california bands

Local Natives

It’s crazy to think, but it’s been almost a month since my last blog post and yet it honestly doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. I guess that’s what happens when you spend the fastest two weeks in the Coachella Valley working at your favorite and one of the most well-known music festivals in the world.

So yeah, I did it. I worked Coachella. It was amazing, special, wild, epic, unreal, and all sorts of other positive adjectives that you can think of. It was mostly indescribable though. I knew what to expect, but at the same time I didn’t at all. I can say though that experiencing Coachella in an entirely different way made me appreciate it so much more because it’s a first class, well-run music festival. I’m not gonna go into deep detail about my trip here. I will say that out of the bands I previewed I was able to see Kungs, Grouplove, Lorde, and Lady Gaga. If you wanna know more about my experience though, just ask.

Another thing I will mention is that I had a realization while at the festival during Saturday of Weekend 1. I definitely should have previewed Local Natives in the build-up to Coachella 2017. I was able to catch part of their set that Saturday before my shift started and I knew about 4 of the 5 songs I heard. I didn’t realize how many Local Natives songs I knew, but apparently I know a lot. I know enough that I feel like I need to go to one of their shows sometime. So I figured it was better late than never to write about them, so here goes…

Local Natives is an indie rock band from Los Angeles, CA. Members Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, and Taylor Rice all met while in high school together in neighboring Orange County, but it was after graduating college from UCLA that the group really started to focus on music. Along with Matt Frazier and former member Andy Hamm (replaced by Nik Ewing in 2012), the group moved into a house together in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles and began working on their first record, Gorilla Manor. The album was released in November 2009 in the UK and then in the U.S. in February 2010.

The band began generating some hype before the album’s release though. They played SXSW in 2009 which garnered attention from music critics. They received comparisons to well known indie bands, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, and Vampire Weekend, making them a new notable act on the indie scene.

On January 29, 2013 the band released their second album, Hummingbird. The album was produced by guitarist Aaron Dessner of The National and featured a darker lyrical turn due to life events, such as the departure of Andy Hamm and the death of Kelcey Ayer’s mother, that had influenced the band’s writing process. The album also received generally positive reviews.

Last year the band released their third and most recent album, Sunlit Youth, in September. The first single for the album, “Past Lives”, was released a few months before the album drop. The album, like it’s predecessor, received similarly favorable reviews.

Local Natives is your standard indie rock band. There’s no other genre that their music fits into. I can see why they were initially compared to the likes of those other well-known indie bands. Out of the three I mentioned above, their music sounds most similar to a combination of Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes. I think Vampire Weekend has more of an indie pop feel to their songs that isn’t heard as much with Local Natives. Another reassuring fact about Local Natives’ music is that the sound hasn’t changed much through three albums. Maybe the lyrical content has developed and changed, but you’re still getting that familiar Gorilla Manor sound on Sunlit Youth.

I first heard of Local Natives in the prime of my indie/hipster music transition phase in the spring of 2011. From then on, every so often I would add a new Local Natives song to my iTunes and playlist rotation. While on my first trip to California in 2013, I made it a point to go to Amoeba Music. Amoeba is the world’s largest independent record store. They have three locations in California, one in Berkeley (the original), one in San Francisco, and one in Hollywood, which is the one I went to. I, of course, wanted to get something at Amoeba, but traveling by plane made it difficult to purchase any vinyl so I opted for a CD. The CD I purchased was Hummingbird. Despite all this evidence, it never occurred to me that Local Natives should be a must-see for me at Coachella this year and a must among the list of bands I previewed. I didn’t even realize it after catching the end of their set at Lollapalooza last summer and realizing I knew every song I heard them play. I do now though and I won’t disregard them anymore. I plan on going to one of their shows next time they tour near me. They crushed it at Coachella and I don’t want to miss out anymore.

If you’re a big indie music follower and you don’t know of Local Natives, it’s time you do. They’re a great band to listen to if you’re just relaxing on quiet evening or if you’re driving on a road trip. It’s time to make these guys known or recognized whatever the case may be. Here’s a few songs you should check out.

  1. Airplanes
  2. Who Knows Who Cares
  3. Ceilings
  4. Heavy Feet
  5. Mt. Washington
  6. Past Lives
  7. Wide Eyes
  8. Dark Days
  9. We Come Back
  10. Sun Hands

Coachella Band Preview: Rancid

It’s April 1st and Coachella is no joke 2 weeks away! I feel like there’s a bunch more bands to preview but I may only do 1 or 2 more after today. Bummer! I know! But it’s okay cause Coachella is soooo soon! Last year at Coachella there were a couple bands playing the festival that I would consider “old school” as far as my music taste goes. I guess by my definition that means I used to listen to them in high school. Brand New and Bad Religion fit that spectrum last year. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and Desaparecidos even gave off that “old school” feel too, especially with Andrew McMahon playing a Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate song during his set and Connor Oberst shredding guitar on stage with his new band. This year the band that falls into the “old school” category is a punk rock band who has been in existence since the early 90’s. They’re called Rancid and I’m sure you may have heard of them before.

Formed in 1991, Rancid hails from Berkeley, California. The group is composed of Tim Armstrong (guitar and vocals), Matt Freeman (bass and vocals), Lars Frederiksen (guitar and vocals), and Brandon Steineckert (drums). Steineckert replaced original member Brett Reed in 2006. In the 90’s, Rancid was part of the revival of mainstream punk rock along with bands like Green Day and The Offspring. Since their inception the band has released 8 studio albums, splits, compilations, extended plays, and online-only live albums. Their self-titled first album was released all the way back in 1993 under Epitaph Records. Their breakthrough came from their third album, …And Out Come the Wolves, which was released in 1995. The singles “Time Bomb” and “Ruby Soho” became synonymous with the band. In 2003, after the band released their sixth studio album, Indestructible, they even received a bit of backlash from fans. It was the first time that the independent band released an album that was distributed by a major label (Warner Bros.) and fans believed the group became sell-outs. The album was met with mixed reactions from fans who believed the album sounded more “poppy” than normal. After that the band went on hiatus for 2 years and didn’t release another studio album until 2009. Their latest album, …Honor Is All We Know, was released in September 2014.

Rancid is about as punk rock as you can get. They do have some roots in ska though since both Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman were part of influential ska band Operation Ivy. You can actually hear that ska sound in several of their songs including one of their most well known  and one of my personal favorite songs “Time Bomb”. Their sound in general is pretty distinct as well. Despite that more “poppy” album even the songs on their latest album have that same punk rock sound we’ve heard over the years.

I first heard of Rancid while I was in high school. According to my iTunes, I downloaded my first Rancid song a little over 9 years ago. I was never a huge Rancid fan during that time, but with my love for punk rock, pop-punk, and ska, I always enjoyed an occasional song. “Time Bomb” and “Fall Back Down” were and still are my two favorite songs. Despite not listening to punk rock music that often anymore, I’ll always appreciate Rancid because they influenced plenty of bands that I listened to in high school and college.

Unless I missed something in my research, 2016 will be Rancid’s first ever appearance at Coachella, which I find hard to believe given the band’s 25 year existence (you can correct me if I’m wrong). Guns N’ Roses may be a headliner but Rancid is just as legendary in their scene. If you’re into that sort of legendary band thing, liked punk rock in high school like me, or still like punk rock, Rancid is a band to see at the festival. They play Sunday. It’s tough to give you some prep recommendations because of the countless songs the band has, but here’s a few of my faves:

  1. Time Bomb
  2. Fall Back Down
  3. Maxwell Murder
  4. Ruby Soho
  5. California Sun
  6. You Don’t Care Nothin’
  7. As Wicked

Say That You’re Into Me

Yesterday while checking out the Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify, I made an amazing, mind blowing discovery. It was the coolest music discovery I’ve made in quite some time. For you to understand it though, I need to flashback to 9 years ago. *cue cloudy flashback transition*

It was the summer of 2006. I just finished my junior year of high school. I was into the punk rock, pop punk, emo, and alternative music genres. My favorite bands were Brand New, Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Something Corporate, and The Format. I attended my second Vans Warped Tour in August that summer. I saw Cartel, The Academy Is, Gym Class Heroes, Motion City Soundtrack, Less Than Jake, and Hellogoodbye play sets that day. All of those bands fit my style of music at the time too. My favorite set of the day was Hellogoodbye’s. They played all my favorite songs and had people run around the stage dressed in random costumes. It was absolute mayhem. Hellogoodbye even played a surprise Blink-182 cover set that day on a different stage which I also attended. It turned out to be a surprisingly great day despite the fact that I didn’t anticipate a great day. *cue transition to current day*

As I was looking at the Discover Weekly playlist, I noticed there was a song by Hellogoodbye listed. I was surprised because usually music on the Discover Weekly playlist isn’t the kind of pop punk, powerpop music that Hellogoodbye played when I listened to them. However, I didn’t recognize the title of the song. It was safe to say they had released some new music since I last listened to them. I was super curious to see what it sounded like so of course I hit play on the song. Out of the speakers on my iPad came the most mind blowing revelation. Hellogoodbye sounded like a band I would listen to now. They weren’t those same guys who got up on stage at Warped Tour dressed in random costumes. They were like current day hipsters playing music I would listen to on vinyl in my apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn while wearing my v-neck t-shirt. They progressed in their music style like I progressed in my music style. How freaking cool is that?! Usually I hate when bands change their sound because it seems like most of the time they get popular and try to fit the mold of popular bands. This wasn’t the case. They progressed alternatively.

Hellogoodbye hails from Huntington Beach, California and was formed in 2001 by front-man Forrest Kline. They were part of the Drive-Thru Records label from 2003-2010 which housed some of my favorite bands from high school like Dashboard Confessional, Something Corporate, New Found Glory, The Starting Line, Midtown, The Early November, and Senses Fail. They released their first full-length, Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!, in 2006 (I bought it at Warped Tour that summer). I knew of and listened to them before that though because of their self-titled EP. Between the release of their first and second album, Would It Kill You?, which was released in 2010, the single “Here (In Your Arms)” gained some major radio airplay. It reached the number 14 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 and went platinum in the U.S.

After the second album, the band went through a few transitions. Band members dropped out and were replaced. The band parted with Drive-Thru and signed with a new label. They also released an EP during that time and re-released their second album. It wasn’t until 2013 that they their third full-length album, Everything Is Debatable, came out after signing with another label, Old Friend Records. Following the release of the album, they toured and opened for Paramore. They probably should’ve been touring with a band like The Kooks or Generationals because their newest album gives off an entirely new indie pop sound. They really do sound like a mixture between those two bands with a hint of MGMT and Belle & Sebastian thrown in. There’s still a little bit of that old school Hellogoodbye essence heard in some songs as well. It’s incredible. If you can’t already tell, I was and am still amazed by it. As far as song recommendations go, it’s probably best to split it up between old Hellogoodbye and new Hellogoodbye, so here goes:

Song recommendations (Old):

**And remember these are definitely pop punk/powerpop style songs, so if you’re not into that, skip ahead**

  1. Call & Return
  2. Touchdown Turnaround
  3. Bonnie Taylor Shakedown
  4. Here (In Your Arms)
  5. All of Your Love

Song recommendations (New):

  1. (Everything Is) Debatable
  2. Just Don’t Let Go Just Don’t
  3. The Magic Hour Is Now
  4. Swear You’re In Love
  5.  And Everything Becomes A Blur
Hellogoodbye performing at the Vans Warped Tour in 2006 during their Blink-182 cover set.

Hellogoodbye performing at the Vans Warped Tour in 2006 during their Blink-182 cover set.

Come Up For Air

I love music. You know this if you know me, or if you read my blog. Although I’m supposed to be writing about sports, entertainment, and music for this blog, it turned into a music blog for the most part, aside from the occasional USWNT update. That said, my love of music started many years ago. However, in high school when that first “musical enlightenment” I wrote about last year happened was when everything started to come into place. I focused more on playing instruments and looking for music than I had before. I fell into the culture of the bands I listened to. Most importantly though, I frequented live music performances. I went to so many shows. They made me feel so alive and that I had a place of belonging. There’s something about live music though. That moment when the lights go out, right before the band comes on stage, is everything. That moment you hear the opening notes to your favorite song that you end up screaming at the top of your lungs along with the band is beyond words. Even that time right before the encore when the lights are still out and everyone is screaming and shouting “One more song!” is incredible because for one moment in time everyone is brought together by music. Hearing a band/singer/artist live is so special. It’s way better than listening to music any other way.

Ever since I learned that, I’ve tried to experience as many live music events as I can. In a few weeks, there’s a chance I might be heading to another show. I can only hope my plans for the show work out as right now it’s uncertain. I started listening to the band playing the show about 4 years ago after a friend recommended their song “Hospital Beds”, but they were on the scene several years before I heard of them.

Cold War Kids is an indie rock band formed in 2004 in Fullerton, California. Their name was inspired by an instance during bassist Matthew Maust’s Eastern European vacation. He found a playground in a park filled with statues that had been dumped after the fall of Communism in Budapest. Being in that environment caused the phrase “cold war kids” to pop into his head. It was relevant to Maust as well, since he was born in the Cold War era and it stuck. Along with Maust, the group also consists of Nathan Willett (vocals/guitar/keyboard/piano), Dann Gallucci (guitar/keyboard), Matthew Schwartz (keyboard/piano/guitar/vocals) and Joe Plummer (drums). Plummer and Gallucci replaced founding members Jonnie Russell (guitar) and Matt Aveiro (drums).

The band released three EP’s (Mulberry Street, With Our Wallets Full, and Up in Rags) before their first full length, Robbers & Cowards, came out in October 2006. They toured for two full years before getting back to the studio to work on their second full length, Loyalty to Loyalty, which was released in September 2008. They promoted their second album while being on tour with Death Cab for Cutie, before releasing the EP Behave Yourself at the end of 2009.

After spending the next year recording, Cold War Kids released their third full length, Mine Is Yours, in January 2011. The third album received mixed reviews but earned them spots in the festival circuit playing Coachella and Bonnaroo. Their fourth album, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, was released two years later. They spent 2013 touring to promote the album and announced a fifth was in the works by the end of that year. Hold My Home, the band’s fifth album, was released a little less than a year ago on October 21st. Hold My Home contains their most successful single to date, “First”, which reached the number one spot on Billboard’s Alternative Song chart.

I wish I could say the exact time and moment I first heard Cold War Kids, but I can’t. I can’t even remember if a friend recommended it or if I heard it on a Pandora station. So I may be lying with that statement I made before. All I know is I downloaded “Hospital Beds” in July of 2011 and a few months later I downloaded “Hang Me Up to Dry”. Both songs didn’t really spark a genuine interest, but maintained spots in my listening routine from my “Most Recently Added” playlist. It wasn’t until last fall that I became a bit more interested in the band. Before the release of Hold My Home, I became addicted to their single “All This Could Be Yours”. I almost purchased the album because of that song. For some reason though, it never happened. I even featured the song “Hot Coals” in an app prototype I designed for a computer graphics class I took at the time. When “First” started hitting the airwaves this past spring, I once again became addicted to another Cold War Kids song. I realized 2 months ago it was probably a mistake not getting that album last year. Then again, I’ve still yet to purchase it (I’ll get on that).

While looking for nearby concerts and shows, as I routinely do, I noticed Cold War Kids booked a nearby venue at the end of this month. I almost saw them last January, but decided against it when I thought they might be playing Coachella. Then the weather didn’t cooperate for the weekend they were playing. Go figure. Unfortunately they didn’t play Coachella 2015 so I’ve yet to see them play. When I once again saw they had a date booked for a nearby show, I realized I only knew a few of their songs. I knew those songs well though and liked them a lot too, but it was still only a few considering how many albums they have. So recently I’ve begun to listen Cold War Kids more than ever in prep for a show that I may not even attend for scheduling reasons. Either way, they’re a great band, and I’ll never regret knowing more of their music no matter what happens. If you want to know more about their music too, you should listen to:

  1. Hospital Beds
  2. Hang Me Up to Dry
  3. All This Could Be Yours
  4. First
  5. Miracle Mile (addicted to this song at the moment)
  6. Mine Is Yours
  7. We Used to Vacation
  8. Audience
  9. Hot Coals
  10. Hold My Home