The melodies that color Audacity's brashly energetic garage punk are like bright patches stitched onto a worn denim jacket.
The band's music is defiantly homemade and unique, cobbled together from bits of coolness that stretch back across decades. The balance of both youthful exuberance and veteran experience comes across in the excitement and unpredictability of 2012's breakthrough Mellow Cruisers album.
From Fullerton, Calif., Audacity (or the Audacity, the band itself isn't entirely sure) has its roots in the sixth-grade band of guitarists Kyle Gibson and Matt Schmalfeld. First as Nontoxic and later as the Plaid and the Attachment, they'd play school shows and birthday parties. Drummer Thomas Alvarez and bassist Cameron Crowe joined in high school and the group gelled.
The band was touring regularly and recording before the members were out of their teens, releasing the wild and raw Power Drowning on Burger Records in 2009. The debut was punk rock sprayed from a fire hose, a quick and chaotic blast in the face. On the comparatively refined Mellow Cruisers, the band slings hooks galore alongside the churning chords and bashed drums.
"We've been playing together for so long, the sound keeps progressing," says Alvarez, now 23. "It's a natural growth. The longer you play together the more you progress.
"Being young and playing music has its perks. We've never really thought about it, going on tour at 18. But the older we get, the more serious we take it. When we were younger we were still really serious about it, but we were messing around."
Part of the band's growth came during the period Audacity backed up King Tuff's Kyle Thomas when he moved from Vermont to California. They learned the songs and practiced via Skype at first, then toured with a three-guitar lineup. Thomas put together his own band for the 2012 King Tuff self-titled album on Sub Pop, but Alvarez and Schmalfeld continued for a couple of more tours.
After King Tuff came Mellow Cruisers, a lengthier project, with Audacity fine-tuning the songs at the same time they worked out a creative process that stacks more musical ideas onto the band's earlier thrash-it-out style.
"When we were writing Mellow Cruisers it seemed like things were taking longer to come through," Alvarez says. "It took a little while to get all the songs together. I remember scrambling the week before we went into the studio. But the longer we played, things just changed."
The album opens with "Indian Chief," a transition song for the band that came years before the rest of Mellow Cruisers. "Ears and Eyes," another transition song for the band, delivers more of a psychedelic vibe than the band has had in the past.
"That song took months and months to finish because it was so different. It has a different vibe than any other song we've played," Alvarez says. "After we wrote that, Matt and Kyle would show up with so many ideas at practice."
"Punk Confusion Formula" and "Fun Spot" combine classic punk with irresistibly catchy melodies, a sort of thrill-seeking swagger that's come to define the band's sound.
"After that writing experience and recording the record, and we've been practicing a lot more too, things are just flowing," Alvarez says. "Now when we come together things just mesh. Things are coming way easier when we're writing. It's pretty nuts. Everyone flows together and it just keeps getting better and better."
Audacity is already on the way to a bigger 2013. The band signed to Suicide Squeeze Records and recorded two songs ("Finders Keepers" and "Onomatopoeia") for a 7-inch releasing on April 2. Spin magazine premiered the A-side online, calling the single "noisy and celebratory" and a "mix of Buzzcocks blitz and Sonic Youth note-warping."
"We've never had something like that post our music before. It's done well for our band," Alvarez says.
"Finders Keepers" will be on the band's upcoming record. The band has no title yet for the project, but is targeting a September or October release. Audacity will begin recording in the next couple of months, after the current tour of California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas ends.
"We're really stoked on the new record. Things have been going awesome lately on the creative side of the band. Now we've been writing enough songs and we have all the resources we need to keep touring and do what we want to do," Alvarez says. "We've toured quite a bit these last couple years and our plan is to record another record and tour on it like crazy."
The current tour brings Audacity to Tucson for the band's first all-ages show here, with Nü Sensae and locals Lenguas Largas ("one of our favorite bands," Alvarez says), Womb Tomb and Boo Boo Kiss. It's part of what Topaz Tundra calls its "Two Lane Blacktop Fest," taking advantage of bands traveling through for SXSW in Austin, Texas.
The tour will road-test some new songs, but Audacity doesn't want to get too far ahead of themselves, with Mellow Cruisers barely eight months old.
"We'll play a couple new songs here and there, but we're mostly playing those jams from the record that just came out," Alvarez says.
But don't count on much down time for Audacity, even while working on its next record. The road beckons, just like it did for them a decade ago as teenage dreamers.
"It's cool being able to travel and be on stage. We love playing music and we've all been wanting to do that since we were probably in junior high. We like doing anything, whether it's a legit venue or an awesome house party," Alvarez says. "We're basically down to play whatever the best spot possible is. If we're playing to a basement of 20 stoked kids, that's awesome."