From The Horse's Mouth: Johnny Leitera (Tuff Sunshine) on Fire in the Hero Building

Tuff Sunshine is a three-piece pared-down indie-rock trio that Time-Out New York accurately describes as “cool, emotive indie fare that skillfully fuses funky soul with wiry post-punk.”
The band features Johnny Leitera (guitar/vocals), Ani Cordero (drums/vocals) and Turner Stough (bass). Influences range from the punk and post-punk of the ’80s and ’90s to the great Stax recordings of the ’60s and ’70s, with a concentration on evocative lyrics and a direct, no-frills approach to production. There is a real depth to the songs (Leitera has been recognized by American Songwriter magazine as a “Songwriter of the Week”) and a refreshing commitment to make music that defies being put into any one category while staying true to their unique DIY aesthetic.
Each member brings their own background and experience with several projects to the table (Ani with her band Cordero and as a touring member of Os Mutantes, Man…Or Astroman? and Rasputina; and Turner who records, plays and tours with several up-and-coming NYC acts). The result solidifies the band’s distinct sound, which continues to define itself while it expands in scope.
Tuff Sunshine has been playing consistently in NYC and beyond, including a string of East Coast dates with legendary Brazilian band Os Mutantes in the summer of ’13. Their first EP, Half-Mast Steadfast set the pace, being recorded after the band had been together for less than 3 months, leading to the 2nd EP Kids Know, which was recorded and mixed by famed no-wave pioneer Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Brian Eno). In anticipation of the first full-length Fire in the Hero Building, Leitera has been playing and planning solo shows in the UK and Australia ahead of the Halloween 2015 release date. They plan to tour as much as possible after the album’s release and have already begun writing and arranging work for the next record.
The band self-release Fire in the Hero Building tomorrow, and Ghettoblaster caught up with Leitera to discuss it.
When did you begin writing the material for Fire in the Hero Building
I started writing some tracks a couple years ago, after the second EP we did (Kids Know) came out, but some of them were written closer to the recording of the record. I had 22 songs demoed, and we went through and picked the ones we thought made the most sense as an album. I’m always writing, mining old stuff, editing things together, and these 10 are what we felt worked the best for this particular record. Some of those 22 will appear in some form in the future, and some won’t.
Which of the songs on the LP is most different from your original concept for the song?
Great question. Tuff Sunshine does a lot of arranging and experimenting with different ways a song can work, so most of them change a lot from my original acoustic demos. Ani (Cordero, drums/backing vocals) and Turner (Stough, bass) are an integral part of how the tunes develop. I guess “Sliding Through My Hands” and maybe “I Complied” are two that really were arranged differently in the final stages.
“Fire in the Hero Building” has some pretty specific lyrics. What is the song about? Is it that literal? Is the entire record based on this theme?
It was a from a very literal dream, and I took the opening verse lyrics directly from a fire-extinguisher in my parents basement. I always loved the stories of how John Lennon would watch TV and take bits and pieces of commercials and ephemera from life around him and use that as a base for lyrics. It’s a way to have direction and still have room for your sub-conscious to work through. The record isn’t a theme, per se, but that was the song I felt summed up the overall vibe of the record.
You guys have been around a little while, but this is your first full-length. Were you waiting to hone your skills more? Or were you too antsy to record a full record, so just opted for EP’s instead?
We recorded Half-Mast/Steadfast three months after we started the band, and Kids Know roughly a year later. We have been around for about three years now, but we took our time on the full-length, and we were growing a little from the more raw stuff and we wanted to do the songs justice. When you’re doing it all yourself, it just takes time to get everything the way you want it, or as close as you can get it with whatever limitations you have. I like the full-transparency idea (I frequently post wine-soaked demos on my personal facebook page, etc) and I’m not personally concerned with things being polished, but I like the idea that a band grows and matures.
You’re hitting the Midwest next week. What can folks expect to see at these shows?
Yes we are very excited to be heading out to Daytrotter, and playing shows along the way. It was a last-minute little tour we put together, but it came together well. We’ll be playing stuff from the new record and some old tunes as well. I guess they will all be new ones for those who show up… We love playing live and haven’t been on the road since we did some East Coast dates with Os Mutantes, so we are PSYCHED!

Visit the band here:
Catch the band live here:
10.30 • Metropolis Collective (Harrisburg, PA)
11.01 • Mahall’s (Cleveland, OH)
11.02 • The Mutiny (Chicago, IL)
11.03 • Daytrotter Session (Rock Island, IL)
11.04 • Stanley’s Pub (Cincinnati, OH)
11.05 • Howlers (Pittsburgh, PA)
11.06 • Cedars (Youngstown, OH))