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The Road to Nowhere

The Nowhere Nauts

Most teen musicians play their first gigs in dubious places ” their parents’ garage, an empty parking lot, or, if they’re lucky, an abandoned shed out in the middle of nowhere. Not The Nowhere Nauts. Sofie Kapur, Hunter Lombard, Anders Kapur, and Tony Franco grew up in NYC, performing at clubs that more established bands would kill to get into. After being brought together by former Guided By Voices drummer Kevin March in 2008, the group began mining their influences and styles. What emerged was street-smart indie rock with punk and jazz underpinnings. Try To Light My Fuse starts with pulsing synths before guitars and bass burst forward, bobbing and weaving around sharp angles while drums whip them on. Sofie’s powerful voice is eerily reminiscent of Ann Wilson from Heart, shaking the rafters with wild abandon. The prize is in your view / Why not take a chance? She’s singing to you ” turn up the volume and grab your prize.

Harmony: Indie Rock Finds Its Voice(s)

Ask a music fan in their late 30s or 40s “ preferably one stuck in their formidable years, and not an old hipster “ to define indie rock as a sound, and you’ll unquestionably hear some semblance of these words: Loud. Abrasive. Anti-Authority. Forward-thinking. Think about indie-rock forebears, and some may even call them unlistenable: Sonic Youth reveled in noise; Lou Reed couldn’t sing to save his life; Michael Stipe’s lyrics made no sense. And yet, in the past few years, an unmistakable trend’s emerged that’s made indie rock something entirely different “ in a word, beautiful.

That trend is harmony, the melding of vocals singing different notes to create a full, hopefully gorgeous chord. Admittedly, harmony has been a trait of indie rock since the early years (Kim Deal and Frank Black dabbled, as did Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl) but only recently has it become an indie-rock trademark, rather than a side note. Blame (or thank) The Shins, whose New Slang made Natalie Portman swoon and Zach Braff famous six years ago, opened the door to indie-rock sensitivity in a way it’d never been opened before.

Only in the last couple of years has harmony become zeitgeist-y, though. First came the Fleet Foxes, the ultra-hyped, superbly bearded Seattle band whose atmospheric, folksy Sun Giant was the toast of 2008, thanks to singer Robert Pecknold’s harmonizing with all of his band mates to create glorious, seemingly impossible vocal collosi that are at once overwhelming and majestic. Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear broke out last year with Veckatimest, which took the Fleet Foxes lushness and weirded it up, the group-sings so striking, they won the band the top spot on the Wall Street Journal’s list of the best records of 2009. And now, Angelenos Local Natives take the trend a step further, with the foursome bringing the fuzz of electric guitars (and the jumpy rhythms of bands like the Talking Heads) to the party, busting out three-and-sometimes-four part harmonies that’re both electrifying and soothing, occasionally simultaneously. Listening to them “ or any of their predecessors “ may not be an anti-authority statement the way, say, listening to Iggy was in 1972, but so what: who needs attitude when you can have lusciousness, instead?

-Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller is the LA editor of Thrillist.com and has been writing about music professionally for over a decade for publications including the Los Angeles Times, Relix, and Esquire.com.

Not everyone needs a Grammy

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.

Coconut Records:coconut-records
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.

plushgunPlushgun:
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-lefty1
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.