The L.A. music scene is as vast and tough to quantify as the sprawling metropolis itself. Talented musicians are constantly coming and going, making bands and breaking them up, signing futile record deals or joining big acts that whisk them away on world tours and fulfill their wildest dreams. The L.A. music scene is also scattered throughout the many communities that make up the city. Beyond the Sunset Strip, which is still milking it’s late ’80s / early ’90s hair band ’n’ Roses glory days to middle-aged tourists, there is no single concentrated area where a klatch of bands are playing at a couple clubs within walking distance of each other. This makes truly experiencing the L.A. music scene a dedicated effort of long drives to random, often-times ramshackle venues and frustrating buzzard-circles in search of parking. Below are five bands that have stood out to me through my Los Angeles listening this summer. While there are undoubtedly more out there buried in Angeleno rough, these are the gems I have discovered so far.
COYOL: Coyol describes themselves as old Southwest meets the new Los Angeles which I suppose is accurate, but they also sound like a couple on the verge of a collective mental breakdown trying to sing melodic alt. rock folk songs. Upon first listen, you’ll be amused by the weirdness and then you’ll actually start to hear it—the fantastic arrangement that seems just a little yet perfectly off and the oddly beautiful lyrics that stick with you long after each track. Start with the Of Monsters and Men-esque “Pharmacist” which proves they can rock and then “Mexican Photographs” which will really convert your ear to their sound.
SOFT PIPES: Soft Pipes has been gaining slow momentum in the LA scene for a few years now with their mellow and ethereal sound, enough to pack each show with a small but loyal following. Each time I have seen and heard the band over the past few months, they have something new to offer, as if they’re picking and choosing from a vast library of songs they wrote in the week between gigs at the Satellite and the Roxy. The band’s central figure is Anthony Polcino, a man possessed on stage, who stereophonically guides us through the high’s and low’s of each performance, album or playlist. Start with “You Heard Me Calling” or “Don’t Act Dumb” before you lose yourself in everything else Soft Pipes has to offer.
JOHN WAYNE BRØ: Despite an EP that needs some real production studio work, I’ve stumbled into a number of John Wayne Brø shows over the past few months at various random venues around town. At first, this was by accident, meaning to see other bands or just being amused by their flippantly hilarious and unique name. (It’s not copyright infringement, drummer and founder Taylor Bro later tells me, because it’s actually his Dad’s name. He’s Swedish—note the umlaut over the “o”). However, their true to the bone philosophy on the Golden Age of rock ’n’ roll—also known as the time when The Rolling Stones ran the world—translates to some of the better small venue live shows I have ever seen, with killer guitar solos and a gritty, whiskey-swilling mentality that has become an endangered style over the past few decades. In time, John Wayne Brø might help it make a comeback.
TS & THE PAST HAUNTS: Ex-Piebald lead singer and first class guitarist Travis Shettel (the TS in the name, shockingly) toured with The Duke Spirit on one of their first US tours and wrote a bunch of songs with them in this time. Since the band had their own things to do, like be The Duke Spirit, Shettel formed TS & The Past Haunts, a hard-rocking punk pop band that gut punches your ear drum and then sweetly rubs you down immediately after. It’s joyful, freeing experience to see Shettel and his married bandmates thrash around the stage—the smaller the venue the better—and there’s no better way to kick the past week to the curb then listening to TS & the Haunts as loud as fucking possible.
3 ½: Not many people have heard 3 ½, though they put on an incredible performance at Yeaheavy for the first concert ever thrown by the door-to-door music web series “Knock & Rock”. Think Alabama Shakes with lo-fidelity pop / rock sensibilities and raw sound that comes with both natural talent and apparent youth. Start out with “Green Leaf,” then jam to “Hipside” and keep tabs on these kids in the future. They’ll be moving out of the hole-in-the-wall art warehouses and onto the LA’s bigger stages soon enough.