Phoenix grunge band Sunshower stuns with tight set at Yucca Tap Room

Tempe’s local music scene has long seemed dominated by the aggressive chugging of hardcore, punk and metal. Venues book the heavier bands because of the established followings that they have developed. Musicians then start these kinds of bands to perpetuate the clearly responsive locals.

But lately, Tempe’s dive-bars and coffee shops have broadened their scope – giving exposure to the different sounds and vibes local acts have to offer. Sunshower, a Phoenix-based rock band, is a shining example of how Arizona's music scene is morphing. 

Ironically, Sunshower’s grunge-inspired sound was actually spawned from the aggressive pits of hardcore. As longtime friends and bandmates, the members of Sunshower grew up ingrained in the hardcore community and spent much of their time flailing about the frequent underground shows, both as audience members and performers.

With age comes change though, and lead singer and rhythm guitarist Eric Hula approached his friends with a new sound in mind – ‘90s revivalist grunge. They pull it off wonderfully.  

Hula’s stage presence can only be described as enthralling. He leads the band with fervor, singing and screaming with the teetering intensity grunge requires.

Brent Gutierrez is one of the better young local guitarists around and proves it often during the band’s tight live show. Bassist Jorge Santacruz and drummer Kelly Emig lead a fierce and accurate rhythm section – a trait often missing from newer bands. 

Sunshower’s near-perfect set at Yucca Tap Room Saturday night was a revelation in what four well-oiled young musicians can do with 30 minutes. The crowd and I only wished it could have lasted longer as evidenced by the encore chants – a rare occurrence at local shows.

Before the band's set, I met with Sunshower and prodded them for insight into what makes Arizona an evolving music scene.

Now that you’ve had quite a few shows, how do you feel like you’ve been progressing?

Hula: This year is all about laying groundwork. Making first impressions with any promoters that we can, getting our foot in any door we can. We just wrapped up our second music video. The first music video really helped us get our shows because its visual media that well represented our band and showed what we’re capable of.

Do you think that visual aspects are important for local bands?

Hula: Absolutely, yes. Especially now because there’s so many bands coming out, and if you’re not in with promoters already, it’s gonna be hard for you to get shows unless you can really show what you are.

Do you think your past hardcore affiliation helps your band with a built in fan base and bookings, or do you feel like your new sound is making that difficult?

Gutierrez: With every new band you gotta pay your dues and you have to make your own lane. There are a lot of acts that are bringing the grunge sound back or just ‘90s influence in general. We’re making our own scene.

How can the local scene here move forward? What needs to change to move it all forward?

Hula: I think what needs to happen is more bands need to play more mixed shows. They need to mix it up a lot more and have bands of different genres play together. A rising tide raises all ships. Everybody comes up together, but it’s hard to get certain people together because they have different ideas of what’s expected at shows.

Santacruz: I think it is getting better. For a while there was a lot of copy cats out there, copying just what was in at the moment. But now I think I see a lot more original bands coming out. I think it’s growing and a lot of people are going to be paying attention more to the Phoenix acts that are coming out.

I saw you open for July Talk, an international band, a few months ago and you guys had twice the crowd they did. That has to feel pretty good, right?

Gutierrez: It was cool because we played at the Whiskey a Go Go and the same thing happened there. We played and then the band that came on after us cleared the room – people scattered like roaches.

I spoke to another local band recently that played at the Whiskey too. How are you guys getting in there? It seems weird they’d reach out to smaller Arizona bands.

Santacruz: I think the Whiskey a Go Go is just being used as a historical benefit for bands. If you look at their events that are coming up and it’s a bunch of random people. There’s a lot of good bands that should be playing there. I think they’d sell out that place, but instead they just get crappier bands I feel like it’s a scam now, but still a really cool spot.

Emig: I felt like the Rebel Lounge (formerly the Mason Jar) was more special then Whiskey. Just the energy that the place carried at Rebel Lounge was extreme. The whole lineup of bands were top calendar.

Your EP “Leader Of The Cult” came out recently. How do you feel about it? What would you change about it? Anything?

Gutierrez: As far as the recording process went, we went in there with kind of a raw idea for the songs and we got the best versions that we could. The songs were written, but we were still rough around the edges. They weren’t as polished as we would’ve liked, but that kinda keeps the punk rock attitude. We’ve already written a bunch of songs towards our next effort, but just would like to sound more polished.

Hula: We all enjoy every song on it and I haven’t heard a complaint from any member on the songs. I have nothing bad to say about the quality either, especially for a first effort. Everything just levels up as we progress, because we’re only getting better as we go.

Who primarily writes the music? Or is it a more collaborative effort?

Gutierrez: It’s collaborative, but it’s Eric’s baby. We’ve all written parts of the songs, but they’re really his ideas and concepts – we just expanded on them.

Santacruz: Everyone is in charge of their own parts. But, Eric does get last word on everything we write so we just run through him and make sure he’s cool with it.

Gutierrez: That sounds kind of militant – he’s not militant.

Related Links:

Tempe rock band 'Something Like December" plays with gusto at ASU's Fall Madness Concert

'The Tempe Sound' exhibit captures the once-vibrant Tempe music scene

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