The Tucson band Mesquite made its last record in guitar player and vocalist Gus Woodrow’s house.
It may not be the most ideal location to make a record, but it works for the band, which found that playing live when making a record is what works for the sound the band is trying to achieve. The simplicity, the cost-cutting and the maintaining of all artistic control is what they need to get their sound accurately down onto recorded medium.
Mesquite will be in Durango on Saturday at 11th Street Station performing at the second edition of the iAM MUSIC Festival, playing alongside J. Calvin, Boogie Mammoth and iAM MUSIC students.
“It all happened in my kitchen. We set about it just thinking, ‘All right, we’re going to record these songs we have, it’s going to be lo-fi and cool,’ and we lucked out that my room sounded pretty good, and for whatever reason, it came out sounding better than we thought,” Woodrow said. “We record everything live, we try to do minimal overdubs, the whole band is playing together. I’m really a firm believer that’s like a critical part of music is the sound of people actually playing together, not with a click track. It was really cool to do it that way, and we all learned a lot about each other as musicians, from having to play really accurately and kept the vibe out together just playing like we would on stage. The live show is very much about trying to connect with each other on stage.”
Mesquite was born via a collection of Tucson-area jazz musicians. Tired of playing jazz, they all gravitated toward the non-jazz sounds they were reared on. For some, it was gospel and R&B; for Woodrow, it was psychedelic rock and pop music.
“We wanted a pop project,” Woodrow said. “We all have a lot of love for pop music and R&B. We started a project like that and it just was fortuitous; it ended up being a weird mixture of R&B and psych rock. We tried not to force it into any one genre, but that’s what came out. But there’s something special about straight old pop music and indie music that’s really liberating. I grew up listening to a lot of pop music and stuff like that and I wanted to express that somehow.”
Their latest record, “Caliche,” sounds like a mashup of the hushed tones of indie-rock stalwarts Yo La Tengo and the instrumental music of Mac DeMarco. There are subtle hints at electronic music, but not with an EDM mindset. Soft hooks come like sound-scapes, and there are instrumental parts of the album that could easily score a movie.
Other parts of “Caliche” are lo-fi lounge music, with nods to jet-set cocktail jazz of the late 1950s. The whole thing is laid-back, groovy and cool, and with “Caliche” having been recorded live, you know the sounds of the album translate accurately when the band is on stage.
The band had so much success with recording this album, the method of recording won’t change for the next record, which is likely right around the corner.
“We’re like, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ I almost feel like the crappiness of the kitchen is part of our sound now. People expect to hear the resonance of my metal stove, and I’m scared to not put that on the album,” Woodrow said. “It’s nice. We’re DIY people through and through, and its really nice to relax and hang out and record the album and not worry about how much time we’re spending on it. That’s liberating as an artist, to be able to make your art at your home, and that’s how it should be.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.