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Getting Too Into Indie Rock in 2010
12 indie rock bands to check out in 2010
By Angela Sanchez
(more articles from this author)
2010-01-16
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Well, this is the article that just would not be written. It was going to be The Top Ten Indie Rock Bands to Watch in 2010. Yea, except that I had over 50 bands that all seemed worthy of making the list, and no amount of Star-mega-Bucks-coffee-infused-nights at my computer was making the list any smaller. What's an indie rock lover to do?

So... I shook my criteria up a bit. The band had to have a little something fresh to say, or an attitude that seemed to be just out for the love of the music and the sheer party of performing, and if the money came, Yea, man, that's good, too! I also trimmed up the list significantly by primarily sticking to West Coast bands; however, you will see a group out of Minneapolis that made the cut, simply because there was no-way, no-how they weren't going to. It is, after all, my list, and therefore I make the rules.

After Midnight Project is based in Hollywood, CA, and is the magna opus of Jason Evigan. He spent 2003 doing a Howard Hughes imitation in his home studio recording songs that spoke from his schizophrenic musical style and his recent heartaches. Feeling adrift, a musician without a band, mourning the meltdown of a two-year relationship, and disconnected from any meaningful type of community, Jason would come home from work around midnight and willingly slaved on into the wee hours of the morning on his music, calling those efforts, THE After Midnight Project".

His friends encouraged him to play the songs live so he built a band from the best musicians that word of mouth and craigslist could find. "THE" was dropped from the band's name and After Midnight Project was born. Jason Evigan is the lead vocals, Spencer Bastian and Christian Meadows are on guitar, TJ Armstrong is the bassist and Danny Morris is the drummer. Albums out to date for the band includes: The After Midnight Project EP (2005) The Becoming EP (2007) Let's Build Something to Break (2009)

The band's song Take Me Home was featured in the PC, Mac and Xbox 360 game Prey. A video was also released for the song, which features the band performing Take Me Home in a small room, alongside scenes from Prey. After Midnight Project is on the Vans Warped Tour for 2010.

The Atomic Outlaws are "Stealin' back the American Dream...three chords at a time." These guys put on a stage-shaking, sassy, guitar-loaded kick in your pants show. Yea, they can deliver the real rock and roll stuff with none of the fluff, but they do it during an actual raw, seemingly unrehearsed, "you're invited" party. Fans come away with comments such as "Hooked like a fish..."

The Tacoma, WA based Atomic Outlaws have been rocking their fan base locally and around the country with their must-have-Red-Bull-pulsing-through-their-veins brand of rock n roll. The band consists of Zak Eastyn on vocals, Pat and Rev on guitars, Rob Z. on bass and Double J on drums. They played the Key Club in Hollywood with LA rockers Steel Panther twice to a SRO audience while there were lines of people winding around the corner down the strip.

The Atomic Outlaws influences range from 1970's punk and "Classic Rock", 80's and 90's rock and AOR music to "Anything with great guitars and a cool melody".

Black Velvet Deluxe takes you straight back to rock n roll's pure roots. Great hooks, driving chords and powerful lyrics pay homage to sleaze rock's pioneers. New fans are mesmerized and die-hard rock fans are intrigued with Black Velvet Deluxe's commitment to gritty, raw rock n roll.

The band calls L.A., CA home, and is comprised of four exceptionally talented musicians. Carlos Castenada is the rapturous voice leading the crew, delivering a spectacle of unrivaled sensuality on one song and then a knock-you-down with it's grittiness explosion on the next. Then there's BVD's guitar player, Nate Beck... On rock guitar, There's Good...There's Better...and then my friends, there's Beck. Nate's technique pays homage to the pioneers of the sub-genre sleaze rock while infusing the riffs, chords and melodies with the mode of today's rock music. Salvador Acosta III (Sal-Daddy) has some serious skills, and as we all know from Napoleon Dynamite, girls love guys with skills! Sal's bad boy bass sounds are reminiscent of Poison's Bobby Dall and Duff McKagan of Guns N Roses. We sure can't fault the man for going there, can we? Josh Lewis is the drummer for BVD, and this guy blasts his drums so hard the skins should have a layer of Kevlar on them.

Rider Magazine selected BVD's song My Pride to highlight their online video premiering Honda's 2010 VRF1200F motorcycle. These guys have their sights on playing at this years Lollapalooza in August, and I see no reason why they should not be counted among the groups included. The debut album for BVD, Sin City Tonight, will be available in February.

Cold War Kids, out of college town Fullerton, CA, have some deep music roots that are spread far and wide with diverse influences such as the nearly obligatory Dylan, and blues legend Billy Holiday. You'll hear it in their unique bluesy indie rock style, and it adds to their magical mystique. The group formed in 2004, and quickly began recording demos in L.A. . Cold War Kids is made up of Nathan Willett at lead vocals, piano and guitar, Jonnie Russell on guitar, vocals and some percussion, and Matt Maust as the bassist, while Matt Aveiro is making sure the drum keeps pounding a rhythm to our brains.

CWK stir their fans emotions with fervent live performances, and released a well-received debut EP, Mulberry Street, in early 2005, appearing at that year's Lollapalooza, as well. Also that year, they signed with Downtown Records, and the band's initial full-length album, Robbers & Cowards, was released that fall. Loyalty to Loyalty, which moves in an even slower, bluesy direction than earlier efforts, followed in 2008. The newest release, Behave Yourself, is an EP.

Santa Cruz's Dirty Penny began in 2005 playing covers by the band Poison, and then grew to include covers of Motley Crue and LA Guns. They are a double blink back in time, with their 1980's Sunset Strip big hair and heavy eyeliner, however, these guys don't just walk it, they can certainly talk it, as well. Wailing out the '80s in a hot new way is what these guys do best. Dirty Penny released a debut album in July 2007 titled Take it Sleezy, which includes 12 original tracks.

Their throwback style draws heavily on their hair metal roots, however their fans love how roughly they treat their sacred cow influences. Everywhere they show up it just seems like a party has arrived, and they righteously deliver the music to go with the mood. Tyno Vincent is the bassist, Spanky Savage is back there beating the drums into submission, Jonny Prynce is on guitar, and Binge Daniels is the lead vocals for the group. Dirty Penny released their second album, Young & Reckless, in September 2009, which they followed with a 10-week national tour.

The Fling is a Long Beach, CA based band that blends a distinctive mix of folk, pop, and psychedelic rock to create a sound that is at once both familiar and stunningly fresh. While clearly influenced by the use of three and four part harmonies from such sixties groups as The Beach Boys, the group keeps an unexpected and experimental side in the strain of bands like Grizzly Bear and The Pixies. Their songs can range anywhere from a slow, mind-bending tune to an all-encompassing wall of blazing sound. Constantly developing new ways to surprise their fans with multi-layered harmonies and new arrangements the result is always interesting, and certainly never same old-same old.

Vocalist Austin Carlile founder Of Mice & Men, originally with Attack Attack, and bassist Jaxin Hall, from Auckland, New Zealand. The two recorded the demo, Seven Thousand Miles for What?, and then searched for other members for a month until they met up with drummer Tino Arteaga, of Lower Definition, and guitarist Phil Manansala, who was with A Static Lullaby. Austin and Jaxin moved to SO CA to join up with the two, and began writing. Eventually, OM&M brought Shayley Bourget from Chapters and Covette on rhythm guitar, keyboard and vocals. Of Mice & Men have already recorded their debut album to be released in February 2010 and have hit the road with a purple passion. They will be participating in the entire Vans Warped Tour 2010.

Pistol Opera is the wildly fused talents of Eli Braden and Toby Semain, two guys who are intense in their belief that an album should be good from start to finish. L.A. based Eli and Toby write, record, and produce their music almost entirely on their own. Eli is the singer and bassist, and writes the lion's share of the lyrics. Toby is the guitarist and drummer, although as of yet, not concurrently; he is also the engineer and producer for the band's recordings. Pistol Opera's friend Mike Stromsoe steps in to mix the finished product. 2007 saw their debut album.

Scarlet Haze out of Minneapolis, MN is a hard rock, female-fronted band that will take you all the way back to Tom Petty, U2, Sting, Spiders and Snakes, Blind Hate, Sammy Hagar, and Stone Gods. Quite an eclectic crew of influences!

They were founded in 2004, and released a full-length album called Out of the Dark in 2005. The Bootleg EP was released in 2007.

Kat Perkins destroys all within earshot with her explosive vocals, and supplies the songwriting skills to the group. Kat shakes some mean tambourine from time to time, also. Casey Smith is often on guitar and Tony Wilson is usually laying down the bass lines. Shane Speltz is always back there on the drums, and provides massive amounts of the bands creative energy. Scarlet Haze opened for Bon Jovi at The Target Center in October 2006.

Searchlight began in 2005, when lead singer and guitar player Adam Michaels, and bass player Kevin Abdon made the move from Lake Havasu City, London Bridge is our Claim to Fame, AZ to Las Vegas to start a band. Shortly after the move to What Happens Here Stays Here, they met up with Ricky Torres, who would become their demon on the drums, and guitarist Matt Hopkins.

The band got down to writing some seriously good stuff, and soon garnered the interest of producer, Branden Steineckert (former drummer of The Used, and current drummer of the punk legends, Rancid). Searchlight then made the short trek to Orem, Utah to record with Steineckert at Unknown Studios. One song that came out of that session was Contagious, which landed a prize spot on the Resident Evil: Extinction soundtrack and was played during the ending credits of the film. In February 2009, Searchlight released their debut album, Until the End and After and began touring the album in August 2009.

The Thermals are an indie alternative post-pop-punk rock band from Portland, OR, that formed in the summer of 2002. Their breakout album, More Parts per Million, was conjured up and then recorded in the tiny kitchen of singer Hutch Harris's house, on a 4-track cassette machine, with total tracking costs of around ten bucks. A demo of the record was passed from Ben Gibbard, of Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service fame to indie giant Sub Pop Records, who signed The Thermals after they had played just a smidgen of gigs. MPPM was then mixed by Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla at The Hall of Justice in Seattle, WA and Sub Pop released the record in March 2003. The Thermals quickly became what is referred to as a power trio.

The Thermals have recently released their fourth and perhaps best album to date, Now We Can See. After saying friendly good-byes to the folks at Sub Pop, the band signed with the iconic Northwest label Kill Rock Stars, and recently relocated to Portland, OR. Lots of naked punked-out energy combined with sterling melodies and thoughtful lyrics keep their fan base blooming. Hutch Harris, Kathy Foster and Westin Glass make up the current members of the band. The band earned some straight-up respect for discovering a fourth chord in pop-punk. (It's F# minor, for the uninitiated.)

Vains of Jenna was formed in the small town of Falkenberg, Sweden in January 2005. Lead Vocalist Lizzy DeVine and bassist JP White were discussing a new band, and had been checking out guitarist Nicki Kin and drummer Jacki Stone to bring it all together.

During the spring of 2005, Vains of Jenna was offered a chance to play the epic, Whisky a Go-Go in Hollywood. They staggered the crowd with their blazing energy, brashness, and total sleaze throwback style. Just a few days later, the band was cutting tracks with former Guns N Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke at his Redrum Studios. You don't want anybody waking you up when dreams like that start coming true...

Tour dates started going crazy-mad and fan bases grew like poppies outside the Emerald City. Don't take your eyes, or ears, off of this band. Vains of Jenna has the heartbeat of sleaze rock by the main artery.

So, there's the list, not the standard "Top Ten", but, as I said, it is my list and they are my rules, right? Comment all you want, please do. I would be really interested to see what bands you come up with that were on my original list, and if you come up with any that I had not considered. However, for now, here are the ones that will live in infamy ...at least on this, the only list that really matters...in my never to be humble opinion.


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