Five Vegas bands to watch this year
This black metal quintet could hardly have picked a more metal name for itself when it formed in the summer of 2017. Based on Norse lore, Draugr were dead warriors whose spirits were “so twisted”—in guitarist Nox Aragon’s words—they refused to leave Earth. Basically, they’re really f*cked up zombies.
It’s the “epitome of brutality,” Aragon says. Draugr might intimidate those unfamiliar with its gurgling vocals, classic “corpse” face paint and haunted carnival-infested dirges—check out its self-titled EP released in December—but the group has garnered attention from non-metalheads and other unlikely fans. And despite the morbid imagery, the band members are the opposite of brutal—they’re all quite pleasant.
Draugr hopes to tour and release its first full length by the end of 2019. draugrlv.bandcamp.com. –Leslie Ventura
At 23, Russell Schoenbeck already knows what he wants from life: “love and creativity.” The North Las Vegas producer and rapper’s adopted alias is a constant reminder of that. The latter half of his moniker, Wave MMLZ, is an acronym for “Make Music Live Zen.” The affirmation is printed on his hoodie, painted on a canvas in his studio and repeated in his brooding bangers—of which he’s got plenty locked and loaded for 2019. His upcoming four-track EP, The Upward Spiral, encompasses a lot in its brevity and channels the imagery of a revolving staircase. “You see things ahead of you, behind you, from every angle,” he says.
What’s ahead might be a bigger, more experimental sound. He recently posted a snippet of a dreamy, indie-inspired demo on Twitter, hinting that he’s only taken step one toward his astronomical potential. soundcloud.com/mmlz –Zoneil Maharaj
When Austin Shaddix’s dreamy synth-pop demos sprung up under the name Laabradoor last March, Las Vegas had an unknown indie star in the making. Part Neon Indian, part Washed Out, Shaddix, 22, assembled a band to take the hypnotic bedroom-made tracks to the next level, finally debuting last fall inside Starboard Tack. Laabradoor didn’t disappoint. To Shaddix’s surprise, the group quickly landed a gig opening for Vegas idols Dark Black and Ted Rader & The Magic Family in December.
For 2019, Shaddix says the main goal is to track a record (reel-to-reel analog, of course), tour and weird out a little. “That was the whole goal with this project,” Shaddix says. “To get free with it.” laabradoor.bandcamp.com. –LV
Whether or not you’re into hardcore, it’s virtually impossible to listen to Fidel Romero scream his heart out on World Tension’s self-titled September EP and not be moved. “You speak your hate and violate/Human rights from miles away,” Romero bellows on “Hate Thy Neighbor,” his anger and frustration balanced by vulnerability. Romero’s lyrics encapsulate the fear of being an immigrant in Trump’s America, the hope for a better world and the stress from not knowing if and when we will ever see it.
“I wanted to write about stuff that was going on right now, all over the world and inside the White House,” Romero says. “Coming from an immigrant family, as a person of color, this was a perfect way for me to talk about what I’m actually feeling. No matter how cool everything may seem, it’s still stuff I think about constantly.”
World Tension plays Eagle Aerie Hall on January 27 and plans to put out a second EP in March. worldtension.bandcamp.com. -LV
THE RED SEDUCTION
here’s a lot going on between the four musicians that comprise this four-year-old, North Las Vegas-based outfit. Each tune seems to aim for a balance of blues-based American classic rock and U.K. psychedelic pop (see the Beatles-esque reverie of “The First Man on the Moon”), with tracks like “Salma” and “Lunatica” putting a discernibly Latin spin on the band’s late-’60s cosmic-garage foundation and mixing things up even further.
The band just released its second LP, Demos Vol. 2, its rhythmic prowess all but daring you not to dance along or look up the band’s next gig. theredseduction.bandcamp.com. –Mike Prevatt
Discovery channels: We scoured Bandcamp and Soundcloud for new Vegas sounds
There’s plenty of unknown muck to wade through when mining Bandcamp and Soundcloud for fresh local sounds. But wade long enough and you’ll unearth something worth savoring—like these six under-the-radar Vegas acts.
Member: Cole Heathcott
Sound: A varied and often wistful take on bedroom folk, with experimental right turns when least expected.
Likely Inspiration: Just about anyone on the 4AD label.
Stream: “Trees,” “Gold” (featuring another local band, Morosis, also on Bandcamp: morosis.bandcamp.com)
Member: Francis Zapanta
Sound: Hip-hop—mostly the sample-heavy, instrumental kind great for late-night drives across the Valley.
Likely Inspiration: J Dilla, The Alchemist
Stream: “Much More” (from this year’s In My Head), “Sunshine” (from last year’s Elevator Muzik Pt II)
Member: Jukka Backlund, Mike Dawes and Spencer Sotelo (the latter hailing from Maryland prog-metal band Periphery)
Sound: Hook-laden alt-synth-pop with one foot in the 1980s and another in The O.C.
Likely Inspiration: Miike Snow, The Midnight
Stream: “Now,” “Drive” (both from last year’s debut EP When)
Member: Tom Bolwin, Beto Flores, Alan Ramirez
Sound: Rock en Español—and sometimes en Inglés, too—of the alternative/indie variety.
Likely Inspiration: Caifanes, Zoé, Café Tacvba
Member: Mason Chakos, Rick Martinez, Ivan Repko
Sound: Jazzy math rock, which is not the most obvious descriptor for a Las Vegas band
Likely Inspiration: Minus the Bear, King Crimson
Stream: “Flotsam” (from last year’s Preverbs EP)
Member: Ian Kraemer
Sound: Ambient folk—which is sometimes just guitar, just keyboards or both—with lots of reverb.
Likely Inspiration: Grouper, Bright Eyes
Stream: “Plastic People” (from last year’s 1 EP), “The Strip” (from last year’s Good Morning)