Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Arizona lead singer Ben Wigler was here back in February and it was frozen piss cold outside, just a few days prior to Valentine's Day. It was not a pretty sight around here, the ground layered with dusty snow and everything that hardness is in the middle of a winter. Wigler came into the studio looking like one of the Lawn Wranglers from the Wes Anderson film "Bottle Rocket," decked out in an all-mint-green jumpsuit, the likes of which were the best sellers in 1970s janitorial warehouse and supply catalogs, the hot new looks from Sears Roebuck department stores in the early 1920s, targeted toward retirees with an interest in botany. It was the mint green of hospital scrubs, of surgery and bad news, but on the diminutive Wigler, they were appropriately fitting, the clothing that he was seemingly suited and measured for at birth. It allowed for distraction and as a kind of spectacular allure, the set up for a joke that doesn't exist at all. Wigler is a serious songwriter and with his chums in the Asheville, N.C., band that goes by the name of a hot state or a naval battleship, depending upon your preference, he's given himself three other walls and contributors to bounce ideas off of and to ultimately settle on a creation that they all added DNA to. They throw the spaghetti and meatballs against the papered walls and watch as it walks down, studying its movements and getting inspired by the initial slap and all that transpires afterward. There's a video on the band's site that is meant to be a snapshot of the creative process as the band uses and works with. It's not alarmingly different from what most bands probably are used to, but it does show Arizona to be as whimsically attentive and daffy as the music on their long-players might suggest. They're off in the woods, at a secluded lodge and Wigler has a near-disastrous tumble amongst the trees. He recounts a traffic accident that he'd recently had in which he was sliding into the side of an 18-wheeler and he said that he was overjoyed in those moments before impact because it dawned on him - in pristine clarity - that he already knew that he wasn't going to die, that he wouldn't be hurt at all by this. How he could know such a thing, or believe that he knew such a thing seems to, in a weird way, help us hear the band's quirky and well put together songs - all of which spiral off into beautiful places of unheralded escape and mystery. Arizona music is full of these loose-flowing drafts of languishing concerns and pleasing ribbons of ethereal majesty that all tumbles with sugar cubes and rose bushes, while still going to the gentlest corridors of psychedelia. The band lets its boundaries be pushed until they're purple and it never shies away from seeing that purple get red before letting up and traveling back into the terrains that feel like those tumbles that don't hurt you, just leave you to stand back up with crud in your hair and dirt stains happily ground into your knees and elbows - unhurt and smiling once again.
Arizona Official Site
Echo Mountain Records