Local band shares pop ethic, tour stories

By Noah Lopez

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Tucson local scene seems to have an unwritten creed if it ain't desert strum and twang, punk rawk or retro-boogie, it just isn't worth hearing.

Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of bands without an audience, especially when their sound doesn't fit into T-town's three major music genres. Such is the case for local three-piece, the Lemon Merchants.

While their jangly-pop sound hasn't really caught on in the hallowed halls of punkdom known as the Downtown Performance Center, nor the desert rock plateau of Club Congress, the band has been garnering a sure footing outside of the Tucson area.

The Lemon Merchants are back in action this spring, after a successful tour of New Mexico that was followed by the untimely departure of their drummer from the lineup. With Michael Ortiz, the new drummer, in tow the Lemon Merchants are ready to pick up where they left off last year.

The Wildcat sat down with Mike Hrencecin (bassist) and Sean Mendoza (guitarist) last week to shoot the shit about the band's activities.

Wildcat: You guys have much more of a pop feel than most of the other local bands in Tucson. Were does that come from?

Mike Hrencecin: We just like strong melodies. That's the key to a great pop tune. With Michael (Ortiz) though, we have a stronger sound. We're still pretty accessible, but with a harder edge.

WC: Where do you see the band fitting in on a local level?

Sean Mendoza: When we got back from touring, we had a few shows lined up, but then the drummer quit.

MH: The drum thing really slowed us down. I see us being more popular outside of Tucson.

SM: Las Cruces loved us! A lot of places asked us to come back.

WC: What kind of things do you want to accomplish?

MH: We need to be playing out more. We have something in March ... in April we're going to Southern California to play and then we'll go back out to Albuquerque. We just want to build around the region. When we come back we want to focus on the CD.

WC: Do you want to try and make it in Tucson? Or do you think it might be in your best interest to move to another market ... say New Mexico?

SM: We figure if we can do well in the region, and get the disc out, we can eventually get respect.

MH: Look how long it took for StarCrunch to get respect locally. Besides, if we can't make it here, who's to say we'll be able to make it in another market that's more competitive.

WC: Any tour stories?

SM: It was pretty crazy. I could tell you about sleeping in the streets.

MH: We were in Albuquerque with (Rich Hopkins' band) Ginger. Rich decided he didn't like his hotel there were prostitutes and drug dealers and stuff. We didn't have a hotel, because we were planning on driving to our next city and camping out, but we got a flat tire. So Rich offers us his $70 room for, like, $20, but we turned him down. That was a bad move.

SM: The only hotel available was a Holiday Inn suite for $125. It was either that or spend $75 for a no-tell motel. It was pretty late, so we found a huge grass lot. We put a tarp down and started to go to sleep. We slept for 30 minutes, but then the sprinklers came on. It was 5:30 in the morning, so we slept in the car.

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