For most of the year, Austin’s music scene advances at a mile a minute. But in the relatively slow winter period between Free Week in January and SXSW in March, we get the opportunity to take a collective breath and weigh in on what’s hot, what’s not, and where we go from here.
Just like last year, we've identified 10 local artists from a variety of stylistic backgrounds aiming to break big in different ways in 2015. Best of all, this list represents only the tip of our talent iceberg, so stay tuned for more as the year moves on.
Over the last few months, the three teenaged punks in Residual Kid have been big-upped by the Huffington Post as “The Badass Teen Band That Might Take Over Rock Music” and tagged by Vice as “Cooler Than You’ll Ever Be.” And, as the Chronicle reported, they're the band that motivated 72-year-old Sire Records founder and Warner Brothers exec Seymour Stein — who discovered The Ramones, Madonna, Talking Heads, Ice-T and Depeche Mode — to sign his first underage act.
The hype surrounding 14-year-old Max Redman, his 16-year-old brother Ben, and fellow 16-year-old Deven Ivy is real. These three avid skateboarders mix grunge, psychedelia and classic punk to flawless effect. Stay tuned for their forthcoming Sire-sponsored debut EP, which was reportedly recorded with alt-guitar hero J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.
Mayeux & Broussard
Tate Mayeux and Brian Broussard have roots in the musical gumbo of East Texas and West Louisiana, which lends their swampy blend of honky-tonk, country rock and electric blues plenty of authenticity. But Austin has also helped shaped these two young troubadours, from their long-running residencies at the Broken Spoke and the White Horse to their recent recording sessions at the historic Cedar Creek Studios with engineer John Ross Silva.
Their upcoming record, High Times & Good Rhymes, follows in the band’s tradition of alternating between Mayeux’s weary rasp and Broussard’s honey-dipped stomp. The addition of expert embellishments from some of Austin’s best hired hands — not to mention a CD release party at Stubb’s on February 21 — only exemplifies the major leap this duo plans to take in 2015.
It’s hard to keep a musical secret in a town as awash in creativity as Austin. But White Denim frontman James Petralli managed to hold the big news about his long-simmering second band Bop English close to the vest until earlier this month when he and bassist Kevin Schneider, guitarist Jonathan Horn and drummer Jeffrey Olson debuted a new slab of cerebral rock magic at the Parish.
Even more surprising? The fact that Bop English has a full-length album, Constant Bop, dropping on tastemaking label Downtown Records in April. Stand back and watch as the indie blogosphere jumps all over Petralli’s expertly crafted side project.
Dowrong & Eric Dingus
Local producer Eric Dingus earned some shine on CultureMap’s 2014 list of local breakout acts for his collaboration with League of Extraordinary Gz MC Slick Talk. The 19-year-old Dingus has gone on to craft beats for Canadian megastar Drake while fostering relationships with other international up-and-comers. But his most important Capital City collaboration may have come in December with 22-year-old LaDarrian “Dowrong” Torry, nephew of fallen LOEGz ringleader Octavis “Da 6th Street Bully” Berry.
The Dowrong EP, released by Dream Sequence Records, shivers and shakes with Texas-fried, chopped and screwed intensity, Torry’s menacing narratives flowing freely over Dingus’ stark beats. As Slick Talk said on Twitter this week, “Mark my words … Eric Dingus and Dowrong are going to take ATX rap worldwide.”
Full confession up front: Max Frost should have been on this list last year. His debut EP full of pulsating, pop-inflected R&B dropped in October 2013 on major label Atlantic Records, and two months later, his breakout hit “White Lies” was featured in a commercial for Beats By Dre. Frost's full-length debut is still waiting in the wings, but confirmed collaborations with top-tier pop producers Benny Blanco and Kid Harpoon have Frost fans on the edge of their seats.
Even the New York Times got in on the hype in December by listing his forthcoming album as one of 2015’s most anticipated. Frost is also one of the higher-profile local bands ready to storm SXSW in March, too.
Peligrosa & Kiko Villamizar
Why combine these two pillars of the local Latin music community? The star-studded Peligrosa DJ crew launched its own label with a raucous party at Empire Control Room on January 16. Their first signee? Villamizar, a Colombian-American singer and songwriter who mixes cumbia, salsa, reggae, jazz, conjunto, Tejano and a million other Latin American-specific forms on his new album La Remolacha. But the record’s enticing 14 tracks aren’t just party starters: Villamizar spins folkloric yarns that examine the culture of his native Medellin, the oral history tradition so important to Hispanics, and the melting pot of what he calls “indigenous brown folks” all over the Americas.
Meanwhile, Discos Peligrosa’s second release, slated for February, will be a compilation of jams collated in part by Houston’s Bombón crew. Give these exciting artists the credit they deserve for keeping multiple forms of Latino music relevant and essential in Central Texas.
This local anti-DJ — seriously, his self-made “Roger Sellers is not a DJ” stickers can be found all over town — released the first recorded work that matched his high-energy live shows last fall with Primitives. But it’s still hard to succinctly describe Sellers’ work: avant-pop, electro-folk, chamber-dance? Whatever you want to call it, know that this Texas State alumni constructs all of his auditory explorations from scratch: live drums, triple-tracked vocals, synth lines, banjo riffs. You name it, and if you hear it in Sellers’ songs, he recorded (and then manipulated) it himself.
Dreamy and kaleidoscopic, Primitives attracted attention from major outlets like Spin. And although the album sounds like tuning into a lost channel transmitting from your subconscious musical mind, we think Sellers will continue to worm his way into the ears of bigger audiences throughout 2015.
How popular is this whimsical six-piece folk-pop outfit? After working their way up through the Austin labyrinth, they were widely regarded as the best breakout act of Bonnaroo 2014, jamming over 5,000 fans into the tiny Club Stage grounds. In early January, they were highlighted in the posh pages of The New Yorker. And they’ve been selling out good-sized winter tour shows in major markets across the country.
Given the reputation of frontwoman/frontman combo Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins as A+ songwriters, we’ve got our fingers crossed that the endless road Wild Child has been on since the release of 2013’s The Runaround will result in new material — and an inspired SXSW homecoming in March.
Black Pistol Fire
Although these Canadian garage rockers can’t technically call Austin home, Kevin McKeown and Eric Owen spend far more time here than in their native Toronto. They lit their ACL set aflame in October with running and gunning hits from 2014 album Hush or Howl, and 2015 is already chock-full of major festival appearances, including SXSW, Shaky Knees, and 59 Twenty.
Black Pistol Fire’s shred-and-stomp structure is even more unhinged and electric than other two-fers like White Stripes and Black Keys, and the rest of the world is going to feel that fire this year.
Visual artist, producer, label owner, international ambassador for Austin’s nascent dance music community. Ben Aqua wears a lot of hats. But that’s just the way the digitally obsessed, stylistically voracious DJ likes it. In 2014, Aqua’s #FEELINGS collective hosted its first official SXSW showcase; Aqua released his debut full-length album, Virtual Anticipation; and he anchored local underground clubs and festivals like Stargayzer. But Aqua’s own national profile exploded thanks to an insightful interview with Vice and a controversial podcast and interview on ResidentAdvisor.net that sent the popular dance music website into a tizzy of hits and comments.
So far this year, Aqua has already toured the Midwest and premiered a remix of fellow Austin artists Balmorhea on Tiny Mix Tapes. Which means the rest of this year should continue bending to his singular will.