Dead Retina eyes Tucson’s music scene

By JAMIE VERWYS

Nostalgia often lends itself to art in unexpected and relevant ways. Little pieces of someone’s history work into the chords of a song.

Music that captures something relatable becomes a time portal, transporting us back to our past.
A local band, Dead Retina, pays homage to punk rock source material in its debut EP, “Two Young Cops.”

The five tracks feel like flipping through a buddy’s record collection. There’s a sound you can identify with immediately, but it’s been re-imagined.

“We are kind of creating a punk rock experience,” guitarist Samuel Doane said. “It’s a living art piece that’s partially a tribute to the punk that we love, as well as creating something new. Hopefully between all of us, we can do something innovative.”

Vocalist and bassist Peter Leon formed the four-member band in November 2013.

Originally, Leon simply asked friends to humor him.

“It evolved into something that’s actually pretty good,” he said.

Leon met bandmate Doane while attending Catalina High School. The two became friends and met drummer Michael Huerta. When the band formed, Leon recruited gym trainer Randy Lopez to play guitar.

Pre-Dead Retina, the bandmates had already begun to cultivate their individual creativeness through film and music. Leon’s movie, “Heavy Nova,” premiered Sept. 28, 2013 to a packed crowd of science fiction fans at Crossroads Theater.

“I got into filmmaking and started making some real low-budget short films,” Leon said. “I just did that for years. After filmmaking, I decided to go back into music making.”

“Two Young Cops” will be released on April 25.

The EP pairs moody and aggressive vocals with catchy harmonies. The guys have drawn from their cinematic understanding to see songs on a subjective, visual level.

Doane said their goal is to “create a punk rock, action movie comedy universe for whomever. Creating a world.”

The first single, “Another Life,” is as musically tight as the compact storage unit in which the band rehearses.

Leon’s voice travels through a pile of power cables, transitioning with ease into an impressive scream.

His classic punk bass line dips up and down through Huerta’s crisp drumming.

Each crash of the symbol is like sweat bouncing to the floor in their un-air-conditioned rehearsal space.

Doane and Lopez contribute an interesting and subtle bit of light-heartedness with their backing harmonies. They confidently juggle peppy “woahs” with layered guitar work. Theirs is an upbeat riff, which explodes into an instrumental crescendo at about the 2-minute mark.

“Musically, it’s 60 percent screaming, 40 percent singing and the tempo is pretty mid-tempo,” Leon said. “We are going to say ‘medium-core.’ We are making up a genre right now, 100 percent rocking.”

Having found their sound, they will begin to build their stage presence.

Their first performance was scheduled at The Trunk Space in Phoenix on April 22, to serve as a warmup before they debut in Tucson’s music scene.

The band will play a record-release show at Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., on April 25. They will be joined by two local bands, The Boogie Nazis and Brass Tax. The show begins at 9 p.m. It is free, but restricted to ages 21 or older.

“We can pick our shows,” Doane said. “We’re not kids just looking to play any gig anymore. We want to have a full experience, a lot of people there who want to rock. The world sucks but our music doesn’t.”

The EP is available for order at deadretina.bandcamp.com.

For more information, visit peterleon.net/dead-retina.

From left, Sam Doane, Peter Leon, Michael Huerta and Randy Lopez rehearse for their April 25 show at the Surly Wench. (Aztec Press photo by Jaime Verwys)

From left, Sam Doane, Peter Leon, Michael Huerta and Randy Lopez rehearse for their April 25 show at the Surly Wench. (Aztec Press photo by Jaime Verwys)

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