Folsky rhythms poured from the doors of the Crescent Ballroom lounge last night as The Sugar Thieves took the stage. It started with some simple strums of the guitar and plucking of the upright bass, then Meridith Moore's voice swooped in and quickly filled the room. Before playing for an admirable two hours – Moore is pregnant, after all! – I spoke with her about the band, Americana music and what the future holds for Tempe's own blues band.
Arizona natives The Sugar Thieves have been a band for a little over a decade since forming in a no longer of this world Tempe dive bar called the Big Fish Pub in 2006. It began as a duo between Moore and her now-husband, guitarist Mikel Lander. They met through their shared passion for music, and after opening the stage for jam sessions, bassist Jeff Naylor, drummer Todd Chuba and saxophone/piano player Shea Marshall joined in. After a year of playing together, the band entered the Arizona State Blues Showdown and placed second. The following year, they were first. Today they play as a full band, trio and duo.
“It’s a crazy thing,” Moore said. “I’m a mom, and I’m expecting now. Having a sociology and communications degree I never thought I would be the manager and lead singer of a band. I never expected it. I never considered music to be a career objective, it had always just been a hobby and something I loved to do. Now it’s looking like something we will build and build and build for a long time.”
The Sugar Thieves' records may be classified as "blues," but their sound is deeper than that. It taps into an Americana, rootsy, singer-songwriter vibe – calling to mind Willie Nelson, Guy Clark and Tom Waits – that resonates with a wide range of age groups (there were 20-year-olds to senior citizens in attendance). They've also found in-roads in a few foreign markets. Moore said they tend to sell out overseas in places like France where American blues music is a “crowd pleaser.”
“You have to be a chameleon and always adapt to your surroundings so we try to do that,” Moore said. “We try to provide a little something for everyone with our music.”
Their music captures the essence of Americana with gritty but expressive melodies from the guitar, deep rhythms from the bass and Moore’s soulful voice. Every now and then Lander’s rustic voice will come through the speakers, complementing Moore’s vocals perfectly. Each song was met with a well-deserved applause. They played mostly original songs like "Pushin' up Daisies" that features a back-and-forth between Moore and Lander.
The latter half of 2017 will see a new album from The Sugar Thieves. It’s currently in the “mixing and mastering process at Blue Door Studios in downtown Phoenix,” Moore said. Moore, Lander and Marshall recently signed with local Fervor Records. They’re also planning on another tour in Europe in 2018, but until then you can catch them at local venues like The Rhythm Room.
For more information on The Sugar Thieves visit sugarthieves.com.
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