There are lots of things we love about indie artists here on OurStage. Their ambition, will-power and outright determination to do whatever it takes to make it are some of the things we admire most. But, personally, I think their sheer creativity takes the cake. Independent artists are constantly one-upping each other and themselves when it comes to the ways they create and promote their music. And, millions of bands later, one of the trickiest yet most defining decisions an artist makes is their name.
While perusing the CMJ Marathon schedule, I was impressed and even more so entertained by the band names making an appearance in New York this week. So, without further adieu, here are ten picks for artists not to be missed at CMJ based on absolutely nothing else other than the fact that their names are fantastic.
Sidebar: There are so many OurStage artists appearing at CMJ this year that we simply couldn’t list them. Listen to them all in one playlist on OurStage’s Facebook page! You can view the complete CMJ 2011 schedule here.
Because I appreciate the enthusiasm of the exclamation point. And also, Dad does rock.
California’s Local Natives have slowly but surely strummed, drummed and sung their way to the top of critics’ and general listeners’ It list. The outfit of five, comprising Taylor Rice (lead vocals, guitar), Kelcey Ayer (vocals, keyboards, percussion, guitar), Ryan Hahn (guitar, keyboards, mandolin, vocals), Andy Hamm (bass, backing vocals) and Matt Frazier (drums) officially formed five years ago, with the innocent intention of following their hearts by making meaningful music. Says Ayer, We didn’t have a lot of money; we had a passion.
From the lyrical content to the instrumental arrangements, the exhilarating live delivery to the pristinely produced disc, the quintet has succeeded in amassing both a cult and commercial following. Of their rise from at one time attracting a sum of five show-goers to performing nine sold-out sets at SXSW (not to mention roughly 200 other shows over the course of the past year-and-a-half), Ayer admits, It’s pretty incredible. I don’t think there’s any other word to describe it. He humbly elaborates; It’s those [small] shows that make [bigger] shows so much more special. The process wasn’t simple, he explains. It didn’t happen overnight. We earned it. This band has always been about longevity. I think that will help us in the long run.
Performing in Manhattan last week at a Ray Ban-sponsored SPIN showcase for CMJ, Local Natives took the stage close to 11:45 and played until 12:30. Before emerging, the longtime friends gathered backstage in a huddle, a more modest and adorable assembly of the classic football pre-play rally. Speaking of the specific show, which took place at Lafayette Street’s Firehouse, Rice shares, Our live performance is a lot more energetic; has raw energy to it. At a small party vibe venue, like this, it’ll come off a lot more that way. ‘Tis true. They tore into their album, proving their rock star status by playing their hearts out. There was no lack of enthusiasm for these limelight pros. Rice commanded the mic, but a great deal of their appeal has to do with their powerful harmonies, which were in full force. Ayer took the lead on Airplanes, given the fact that he wrote it about his father’s father, whom he never met. All members were impressive, but Ayer takes the cake, earning major cred when balancing both keyboard and percussion simultaneously. Right hand plucks keys as left hand soars over other to tap his solitary drum. Pat head, rub belly much? Wow. And to think, this guy used to be, as he confessed, A server at a California Pizza Kitchen.
Rice, who before becoming LN’s lead sold products door-to-door (I was hawking really expensive kitchen cutlery to housewives in Orange County), says he enjoys intimate engagements as well as massive festivals; There’s a different type of connection when it’s a mass of people versus a sweaty club packed to the gills. I like the fact that we get to mix it up. Local Natives wound down the evening with the amped anthem Sun Hands, a pulsating song that manages somehow to channel the precise clip-clop pattern a horse makes when galloping. This thanks to Frazier, whose severe focus is evident when staring, mouth agape, from stage right. And he seemed so unassuming! Color me floored by their collective and unflinching gifts.
Perhaps the most recently buzzed about Local Natives venture is their music video for Wide Eyes, a soaring and somber number with so much more lurking beneath its surface. Much akin to the antagonist co-starring in said mini-narrative: a shark, who stalks a suburban man, flaunting his fins everywhere the increasingly insecure individual goes. Undoubtedly this cinematic decision aroused some questions about the band. Maybe they’ve an underlying desire to feature their twinkling track on Shark Week? Hahn fills in the blanks matter-of-factly; I’ve got a fear of sharks. They always make fun of me. So why go viral with a phobia? I had the idea for the video a long time ago. Many of our ideas were way out of budget. It was a play on my ridiculous fear of sharks, he laughs.
So, what’s next for this party of five? After enough bus travel time to make you hate highways, the boys are stoked to get back in the studio. That is, after writing the entire record, a shared responsibility. Of the experience, Frazier says, We’ve learned so much. He hints at the sophomore follow-up: The bits and pieces of songs we have so far are really promising. Ayer adds, Everyone’s excited to jump into it next year. Next year can’t come soon enough for fans, including this chick. But, for now, I’ll keep my impatient chin up; they’re returning to the Big Apple this Friday to blow away Webster Hall.
By Nell Alk
Nell Alk is a culture and entertainment reporter based in New York. Her work has appeared in Paper Magazine, InterviewMagazine.com, Zink Magazine and BlackBookMag.com, among others. She also contributes to NBC’s Niteside blog.
Taxi rides from east to west side; uptown todowntown, overlapping forty- to one-hour set times in Brooklyn and Manhattan, droves lined up to see the next big thing, open bars and deeply-discounted beers”this was the daily agenda for attendees at the 2010 CMJ Music Marathon.
Things moved expeditiously and, for the most part, the tightly-knit sets stayed on schedule from Tuesday through closing in the wee morning hours on Sunday. Wide-eyed by the first day and nearly trudging from venue to venue mid-way through the week, attendees and artists had their work cut out for them. This year, the CMJ Music Marathon was jam-packed with some of the most buzzed-about artists”most from New York”who had more multiple spots than last year, easing some of the timetable anxieties.
Bursts of electro and new wave pulsated throughout the five-day event. New York trio, BRAHMS, made the room dance from the moment they helped kick-off CMJ Tuesday night at a Piano’s showcase. Singer Eric Lyle Lodwick darkly thumped through each track like Dave Gahan making BRAHMS a melodious addiction. The name Oberhofer could be heard here and there. Fronted by Brad Oberhofer, the subtle guitars, meshed with keyboard have a few chiming hints of Vampire Weekend in tracks like AWY FRM U, off the band’s debut, o0O0o0O0o, produced by Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock. Sydney’s Cassette Kids, who now reside in Brooklyn, didn’t fail to make patrons stir in and around their standing-room spots as vocalist Katrina Noorberger, like a willowy Terri Nunn, commanded the stage with her dirty dance-rock beats.
Out-of-towners brought as much hype to the daily time slots. Boasting five CMJ gigs under their belts, Newport Beach, Calif.’s Young the Giant offered their soul- and synth-fused set with tambourine-slapping Sameer Gadhia evoking some murmurs of Brandon Flowers vocals. A New Zealand Showcase presented an electronic beat down from Bowie-loving, petite powerhouse Zowie and the more Scissor Sisters-ridden Kids of 88 while Robert and David Perlick Molinari of French Horn Rebellion filled Santos Party House with whimsical, electro beats (French horns included) as one of the last to perform Sunday morning at 1:30 AM.
A mix of dance, rock and DJ sets took place the final two days at the FADER Fort, reminiscent of a rave house, and some surprises filled in the week, including Phoenix, housed in a packed Madison Square Garden with surprise guests Daft Punk. A rumored turned confirmed appearance by Kanye West with new artist CyHi Da Prynce at the Brooklyn Bowl Fool’s Gold Records Anniversary Party heightened the end of the fest by Saturday night. Here’s to CMJ 2011.
By Tina Benitez
Tina Benitez is a contributing writer, who covers music, wine and pop culture from her New York home office for publications like NY Press, Royal Flush, amNY, Men’s Fitness, Venus Zine and Wine Spectator.
Ever since the early 2000s, the rock genre has suffered from a mid-life crisis. Sure, rock has produced a slew of sub genres in its lifetime but many wear the masks of hip hop, pop,and electronica. What happened to The Verve? Oasis? Ride? The 1980s Stone Roses? You know, the real rock ‘n’ roll that not only captured listeners ears but their hearts. Did they all break up to form a supergroup? No, but you actually may think this is what you are hearing when you listen to this week’s featured iRock artist.
While the rock genre is in disarray and looking for its next savior, a group out of New York City has emerged out of the classic rock ‘n’ roll ashes to breath some fresh air into the world of 808’s, autotune and Grey Goose-inspired lyrics.Five members strong The GoStation embrace the natural rock sound and held on tight throughout the musical storm that hit the industry. Their debut EP, Quiet Zone, received backing from various radio stations including Seattle’s KEXP, NYC’s 92.2 K-Rock and Q104.3 as well as XM/Sirius satellite radio. Building on this support, the band hit the road and performed at the CMJ, SXSW and NEMO festivals as well as opened for national artists like The Dears, Young Love, White Rabbits and The Bravery. After making their mark on the local market and knocking on the door of the national scene, The GoStation recorded and released their year-in-the-making full-length album, Passion Before Function. They returned to Bill Racine‘s (Rogue Wave, The Flaming Lips, Phantom Planet) studio to bring this album to life.
If you’re looking for infectious, back-to-the-roots rock, then you’ve come to the right place. I couldn’t say it better than the band itself, just press play, and let the music do the rest.
Music insiders know the right balance of passion, musical talent, image”and most importantly”work ethic is what really makes an artist shine. OurStage folk act Annie and the Beekeepers are putting their own spin on this classic formula while making its mark with mature composition, clever lyrics and a nostalgic yet earthy sense of melody.
Massachusetts native, Annie Lynch began writing music when she was thirteen-years-old, playing for friends at small coffee shops. It wasn’t until she met the rest of her band mates that she started considering music as a true career. When we spoke to Annie, she told us this was the starting point for the band’s songwriting collaboration. Squid Hell Sessions, the Beekeepers latest EP release, is the result of this effort. The band’s unique fusion of Folk and Blues, along with their straightforward writing style, afforded them the opportunity to perform at SXSW and CMJ in past years. They’ve continued to parlay their sound into upcoming spots in the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion and Midpoint Music festivals.
Music aside, Annie and the Beekeepers have gained industry success in many other ways. The choice of “the Beekeepers” as the band name refers to the group’s tireless work ethic. Annie likens their sense of motivation to the same “strength in community” found within bee colonies. In this spirit, Annie unknowingly sets an example for indie bands who want to succeed while staying true to their sound. She also expresses some seldom heard advice: in the music industry, “we’re all just people in this together.” This concept encourages artists to go out into the world and make personal connections. Even if an artist feels like their won’t land that next club gig, they should take the time to write a letter. The talent buyer at the club is, after all, just another person trying to help their venue and the artists who play there. The effort may just be the “in” an artist needs to get their foot through the door. In fact, Annie and the Beekeepers got their music played on the Emerson College radio station in Boston, MA (WERS) using this same strategy.
Balancing out this equation and further highlighting the band’s organic style is the Beekeepers’ decision to stamp their album art by hand on 100% recycled cardboard packaging, purchased from Calumet Carton. These small steps allow an artist to add a personal touch to their albums while staying cost effective and environmentally friendly.
Let Annie and the Beekeepers add color to the musical landscape in your world. Check out their latest release and join their fanclub.
Did you catch the Grammys? Well you’re not alone. In fact, according to the New York Times 19.7 million viewers tuned in. More interesting, however, is the post-Grammy surge in numbers for all participating artists. The fact of the matter is when you win an award like a Grammy you get much more than just bragging rights you’re also going to see a significant increase in album sales.
Indie artists don’t need to win a Grammy to gain some momentum in this industry. In fact, I’ve got a few stories for you that prove just that. Plushgun, our favorite Electronic Indie band, signed to Tommy Boy Entertainment as a result of their OurStage story. Coconut Records increased their album sales by an incredible amount and Scissors for Lefty has been given the chance to play at Noise Pop this year thanks, in part, to their participation on OurStage.
No doubt you’ve heard of this forward-thinking, catchy artist. I bet you didn’t know that he was once an unknown OurStager himself. After winning the Grand Prize in October of 2007, his song “West Coast” was featured as one of the top 10 “favorited” songs on OurStage. Then he appeared in a feature interview (part 1 and part 2) for OurStage with our very own Quinn Strassel. The story was picked up by blogger and online personality Perez Hilton. Coconut Records immediately saw an increase in album sales by about 1500% on iTunes. By offering unique Polaroids with each album purchase, Jason Schwartzman added a personal touch for his fans and put his name into the mainstream as a dynamic artist.
Your favorite electro-indie pop band is no stranger to rising success. This group is the very definition of increased success through OurStage. As a steady contest winner month after month for almost an entire year, Plushgun certainly proved their consistency as a rising talent. The next step was to play some high profile gigs. They were afforded the opportunity to play at CMJ in 2007, and SXSW in 2008 through the festivals’ partnerships with OurStage. Their strong stage presence sealed the deal with Tommy Boy Records (who had been following them for several months online). The rest is history.
Scissors for Lefty:
This indie rock band was already moderately well-known before becoming a member on OurStage. Last year, they played at SXSW as a part of the Rachel Ray feature stage. This band was no stranger to the spotlight. However, after joining OurStage and ranking high in the Noise Pop Channel, Scissors for Lefty has now been selected to play the 2009 Noise Pop Festival.
Whether you’re a band trying to hit it big, or an artist just trying to add a few fans to your following, keep in mind that you don’t need a Grammy to achieve success. Artists like Coconut Records, Plushgun, and Scissors for Lefty are great examples.