The 50 Best Bets Of SXSW 2014 (Part 5)
Who doesn’t love a music festival, right? It’s all the best parts of a concert–music, friends, alcohol and drugs…just lots and lots more of them! Each year, more and more of them are popping up all over the place. More than just a fest, South By South West has become the industry standard of showcasing today’s best music. It’s fitting that it takes place in Austin, the live music capital of the world.
No matter how bad the U.S. economy might be doing, there are always certain things you can depend on. We will always spend money on food, technology and electronics, vacations, and music. And you can certainly count on the festival scene to not only continue, but to expand and grow.
Anyone who has ever been or considered going to experience a massive event like this knows how overwhelming it feels like when looking at the schedule. It can almost feel like reading a foreign language, seeing bands listed that you have never heard of. That’s where we come in to help. Live music festivals are still, despite all the advanced technology of 2014, one of the best methods of discovering new music. Essentially every artist plays here at some point. Some bands that have previously played at SXSW have been Vampire Weekend, Cloud Nothings, Kendrick Lamar, Wavves, Danny Brown, Yuck, Purity Ring, Skrillex, The XX, Local Natives, Alabama Shakes, Waka Flocka Flame, Walk The Moon, Flosstradamus, Two Door Cinema Club, Grimes, Future, Surfer Blood, Gotye, Ty Segall, Freddie Gibbs, A-Trak, Theophilus London, and A$AP Rocky.
This can be used as a planning guide for deciding who to catch for those of you lucky enough to be able to attend. For everyone else, this is intended to be used as a primer for diehard music fans to discover some of the best new music before everyone else! Many other music websites and blogs list a top 10 or top 12 picks, but with so many artists there are too many great choices to have a list that small. And what if you can’t see the artist you want to? You need more to choose from! There will be thousands of musicians there, we want to help you make the most of your time and money, and to filter through the best. And sure, everyone is excited to see already established, well known acts like Sleigh Bells, Imagine Dragons, St. Vincent, Against Me!, Kurt Vile, Chance The Rapper, Dum Dum Girls, Perfume Genius, Action Bronson, Schoolboy Q, and Off!
But for each of these, there are a ton of massively talented, vastly underrated artists they don’t get the attention they deserve, or that most music fans simply don’t know about yet.We have decided to put together our list of choices for The 50 Best Bets Of SXSW 2014. This is part one in what will be a five part series. The list includes everything from pop to hip-hop to rock to EDM to folk. And yes, we know it’s impossible to see all 50 acts during these few days. But these are the takeaways we believe you should most be familiar with. If these up and comers aren’t on your radar yet, they should be now. These are who most of us will all be listening to in the soon to come weeks and months from now. We love new bands that are popular this year like Speedy Ortiz, Betty Who, Eagulls, NONONO, holychild, Vic Mensa, Haerts, and ASTR–but we already covered them in last year’s The 50 Best Bets Of CMJ 2013 (see here).
So in our best and on going effort to cover the best in indie music, we present our picks for The 50 Best Bets Of SXSW 2014! The list is not presented in any logical or sequential order whatsoever.
For Fans Of: Sam Adams, Wallpaper, Grieves, Hoodie Allen, Macklemore, Odd Future
G-Eazy has an agenda. For the last couple of years he’s been trying to finish school while building up a grassroots fan-base across the US. Schooled in the bay, tested in New Orleans, G isn’t a stranger to paying dues. His live shows have turned heads from the smallest of Midwest clubs all the way up to arenas on dates with Lil Wayne, Big Sean, Snoop Dogg, and Drake, among others.
Without label support G has trekked across the U.S. on multiple tours breaking hearts with his James Dean meets hip-hop vibe and unforgettable live shows. It’s not hype. It’s not a hit. It’s not an image. It’s all of the above, the product of diligence that only a true fan understands; G reinterprets what he loves, not what everyone wants to hear, but in 2011 its looking like those two paths are starting to merge.
G’s been a fixture on the local New Orleans rap scene for a few years and more recently in the music blogosphere, but in the last few months his popularity has surged and as his national profile has grown exponentially. His latest mixtape, The Endless Summer, produced Runaround Sue, who’s sun stroked throwback video garnered over 100,000 plays on Youtube in less than a week. But it all comes back to the live show, one New Orleans music blogger summed it up with, “the young crowd was reaching the levels of mass hysteria reserved for the 50s and 60s rock ‘n’ roll legends to whom G-Eazy has been paying so much homage…”
Besides already being on the Vans Warped Tour, he was the finalist that fans selected as the opening act for the Billboard Music Awards Post-Party last year.
For Fans Of: Still Corners, James Blake, ASTR, Vance Joy, Jungle, Jessie Ware
This Nashville trio are new on the scene, and have just been the opening tour support for CHVRCHES. They seemed to have come out of nowhere this year, and is one of the best surprises on this list. Their self-titled debut, released in August, is four songs of pure greatness.
A trio with musical influences that extend far beyond their hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, Basecamp came to fruition when the three producers joined forces to write. With a natural affinity for writing and collaborating, what resulted was ‘Emmanuel’ – a track that pulls you in and lingers in your consciousness even moments after its end. Realizing there was a musical void that needed to be filled, the idea of Basecamp immediately took hold. Deconstructing typical genre boundaries by utilizing haunting melodies, intensified by thumping bass lines and heavily percussive drums, Basecamp effortlessly layer unpredictable tempo changes with elements of subtle glitch and live strings. Combining seducing vocals with irresistible R&B timbre, the trio meshes seemingly incongruous musical textures and chords to create beautiful tension across all four tracks on their self-titled debut EP. Universally appealing with burning lyrics and a fully realized musicianship that can’t be faltered, the EP is only a prelude to the eclectic Basecamp narrative. We selected their EP in our list of the top 30 EPs of 2013, see here.
3. Warm Soda
For Fans Of: Gross Magic, Useless Eaters, Ty Seagall, The Lovely Bad Things, Bleeding Rainbow, Parquet Courts
A power pop group from Oakland, CA, Warm Soda combines elements of pop, glam, garage rock, and teen angst bubblegum into a sound that gets crowds bouncing.
Recording out of their own “Fuzz City Studio” in Oakland, Warm Soda is comprised of songwriter and guitarist Matthew Melton, bassist Billy Trujillo, guitarist Joey Genovese and drummer Ricky Hamilton. After forming in 2012 and quickly gaining fans with their catchy power-pop songs, Warm Soda embarked on a series of US, Canadian, and European tours with their debut album for Castle Face, Someone For You.
After returning home from their latest tour this past summer, Warm Soda has paused their rigorous road schedule to dive into the recording of their second studio album, set to release in 2014. Following the release of this album, they’ll be back on the road for a US tour to SXSW, followed by a second European tour.
“Combining elements of power pop, glam, and garage rock…Warm Soda crush out killer power-pop jams” says Rolling Stone, who named recently named Warm Soda one of their “Bands To Watch from San Francisco”.
4. Wild Cub
For Fans Of: White Arrows, Pacific Air, Savoir Adore, Leagues, Blondfire, Papa
Wild Cub, the five piece indie pop band from Nashville, just released their new video for their popular song “Thunder Clatter”, which premiered on Entertainment Weekly’s website. The song itself was recently featured on an episode of television’s The Vampire Diaries. They have already toured with Hands, and will soon be touring with American Authors and also opening for Vampire Weekend. They have a couple festivals booked later this year. They also performed on Jimmy Fallon’s show last month, and will be on Conan in April. They are performing at Counterpoint Music Festival, Hangout Festival, Firefly Music Festival, and Sasquatch Music Festival this year.
5. together PANGEA
photo by Kelsey Reckling
For Fans Of: FIDLAR, Bass Drum of Death, Juan Wauters, La Luz, Painted Palms, Parquet Courts
together PANGEA do rock ‘n’ roll as it was meant to be – raw, unpredictable, and probably dangerous, but also blazing with intelligence, emotion, and edgy experimentation. The Los Angeles-based trio made their bones as purveyors of post-millennial punk, but with their third full-length release – and Harvest Records debut – Badillac, they pay their debt to the supersonic 90s rock that first inspired them. The band has not sacrificed a spurt of precious energy, instead integrating nuance and dynamic momentum to songs like “No Way Out” and the undeniably badass title track. The volcanic riffs and massive melodies are matched by an equally provocative lyrical stance, with songs like “Sick Shit” and the album-closing “Where The Night Ends” casting an acerbic eye over the wreckage of the party they helped start – it’s 3am and the drunken fun has given way to sexual panic, anxiety and self-doubt. Slightly stoned but by no means slack, Badillac reveals together PANGEA to be both confident and surprisingly committed, their audacious ambition already impossible to contain.
“It might be confusing for people, assuming we’re like this garage punk band and then hearing this record,” says singer/songwriter/guitarist William Keegan. “But we really don’t want to get trapped at all.”
Keegan first started writing and recording in his Santa Clarita bedroom, his teenage tapes eventually coming to full flower with the aid of bassist Danny Bengston and drummer Erik Jimenez. Known then simply as Pangea, the band played countless beer blasts in and around CalArts, their boozy mayhem and breakneck pop hooks quickly earning them frenzied crowds throughout the Southern California DIY scene and beyond. A string of seven-inches, cassettes, and LPs – including 2011’s ace second album, Living Dummy, released by Burger Records and The Smell’s Olfactory label – followed, as did gigs alongside a veritable who’s-who of like-minded rockers, including Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, Wavves, and The Black Lips (not to mention 2013’s epic “Burgerama Caravan of Stars” US tour).
Badillac was recorded with their longtime producer/engineer Andrew Schubert over three intensive sessions at his Tarzana studio, their roster augmented by second guitarist Cory Hanson (of the electronic pop outfit, W-H-I-T-E). While many bands in their position would have simply continued banging out the party punk, together PANGEA decided to throw a curveball at themselves and their fervent fanbase.
“We wrote like 30 plus songs for this record,” Bengston says, “half of which have the same punky bubblegum vibe of our last record. Then we had this other batch of songs, a little more melancholy, a little heavier, a little darker. I think in the end we just decided to try to not make the same record twice.”
“When I write, there are certain songs that I feel fit the band,” Keegan says, “and then there are songs where it doesn’t feel like they fit. At some point, I was like, maybe we should try some of the songs that don’t necessarily fit. Because I realized that they do fit – they’re just different.”
Though Keegan cites such unexpected heroes as Pete Seeger and 21st Century K Records artists like Little Wings and the Microphones, he fully fesses up to Badillac’s most primal inspirations. Indeed, songs like “Why” and the cello-laced “No Way Out” fuse classic post punk ambivalence with fist-pumping stadium rock, their neurotic hooks, throat-rending vocals, and fat, distorted riffs hearkening back to the glory days of the alternative nation.
“To me, the album is so obviously influenced by the shit that I was listening to when I was 16,” Keegan says. “Growing up in the 90s, all that stuff – Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer. It wasn’t conscious, the album just sounds like that. It feels like that music is etched in deeper that music I’ve listened to as an adult. For whatever reason, the music you listened to when you’re confused and young gets in deeper than anything you might listen to later.”
Badillac also sees together PANGEA stepping away from their association with a much-hyped scene they believe too often revels in its own idiocy, Keegan’s wry lyrics pushing both their music and subject matter towards unsettling themes of impotence, fear, ennui, and detachment.
“We think less and less about how we fit into this garage punk scene that we never even technically felt a part of,” Keegan says. “We just kinda get lumped into that. I’m not really stoked on what a lot of those bands are saying, there’s a lot of misogyny and stuff I’m not into.”
Like any angst-ridden tunesmith worth his salt, Keegan also directs his gaze inwards, coming to turns with his own cynical view of relationships on songs like the mordant “Offer,” their cracked melodies and jaundiced skepticism fueled by his recent romantic struggles.
“I went through a really difficult relationship where we were breaking up every three months for four years,” he says. “At the end of it, I was just like, “This is never gonna work.’ It was pretty intense and I think that informs a lot of the songs on the album.
“It’s kinda funny,” he adds. “As soon as we finished this record, we broke up for good.”
Badillac will drive together PANGEA through 2014, their imminent plans essentially consisting of touring until they drop. Nevertheless, the band finds themselves in the unprecedented position of having to ponder the future.
“We’ve been discussing where the next record is gonna go,” Bengston says, “we still haven’t put our finger on it yet.”
“It’s weird,” Keegan says, “because we never had to have those formal discussions, like, ‘What should the next record sound like?’ It’s always been pretty natural. Hopefully that’s what’ll end up happening again.”
6. Sam Smith
For Fans Of: Banks, ASTR, Broods, Tove Lo, AlunaGeorge, Disclosure
As the anticipation for Sam Smith’s debut album In The Lonely Hour builds, his debut UK single “Money On My Mind” topped the UK charts this week, beating out Clean Bandit’s four-week stint. This first track will be featured on the full-length, due June 17 on Capitol Records, and currently available on Smith’s seven-song Nirvana EP. In The Lonely Hour will be available for pre-order on March 4.
The New York Times wrote, “’Nirvana’ (Capitol), his debut EP, shows him to be an impressively serious singer with immaculate control, from the elegant ‘Safe With Me’ to ‘I’ve Told You Now,’ a sterling piece of piano soul that reveals Mr. Smith as a devastating melancholic.”
Smith will make his way to the U.S. for his first headlining tour beginning March 20, with nearly all dates already sold out. Los Angeles has added a second show April 16 at the Belasco Theatre due to high demand. Prior to this spring jaunt, Smith will attend the annual SXSW Music Conference to perform five shows, including mtvU’s annual Woodies Festival. Smith is nominated in the “Breaking Woodie” category alongside the likes of Bastille and Jhené Aiko.
7. Bad Suns
For Fans Of: Bear Hands, Smallpools, Echosmith, Bleachers, Moon Taxi, Hunter Hunted
Southern California rock band Bad Suns formed in 2012 and in the short time since inception, have managed to be musically beyond their years. Made up of Christo Bowman (vocals), Gavin Bennett (bass), Miles Morris (drums) and Ray Libby (guitar) the four piece ranges from ages 19-22 yet has a sound reminiscent of rock stalwarts from generations past. “I grew up with a lot of world music playing in the house. When I was 10, I started getting heavily interested in the guitar, and my dad began introducing me to his records from the 70′s and the 80′s. Initially Elvis Costello, then to The Clash, The Cure, and so on,” notes Chris. “All of these artists and bands had a big impact on me, at a young age, as far as song composition goes. “ Influences are apparent on the band’s upcoming EP Transpose, where angst-ridden riffs and ethereal yet charismatic vocals pay tribute to post-punk legends of the early 80’s. “ I started writing my first songs at that time,” Chris continues, “Though we can now reflect on that era of music, those artists were ahead of their time in a lot of ways. That’s what’s most inspiring.”
Transpose was recorded in the studio with producer Eric Palmquist (The Mars Volta, Wavves, Trash Talk) and serves as a prelude to the band’s debut full-length slated for 2014. “The writing and recording process is always exciting, because it’s constantly changing and unique to each song. Inspiration comes and goes as it pleases, so a night when a song gets written is a very good night,” says Chris. Comprised of four tracks, Transpose flows effortlessly from start to finish showcasing the band’s stadium ready anthems and undeniably catchy hooks. “Music has the ability to evoke certain feelings in people, a way that not much else can. The pairing of words and sounds can be an extremely powerful tool, when done right. I think the ultimate goal for this band is to make music that causes people to really feel something.”
Aside from writing a record, Bad Suns’ 2013 was a busy one, complete with multiple CMJ showcases as well as sharing the stage with the likes of The 1975, The Vaccines, Royal Bangs, and Fitz and the Tantrums, with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Transpose was released everywhere in the early part of 2014.
“One day I just decided to be a musician, and I never strayed away from that goal. Being in a band is the only thing I can do.”- Chris Bowman
8. Yamantaka //Sonic Titan
For Fans Of: Grooms, Braids, Cadence Weapon, Fear Of Men, The Luyas, Ava Luna
YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN are a psychedelic noh-wave opera group fusing noise, metal, pop and folk music into a multidisciplinary hyper-orientalist cesspool of ‘eastern’ culture in giant monochrome paper sets. Blending Noh, Peking Opera, Buddhist Ritual Punk, Taiko Shows, Tokusatsu, Performance Art, Rock Opera & their own mangaesque cardboard ‘NEVERFLAT’ style of 2.5D set design, their bizarre form of music//altheater have awked and shawed audiences in Montreal for several years.
Founded in early 2008 by performance artists alaskaB and Ruby Kato Attwood, from the ashes of ‘Yellow Peril’, YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN functions as a mutating and constantly evolving art cult that brings together individuals of Diasporic and Indigenous identity to perform/create as a collective. Working in multiple mediums including Installation, Theater, Music and Design, YT//ST negotiate cultural clashes between dominant cultures and those whose traditions are oppressed, erased or being eclipsed.
YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN continues to operate now between Montreal & Toronto .
9. DJ Rashad
For Fans Of: Ryan Hemsworth, Zomby, Actress, Clams Casino, Machinedrum, LOL Boys
Rashad & Spinn have been instrumental to the creation and evolution of Chicago Juke music alongside key players such as Paul Johnson, DJ Gant-Man, DJ Godfather and Jammin Gerald. Blending ghetto house, disco, juke, and ghetto-tech to create an unplaceable physicality on labels such as Dancemania, Juke Trax and Planet Mu, they have made the scene international with heavy online support and headline slots at London’s Night Slugs, Brussel’s Regulate, Chicago’s Mad Decent Block Party, New York’s Turrbotax and Moma’s PS1 events. DJ Rashad has performed at the Pitchfork Music Fest, and has been on tour opening for Chance The Rapper.
10. DZ Deathrays
For Fans Of: Dune Rats, Wolf Alice, King Tuff, Bass Drum Of Death, Cheatahs, Jeff The Brotherhood
They started at a house party, and will most likely end at one. They used to be called DZ now they are DZ DEATHRAYS. They hope to one day party with Andrew W.K.
Without a doubt, Australian two-piece, DZ Deathrays are one of the most hotly talked about bands of the past year. After signing to Melbourne-based record label I OH YOU in early 2011, they’ve been releasing and touring relentlessly, introducing themselves to the world as one of the most brutal new bands on the scene.
After such an exciting year, one is left wondering – what is this band’s story? Where did they come from?
Formed in 2008 by Shane Parsons (vocals/guitars) and Simon Ridley (drums), the band which was then called simply ‘DZ’, was originally intended for house parties – a unique rule that was quickly broken due to their sheer popularity and demand. Not to mention the epic live shows which if continued to this day at house parties alone, would result in mass police raids. Their live show is one of their strongest assets, with most people leaving the venue dragging their dropped jaws behind them.
Consisting of only two parts, it may be hard for some to comprehend a mere two-piece with the ability to create such a massive wall of sound. But this is a feat which DZ Deathrays has been able to conquer with results fashioned from a statically charged mix of influences like Death From Above 1979, The Bronx, Justice, Sunn 0)) and Lightning Bolt. With this combination of musical mentors as ammunition, they create a blend of driving monster beats firing over an avalanche of guitar similar to the sound of a squadron of attacking Panzer tanks.
It was clear from the onset that DZ was going to be big. By mid 2010 they had released their first EP in Australia, Ruined My Life (Inertia / Uselesss Art) and toured the country over. They’d toured with Crystal Castles (who personally invited them), Dananananaykroyd, Bass Drum Of Death, Ratatat and The View; played live with Biffy Clyro and The Temper Trap; and joined festival lineups such as Big Day Out, Parklife, Field Day, Sunset Sounds, Playground Weekender and more. They had been Unearthed by triple j and received personal kudos from Mark Ronson, saying he ‘loved’ the band.
It was obvious, at this juncture, to step it up a notch and introduce the band to the world stage. A move which would prove to be momentous, and a move that required a new band name. ‘DZ’ already existed in the form of a US based dubstep DJ. To avoid being confused for a dubstep band, they quickly changed their name to DZ Deathrays, thus a new phase was born.
DZ Deathrays’ first venture out of the southern hemisphere was to CMJ festival in New York in 2010. They quickly returned for SXSW in March 2011 and already, the buzz was brewing. They were blogged about by Jen Long from the BBC, and included in Blunt Magazine’s Top 40 bands to see at SXSW in 2011. That buzz fed through to the UK, where in May, they picked up a spot to play at The Great Escape and toured the UK with New York punk outfit Cerebral Ballzy.
Meanwhile back home, they partnered up with Melbourne based label, I OH YOU to release their 2nd EP, Brutal Tapes, a mix of studio and house party recordings as well as some remixes from Yacht Club DJs and Surecut Kids. With all the excitement in the UK, it was time to officially bring the recordings to the motherland, and that they did in style.
Their last visit to the UK in October 2011, saw them put out not one, not two, but THREE releases.
1. Their EP Ruined My Life, out on Big Scary Monsters and Humming Records 2. A limited edition cassette version of the EP through the BBC’s Jen Long’s new label Kissability, through Transgressive. 3. A 7” of popular single “Gebbie Street” out on Too Pure through Beggars.
They backed it up with a UK/EU tour, playing with Male Bonding, Band of Skulls and joining the NME Radar Tour with Wolf Gang.
The media reaction was off the chart. NME Magazine and Q Magazine had both placed them in their “Top 10 bands of The Great Escape,” before NME went a step further and gave them #8 in the “50 best new bands of 2011.” The accolades kept growing as BBC took the band under its wing, giving their song “Gebbie Street” a play on daytime radio with Fearne Cotton and Zane Lowe giving the band ‘Next Hype.’ They continued to receive radio play on BBC1, XFM, Artrocker Radio and even did live sessions for all three of those stations.
By this time in Australia, the band had signed a full record deal with I OH YOU and publishing with Mushroom. They’d been personally picked by Foo Fighters to play three of their stadium shows on their Australian tour, which they happily joined between playing sideshows with Fucked up and touring with Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Bass Drum of Death.
They came back from the UK and went straight into the studio at The White Room in Mt Nebo (just outside of Brisbane). Produced by Richard Pike from PVT, the record is due for release mid-2012 and the media is absolutely busting for it. First single “No Sleep” got a world premiere on BBC1 by Huw Stephens, followed by an exclusive stream on the NME website. All of this follows the latest NME tout, placing the band at #4 in “20 Most Exciting Bands for 2012.”
News of the band has bled back to the USA, where The Death Set covered their notorious video for “The Mess Up” and it received attention on Pitchfork TV. The band will be backing it up with a return to North America for SXSW and Canadian Music Week in 2012, while at the same time, releasing their first EPs through 3|4 (USA) and Dine Alone Records (Canada).
The debut album Bloodstreams was released in 2012, and their new record Black Rat is due out in May of 2014.