Fresh faces in Tucson DIY punk scene
Odalys Catalan and Tara Belger first met in the summer of 2018 during Summer on Stage, a theater program for teens run by the Arizona Theater Company. They played together for the first time at a talent show, but their partnership didn’t truly begin until the after-party celebrating the end of Summer on Stage, when they realized that what they had together was special.
That night, the band now known as Mudpuppy was born.Originally known as Hang the Bassist, the band got their start by playing their own shows for friends and families.
From there, they’d progressed to small house parties, backyard gigs and eventually made their way to Tucson’s iconic Club Congress. In early April, the self-described “soda pop punk” duo had rebranded from Hang the Bassist to Mudpuppy.
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Mudpuppy may have undergone a name change, but their core values have remained the same: using their platform to empower their audience and make a positive change in the community.
“To me, Mudpuppy is all about empowerment, safety and having a good time,” Catalan said. “We talk a lot about issues that affect us and our community, especially LGBTQ rights and women’s rights as well as issues that people of color face.”
The DIY punk scene in Tucson, according to Mudpuppy, isn’t always inclusive for all members of the community. That’s something Mudpuppy strives to change.
“We want to create a safe space for people to enjoy music,” Belger said. “There’s not a lot of that in the Tucson [DIY punk] scene. We just want people to have fun and be nice.”
Catalan has been an avid concert attendee since long before her Mudpuppy days, and she’s bared witness to some of its toxicity.
“It’s an open secret that there’s a lot of problematic people in the [DIY punk] scene,” Catalan said. “I’ve been to a lot of shows where it is just not safe for the LGBTQ community or people of color. We want to help clean up the [DIY punk] scene. We want to make sure our shows are safe spaces for everyone and we don’t condone bad behavior at our shows.”
Mudpuppy has never been a band to shy away from speaking out against the injustices they witness in the world, the music scene and their daily lives. Their passionate stance on the different issues they and their communities face have always influenced their musical decisions.
“Things we’ve seen and places we’ve been inspire a lot of our political songs,” Belger said. “I have a new song that I’m working on that’s about what the news is covering and what they’re not talking about.”
The duo is adamant about their desire to make positive change in the community, no matter how small.
“As a musician, no matter how well-known, you’re influencing people,” Catalan said. “Not everyone has to be politically active, but if you have a platform to make a change, you should use it.”
Most recently, Mudpuppy has used their shows to shed light on the recent abortion bans that have been passed in states such as Alabama and Georgia. Their goal is to get people to think about these issues, no matter who may disagree with them.
Although Mudpuppy is still a relatively small band, they are well on their way to achieving their goal of making positive impacts in the community. Gracie Catalan, Odalys' mother and the band’s manager, has seen firsthand the changes Mudpuppy has made in the community.
“I’ve had grown women come up to me at their shows and tell me they wish they’d been as brave as [Mudpuppy] at their age to get on stage and perform,” Gracie said. “They give positive encouragement for young girls to be brave and express themselves through music.”
Despite the positive changes Mudpuppy is making, their experiences as girls in the music scene haven’t always been.
“Girls and women aren’t as equally accepted on stage as male artists are,” Gracie said. “They’ve faced a lot of negativity and harassment, but they’ve become resilient and don’t let it keep them down.”
The differences Mudpuppy is making haven’t just been evident to their band manager. Other Tucson bands have taken notice of them, too.
Jake Shaw, the bassist for the local band Bananapancakes, feels that Mudpuppy’s strong stance on social issues is what sets them apart from other local bands.
“Having a stance and possibly political agenda is a big part of local music, because it’s often what makes one band stand out from the crowd,” Shaw said over email. “I think they’re inspiring other bands to speak up about social issues based off their experience with Mudpuppy at shows.”
As for what’s next in Mudpuppy’s future, the band is keeping mum, but they want their audience to know that good things are coming. For now, you can catch Mudpuppy at Crooked Tooth Brewing Co.’s Pride Party on June 28.
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