The 10 Best Phoenix Bands Under the Age of 21 in 2015
The Linecutters playing the roof of The Firehouse Gallery.
The Phoenix music scene really does seem as though it's grown a lot over the past few years, with new venues opening, new fans getting enticed into the scene, and new groups of musicians stepping up to reign over the rest as the biggest bands in town. But none of that would be possible if somewhere along the line, kids didn't decide to pick up instruments and start making music. Very rarely are the best musicians adults who decided to start making rock ’n’ roll in their 30s.
The best bands and musicians are the ones who have been honing their craft since childhood, and that's not just honing their skills musically. It's the ones earning their chops on the small time stages, building relationships with venues and older bands, and learning how to play their best even in an empty room who ultimately take bigger steps as they get older.
These are 10 standout bands who are making up the next generation of Phoenix music who cannot be ignored, and also cannot legally get into most of the venues in town unless they are playing.
It would be wholly impossible to discuss underage bands in Phoenix who are rocking it out without bringing Doll Skin up first. Honestly, it probably would be hard to come up with many acts having as much success this year as these young ladies. Doll Skin was bred by the School of Rock to succeed, and they are making the most of their industry education. The music they make isn’t exactly revolutionizing the punk rock sound, but their overall aesthetic mixed with their high level of talent is so robust it got the attention of Dave Ellefson of Megadeth. He was so impressed he decided to manage the four young ladies, and thus far he is managing them straight to the top. In 2015, the girls have dropped two records, opened for Social Distortion, played on the Super Bowl stage in downtown Phoenix, and recently took their first out-of-state trek to open for the Sin City Sinner in Las Vegas. No doubt 2016 will bring more of the same.
By now, any credible punk in the Valley has experienced The Linecutters, and if they didn’t have positive things to say it’s because they were jealous. Not one of the members of this Gilbert-based three-piece is within a year of hitting the bar, but the band has opened for acts like Mischief Brew and The Subhumans in 2015. They have also seemed to have caught the eye of local punk promoter Will Anderson, who no doubt will be putting the soon-to-be high school graduates on more high-quality events. The group is more than just talented and tight. They are extraordinarily self-aware, so their particular brand of punk music doesn't come from a cliche vision of what punk music should sound like. They make songs from personal experience as a mostly suburban-dwelling punk band and the unique problems that stem from that.
When Anthony Fantano gives your record eight out of 10 and The Source premieres your video on its website, you are allowed to have a little bit of an ego, so Injury Reserve does. They believe in the music they create, and while they have ruffled some feathers in the local hip-hop scene with their brash comments, the group maintains a spectacular relationship with their fans, who come out with high energy to every IR show. They are some of the most innovative music video makers in Phoenix right now, and though one of the MCs, Stepa J Groggs, is 27, neither Ritchie with a T nor Parker Corey have even made it to 20 yet. Hip-hop is on the upturn in the Valley right now with acts like Mega Ran, Futuristic, and Vee Tha Rula all making their pushes to maintain in the national conversation. Not to mention the out-of-nowhere partnership between Master P and Respect the Underground at this year's Arizona Hip-Hop Festival. Given all those factors, it stands to reason that it is a good time to be a young, brash, and talented hip-hop trio living in the Valley.
Still in high school and playing the main stage at McDowell Mountain Music Festival in 2016 — what more needs to be said about this talented classic rocker? Gus rocked a standout performance on the 2015 local stage after turning quite a few heads at the Alice Cooper Christmas Pudding Battle of the Bands. But even though he didn’t bring home the gold from Coop getting to take on the mainstage at MMMF isn’t exactly a consolation prize, it’s a whole different kind of win in itself. Campbell’s brand of rock resonates better with the jam band and classic rock fans that inhabit McDowell, and as he grows his presence within that scene things will only get better for him.
DWARF has been playing together in Mesa for nearly 10 years, but it wasn’t until this past October that they were able to put out their debut album. With over a thousand Facebook followers, they have one of the biggest social media presences of any of the bands on this list and their brand of alt-punk is extremely catchy. Lead singer Sage Donaldson has a big voice, and their sound is akin to that of fellow female-fronted alt-punk act Halocene. The eight years of playing together has really forged DWARF into one of the tightest acts in town, and after finally dropping that debut album, it’s just a matter of time before the scene really takes notice.
The Las Fuegas collective is doing something very right, because both Injury Reserve and collective mates Draa had huge years and look pretty good for the future. Draa’s distorted brand of rock is so heavy it got Phoenix psyche punk top dogs Destruction Unit interested in sharing a December 10 dual album release show with them at Rebel Lounge, and that’s a pretty lofty endorsement for a band that isn’t even old enough to sample the fare at the upstart venue.
Sad Boy Trumpet Club
High-energy punk with a trumpet and it’s really good. Sad Boy Trumpet Club's members live together, and they obviously spend a lot of time practicing because they are super-tight. They make a sound akin to that of Playboy Manbaby’s, and that’s a pretty awesome sound. Frontman Rick Hill may not quite be Robbie Pfeffer yet, but Robbie has been doing this a hell of a lot longer than Rick. The Phoenix garage rock scene is responding well to the Sad Boys, and the band is winding up on more and more shows. They’ve yet to drop that debut record, but it is no doubt right around the corner because the group really is together all the time. A band that parties together stays together, and Sad Boy will probably be growing in the Phoenix scene for a while.
Harrison Huffman Experience
15-year-old Harrison Huffman is more than just a scenester with a slight resemblance to Phoenix icon Ryan Avery. The kid is a totally committed (and possibly committable performer) like Avery. He often runs in the Trunk Space, Funny World, and house show circles, mostly due to his young age. But his music and act which is partially an amalgamation of Treasure MammaL and Avery’s stuff mixed with a healthy dose of Huffman’s particular brand of crazy, so when he gets out into the wider scene there is most likely going to be a lot of impressed people around town. Look for the Harrison Huffman Experience to be dropping its first album in 2016.
Molly & the Molluscs
The surf wave is still not quite done rolling in, in Phoenix and Molly & the Molluscs are on the latest acts making that sweet sound. Their sound is reminiscent of PRO TEENS, but Molly has more of a punk edge than surf-pop-leaning PRO TEENS. After a year of popping up on tons of house shows and DIY venues with a lot of the former Rubber Brother bands, they are preparing to drop their first record, of course with a house show, naturally with PRO TEENS as well as Diners, Waytansea Point, and Bad Haircuts. Molly & the Molluscs make a fun danceable sound that is hard enough to be called punk, and as a six-piece, there is a lot of energy to the band's live performances.
Psywave makes psych-pop and it’s quite good. The Attilio brothers Jacob and Andrew along Samantha Brigham make an upbeat and happy sound with quite haunting undertones but all together it comes off quite fun. They only currently have one song on Spotify, but it is absolutely worth a hard listen. It’s quite honestly hard to believe that they are all 19 or younger. All of the members are in other local projects like Andy Warpigs and Masteroid, but Psywave really might be their best-sounding pet. They’ve been gigging more and hopefully that will lead to more commitment to recordings so that a debut Psywave album can come to fruition in 2016.