As the '90s became the 2000s, a lot of second and third generation Tucson punk bands started to stretch out stylistically. Lockstep hardcore evolved into swinging garage while pop-oriented punk got weirder. As national acts like Green Day made the full transition into bloated arena rock, the American underground, including that in Tucson, thrived, free of both commercial expectations and mainstream punk's dogmatic set of rules.
In 2011, Tucson's own Lenguas Largas crystallized a decade of growth in the underground with its self-titled Recess Records debut album. It was also without artistic peer--a record that transcended its origins in psych, garage, '60s soul and classic punk rock.
Three years later, Recess has just released "Come On In," the group's second album. Can lightning strike twice for Lenguas Largas? Absolutely. "Come On In" is as remarkable as its predecessor and will be hard-pressed for competition for the title of the best rock 'n' roll album issued in 2014.
I caught up with vocalist/guitarist Isaac Reyes and guitarists Ricky Shimo and Mark Beef immediately following their tour stop in Bloomington, Indiana last weekend. Baritone guitarist Tommy Melchionda, drummer Brian Bolt and additional sometimes-touring drummers Dick Solomon and Matt Rendon make up the current incarnation of this polytimbral, polyrhythmic ensemble.
It's somewhat of a challenge to get the three guitarists to talk about their new record because they're too busy having fun on tour. They'd rather talk about the bands they're on the road with (White Night, Treasure Fleet, Underground Railroad, etc.) and sightseeing around the country. Clearly, Lenguas performs music only because they enjoy it.
Of "Come On In" and its long gestation period, Reyes says, "It was spread out because we had to focus on getting the band tight again after losing Levi (Reyes, drums) and John Polle (baritone guitar). They had both had kids and we had to basically start the band over again. We did a tour and had to jump in the studio when time was available. It took a little bit but it's done and it sounds good.
"The biggest difference, basically, was Ricky's work schedule; we couldn't get together as much to write. ... When you do a first album, you have all the time in the world to write the songs. We made sure that the album was gonna be good for us, and we did the same thing with the second one."
In Tucson, 2014 has seen much more outside press interest for homegrown acts than in recent years. With help from Recess, Lenguas has seen its share of notices from "Wondering Sound" and "The A.V. Club," with others sure to follow. It doesn't seem to faze the band. While Beef acknowledges that, "There's definitely been more (press) for this album than the last album," Reyes interjects, "It's not that it's bigger. It's that we're finally on tour with all our homies—it's the 25th anniversary Recess Records tour. It's just a big party everywhere we go and it's just fun. There's been uncharted territory, off nights where we've never played before ... There's still, like, 17 of us all together. It's just good right now."
Beef says, "The only thing that's different is that there's some people out here who have seen us before. ... The hype machine might work to a certain extent but there's so many fucking bands and so many records coming out, and so many tours. You look at 'Vice' or whatever, and they're talking about shit everyday. So just because someone wrote something about us, we could easily get looked over. It's cool and we appreciate that but we also don't expect to be playing fucking Madison Square Garden tomorrow because of it. We're all going back to our day jobs."
We chat some more about plans for a third record; Reyes explains, "We have one new song we've been playing on tour. We have some more that we have to arrange and then record and hopefully not take three years to put out the next one."
But that's about it for now. They want to go swimming and hang out with their tourmates. Reyes jokes that the interview is fucking up their record sales and everybody erupts in laughter when Beef innocently asks for "the city of Tucson to send a Modern Streetcar to pick us up."
We say goodnight and the Lenguas Largas rolling party rolls off to the next town.
with White Night and Whispering Wires
6:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 1
Club Congress 311 E. Congress St.
$3; all ages