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