Do you like fresh new music? We do too, especially when it comes from bands located in the Valley of the Sun.
We’ve kept our ears and eyes on the local music scene, and we’ve found 17 local bands that we think will make an impact this year. They cover a variety of genres, from metal to indie rock to punk to even pop-punk.
Take a listen — we think you’ll like what you hear.
Plenty of bands — think Chvrches or the Weeknd — stylize their names in an idiotic fashion for easier Googling. But Tempe’s Cheap Hotels don’t care if discount accommodations are all you can find when searching their name.
The jangly four-piece garage band, who played their first show just a little over a year ago, are more concerned with gigging as often as possible (the band played around 40 shows last year) and working on a full-length follow-up to the two EPs they put out in 2016.
Cheap Hotels leech influence from the Velvet Underground and the Libertines (their name comes from one of the latter’s lyrics), but the band most strongly evokes the Strokes. It’s surely their strongest influence, evident on “I Need Some Sleep,” but they bring a subtle Modest Mouse self-effacement to songs like “Whatever This Is” and “ATMs & Liquor Stores.”
Cheap Hotels haven’t toured yet — their first is in the early planning stages, hopefully August — but it’s not just their name that inspires thoughts of road-tripping on a tight budget. Their Long Summer EP is designed like a vintage postcard, and their demo album, Color TV, is the kind of faded text, maybe with a few letters missing, you’d find cluttering the sign of some tumbledown Dust Bowl motel.
“We didn’t really strive to write “travel songs” or anything like that, but the idea of travel is glamorous, melancholy, and vivid,” vocalist and guitarist Ian Wilson says.
He says he likes playing in Phoenix because musicians here “aren’t doing it to be famous.”
The band also includes Isaac Kolding (guitar and vocals), Zeynep Ayla (bass), and Jordane Raub (drums). Troy Farah
Concertina got a pretty solid initial introduction to the local scene a few years ago when the founder of Heavy Metal Television, Eric Braverman, gave them an endorsement. But the Gilbert-based stoner metal band have a sound way past their years. Impressive, considering none of them are even old enough to drink legally.
Concertina dubs their music as “desert groove” and pulls stylistic elements from metal’s glory days (think the late ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s), and combines them with a modern metal vibe, with major influences ranging from Black Sabbath and Corrosion of Conformity to Kyuss and Crobot.
The result is high-velocity yet sludgy, with heavy grooves, crunchy down-tuned riffs, undeniably tight guitar solos, and a peppering of that NOLA sound.
The songwriting and gravelly vocals of Cade Miller channels a range of timely topics, like humans’ impact on the natural environment and the mistreatment of people because of race or gender. Their live show holds all the energy you’d expect from testosterone-driven teenage males. Think Pantera meets the Sword meets Volbeat.
Concertina originally came together in 2013 after Miller (vocals/guitar), Chastin Short (drums), Cameron White (guitar), and Adrian Aragon (bass) played in a cover band. In 2015 they released their first self-titled EP — but in late 2016, White departed the band.
“Instead of waiting for another guitar player around our age that’s at Cameron’s skill level, we plan to focus on being a three-piece band,” Miller says.
And in 2017, fans can expect the band to go full throttle, with a West Coast tour and possibly a new album release. Lauren Wise
There’s a very active, yet almost entirely underground noise scene in Phoenix — at least 40 unruly acts, by one count. There are labels that lack much of a social media presence and bands that play with nothing but guitar pedals on the floor.
Among the most creative and adept is Consumer, which self-describes as “good noise for bad trips.” The trio expertly balances freak-out punk with drone in the vein of Ceremony, Lightning Bolt, and sometimes Melt-Banana.
Consumer formed around mid-2014, but Jeremy Peterson (bass) and Sean Rooney (vocals) have played together since 2007, when they met at a local charter school. They soon added Josh Luke on drums, who uses a combination of contact mics and effects pedals with his drum kit.
The band’s name is partially an anti-capitalist statement, with some songs like “Made In China” and “Demand/Withdrawal” more pointed than others.
“Humanity basically consists of and revolves around consumption, and I feel we need to remind ourselves of that, and be humbled in a way,” Peterson says. “It’s not a pretty process.”
The year 2017 will bring a few changes for Consumer. They say you can expect a release or two, in addition to a few shows. But this may be your last chance to see them — currently the members are working on several new side projects.
Peterson is in noise rock two-piece RNA, screechy punk Maximum Roach, and indie punk Jade Helm. However, in a few months, he plans to move out of state, putting Consumer on indefinite hiatus. Rooney and Luke plan to focus their energy into their sleazy New Wave outfit Aerico, which began recording their first EP just recently. Troy Farah
Nicole Laurenne has been the frontwoman for the Love Me Nots, Zero Zero, and Motobunny. It would appear those were all practice runs for the ferocious zenith achieved in the garage rock dream of the Darts.
Here, she is joined by Christina Nunez (the Love Me Nots, Casual Encounters), Rikki Styxx (the Two Tens), and Michelle Balderrama (Brainspoon). These women are ready to unleash hell wherever they go, and their live shows are 10 times more incendiary than their records.
When the women recorded their first EP last year, Laurenne said, “This is my favorite record I’ve ever recorded,” and that debut was one of the best of 2016.
Nearly as soon as their debut was released, they were back in the studio recording the follow-up.
They kicked off the new year by releasing their second EP, which continues the garage-rock party from their first record without losing a step. It appears that there will be no slowing down for this femme fatale rock ’n’ roll show.
In 2017, the Darts plan to put out a full-length album on U.K. label Dirty Water Records in the U.K., as well as touring with French band Weird Omen, releasing two more videos, touring Europe, and doing a U.S. run with the Jackets. And Laurenne says that’s just the beginning.
If that’s the beginning, they must have their eye on world domination. Clearly, the Darts are going places, and they’ve already gotten the attention of Little Steven’s Underground Garage and author Stephen King. Garage-rock dreams do come true. Mitchell Hillman
Maybe it’s something to do with our generation’s short attention span, but minimalistic, downtempo electronica is somewhat rare in this town. So an artist like E Alo, who channels the best aspects of instrumental electro acts like Tycho or Seven Fields of Aphelion, is a welcome addition to an already diverse music scene.
E Alo, known on her driver’s license as Erica Aloian, began composing Keepers, her first EP in early 2015, followed by her Organized Noise EP in late 2016. The result is soothing, atmospheric, and trippy — a kind of peyote spa bath.
Her main instrument is her laptop, using Logic Pro bundled with the Native Instruments Komplete suite. Her boyfriend, Scott Murray of Majestic Dubs, helps mix and master her tracks, and she sometimes borrows his Micromoog or modular synthesizer.
For each song, she creates an equivalent video, usually splattered with K-hole visuals strained through After Effects and Premiere Pro. E Alo’s third release is due in a few months. She plans to give it the same treatment, but she’s also experimenting with new ways to incorporate visualizations into her live act.
Originally from the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois, Aloian moved here to attend the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. She became smitten with the scene and now runs a biweekly internet radio show called PHX Rising on glitch.fm.
“I really love the local music here, so I created a show centered around it,” Aloian says. “Every episode has a featured artist hour, which includes a 30-minute interview and 30 minutes of that artist’s tunes, and a locals-only half-hour, which includes a mix of local artists.” Troy Farah
Though they had been around for a bit, it seemed that El West was suddenly everywhere last year — live shows, release shows, radio singles, and videos. It was like a blitzkrieg of reintroduction, and it was refreshing and quite often a lot of fun.
The end result was a brilliant four-song debut from Bryant Powell (vocals/guitar), Thomas Brenneman (guitar), Ricky Powell (bass), and Marty Welker (drums). They gathered an impressive crowd quickly as they became known for Bryant’s mesmerizing, near-operatic vocals, Brenneman’s stunning guitar work, and the fascinatingly powerful rhythm section of Powell and Welker. It seemed like they hit every venue with impressive results. This year, they want to go even further.
“We are constantly in the process of writing new music,” Bryant says. “We have just finished recording our new EP that will be out this year.”
“We are going to be releasing the new EP in June probably,” Brenneman adds. “We’ll be doing another big fundraiser show for Grey Matter bicycles, which in turn donates the money to Barrow Neurological Institute. That’ll be in August.”
In addition to that, they are planning a steady live schedule, exploring Tucson and Flagstaff, and taking their music to states beyond Arizona. If you’ve ever been to one of their live shows, you know that’s where people get hooked on this band. The more this crew travels around, the better off they’ll be. Mitchell Hillman
Emerald Isle’s take on incorporating the energy and flavors of heavy metal and electronic dance has been a refreshing element to local lineups — and it seems people nationally are taking notice.
The band’s music demonstrates a visceral shift between light and dark, morphing unexpectedly in rhythm, vocal timing, and melody. The dueling vocals range between growling screams and soaring choruses — one moment, there are guttural bursts and hardcore punk; the next, a heavy breakdown with electro melodies; and the next, an alt-rock chorus against a neoclassical backdrop.
Members Dylan Neuman, Rhandy DeGarmo, Lev Lewis, Zach Couch, and Blayr Lignoski grew up in the local scene. In fact, vocalist/songwriter Neuman is son to one of Arizona metal’s most charismatic figures: Prophet of St. Madness.
So far, 2017 has been an exciting year. The group opened for Parkway Drive; appeared at Anaheim’s Winter NAMM Show; released a video from their second album, 2016’s Lost Empires; and are tracking songs for a 2017 album with Cameron Mizell (Sleeping with Sirens/Memphis May Fire). And after recently joining the ColdCock Whiskey family, Emerald Isle is talking with several agencies about summer tours.
“It’s an incredible competition to stay among the best this scene has to offer. Arizona is a gold mine of talent, and we’re excited to be a part of it,” DeGarmo says. Lauren Wise
Jane N' The Jungle
In this modern age, a musician never knows where they will find their next fan. Jane N’ The Jungle found one of their supporters in their spam folder.
According to the band’s lead singer, Jordan White, soon after the alt-rock band’s song “Open Road Blues” was featured in a Metro Oklahoma City Honda Dealers commercial, a mysterious e-mail arrived.
White, whose vocals on the folk-rock ditty are as powerful as the cars being advertised, mistook the unexpected message as junk. In actuality, it was a new fan located in the Sooner State’s capital city asking when the track would be available.
“We thought that was so cool someone followed up on it,” guitarist Brian Dellis gushes.
White hopes “Open Road Blues” will be ready for release later this year.
Meanwhile, it has been a pretty wild ride for the alt-rock quartet, which also features bassist Leah Brooks.
The band was formed in 2015 after White returned to Phoenix from studying musical theater in Los Angeles. They plan to keep pushing their exuberant, heartfelt, self-titled EP, which came out last October, through regional gigs and several showcases at this spring’s SXSW in Austin, Texas.
That does not mean that Jane N’ The Jungle are focusing all their efforts outside of the Valley. Dellis feels the opening of Charlie Levy’s latest venue, the Van Buren, is his way of doubling-down on what local music has to offer.
“It shows me he believes the local music scene is on the upswing,” he says. “People will want to invest their time in seeing local and regional acts.” Jason Keil
Lana Del Rabies
There are some band names that are so awful that nothing can wash the crap out of your ears after you hear it. We don’t care how good Cute Is What We Aim For may or may not be — a name like that doesn’t encourage us to find out.
On the other hand, there’s also the opposite: band names so transcendentally wonderful that you almost don’t even care if they’re any good. When the band turns out to be as great as their name is, that’s just icing on the cake. Thankfully Lana Del Rabies, lives up to her glorious name and then some.
Lana Del Rabies has been a rising star in the Valley’s noise scene.
She mixes traces of goth music like the Cranes with beat-driven noise music, producing the kind of sounds that would be the perfect soundtrack to a video loop of Princess Di’s car crash. It’s harsh and unforgiving, but there are enough fragments of beauty in the wreckage to make it worth combing through.
You can hear this mix of pleasure and pain in her most recent mixtape, In The End I Am A Beast, for Deathbomb Arc.
Del Rabies credits her passion for music to her studies in art and media in Detroit.
“I would not be a musician now without that background,” she says.
Learning to put “intuition before technical prestige,” she’s been using her impressive video and musical skills to create dynamic shows. You can catch her at various venues around the Valley. Ashley Naftule
Pop-punk gets crapped on a lot. But when it’s done well, it can be highly enjoyable, and for some, it’s nothing short of the best music ever invented.
LightSpeedGo plays some killer pop-punk (think Avail meets pre-uber-famous Fall Out Boy), and the local scene vets are looking to make an even bigger splash in 2017 than they did in their first three years as a band. Band members Rico Caldera (guitar/vocals), Ben Funke (bass/vocals), JD Stooks (guitar), and Marty McDevitt (drums) have the right idea about the music business: Don’t take yourself too seriously, but seriously rock.
“We are finishing up the writing of our new EP, and we hope to get into the studio and start recording this spring, hopefully back with [Valley engineer] Bob Hoag, so it will depend on his schedule. If everything goes as planned, it should be out by the end of the year on Felony Records,” Stooks says.
Hoag recorded the stellar 2016 effort by the band, Just a Memory. The band is looking to play even more often in 2017, including some out-of-town shows as they welcome in new bassist Funke, who previously played with Caldera in the Ultramatics.
“It’s been fun incorporating some old songs of theirs for live shows,” says Stooks, who was a member of fan favorites No Gimmick prior to forming LightSpeedGo. Tom Reardon
Gilbert ska(ish) punks the Linecutters have wisdom, poise, and sheer talent that go beyond age.
These dudes stand up for what they believe, and 2017 will prove to be the best year yet for the now 4-year-old band.
Jett Smith plays bass and sings, Marceliano Festa plays guitar and sings, and Kaz McClain pummels the drums into submission, creating a racket that swirls, bobs, weaves, and ultimately destroys every subject it tackles.
The Linecutters recently went into Premier Studios in Phoenix with producer Cris Kirkwood (bassist for the Meat Puppets and Exterminators) and cut a new full-length album, The Anthill, that will come out on Slope Records in 2017. The local label is also re-releasing the band’s 2015 EP, Pirates of Suburbia, on vinyl this spring as well.
“I think [the new album] came out great, and I can’t wait for it to be released to everyone. We put a lot of effort into this album, and in my opinion, it is definitely a step up from our first EP,” Smith says.
The Linecutters are active on the local scene, playing shows at venues like 51 West, Nile Theater, and anywhere where racism, bias, and bigotry are not tolerated. This year will see the band take their show on the road, as well, to promote their releases. There is something in the air with these guys, and the Linecutters could be the next big punk band out of Phoenix. Tom Reardon
LUAU may have only released a two-song cassingle last fall, but their reputation as a formidable live rock band has already spread rapidly.
The cassingle was a double A-side affair that showed two different sides of the band.
LUAU is Evan Hallock (vocals/guitar), Eric Thompson (guitar), Jon Collins (bass), and David Hubbard (drums), and they are on the cusp of releasing their debut EP, Gone. It’s an impressive record with dual guitars, thunderous rhythms, and Hallock’s voice winding through them like a vine gone wild exploring natural perfection.
And that’s only the near future for LUAU; they have a lot more planned for the rest of the year.
“We have been working on more material,” Hallock says. “And we’ll be playing that material in the next couple of months to see what works and doesn’t work.”
This will mean seeing the band around town at a lot more shows, but they also have their sights set abroad.
“We will be playing more shows in Flagstaff, Tucson, and out of state,” Hallock adds. Of course, the logical step of testing out the new material on live audiences at home and on the road will lead to another record.
“We also have plans to record again this year for another release later this year,” Hallock says.
This will be an enjoyable year to watch LUAU grow as they get more shows under their belt and more songs on stage. Until then, you can be satisfied that Gone will be released Saturday, April 8, with a celebration show at Valley Bar. Mitchell Hillman
The Sink Or Swim
The Sink Or Swim seemingly exploded out of nowhere last year, releasing not one but two EPs of equivalent high-quality alternative rock, while impressing audiences at show after show.
From the sounds of what they have in mind for this year, that was just a soft open.
They’ve already kicked off the year by releasing a fantastic video (directed by Surreal Sister Photography) for “Glass Eyes,” from the High Tides EP. There’s nothing but a stream of exciting shows ahead in the nearing weeks as well, including a four-band, four-single release show with Sunset Voodoo, the Hourglass Cats, and the Real Fits at Crescent Ballroom on March 24.
The Sink Or Swim seem to garner as much recognition for their live shows as they do for their catchy-as-hell, hook-laden recordings.
The band features Nate
“We’re recording two songs at SoundVision at the end of February,” Resnick says. “Those will be singles.”
After recording the singles, they plan to turn their attention to work on a full-length album.
“The singles won’t be on the album,”
Adds Resnick, “We’d like to get a bank of 40 to 50 songs and choose the album from them.”
The album in the works also sounds like a far more collaborative effort, where everyone is writing and nearly everyone is singing.
“Everything is a writing experience,” Erlich notes. Mitchell Hillman
Sunday At Noon
Sunday At Noon emerged on the scene in late 2015 with possibly the greatest underage debut EP of that year.
With a sound characterized by an adherence to rock ’n’ roll, with hints of grunge and metal persuasions, Sunday At Noon comes on with a vital urgency in every riff. Last year, they released their best single to date with “Brain Damage,” and it was evident that these young rock ’n’ rollers were laying the foundation for the sound of their next record. The year 2017 promises to be a great year for this band, with releases in store and a ton of opportunities awaiting.
“One of the most exciting things we have coming up very soon is the release of the first single off our new EP,” lead singer Jack Vanderpol says. “We recorded a solid record with Michael Beck of SoundVision Recording Studios, and will be releasing it in early spring.”
The band also promises more live performances and bigger shows than ever before.
“This year, we are focusing on releasing new music and playing live in front of as many people as possible,” Vanderpol says.
In addition to hitting venues throughout Phoenix and Flagstaff, they are planning on hitting the road and meeting up with fans from across the country, including a trip to Austin, Texas, in March and the Midwest in late spring.
“We’re grateful for the successes we enjoyed in 2016, and definitely don’t plan on slowing down now,” Vanderpol says. “We are on a mission to #MakeAmericaRockAgain.” Mitchell Hillman
T.O.S.O. is a psychedelic-grunge rock band with an extra hint of weird.
The band usually dresses wildly onstage and involves the crowd in some random thematic or interactive adventure during their set, all the while incinerating your earholes with existential ranting lyrics and pure rock ’n’ roll.
Their sound really has no boundaries.
Piled on top of the psych-grunge rock sounds, you may also witness hints of surf, jazz, metal, or more mellow numbers. Rock ballads worthy of headbanging and moshing are also a highly common thread at a T.O.S.O. show.
The band consists of Zac White on rhythm guitar and vocals, Evan Dorney on lead guitar, and brothers Marc and Eric Ellis on bass and drums, respectively. T.O.S.O. is set to release a new full-length record called The Waste this year.
“It will be an existential sonic odyssey with themes touching on nihilism, trash, and the human condition,” frontman White says. Kayla Clancy
Andrew Cameron Cline and Nick Florence are the masterminds behind the sounds of Weird Radicals, an amalgamation of all things ’60s, ’80s, and ’90s. They are the bastard sons of 1967-era Kinks, 1986-era Yo La Tengo, and 1993-era Nirvana, if said children were performing a complete set of Half Japanese covers.
Recently the band recorded a six-song EP in New York City, and it will be out in 2017 in some form, although Cline is not exactly sure just yet how and when.
“There is interest, but that’s all I can say right now,” Cline says without a hint of sarcasm or immodesty.
To be blunt, there should be interest — lots of interest — and Weird Radicals are a band to keep a close eye on in 2017. “John Lennon (Headbangin’)” and “Heavy Heart” should be on every radio everywhere.
Catchy and full of hooks, Weird Radicals blend their influences into one of those hyper-interesting combinations of indie, post-punk, and British invasion sounds only a Phoenix underground band can make.
“I can be a real bastard. You should see me ride the stallion,” Cline sings in “Heavy Heart.”
We should all see Cline ride the stallion. Catch ’em soon in places like Rebel Lounge or Crescent Ballroom, because Weird Radicals are going to be ruling stages everywhere soon. Tom Reardon
Mournful voices singing high and lonesome from beyond the grave. Folk tunes plucked by coal miner-daughters-gone-goth. Willetta makes dreamy, lo-fi music that sounds timeless, as at home in sepia-toned Appalachia as it would be playing on the street corner of a post-apocalyptic city.
Motown once described itself as the “sound of young America.” The rotating collective of musicians behind the haunting music of Willetta are the sound of young America possessed by the old, weird America. Like voodoo practitioners being possessed by the spirits of the Loa, their music sounds like it’s being inhabited by some ancient force. In some ways, it is.
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The collective behind Willetta make deeply personal music, singing stories about abuse and painful emotions that are filtered through the voice of their band’s “character,” the titular Willetta.
“We created a character who represented our grandmas, the elderly ancestors of women,” Willetta member Anna Crossland says. “Every song we write, we do it in her honor, with her voice.”
When the band performs, they do each concert as a funeral for that character, laying to rest all the things that cause them trauma or pain. It gives their folky music a sense of theatricality and a powerful feeling of catharsis. Don’t miss out on a chance to take part in one of their communal, sonic ceremonies.
On March 3, the band will be doing a release show for its latest EP at the Lunchbox. Come hear the spirit of Willetta move them to make music. Perhaps she’ll move you, too. Ashley Naftule