June 2010

Right Here Right Now

  • THE HENRY CLAY PEOPLE
  • GLASSER
  • GLASSER
  • THE GROWLERS
  • NOSAJ THING
  • TEEN INC.
  • VOXHAUL BROADCAST

L.A.’s indie-music scene is bursting with contenders—our pundits pick the ones to watch
edited by NIC HARCOURT / photographs by KAYT JONES

Despite all the doom and gloom that has been emanating from the music business for the past decade or so, there are more people making music across the globe than ever. Every day, it seems there’s a new band, a new scene or a new next big thing. It’s usually a boutique city such as Nashville, Seattle or Austin that gets profiled as “authentic,” while Los Angeles is often overlooked. This, of course, is ironic. From the Doors and the Eagles to Fishbone and NWA, our city has given birth to both movements and artists, many of which have gone on to stardom.

In just the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion of new L.A. bands and venues—a renaissance, if you will, of the DIY ethic of just getting out there. And now that tunes can be recorded at home and distributed via computer, it’s a lot easier for musicians to get themselves heard.

So, who will be the next great indie band in L.A.? We asked some people we respect for their own picks: Mitchell Frank, who runs and books Spaceland, the Echo and the Echoplex; L.A. Times pop-music critic Ann Powers; Kat Corbett, host of KROQ’s Locals Only show; Kara Lane, who books the in-store performances at Hollywood’s Amoeba Records; a newcomer, Cary Georges, an LA staffer; and, oh, yours truly. Everyone has an opinion...

THE HENRY CLAY PEOPLE

There’s a big part of Los Angeles holding its breath waiting for these boys to break out. Bands like the Hold Steady, Pavement and the Replacements are often cited when talking about the Henry Clay People, but an affinity for those is not necessary. THCP stands on its own, delivering songs with heart to those who are hungry and turning the mundane into straight-up American rock. On “Working Part Time,” Joey Siara (who fronts the band with brother Andy) sings, “We were working part time all the time…We got drunk and called in sick.” Who can’t relate to that? The group’s live show is a blast of fist-pumping chaos—bodies crashing, spilled drinks. And that’s just onstage. THCP kicks off a U.S. tour with Silversun Pickups and Against Me! on June 15. With a third CD, Somewhere on the Golden Coast, about to hit on the same label that released Radiohead’s In Rainbows, everything is in its right place for great things to come.   —Kat Corbett

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GLASSER

When I thought about picking just one about-to-break indie band, I expected the choice to be agonizing—and it was. But if I absolutely have to narrow it down, there is a local artist I’ve got my eye on—Glasser. I’m eagerly waiting her first full-length release, Ring, which is due out in September. Cameron Mesirow—who is really the one-woman band that is Glasser—has released two EPs that have been stuck in my CD player: Tremel and last year’s Apply, which was composed entirely on Apple’s GarageBand. For Ring, she collaborated with innovative Swedish producers Van Rivers & the Subliminal Kid, and I’m expecting big things from it. Channeling a touch of Kate Bush, she produces songs that veer from clear-voiced folk to layered tracks with an international/intergalactic edge. This is exactly the kind of confluence that occupies my favorite space: the intersection of pop, deconstructed beats and ethereal noise.   —Kara Lane

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THE GROWLERS

I kind of fell in love with them around 2007, when a colleague brought a demo into my office and coined their sound as “dirty surf music.” They’re from Long Beach and kind of on top of that wave—no pun intended—with the whole reverb-y thing. Their music is a nice confluence of Hawaiian and goth, plus frontman Brooks Nielsen’s sexy Jim Morrison–style bellows always just make for a fun show. I was telling someone recently that if we were in England and they were a British group, they’d be on the cover of NME as one of the up-and-coming bands. I totally believe it’s a band that is going to do some damage. They only have one record—Are You In or Out?—but the track “Something Someone Jr.” is great. The kids really like them. Because of the way albums cycle, there are a couple of good local bands that could break first—Avi Buffalo and Best Coast come to mind—but the Growlers are absolutely building solid momentum.   —Mitchell Frank

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NOSAJ THING

To lovers of ambitious and enchanting dance music, the sound of Los Angeles right now is Low End. Low End Theory, that is—the weekly club night in Lincoln Heights that has brought together a multiracial crew of innovative artists making laptop-based music with the inventiveness of jazz, the spiritual effect of the best New Age and the cool of classic L.A. hip-hop. You might have heard of Flying Lotus. Well, hot on that DJ’s heels is 25-year-old Jason Chung, who goes by the admittedly nerdy handle Nosaj Thing. Chung’s gentle but insistent sound paintings link him aesthetically to indie darlings the xx, with whom he recently toured, and Charlotte Gainsbourg, whose duet with Beck, “Heaven Can Wait,” he recently remixed. With a style that would make him fit in comfortably in both an art museum and behind the board at a Drake recording session, Nosaj Thing will be bringing together high and low for quite some time.   —Ann Powers

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TEEN INC.

Walking into Eagle Rock’s Showcave recently to see the first-ever performance of Teen Inc. was a little like being in the audience during that scene in Back to the Future when Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly riffs on Chuck Berry’s guitar stylings. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was hearing: There were hints of something familiar, plaintive vocals reminiscent of Prince, with traces of pop, funk, R&B and club-esque Balearic beats layered with the production styles of a D’Angelo or Dam-Funk. But one thing was clear: The heartfelt, complex sound is completely cutting edge. To date, the still unsigned quartet—fronted by brothers Andrew and Daniel Aged, both former studio musicians for Raphael Saadiq, Steve Miller, Cee-Lo and Pharrell Williams—has only a two-song EP, Fountains/Friend of the Night, which they produced, mixed and recorded themselves. With a full-length album in the works, it’s a lock that their current limited output is a temporary condition.   —Cary Georges

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VOXHAUL BROADCAST

You’ve (hopefully) been reading my song picks every month in “Turn It Up” over the past 18 months, and so you know that many of my selections have been from L.A. bands. The bottom line is that there is a tremendous amount of talent gracing stages around the city right now. But in keeping with the concept of this piece, narrow it down I did, to a band I first came across in the fall of last year: Voxhaul Broadcast. The guys in this Orange County four-piece have been playing together since they were kids. And the live shows reflect the passion that has etched them a reputation as one of SoCal’s best live bands. Their EP Rotten Apples was well received, and this month their debut disc, Timing Is Everything, hits shelves. Musical influences range from classic soul to Manchester swagger to the grit rock of the Pixies. Marry this with smart but unpretentious lyrics and some catchy beats, and there’s something seriously going on here.   —Nic Harcourt

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