From brooding country to sunny psychedelia, dancey R&B to matte-black punk, local artists that will make you sit up and listen.
“You know when you’re at a concert and all the lights go off, everybody’s cheering and you see the silhouettes coming out from the side of the stage? That was real life,” 23-year-old Brumby frontman Oliver Tingey says, reflecting on the folky rock band’s set opening for Imagine Dragons, December 11 at the Joint. “It was basically just a big audition, [and] I think we passed.”
The singer, along with cousins Tyler and Spencer Tingey and longtime friend Dylan Self, grew up playing music together in Vegas but spent the past few years in Utah while the Tingeys attended BYU. Touring around a hectic class schedule and playing songs influenced by arena-rock bands like Coldplay and The Killers, Brumby caught on in Provo, then quickly began to amass a regional following.
Tingey says the move to Vegas happened just as fast. “We were all signed up for classes for this coming semester. A couple days before the [Imagine Dragons] show, we were like, ‘You know what, let’s go.’ We sold our apartments, dropped our classes and moved down a couple days later.”
Brumby released debut EP The Westwind Kid in March, and Oliver says writing remains the top priority. “The job right now is to write the best song the world has ever heard.”
The industry-savvy quartet, which played its first Downtown show January 16 at Beauty Bar, also hopes to grow its Vegas fanbase—with a lofty end goal. “We really want to become the Las Vegas band, which I don’t think anybody’s done for a while.” brumbymusic.com —Leslie Ventura
“I just needed an outlet for all the energy I had,” says 22-year-old singer/guitarist Lance Bell. Having spent his childhood summers in Georgia, the Las Vegan packed his bags for Augusta State University, where he landed headfirst in Georgia’s grindcore music scene. But as the singer studied music composition and theory, he started searching for other forms of expression.
“Growing up I really liked Black Sabbath,” especially the “fuzzy guitars,” Bell says. “I like songs with a lot of melody, but at the same time I like chaotic stuff, [so] I just started experimenting more with that.” Bell moved back to Vegas and recruited friends Guy Corleone (bass) and Alex Medina (keys), then added Ruben Marin (drums) to complete the band’s lineup.
Luna Flore released its first EP, the six-song Bloom, recorded at Naked City Audio with John Kiehlbauch, in October 2014. It’s a sprawling journey through ’90s emo, shoegaze and post-hardcore (think: Sunny Day Real Estate and Mineral). Experimenting with blank space and natural soundscapes, the four-piece cuts through each song with a sharp, discordant edge. “It’s not enough to be loved, it’s not enough to be careful,” Bell sings, his vocals carried away on a stormy sea of sweeping guitars and crashing cymbals.
“Right now we’re putting together songs for another release,” Bell says, unsure whether it will be a second EP or a full-length. “Our biggest goal is to start playing out of state.” lunaflore.bandcamp.com —Leslie Ventura
Jill & Julia
Caesars Palace headliners and NFR week aside, Las Vegas has never been famous as a country-music stronghold, so sister duo Jill & Julia’s decision to move here instead of Nashville when relocating from Indiana seems ... odd. “People are always asking us why,” 23-year-old Julia says, “but the truth is, Las Vegas is very kind to country music, and there’s a big market here.”
The pair draws frequent comparisons to such favorite female artists as Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves. And like Musgraves, the sisters write and perform their own songs, most of them acoustically driven ballads with strong lyrics and catchy melodies.
Location doesn’t seem to have impeded Jill & Julia’s rapid ascent over the past year and a half, which has seen them sign with Lamon Records, release a self-titled EP, perform at Vegas’ Route 91 Harvest Festival and complete a successful radio tour promoting single “Wildfire.” The duo is poised to release first full-length album Cursed in February, describing the project as darker than previous work, lyrically and melodically. “I don’t think we used any major chords on it,” 18-year-old Jill says.
The sisters insist that for them, success simply means the chance to play music full-time. Judging by their sound and momentum, a more exciting future isn’t a stretch. jillandjulia.com —Chris Bitonti
In the summer of 2014, Las Vegas local Shamir Bailey already seemed fast-tracked to stardom. But getting signed to XL Recordings—home to Jack White, FKA Twigs and Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace—just two months after the release of his debut EP? Surely no one saw that coming.
Following the success of that EP, Northtown, and frequent mentions by the likes of Pitchfork, NME and Spin, the then-teenager packed his bags for New York City to record full-length Ratchet and embark on his only tour to date—in Europe. Now back in Vegas, Shamir continues to live a dual life: recognized on the streets of New York and virtually unnoticed in his hometown.
“That’s what I love about Vegas,” Shamir, now 20, says. “It sometimes sucks that we’re a little behind on certain things, but it’s also good for me, because this is my escape, my getaway, where I’m just Shamir, before all this happened. My friends treat me the same.”
You might not guess it from his disco-house-inspired R&B, but the singer grew up on punk rock, which continues to influence everything from his identity to his business choices. “I refuse to perform on the Strip,” Shamir says, pegging Las Vegas’ most famous street as the reason there aren’t any well-known all-ages venues here like the ones he frequented in New York.
“Most of anything that matters to Vegas is just for tourists, not for the locals. I want to do something for the locals.” And just because he hasn’t played Vegas yet doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The plan, Shamir says, is to have his album-release party here in the spring. We can only hope someone makes that happen. soundcloud.com/shamir326 —Leslie Ventura
“If you’ve been waiting to get in the pit, now’s the time,” bassist Robert Jarman says, just before Opticleft launches into final number “Acresion” at the House of Blues. As bodies begin circling before them, Jarman, guitarist Alex Fields and drummer Ryan Miller nimbly steer through some impossibly fast stretches, their three instruments coalescing into a single, space-devouring force.
The Vegas trio began gigging as Opticleft just 14 months ago, but Jarman and Miller have played together in bands since their mid-2000s high-school days, and began jamming with Fields seven years ago. Since forming Opticleft—a made-up word that’s easy to chant and looks cool in jagged font—the three have shared one house, practicing often in its converted master bedroom. “I think a lot of people would assume they’re a touring band, because of how tight they are,” local promoter Patrick “Pulsar” Trout says.
Opticleft’s lone out-of-town show thus far was a big one: October’s Slipknot-headlined Knotfest in San Bernardino, California, landed by winning a Vegas battle of the bands. The trio continues to gain momentum on the local front—playing Las Vegas Death Fest, opening for Cattle Decapitation and scoring prime time-slots for other gigs—and plans to record a debut album this spring. “It feels like things are snowballing, getting bigger and faster,” says Fields, who also serves as the band’s lead vocalist and lyricist.
At House of Blues, toward the end of a six-band, all-Vegas metal bill, Opticleft’s inclusive musical blend keeps a sizeable crowd present and focused. “We all come from different metal backgrounds,” Miller explains, listing Meshuggah, Death and Necrophagist among the group’s diverse influences. “Our bass player is into thrashier metal, I’m the death-metal guy and our guitar player is more into black metal. We take inspiration from all different styles and incorporate it into one.” opticleftofficial.bandcamp.com —Spencer Patterson
The amount of hip-hop talent coming out of quiet Clark County neighborhoods is the strongest omen for 2015 being local rap’s year, and spearheading that effort is 26-year-old west-side native Euroz. Sliding himself somewhere between the hard-edged f*ck-you-ups of the A$AP Mob and the interior exposure of Drake, his first blog notice came with the mixtape The Foundation in 2012, leading to his first full-length, Memories of the Future, leading to tours with local favorite Dizzy Wright and the attention of DJ Drama.
With 2015 comes the anticipated release of two records: the soul-leaning True Liiies and The Foundation 3, in so many words his magnum opus, which involves flights to record in Atlanta for some guidance by Coach K (the former manager of Jeezy and Gucci Mane), and some host work by DJ Drama himself. Euroz already has the package—the production, the raps congruent with radio music, the beefy, tattooed profile—and he has the work ethic of a man who’s been told “no” but isn’t listening. soundcloud.com/iameuroz —Max Plenke
The Rockie Brown Band
Clint Holmes hit Sand Dollar Lounge one night last fall, a little past midnight. He sat in that tavern’s VIP area, two sofas set side by side at one end of the club, as the act he’d heard so much about, The Rockie Brown Band, thundered through its two-hour set. Brown and her seven-piece backing band—powered by a four-man horn section—ripped through a set dedicated almost exclusively to originals from upcoming album Brand New Day.
Past 1 a.m., the crowd was up and dancing to “Meet Me on the Dance Floor,” one of many Brown originals that’s catchy as anything played on today’s FM radio. “You’re a great performer,” Holmes said afterward, “and you’re a great songwriter.” That opinion is widespread, as Rockie has evolved from a small rhythm section into a full-force band loaded with some of the city’s top musicians.
After several months at Sand Dollar (known for a time as Bar 702), Brown and her band have since moved to midnights on Monday at Tuscany’s T Spot Lounge. The Rockie Brown Band is a classic case of a band developing a sound that’s uniformly appealing, but maddening to define. Pop, soul, jazz and funk are in play. You can move to the Brown sound, or just sit and wait for the tide to roll in.
As Brown, a Vegas native, says, “I think it’s cool that you kind of can’t define our sound.” Not even she knows just where this will all lead. But for now she’s growing something special in the small music haunts of Las Vegas. facebook.com/therockiebrownband —John Katsilometes
Who’s Barnabus Wu? The identity of Bombay Heavy’s frontman was a mystery to most when the band debuted online last summer with a handful of songs and a photo of a distinguished older gentleman in a striped suit. Could he be Wu? And what of the affiliation with The Killers’ Mark Stoermer and Dave Keuning, both listed in the project’s musical credits?
The search for answers eventually led to David Hopkins, a Dublin native living in Las Vegas. In his previous musical phase, he played in Irish outfit LiR and released several solo albums, one featuring a duet with countryman Damien Rice. But Bombay Heavy, Hopkins says, marks the start of a new phase. “I hate my old singer-songwriter stuff. Now I’m back into what I really love—Zeppelin, Floyd, The Who.”
Bombay Heavy’s first tracks indeed recall those classic influences, along a spectrum from barroom blues-rock to sunny psychedelia. Drummer Rob Whited (Most Thieves) and guitarist Zamo Riffman (aka Irishman Eamonn Griffin) are the other constants; the two Killers pop in to help; and the man in that original photo, well, he contributes, too. “That’s Tony Curtis, an English dude who lives here in Vegas,” Hopkins says. “I had the idea he could narrate, so he’s on some of the songs. Great dude.”
Plans call for an April 24 live debut at the Bunkhouse, the release of a full album in the spring and some touring after that, for which the man calling himself Barnabus Wu is working up some special visual aids. “There’s an old English cartoon [with a character] called Noseybonk; he had this mad f*cking head with a giant nose, so that’s gonna be part of the show. It’s freaky. It’ll scare the sh*t out of everyone.” bombayheavy.bandcamp.com —Spencer Patterson
Sounds of Threat
Though they’ve been a band since 2009, Sounds of Threat didn’t release a full-length until last November, following a May signing with local punk-crusader label SquidHat Records. Musically, Threat is frenetic and rough around the edges, along the lines of Bad Brains and Minor Threat, and devoid of polish—think matte-black punk rock.
Still juiced up from the first album release, rhythm guitarist Amy Pate (you’ll recognize her as Candy Warpop’s leading lady) says there are plans to get another LP out toward the middle of the year, hopefully in time for Punk Rock Bowling, where Sounds of Threat will open the main stage on Saturday. But the serious move comes toward the middle of the year: The band has plans for a western U.S. tour with labelmates The Gashers, making it the first time the band has gone on the road for any extended period.
Touring has increasingly become the mark of serious Las Vegas bands, as they look to break into more saturated markets. And considering Sounds of Threat has done more in the past few months than in the rest of its five-odd years of existence, a 2015 tour seems like the perfect way to earn some additional stripes. facebook.com/soundsofthreat —Max Plenke
When local producer/DJ J Diesel queried Life Nightclub about opening for Hot Since 82, Loco Dice and Richie Hawtin last fall, he says the club ignored him every time—despite the fact that those three titans of house/techno actually play his music.
With 2013’s “Outside in a Box” and last year’s “Moonlight” and “The Library,” the Sacramento native and 18-year DJ has garnered the support of several high-profile DJs. Not bad for a guy who started spinning hip-hop in 1997 and only switched to dance music after a revelatory trip to 2008’s Electric Daisy Carnival in LA. A year later, he suddenly quit his corporate job and moved to Las Vegas. “I’m usually pretty calculated with my decisions, [but] I just said, screw it.”
While Diesel took steady gigs at venues like Artisan and Share—the latter requiring him to play commercial music—he focused on crafting house music at home, evolving toward darker tones, textural synth melodies and found sounds. His tracks found dance-label homes; Definitive Recordings released “Outside,” his most impactful track to date. He even has video of deep-house figurehead Maceo Plex playing it in Ibiza. “That was insane for me, because he’s not only one of the most influential producers, but he’s my favorite.”
Which means very little to the status quo of Strip nightlife, but Diesel keeps things in perspective. “I don’t think anything will happen for me in Vegas—unless the style in Vegas really turns around,” he says. “Whether it does or doesn’t, I don’t care. Vegas has afforded me the ability to make the music I wanna make and live a decent life and work. I enjoy my job.” soundcloud.com/jdieselmusic —Mike Prevatt