17 Metro Phoenix Bands to Watch in 2017

Nicole Laurenne of the Darts.
Nicole Laurenne of the Darts. Jim Louvau

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click to enlarge LightSpeedGo - ANGELA ROSERED
Angela RoseRed


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

click to enlarge The Linecutters - JETT SMITH
The Linecutters
Jett Smith
The Linecutters
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

click to enlarge LUAU - COURTESY OF LUAU
Courtesy of LUAU
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

click to enlarge The Sink or Swim - SURREAL SISTER PHOTOGRAPHY
The Sink or Swim
Surreal Sister Photography
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 Zeune (guitar/vocals), Lou Resnick (drums), Niel Erlich (bass), and Derek Rossman (guitar/keys) — and they’ve got big plans.

“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,” Zeune explains. “We’re pumping out music like motherfuckers.”

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

click to enlarge Sunday at Noon - JIM LOUVAU
Sunday at Noon
Jim Louvau
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

click to enlarge T.O.S.O. - JIM LOUVAU
Jim Louvau
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

click to enlarge Weird Radicals - CHAZ CARLSON
Weird Radicals
Chaz Carlson
Weird Radicals
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

click to enlarge Willetta - WINTER CALKINS
Winter Calkins
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.

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
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Phoenix New Times Music Writers