Via Skies
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Via Skies

Mesa, Arizona, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2020 | SELF

Mesa, Arizona, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2020
Band Alternative Folk




"Songwriter of the Year: Jeff Gonzales"

Songwriting is not just the composition of compelling lyrics; it is also the about finding the perfect pairing of melody and structure for those words you so painstakingly chose. Jeff Gonzales has shown mastery of maintaining this fine balance and earned our award for Songwriter of the Year.

When we heard the 6-track EP Jeff released in April of last year we were immediately captivated, but it was the songwriting that held us there, beginning to end. The Lights Just Went Out lulls you with charming melodies and, before you realize, completely envelops you in the poetry of the lyrics. Somber, deeply reflective, but tinged with beauty brought on by unique perspective like dust caught in a shaft of sunlight.

A few tracks from Jeff’s EP can be heard here. If you haven’t spent time with these songs, do so now. Purchasing the full 6-track album is an investment you won’t regret. And, get out to hear Jeff perform live when the opportunity presents itself. He doesn’t do many shows so each one is worth the extra effort. - Yab Yum Music & Arts

"How Jeff Gonzales' First EP Followed Him Back to Arizona"

Mesa-based songwriter Jeff Gonzales knows how to write a love song. Midway through his debut solo EP, the six-song The Lights Just Went Out. . ., he drops an openhearted doozy, the lilting country shuffle "Midday Epilogue."

"Well, I gave up my family for you," he croons, a light drawl over a gently rocking country backbeat. "Love and real friendship, too / Countless jobs along the way / Scholastic dreams I had, now they're dead / I gave up quite a bit for you." It's like "Just Because I Really Love" by Jerry Butler or "He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss)" by the Crystals, a dark ballad detailing a terribly one-sided romance, one that will, eventually but surely, destroy one half of the couple involved. It's got a guitar solo, too, one that sounds like it was yanked from some obscure rockabilly record.

"It's about a love addiction to heroin," Gonzales says bluntly, describing his past battles with addiction and how the song was born one night in Kiwanis Park in Tempe, written in the passenger seat of his car. After a few minutes speaking with Gonzales, his openness becomes striking — almost alarming. Gonzales is without filter: He's open about his struggles with addiction (though he says he's sober now, "thankfully"), his epilepsy, and his major depression with psychosis.

The Lights Went Out . . . shares that raw-nerve quality with its creator. Gonzales observes from the distance on some of the songs, like "The Death of a Refrain," in which he sings "We drained the river, and we built a lake / The past is gone / But all the pain remains," over a swooning Ritchie Valens teenage drama, but he's more apt to confess, as he does on the reverb-drenched "Trickster." "I've got a mission for a fix right on my back porch / While my conscience smashes dishes and she don't wanna play no more."

Gonzales finds sympathetic backing in guitarist Matt Banister, drummer Shane Kennedy, and especially in Aaron Ott, the multi-instrumentalist who co-produced the album with Gonzales at his Phoenix studio, Rare Currency. Ott's contributions, the steady bass and gorgeous organ work, help color the album, adding muted washes of color to Gonzales' stark black-and-white.

Gonzales' songs are earthy in construction. His rough, twangy voice pairs well with stark neo-traditionalist folk arrangements, but there's a disorienting quality to his work as well. His songs feel a few inches from the ground, ever so weightless. He says that new medication and a changed diet have helped regulate his epilepsy, but he doesn't deny the influence of his condition on his art.

"I'm not sure that was something that was planned, but there is a sense of what I see and what is real not necessarily being the same," Gonzales laughs.

"The worst part of epilepsy, at least for me, is the anxiety," Gonzales says. "The fear of having a seizure is something that I deal with on a daily basis. The more anxious I get, you know, that can lead to more seizures. So absolutely . . . the anxiety and fear [play a role in the songs]. It's constantly in my mind, basically. That fear comes through with the music I write."

Though Gonzales' fears may course underneath the songs, the record is unhurried, which comes as no surprise, considering its long gestation period. Some of the songs stretch back years, as far back as 2006, when Gonzales moved to Chicago as a member of theatrical psych band Skybox. Feeling constrained by his role in Skybox, Gonzales would spend his off hours busking in the Chicago subway to develop songs.

"It's a great way to gauge people's response to your songs," he says, laughing. "You see how much money they put in your hat." Those songs eventually would find their way back to Phoenix when he returned to Arizona in late 2007.

"There's a lot of reasons," Gonzales says of the record's long process. He and his wife had a child, as did Ott and his wife. "Music was kind of on the back burner for a while."

But there was more to it. "Part of it was a lack of confidence. I didn't think people would like it. I thought it was too dark. Being in Skybox was a great learning experience, but it was creatively stifling . . . I've got nothing against those guys — in fact, I hung out with some of them recently back in Chicago — but there wasn't really room for any of us. It was more like, 'This is the song; this is what you're going to play.' I was in the band because I'm a bass player first and I can harmonize, but it showed me that I was never going to be happy unless I was creating my own music."

It would be years before Gonzales hunkered down at Rare Currency to record the album. The EP features material culled from two sets of recording sessions: a full-band recording in 2011 and solo recordings by Gonzales in 2012. He returned to Chicago for a spell last year — to work an IT job — but returned after a particularly bad seizure. He still considers Chicago his second home, and he's got a band of players there to complement his band here in Phoenix. When he returned, he found a nearly complete record staring at him. Despite his misgivings about his songwriting and abilities to perform, Gonzales says he felt compelled to get the EP out.

"It was out of necessity," he say, laughing. "I knew I'd feel relieved once I got them out." So he did. At the end of April, the EP went live on Bandcamp and iTunes. The positive response bolstered Gonzales. With The Lights Just Went Out . . . finally out in the open, he's already looking forward to a follow-up, one he's sure will come easier. "I can't wait to record again," he says, citing a new single, "The Robin in the Birch Tree," that will be added to the EP when it sees physical release later this year.

"Basically, I knew it was going to drive me crazy if I didn't release them," he says. "I knew I was going to regret it. I had to get them out, you know?"

JASON P. WOODBURY is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.

CONTACT: Jason P. Woodbury

FOLLOW: Twitter: @Jasonpwoodbury - Phoenix New Times

"Soft Deadlines' New Record People Are Evil is a Post-Punk Paradise"

(This article details Chad Cussen's previous band, Soft Deadlines)

Musicians often, and usually unfairly, compare themselves to other musicians. Every artist knows the feeling of coming in contact with the work of another person and going, “Whoa, I wish I did that.”

Phoenix band Soft Deadlines, led by guitarist/singer Oliver Lemke, is one of those bands that make other musicians jealous, especially those who dig the post-punk vibe of bands like Gang Of Four, Public Image Ltd., or (digging deep here) the poppy, noisy, genius post-garage angst of New York’s Fly Ashtray. There’s a little something for almost every indie/punk fan in Soft Deadlines’ new record, People Are Evil, which will have its release party on Thursday, November 29, at Crescent Ballroom.

“The Now” kicks off People Are Evil, which the band recorded themselves at The Red Room, the home studio of Soft Deadlines guitarist and producer Chad Cussen. A powerful urgency unfolds as Lemke sings, “Live in the now, try to control yourself / This is not a dance, this is a cry for help.” The intensity does not let up as the album continues thanks to Lemke’s unflinching lyrics and the propulsive instrumental work of Cussen, bassist Steven Duncan, and drummer Parker Douglas. The bombastic opening of “Club Silence,” with Duncan’s hammering bass line, quickly evolves into a charming mix of Strokes-esque guitar sounds and something akin to both At The Drive In and the lesser-known San Francisco band Theory Of Ruin.

“Minutes To Air” is a great example of the band’s ability to create complex, polyrhythmic and danceable post-punk as well. This may be Lemke’s favorite song off the record, a paean to all things related to the beauty (or lack there of) of modern media.

We’re pretty democratic in terms of song writing and write the songs in jam sessions,” he says. “We [Cussen and Lemke] try to write parts that aren’t the simple ‘rhythm and lead.’ We write stuff more like guitar duets. He fills things in a lot. My playing is more staccato, influenced by Gang Of Four.”

According to Lemke, the band works as a cohesive unit when it comes to the creation of their songs, and, refreshingly, he takes great pride in speaking about his bandmates.

“Parker is our drummer and he’s very involved in songwriting and dynamics, like starts and stops. He adds a very different dimension to our music as well,” he says. “Steven Duncan is our bass player. He’s also a very talented player and probably the most classically trained of all of us. He joined the band when [People Are Evil] was nearly finished. We became a four-piece a few years back, but never really had a steady bass player for various reasons. Chad, Parker, and I wrote the record, though, Steven did play on some of the recordings. He’s also a great performer and very into the high energy that we try to project when we play live.”

Post-punk has seen a brief renaissance in the last decade... (continued on website) - Phoenix New Times

"Born Down the Road: Via Skies Left This Burning Desert Behind on Home"

With a debut album on the way soon, Via Skies shows us that even if you are stuck down a lonely hole, it is actually possible to still reach your destination on the nostalgic single Home.

Via Skies is a long distance Arizona/Indiana-based indie folk band that was formed by the experienced East Valley singer-songwriter Jeff Gonzales.

”Now collaborating with Indiana-based guitarist and producer Chad Cussen under the name Via Skies.” ~ Jeff Gonzales

Taking us into a world that so many have felt in their veins before, Via Skies rises up and shows so much strength with a terrific performance here that will inspire many to reach their chosen path. Sending us into a reflective moment you won’t be able to forget, this might be an underground gem we cherish forever.

Home from Arizona/Indiana-based indie folk band Via Skies is a joyous single that will surely get your feet tapping and is loaded with a genuinely joyous vibe and shall make you think deeper. Sung with a thoughtful energy and backed with a fantastic production, this is a track that might get you closing your eyes and recalling when you felt rather lost.

Home will always be home.

Hear this fine new song on Bandcamp and see more via Twitter.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen - ANR Factory


Home (Single) -Released on all major digital platforms, 2021

Pleasant Lies (Bulborbs) -Released exclusively to Bandcamp & N1M, 2021

Album Coming 2023 to all major digital platforms



Via Skies is the musical vision of Jeff Gonzales (previously of Tempe's Loud Americans and Chicago's Skybox), and Chad Cussen, best known for his work with Soft Deadlines of Phoenix. Combining the soft alt country and folk notes of Jeff's previous solo work and Chad's textual style and music production efforts, work has begun on an album.

With the long awaited release of the debut single 'Home,' the duo looks to bring something new and fresh to Arizona's music landscape.

Band Members