Back in April, Tucson's 'desert punk' band Coffin Hotbox headlined a show at the eccentric downtown venue Solar Culture. I was fortunate enough to be invited to cover the show. After a delay in publishing my reviews and interviews resulting from graduation and a nasty case of Covid, I am happy to finally share this great interview I did with Coffin Hotbox and my experience at their show.
Coffin Hotbox's set was tons of fun. Their music is an energetic blend of folk, punk, and surf-rock, resulting in a unique but definitively Tucsonian sound. Their lyrics are psychedelic and whimsical. My favorite part of their performance was the song "The Frogman... Lives!", which tells the tale of a frog-human hybrid living in a swamp. During this song, audience members were encouraged to crouch down on the ground and hop like frogs. Though I felt a little goofy hopping awkwardly along the floor with my fellow patrons, I also felt a sense of carefree fun and freedom from the burden of trying to look "cool" that I often feel at shows. Coffin Hotbox is a band that not only wants to make great music, but also wants its fans to have a great time. After a wonderful show, I headed outside with the band to ask them some questions about their influences and the stories behind their songs. The interview went as follows:
Ruby: I’m Ruby from KAMP student radio, I’m here with local Tucson band Coffin Hotbox. Go ahead and introduce yourselves and say what you play!
Daniel: I’m Daniel, I do rhythm guitar and backing vocals.
Dennet: My name is Dennet I’m lead vocals.
Andrew: Andrew, I play lead guitar.
Max: I’m Max, I pay the drums.
Ruby: Cool! So I really liked your set, I think you guys have a really cool sound. I was especially drawn to the songs “Frog Man” and “Cat Time”. You explained them a bit during the show, but do you have any further elaborations on the stories behind those songs?
Dennet: Its actually “Time Cat”.
Ruby: Oh I’m so sorry!
Max: I do love that, Cat Time.
Ruby: Cat Time sounds like a great time!
Daniel: So “Frog Man” is actually called “The Frogman... Lives!” and that one’s on Spotify. It was our first song that we wrote as a band. I started with the idea that there would be some sort of a froggy man living somewhere in the swamp, and then I gave it to Dennet to finish it, and he was like “well it’d only make sense that he’d be eating people”. And then we tried to leave it a little ambiguous towards the end as to whether or not the Frog Man is still alive, but our opinion as a band is that he lives.
Dennet: That’s why we sing the chorus, which is “They are hunting the Frog Man, watch out for the Frog Man. Because he lives! He’s out there! We are all part of the music process. Daniel and I usually write most of the lyrics. Often Daniel gets an idea and then I come and modify it, or I get an idea and then Daniel modifies its. We all work together to try and make a coherent sound. For “Time Cat”, that was also a group effort, and that one is a psychedelic experience Daniel and I had. That’s why none of the lyrics make any sense. But I was inspired because my sister has many, many cats; it's been a long running thing in my family. She had a small oven timer that was shaped like a cat, and it was intimidating! That thing would just tick and then go off at random times like a bomb. And it freaked us out so much that we had to get the trauma out through writing a song.
Max: And somehow I didn’t know all that.
Ruby: So we’re both learning something new! What are your musical/lyrical influences, either other artists or just things in your lives that influence you?
Daniel: We definitely write a lot of stuff about what we’re going through, what it's like to live in Tucson, to some extent, and a lot of random shit. Whatever sticks to the wall. I guess that’s pretty much it.
Dennet: a lot of us don’t have formal musical training in the sense of knowing how to compose, but we do draw from things we really like. I grew up with mostly sixties music, and also some Irish music, so the instruments that I play lead me to write more folk songs, and that’s more the spin that I put on. For example, "John Jones" seems to be one like that.
Ruby: It’s a little folky for sure.
Max: Also, Daniel and Dennet do most of the songwriting process before hand, get the structure and lyrics down, and then Andrew and I come in and sauce it up.
Ruby: What does “saucing it up” entail?
Max: You know, the usual saucy things. Like lead guitar and drums.
Andrew: Basically adding those two things that we’ve done.
Dennet: You might get a song that begins between Daniel and I that’s more of a folk thing that you could play without drums or lead guitar. But by the time we’re done with it, it’s more of a rock song. So there’s certainly a transformation process. There’s even hopefully a surf-punk song; that’s what we’re going for. We draw from a couple different places.
Ruby: Cool! So you guys touched on this briefly, but do you think that living in Tucson and the Tucson music scene have influenced your sound?
Daniel: Absolutely. That is one of the biggest things we do and try to push all the time. Max really started this with NOFACE, also. Its local music, local art, local people that we like. That comes into what the songs are about and when we perform them.
Dennet: We’re not really sure which genre we fit in particularly, so maybe we’ll figure that out once we have a larger repertoire. We have a total number of songs getting close to about 30, but we have about 17-20 that we actually play and perform. We cycle them out for each set. We’ve had what, 6? 7 performances? And we have live recordings, I think, of all of those that we keep on Soundcloud just in case. We’ve definitely changed the things that we play. Some songs, a couple instrumentals, we’ve dropped from our setlist, and then some other songs that were a lot more punky we added. For example, "Time Cat" has a lot of audience participation, so we like to play that one.
Daniel: And though it’s a little unclear what genre we play, we like to say that we play “Toadcore” because of Frogman. Also, Desert Punk.
Ruby: Desert punk is definitely a thing here. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly, but yeah. So what’s next for you guys? You said you have a lot of songs saved on Soundcloud and such, are you planning to release new stuff soon?
Dennet: So at the moment we have two singles on Spotify, that would be "John Jones" and "Frogman".
Daniel: "The Frogman... Lives!".
Dennet: We have a whole bunch that we are about ready to put on Spotify. We were trying to compile them into a full album before we put them out.
Daniel: Probably next we’ll have a four song EP called “Desert Punk” which has some of the fast, fun ones that we played tonight. Really, we’d just like to play more shows, so if you know anyone, hit us up.
Max: As many as possible.
Dennet: I’m going to graduate from the University soon, I’m not moving away from Tucson though. I’ve got a summer job and then I’m coming back to continue working on recording and making sure we can get everything written down.
Max: I’m sorry to all the Coffin Hotbox fans, it’s just a small hiatus! Fall Out Boy fans had to wait a lot longer.
Ruby: So true, no one knows Fall Out Boy fans’ pain.
Dennet: We’ve been active for about a year. Altogether it’s been since last April that we've been working and recording things. Although, I think Daniel and Andrew started later.
Daniel: We messed around a little before.
Andrew: We dabbled.
Dennet: As for our original members, these are our original members minus our bassist who dropped out before we had our first performance.
Daniel: So that’s why we play without a bassist now. We’re still looking for someone who plays bass!
Andrew: If you play bass, hit us up.
Max: We’re scouting people right now. We have a potential candidate we’ve got eyes one, we haven’t scooped him yet though.
Dennet: As for production, Max does our production at the moment, and he helps us out quite a lot with that. He’s definitely the backbone. And we’ve got another friend, also named Max, who also helps with production. The second Max, we’ll call him Max B., also helps with drums sometimes.
Max: His Last name is Banes, its not just Max A and Max B.
Dennet: Although, Max Banes hasn’t ever played with us, so he’s a helper.
Max: He’s like a drum god, but I happened to have more time to commit when they needed a drummer, so here we are.
Dennet: He has a background in sound design at the University so he’s too busy, really. He’s got more important things going on.
Andrew: And we don’t!
Dennet: As for the art style that we use to represent ourselves on t-shirts and album art and the rest of it, Daniel and his roommates love reptiles.
Daniel: Yeah! Reptiles and amphibians. There’s a local frog already on our logo, and there’s gonna be more local lizards, frogs.
Andrew: If you like Herpetology you’ll like us.
Ruby: What is that?
Andrew: The study of frogs.
Ruby: Oh I love that. I’ll study a frog.
Dennet: So as for symbols that we use to represent ourselves, it would be the Sonoran desert toad, of course skulls, and we like to make psychedelic jokes.
Daniel, jokingly: We like beer, we like drugs, we like to party.
Max: Just have fun!
Ruby: I think that’s all the questions I have! Thank you guys for talking to me.
Daniel: Thank you for your time!
Stay tuned for updates on new music and performances from Coffin Hotbox! You can find their music on Spotify and similar streaming services, and you can follow them on Instagram @coffinhotbox.