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The band A R I Z O N A talks with Long Island kids

The band A R I Z O N

The band A R I Z O N A -- David Labuguen and Nate Esquite, front, and Zach Charles behind them -- at Atlantic Records in Manhattan with  Kidsday reporters Emily Wu, left, Charlie Gruber, Shayna Siegel and Ellis Eisenberg, from Candlewood Middle School in Dix Hills. Credit: Newsday/Pat Mullooly

We met A R I Z O N A band members Zachary Charles (lead vocals), Nate Esquite (guitar) and David Labuguen (keys) when they were visiting Manhattan recently.

Why did you decide on the band name A R I Z O N A?

Nate: I was wearing an Arizona Iced Tea hat, and that’s where it started.

Zach: So when we had to decide on a name, Nate was joking, what does it matter what we call this? He was like, No one is ever going to see it. As long as it sounds cool. Look at all the hipster bands that exist today. They’re all capital letters. And they all have spaces and no vowels. And he pointed at the Arizona Iced Tea hat he was wearing, he goes — Arizona! He’s like, it’s a cool word, look. And he texted us and spaced it out and made it caps. And we laughed at it because it was a joke. And because it was funny.

David: The joke's on us now.


Your band is still pretty new. What do you expect to happen in the next two years? Do you expect to gain more attention worldwide?

Nate: Short answer, yes, our first time.

Zach: Our first European tour. We leave for that in two weeks. We’ve been friends for years and years and years. Way longer than we were a band. We became a band kind of by accident. We just made some music for ourselves because it was fun one day. Then we said, Let’s make some more, because we used to make it for other people. So then one day, we’re just like, Let’s just try it ourselves. So I think the idea is that now that we have this great platform, we are lucky enough to be here and try to spread the word that friendship is the core that we do, and that it helps make our dreams come true. So it can help everyone’s dreams come true. I think that’s what we try to tell people.

What messages do you like to include in your music?

Zach:  A lot of it has to do with personal experiences that a lot of people deal with and go through. I think we particularly try to make it so that when you hear some of our songs, you feel like you can relate to it very personally in your own way. They were just things that you deal with. And things that make you happy. Things that make you sad. Things that are easy and fun. Things that are hard to go through. And I think that we find a way to just make all of our songs about the ups and downs of what it’s like to just be like a person.

We just watched your video for the song “Find Someone.” How do you come up with the concepts for your music videos?

David: This video is the first video that we actually worked with a director outside of our team. And so when we got in touch with her, she had sent over an idea that had to do with animals. And some of the other directors that we reached out to, they translated the song like a very straight-up-the-middle love song, guy and a girl, fall out of love. We need to find someone much better. So her take on it, just animals alone, was different.

Zach: And like how do you go wrong with that? Right. So we said, Oh, you want us to hang out with a bunch of baby animals all day and just perform the song in front of some cameras and go back to hanging out with baby animals all day? Yes. Great. Let’s shoot it tomorrow. 

Who were your favorite musicians growing up?

David: There’s a jazz artist named Chick Corea that Zach and I both love.

Nate: Who doesn’t love Chick Corea?

David: Chick Corea, and also a jazz guitar player named George Benson that I grew up listening to.

Zach: I used to love listening to my dad. My dad had a CD because he actually played the trumpet. He taught me how to play the trumpet when I was young. And he had a CD that was like “The Best Of” CD. It was like a compilation of other best songs of a band called Chicago. Probably my favorite growing-up band to listen to is Chicago.

So ultimately, music can inspire a lot of people. So how does it make you feel that your music can change somebody’s life?

Zach: We’ve been talking about that a lot recently. We never expected to be people that other people knew about or cared about or whatever. It was just something that was fun for us. When we went on our first tour, we released our first album, and now that we’ve gone on a lot of tours, and we’re about to go on our next one and release another album, we’re sort of getting the feel for how much impact and influence music can have on people’s lives. 

All of your songs are really well written, really well played, but which song are you proudest of?

Nate: That’s tough. Because part of me wants to say “Let Me Touch Your Fire,” because it’s the first song we ever wrote. But at the same time, “Cross My Mind.” I think those two for me.

Zach: Those were two firsts for us. “Let Me Touch Your Fire” was the first song that we did when we first decided —, like we were at the studio making music for a project we were working on for someone else, and we decided to stay late that night. And we decided to like jam and make a song for fun. So we did, and it felt so good to just hang out and make music, not like as a job for a particular week for someone, it was just us jamming. 

Are there any musicians that influence your music?

Zach: Yeah, The Police is definitely a good band. Bruce Springsteen. A lot of music from the '80s, I think, is what we’ve been listening to recently, that we’ve been inspired by for this new album that we’re about to release. And a lot of it has been inspired by a lot of cool records from the '80s just because they were tricky. They were good musicians. They did a lot of tricky stuff and a lot of cool stuff with half, if that, of the amount of computers and technology and stuff that we have today.

What is the most memorable or favorite part of what you do?

Nate: I think days like today. Like where you spend the whole day with your friends celebrating something that you create and sharing it with people. That to me is always the best part. Like seeing the comments of people flowing in of people listening to it. And it feels like Christmas morning whenever we put something up.

Zach: That is true, especially since releasing “Find Someone,” the single. And then knowing the album is coming up. You work all day, and in our case all year on one thing. And you have days when you finally put it out into the world and let people hear it and do what they want with it. 

Maria Lennon and Erica Schultheis’ writing club, Candlewood Middle School, Dix Hills

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