When Alexis Molina came to ASU from Carmel, Indiana, she was looking for a creative community that celebrated and promoted independent musicians.
Though The Underground Foundation existed on campus, she found it was so “underground” that it wasn’t accessible.
“I started looking up what I could be involved with at the school and what the music scene was like and I couldn’t find anything,” she says. “I was like, ‘Well this will suck because now I can’t meet people.’ I was really surprised when I found this club, but when I tried to join my first year, it didn’t work out.”
Molina says she felt excluded from a scene that is supposed to about self-expression and inclusivity. She not only wanted a space where underground music and art could be appreciated, but where its appreciators felt accepted. The junior English Lit major is now president of the club.
According to the TUF website, it is a group of students “dedicated to solidifying and improving an independent music and art scene in (the) community.”
The club is also committed to creating a place where people can truly be themselves.
“We’re trying to get people more involved. We want people to submit art, we want people to submit poetry, we want them to send us their music,” says sophomore Tyler Clark, who serves as the club’s secretary. “We want to support what they’re doing.”
TUF regularly books art shows, poetry readings and house shows with local and touring bands and artists. Clark says you don’t have to be an ASU student to join TUF or participate in its events.
“A lot of people are like, ‘I don’t go to ASU. Can I still be part of the club?’” he says. “If you play music, join TUF, if you make art, join TUF.”
The club has been putting on house shows around Phoenix and Tempe since its inception at ASU nearly a decade ago. TUF believes that throwing shows in people’s living rooms is a much more intimate and inclusive experience than concerts at corporate venues. Molina says they are a key component in fostering a sense of community in the underground scene.
“When you first start going, it can be a little intimidating because everyone knows each other,” she says. “Now I walk into a room and everybody knows me. It started to feel like a little community.”
She says house shows are also a great way to discover unknown genres and musicians.
She’s seen everything from DJ sets in tiny living rooms to mosh pits in kitchens.
Though TUF has made a name for itself through house shows, Molina says she wants to do a lot more with poetry, photography and art this semester. The club’s next event is a house show and poetry reading on February 17. At the end of March, the group hopes to book an all-female showcase.
Molina, who plays guitar and piano, came up with the idea. She says she was inspired by Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O.
“She’s not afraid to get ugly and gross and dirty on stage,” she says. “When a lot of females in the media perform, they always have to have this image of being put together, and that’s not how all women are.”
Clark booked the upcoming show, which will feature five indie/punk bands and 12 poets. The interdisciplinary studies major is personally inspired by skate punk bands like Fidlar, which he says widened his sonic horizons.
“People have different music tastes and people want to play different things,” he says. “People with different interests will bring different crowds. I think it’s super important to have diversification.”
Clark believes ASU is the perfect venue to advocate for the local independent music scene.
“College is where everybody gets their start,” he says. “I’m really into surf and skate punk and all of those band’s origins are very DIY. They play house shows… they’ll release a tape, and then somewhere on the internet it blows up. Then they start touring all over the country, but they stay very humble. They’ll still play house shows every so often because that’s where they came from.”
Clark was in high school when he first found out about TUF. He wanted to be a part of the scene, but he didn’t know how. Now that he is a part of the organization, he wants to help other people figure out how to get involved, whether they want to discover new bands or they’re a band waiting to be discovered.
“I want people to know that it’s okay to mess up now; this is a safe space to do that,” Molina adds. “This is a good learning experience for people to get started musically or through their art.”
One of Molina’s fondest memories was when she performed at a house show last summer.
“The AC broke that day and I was opening for some bands from California,” Molina recalls. “Not only was it super hot, but I played the worst set… but the other acts started talking to me and we kept in touch. Because of that, I’ve gotten the opportunity to go to California and have places to stay and be a part of that community. It’s so cool that all these people from all these different places can get to know each other through music.”
Clark was in the audience during that show. Though he was out of breath and drenched in sweat, he felt an unparalleled sense of solidarity.
“We had 50 people in this super cramped room, four bands, no AC … but we all powered through it,” Clark says. “I was in the mosh pit for the majority of it and by the end, I was barely breathing, but everyone was like that… you see that people are genuinely there for the music and there to have a really good time.”
Check out TUF’s next house show featuring Emby Alexander, Unorthodocks, Newports, Vai Patri and Genre, 1317 W. Laird Street, February 17, 7: 30 p.m, $5.