High Water Mark

Tucson's Lagoon hopes its new album makes waves

Lagoon frontman David Ziegler-Voll won't name names, but he thinks it's cheesy that so many of today's rock bands are jumping on the '80s bandwagon.

Sure, his own band's guitar textures are reminiscent of Reagan-era acts like U2 and R.E.M. But you won't find Lagoon adorning its songs with vintage synthesizer melodies or disco-dance beats. Indeed, Ziegler-Voll remembers Rio the first time around, and it's something he'd prefer to forget--not rehash. If his bandmates--bassist Woodie Polk, guitarist Patrick McMahon and drummer Marisa Chattman--wear suits and skinny ties, it's only to take part in an evening of cover songs from the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack. (See the band's MySpace page.)

"We're not interested in achieving the goal of sounding like an '80s band," he says via cell phone in between recording sessions for Lagoon's forthcoming full-length CD. "We tend to wander; we love to wander."

Of course, an attentive listener who enjoyed Lagoon's previous release, Graduation, probably noticed the influence. For instance, there are the effects-laden guitar chords of "Unemployed Astronaut," which brings to mind the sci-fi love ballads of The Church. Or consider the intricate, Andy Summers-style riffing of "Exit 227," which is structured much like a song by The Police. But Lagoon isn't a bunch of musicians striving to sound like old-wave night at your local club. If anything, Ziegler-Voll's bandmates grew up during the grunge years of Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins.

"I'm slightly older than the rest of my band," explains Ziegler-Voll, "so I mostly listened to earlier alternative rock--before it was even called 'alternative.'"

Back then, he was a Midwestern teenager with theatrical talent suddenly transplanted to a high school in rural Georgia, where there wasn't a single art class offered. As a result, Ziegler-Voll retreated into the world of music, learning to play guitar and write songs.

"It was straight out of the movie Footloose," he says of his formative years below the Bible Belt. "Traveling preachers would come to town, pitch their tents and hold--what are those things called?--revivals. It was brutal, but I still have a sentimental, nostalgic, romanticized view of the South."

That view carries over into his songwriting, which a Tucson Weekly music writer once characterized as "sentimental pop." His lyrics, which boast evocative couplets like "I miss the thunder / I miss the late show," are impossible to label any other way.

"'Sentimental' is a good way to describe it," he admits. "I'm definitely somebody who subscribes to that songwriting mood of looking at the past through rose-colored glasses."

He moved to Tucson in the late '90s, but it wasn't until 2003 that he met the members of Lagoon, hitting it off right away. The chemistry was perfect, and in the last few years, the local music press has embraced the band. The Arizona Daily Star loves Lagoon enough to have handed the members a video camera last year to shoot a tour film that was made available on the newspaper's Web site.

Ziegler-Voll cringes at the word "love." "I think we're a love-them-or-hate-them band," he clarifies. He feels Lagoon made a misstep by releasing a live album after the band had only been together a few months. Listening to that CD now, he shakes his head at the performance and sound quality. ("I've got a box of 500 of those EPs that I just want to burn.") He believes Lagoon has had to fight to win back the local music establishment ever since.

That fight will likely come to an end with the band's new CD, slated for a March 31 release. Ziegler-Voll is excited about sharing the band's new material with people.

"We're actually recording this (album) ourselves," he explains. "We weighed the pros and cons. Yes, there are perils in trusting yourself to work with gear and equipment. But we have enough experience and feel we'd better spend our money on mixers than rush to spend three grand on something we may not like in the end."

In other words, Lagoon will have plenty of room to wander.

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