Between a mess of tangled wires and a maze of instruments and speakers, with homemade mead in hand, Josh Every, Brandon Olander, Ricky Tutaan and James Turner play through their setlist. Together, the four 20-something musicians make up Droll, a newly-formed, grunge-inspired alternative band born from a strong friendship between high school buddies who love to jam.
Droll, which celebrated its first year together last fall, started as somewhat of an offshoot to the now-defunct garage band Warpstar, which featured Tutaan, Every and Olander, until the band played its last show in 2016.
After Warpstar, the three picked up Turner as the lead guitarist and began arranging music around lyrics Every wrote for a new project. It wasn't long after the four started to jam that Droll was born.
Once they began rehearsing, it made just made sense to start a new band with a new feel.
"Josh and Ricky both wrote songs for Warpstar but when you listen to Droll it's definitely not as grungy and is a little more pop-y," Olander said. "It sounds totally different."
The four have always shared a love for music.
Turner, bassist Tutaan and drummer Olander picked up their instruments before the age of 13 and Every, who takes on lead vocals, started performing with his father's classical rock cover band during his childhood and took to songwriting soon after.
Drawing inspiration from grunge greats like The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana, the band's sound is packed with heavy guitar riffs and hard-hitting vocals. At the same time, Droll manages to litter its set with subtle nuances from one song to the next.
Whether it's soft whistling after Every's power-packed vocal belts or clever lyrical allusions to the afterlife in the band's single "Sunday Drive," Droll's sound lives up to its name—whimsical and playful in a way that sets the band aside from subscribing to any specific genre.
"Each of our musical tastes kind of makes up a Venn diagram of four squares where we all have intersecting parts and one in the middle," Turner said. "I think the middle part is what encapsulates the Droll sound. It's really the gold of what we each individually like and what we end up putting out together."
Since the band's conception in 2017, Droll has taken the stage at more than 15 shows in Tucson, notably as one of the opening acts for 1990s American slowcore band Duster at Club Congress in January.
But it's been a quiet summer for Droll.
After the band's last show in May, Droll's taken a three-month hiatus from performing to work on its first extended play record, which is expected to drop sometime this fall.
For Turner and the rest of the band, the new EP is chance for Droll to make a name for itself, define its sound and explore what each musician is capable of artistically.
"The EP is pretty ambitious in terms of what we can achieve as a band together," Turner said. "There's a lot of variety on this EP. There are five songs that really encapsulate the sound that we are trying to go for in different iterations ... It's kind of an emotional journey, you hit highs and lows versus our singles; it's more cohesive."
With at least five songs to add to the setlist and Olander out of town for the summer, recording hasn't been easy.
For starters, everything is done by the band, in its secret rehearsal space and makeshift recording studio off Speedway, which has its benefits and drawbacks for a group of passionate artists.
"We are all very self-conscious of our playing. We all know how we sound and how we want to sound and trying to bridge that gap with a recording is very daunting," Tutaan said. "We are all perfectionists ... I think the best way to go about fixing that is finding what we all agree on or just take 100 takes and agree on what's the best one."
Without Olander in the studio, the band records separately from its drummer which also leaves little time to rehearse for Droll's biggest show yet: HOCO Fest 2019.
Alongside acts like Bill Calahan and Fat Tony, Droll takes the stage Sept. 1 to conclude the local three-day music and culture festival.
HOCO Fest might be one of the biggest shows for this up-and-coming band, but it's just the beginning of a packed schedule for Droll. Come wintertime, the band members plan to take to the road on their first-ever tour around Arizona and, hopefully, nearby states.
Until then, while the band awaits the return of its drummer and works on a recording a new EP, they continue to build their sound and identity as a band.
"We just want it to feel real and personal and I think we all understand that now," Turner said.