EP now, so everything's kind of coming together. We're really excited!
Do you prefer performing at local gigs or do you like the vibe of a festival more?
Seb: I think that we like both of them for different reasons. With the gigs that we put on ourselves, there's people that are there to see you. They're paying for a ticket to come and watch you, so you have more of a connection to the audience. A lot of people who like to listen to our music have listened to it before. They know some of the words, they sing along and stuff. With the festival, it's different because it's not that same group of people, but it's cool because there's people just passing by, going to a festival that wouldn't most likely go out of their way to go see you at a venue in town. The only reason they're going to be exposed to you is because they're walking around a festival… Anytime I go to a music festival or just a public area with live music, I learn about new artists that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.
Speaking of performances, you’ll also be playing at First Friday on November 4 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in Phoenix, Arizona! What has your experience been like with playing at Phoenix venues, and how excited are you to perform for the highly populated First Friday event?
Alex: So, we're really pumped! Brandon and I actually cut our teeth in the Phoenix scene back when we were in high school. Like, we played everywhere in Phoenix. We used to go to First Friday like every Friday night when we were in high school. It's really cool to be kind of getting back into that scene and going back to First Friday, playing First Friday. We had a show recently at the National Underground in Phoenix. It's just really exciting, kind of getting back into that scene where Brandon and I started out. It’s been like five years since we've been a part of that, and it's cool kind of coming home, you know?
Seb: I think as a band, too, it's kind of like what we got to experience in Tucson when we were first starting, coming into the scene and meeting a lot of new people… There's still new people we meet all the time in Tucson, but going into new places, it's kind of that same feeling. Like, being in a new place and showing your music. It's like we're starting over from scratch every time we go to a new place, so it's pretty cool.
Who are some artists currently inspiring your musical endeavors right now, and is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
Seb: I'm really influenced by a lot of punk bands and earlier independent bands pretty much all around. The music aspect but then, like, the attitude of it. Like, all the do-it-yourself bands that kind of started up in the ‘80s and even back in the ‘60s. It's kind of the same idea that we do now. We set shows up, we figure it out and make do with our own. A lot of times, we're running our own sound at certain events. It's kind of who I look up to, bands like that.
Alex: I grew up on a lot of classic rock like, you know, those old school, heavy hitter feel kind of drummers… That's kind of what I've always shot for in my sound and the way I approach my drum parts.
Brandon: I pretty much like everything, mostly just the old music in general. It’s the same kind of thing as Alex, like classic stuff, but I also listen to a lot of newer stuff. I kind of just mix all of it… Older bands like Black Sabbath, like Led Zeppelin, and all those kinds of traditional bands, and then nowadays, it’s pretty much anything nowadays that I pretty much like.
Dylan: I wouldn’t be playing music if it weren’t for the Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead is 100% my biggest inspiration, closely followed by Trevor Weekz of Goose. Awesome. And yeah, that’s all I have to say: they’re awesome.
Seb: I think overall with all of us, we connect with the idea of putting in hard work to make things happen for yourself… You hear all the stories of bands who've been around and gigging for like five to 10 years, or even longer before they actually got any kind of traditional mainstream traction. That's kind of something cool to look up to, like putting in work. And then for someone that we would want to work with ourselves as like a collaboration, we've, for a while, been wanting to have a guest rapper on one of our songs. Like, a special guest appearance or something like that.
Brandon: But also, if DJs want to remix our music, then that's always cool.
Alex: If we could get a symphony, then that would be really cool. Choirs would be pretty cool [laughs].
Seb: Pretty much anything that’s not traditionally a part of rock music we’ve kind of been wanting to experiment with.
What can fans of The Basements look forward to in the near future? Any hints at new music you can give us?
Seb: Yes, so we have been working on a new EP. We just came from a professional studio where we learned a lot. We recorded and did all of the work for our own production ourselves for our last EP. We recorded it here at the house, so we're gonna be doing that again. We're going to be recording the new EP coming out sometime in the near future, and then we're planning a west coast tour in March through Nevada, all around California, and other parts of Arizona too.
Dylan: Through Vegas, Tahoe, Chico, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, LA, San Diego, and then coming back to Tucson. We'll start in Tucson, and then we’re hitting a few Phoenix places first.
The Basements’ latest EP, Long Stories Get Short, is out now.