Down the road in Midtown, there’s a stage that means a lot for an up-and-coming Tucson band with big hair and big dreams.

In checking KGUN 9’s archives, Znora shared a picture in May moments after they won this year’s Battle of the Bands in Oro Valley.

This weekend will be a big deal for the trio. We met the band for rehearsal inside House of Bards before they hit the road to go north to the Phoenix metro area, and play on an even bigger stage.

We asked Adrin Negrete, Joshua Montao and Johny Rhode what makes the House of Bards so special to them.

“Me and Adrian,” Montao said, “we met at a music camp, actually, four years ago?” “Yeah, four years ago,” Negrete said. “We just had our ‘band-iversary’ which is Halloween at this place very first show,” Montao said.

KGUN 9 asked Negrete, Znora’s lead singer and guitarist, where he got the inspiration for the band’s name. He said it’s a loving nod to perhaps his favorite musical artist.

“I’m a big fan of Jimi Hendrix,” he said. “The guy’s awesome… but his grandma’s name is Zenora Z-E-n-o-r-a,” he said, “and I just took the ‘e’ out because I thought it looked cool.”

When Negrete, 17 and a student at Tucson Magnet High School, shared that detail, we asked him if he realized it’s also a subtle nod to our home desert.

“I didn’t necessarily think of that,” he said, “but it kind of grew on me. I was like, ‘Oh wait! It’s got a double meaning.'”

Negrete and Montao, 20 and a University of Arizona student, started Znora, but they needed a bass to round out their rocking sound. That’s when Negrete said his old guitar teacher introduced him to Rohde, 16, who shared he is slowly but surely getting more comfortable performing on stage with the band.

“As I kept doing it, it became easier and easier,” Rohde, a Sahuaro High School student, said, “and as I keep going, the more fun it becomes.” “I think a big part of it is that we’re having fun,” Montao said.

It wasn’t hard to see the band having fun on stage. They’re bringing that creative energy into a recording studio right here in the community; Znora is dropping their first single, “Sweet Baby Ray,” while still juggling school.

“It’s just about a girl in a red Impala being saucy,” Negrete said. “It’s a little rock story… kind of having fun finding vision(s).”

As they keep writing songs, the band members said they also want to keep playing gigs to connect with the crowd and become better showmen. “(It’s about) bringing more of a show more of a like Alice Cooper (feeling),” Negrete said. “Theatrics and stuff like that, that’s an area we could improve on.”

They hope judges in Mesa notice that progress Sunday evening, when Znora battles it out to win the 2023 Alice Cooper “Proof is in the Pudding” music and dance competition. “We’re in the finals this time,” Negrete said. “We can hopefully go win this thing.”

“We want to do something with this,” Montao said, “and this would be something huge for our career that would hopefully push us forward in a better direction.”

Music, Rohde said, “means a lot to people and it means a lot to me. I’m sure it means a lot to (my bandmates) too and that’s why we do this.”