My favourite thing about SXSW (aside from the cheap pizza and cheaper alcohol, where you can find it) undoubtedly, is the discovery of new music. It sounds like such a generalisation and for an event the sheer size of SXSW, it can be hard to figure out how to establish an approach to the festival with a) a totally open mind and b) the ability to accept that you’re probably not going to be able to see every single buzz band a magazine or online blog is pushing for.
This year’s SXSW Music will be my third and I still feel like I’m learning the best ways to navigate the Austin music juggernaut but I have been able to get a better handle on just rolling with each showcase and finding the fun in stumbling across an artist you’ve never heard of and by the end of the night, they’re the ones you’re going to be raving to people back home about six to twelve months before they drop a single that’ll break them internationally.
From my own SXSW experiences in recent years, I remember seeing artists like Tinashe, American Authors, Eagulls and Wolf Alice wheeling and dealing showcases, introducing themselves to crowds who may have cottoned onto the buzz surrounding them or may have simply been in the venue by chance. Since then, they’ve all gone on to become household names on the international touring circuit and hold great favour with Australian music fans.
Ahead of SXSW Music this year (and during the course of that cheeky Sydney-LA long haul flight), I’ve been listening to some playlists and favourites of my own in the lead up to what’s setting up to be another fantastic year of new music rolling out in Austin…check out some of the artists I’ve got my money on doing some great things at SXSW.
Marlon Williams (NZ/Melbourne)
I know, this isn’t exactly a groundbreaking discovery I’m introducing you to, especially if you’re a Melbourne based music fan, but from what I’ve been hearing and reading online in the lead up to SXSW, Williams’ presence at the festival is one that will be closely watched. It’s been a solid year and a bit of touring for the Lyttleton native, with his acclaimed self-titled album having seen him tour not only Australia extensively through 2015, but also out to the States and Europe. Williams’ SXSW run is just one of many lined up for this half of 2016 and looking at his schedule with the Yarra Benders, Marlon’s going to be busy.
March 16th | 3TEN Austin City Limits Live @ 9:00pm
March 17th | Clive Bar @ 5:00pm
March 17th | Barracuda @ 11:15pm
March 18th | Central Presbyterian Church @ 11:40pm
March 19th | B.D Riley’s (Sounds Australia SOUND GALLERY) @ 5:15pm
TEEN have been turning heads since the release of 2014’s The Way and Colour, and have backed it up with another killer release in Love Yes. Born out of the mind of multi-instrumentalist Teeny Lieberson, TEEN have been making music since 2010 with her sisters Katherine and Lizzie, as well as talented bass player, Boshra AlSaadi. Their sound is uncompromised and fun; the synths are infectious and Lieberson’s vocals are undeniably catchy. The band has proven themselves to be great makers of music that blends melody with an edge; TEEN stop by SXSW as part of a whole run of American dates – definitely some prime opportunities to see their ladies doing their thing below.
March 16th | Central Presbyterian Church @ 9:10pm
March 17th | Swan Dive @ 1am
AVEC SANS (London)
Alice Fox and Jack St. James bring some throbbing synths and electro sounds to Austin this year, representing for the British contingent which is (for another year) showing to be incredibly strong and diverse. Fox’s vocals evoke a chilling yet seductive vibe, especially over the top of the great production as seen on tunes like “Resonate”, bringing to mind other bands like CHVRCHES, Little Dragon and FKA twigs. A debut album in the bag, AVEC SANS have been focusing on their live show and have since been touring internationally – thumbs up, thumbs up.
March 16th | Lucky Lounge @ 1:00am
March 18th | International Day Stage @ 2:00pm
Sunflower Bean (NYC)
Sunflower Bean have begun generating a bit of buzz around their music in Australia, with their latest collection of music introducing us to some cool fusions of contemporary psychedelia and shoe gaze, and some haunting, fuzzed out guitar. Jacob, Julia and Nick have found a really cool balance between an obvious love for rock and the dream pop realm a lot of artists are dabbling with nowadays and have struck a really interesting chord of their own in amongst it all. Go listen to Human Ceremony if you haven’t already and become acquainted – we think we’ll be hearing a lot more from Sunflower Bean out our way as the year rolls on…
March 17th | Radio Day Stage @ 3pm
March 17th | Stubb’s @ 9:25pm
March 18th | Parish @ 1am
March 19th | Hype Hotel @ 8pm
Day Wave (Los Angeles)
Jackson Philips aka Day Wave is an artist who is already on many Australians’ radar, being the first international signing to I OH YOU and more recently, being announced as the main support act for Gang of Youths’ upcoming national tour. The multi-instrumentalist branched out on his own in 2014, leaving behind a career with an electro-pop act and moving to LA from Oakland.
His style has developed significantly since as his songwriting has continued to evolve and progress, thanks to a difference in not only scenery but necessity – he learned to write for guitar and bass alongside the drums. Day Wave’s material has got that hazy Californian vibe to it, with some 80’s influences thrown into the mix with some sounds that fans of The Drums, say, would recognise.
Definitely one to be watching.
March 16th | Cheer Up Charlie’s @ 8:30pm
March 17th | Fader Fort @ 3:00pm
March 19th | 24 Twenty @ 3:00pm
This British trio has been on the AU has been getting behind recently and they’re a band we’re particularly excited to see at SXSW next week. Arthur, Dom and Lotti have been crafting some darkly vivid sounds that are equal parts mesmerising and beautifully melancholic in the way the likes of Portishead and Massive Attack became synonymous with throughout the 90’s and early 00’s. Love the direction they’re continuing to go down in exploring this electronic, experimental style of music, can’t wait to see what it turns out like live.
March 16th | The Gatsby @ 9:00pm
March 17th | 3TEN Austin City Limits Live @ 12:00am
March 18th | Latitude 30 @ 10:00pm
I first came across GGOOLLDD when I was three hours into a YouTube/Soundcloud black hole at the beginning of the year and thought they were British. When I read that they hailed from Milwaukee, I became even more interested. Forming at a house party in 2013, the band has cultivated a strong local fan base for their shimmery electro-pop/rock fusion that has seen them go from dive bar shows to larger festivals.
March 16th | The Iron Bear @ 12:00am
Kevin Garrett (US)
Brooklyn musician and singer Kevin Garrett has been kicking around making music under a few different projects over the last several years and as a live performer, he’s well versed in that department too, having been met with positive receptions supporting the likes of Alessia Cara, Norah Jones, James Vincent McMorrow and more. His style is similar to the like of Jarryd James’ in that he’s been able to marry some great deep R&B production with lyrics and vocals that demonstrate canny writing and impressive range. Also Garrett’s debut EP Mellow Drama was only released in 2015, he’s been whipping up buzz around his music (suss “Control” and “Coloring”) and it’s fairly obvious as to why.
March 17th | The Sidewinder Inside @ 11:30pm
March 18th | St David’s Historic Sanctuary @ 7:00pm
Tor Miller (US)
Another New Yorker making waves is Tor Miller and again, we find ourselves falling head over heels for an irresistible vocal charm and quality that is sure to make an equally memorable impression on SXSW-goers next week. He croons with the confidence and gravitas of an old-school singer who’s got years on this young talent but it’s not contrived in any way, nor does it come across as any type of put on. Currently signed to Glassnote Records in the US, Miller has an interesting and exciting 2016 ahead and as SXSW goes for many breakthrough artists, Austin provides the perfect platform for some sparks to fly.
March 16th | Blackheart @ 9:00pm
March 17th | 3TEN Austin City Limits Live @ 9:00pm
Eliot Sumner (London)
Sumner is another artist who might not necessarily come out of left field for some music fans but for us, we’re definitely looking forward to seeing how the SXSW audience takes to her newer material. That rich, husky voice was what first drew me to Eliot’s music under her previous guise (I Blame Coco), but having followed the music to have been produced in the years since, the development and progression of the music made under the ‘Eliot Sumner’ name has been impressive to watch.
Sumner’s second album Information, has seen her talents as lyricist, musician and general music creative not only blossom, but also veer into some awesome darker territory. For Bad Seeds/Kraftwerk fans, Sumner’s music will be up your alley – refined, concise and incredibly textured.
March 16th | 3TEN Austin City Limits Live @ 11:00pm
March 18th | Bangers @ 9:00pm