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Tuff Sunshine is one of those bands that have a sound that is equal parts familiar and new. They are a melding of classic and modern sounds that just makes you feel good. We at 1340mag were instantly interested by this band's blend of classic rock, indie rock and post-punk. When given the chance to interview Johnny Leitera the band's singer/guitarist Rob took advantage right away. Here is the conversation we had.
Check out more at http://tuffsunshine.com/
1340mag: How did Tuff Sunshine come together as a band?
Johnny: I had been writing new material between projects and Turner and I were looking for a drummer--Ani was the only one who responded to my (somewhat specific) post, and she was the one. We started rehearsing and went into the studio to record Half-mast/Steadfast a couple of months later.
1340mag: Being from New York, what do you do to differentiate yourselves in such a crowded scene?
Johnny: What differentiates us, I think, has nothing to do with where we are from, really...our goal is to make good music without an expression date, I really don't have a radar tuned to what's the next big thing or sound. That might hurt us in some ways as far as glomming onto a "scene" but to be honest. It's great when people take notice, but it's a thousand times better when they notice because you stand out for being yourself.
1340mag: What are the records you were listening to while writing/recording Fire in the Hero Building?
Johnny: I try not to listen to anything when I'm in writing mode, at least not more than a few songs to get me in a certain direction. I will put on some Village Green-era Kinks tunes, some George Jones or Ernest Tubb records--not anything to directly influence me per se, but more mood-inducing, or tempo setting stuff for what I have in mind. I really love to listen to Joe Raposo and Tom Lehrer as well to break out of the "rock 101" method of songwriting.
1340mag: What is your favorite song on the record?
Johnny: I'm very happy with the title track, which has been getting some airplay here in NYC. I really like "I Complied" as well. I love that Ani has a track on the record this time, too ("Soundwaves").
1340mag: What is the best thing about playing live as Tuff Sunshine?
Johnny: Just tearing it up live, playing with these guys (Ani Cordero, drums and Turner Stough, bass) is a lot of fun. We started this very much as a live band project, pared down, etc, and I like keeping that aspect of it even as we start to branch out writing-wise
1340mag: What are your touring plans after your album releases?
Johnny: We are actually heading out to do a Daytrotter session on Nov 3rd, and playing shows out to Iowa and back. Hopefully doing as much as possible with everyone's schedules. I'm really looking for some support label-wise and/or booking-wise to help on this front--it makes it a lot easier when you HAVE to be somewhere! I also try to play solo as much as possible when the rest of the band can't tour...
1340mag: You are releasing Fire in the Hero Building on vinyl. How important is physical media to you?
Johnny: It's important to me, but I'm by no means a crazy vinyl-only guy or anything. I love to go record shopping, especially when on the road, during the day before gigs, whenever. The structure of an album is still VERY important to me. I like order and thoughtfulness in a track-list. I do spend time on that, building an arc, whatever, so in that sense the limitations of vinyl actually play a creative role in the track-listing.
1340mag: Did you ever consider releasing it on cassette?
Johnny: Ah, funny you should ask! There will be a cassette-only release sometime in next few months on a great little boutique label out of Brooklyn called Shorewave Records. Really psyched to be working with them!
1340mag: Have you gotten into the tape revolution?
Johnny: I'm assuming that it has not been televised, so maybe I missed it?
1340mag: What are your five desert island discs?
Johnny: Ideally I could take a lot more, but here goes...
Key Lime Pie, Camper Van Beethoven
Black Elvis, Kool Keith
No. 4 Record, You Am I
Another Story, Ernest Tubb
The answer to this question changes daily...
1340mag: If each member of Tuff Sunshine was a superhero who would they be?
Johnny: I'd like to think we'd be like The Impossibles, that old cartoon where they were a rock band who also fought crime. They sort of were the role models for the rock-n-roll/superhero genre.
1340mag: Say you had to play a different style of music what would you play?
Johnny: The best thing about being in a band like this is we can play whatever we want anyways. A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll...