We have again reached that rare time of year when film lovers, interactive media geeks, and music nerds can all merge into one massive conglomerate for an artistic retreat in Austin, Texas. As one of the few annual festivals that showcases established musicians, global superstars, and up-and-coming bands all in one event, SXSW originated in 1987 as a music seminar/conference in Austin hosted by the alternative news publication Austin Chronicle. The conference has since expanded to include film events and has also bagged several notable keynote speakers over the years like Johnny Cash, Lou Reed, Todd Rundgren, and Village Voice rock critic Robert Christgau.
I am unable to attend SXSW this year for personal reasons (mostly travel fees). However, if you plan on attending and will be on the lookout for your new favorite up-and-coming band or artist, I’ve got you covered! Continue reading for a list of can’t-miss up-and-coming bands that you should catch at SXSW this month.
Multi-genre virtuoso Jackie Mendoza is a jack of all trades. On her latest album Galaxia de Emociones, her fusion of electronica, folk, and Latin pop, are bolstered by intricate melodies and layered sound design. All of these qualities flaunt not just her high-end production chops, but also an effortless knack for storytelling that draws inspiration from her personal experiences as a first-generation Mexican-American queer woman.
Jackie Mendoza’s SXSW schedule can be found here.
What could be better than a young troupe of Philly scoundrels gritting their teeth and navigating the mediocrities of modern life through sugary pop melodies and swaddling pedal-heavy riffs? Armed with the all-star Philly cast of Alyssa Milman (Kississippi, Blushed, Past Life) on lead vocals and guitar, Dan Leinweber (Past Life, Greenspace) on lead guitar, Eric Naroden (Lieu of Roses) on drums, John Heywood (Alex G) on bass, and Pauli Mia (Twin Princess) on synth and backing vocals, Puppy Angst is everything thrilling and enticing about the Philadelphia music scene distilled into one band.
Puppy Angst‘s SXSW schedule can be viewed here.
Blending razor-sharp social commentary with cavity-inducing pop hooks and white hot riffs, THICK is a New York-based pop punk power trio consisting of Nicole Sisti (vocals, guitar), Kate Black (bass, vocals), and Shari Page (drums, vocals). Their latest album Happy Now was one of my three favorite albums of last year, and for good reason. Their songwriting embodies the most beautiful, thrilling, and visceral facets of being alive, whether they are reminiscing on lovestruck bliss (“Montreal”), reflecting on their drunken emotional upheavals (“Wants & Needs”), or proudly reclaiming the misogynistic archetype of the PMS-ing wench (“Bleeding”).
THICK‘s SXSW schedule can be found here.
Y’all already know the deal. This whole blog is basically a Razor Braids stan account. Simply put in few words, Razor Braids fucking rips. And anyone foolish enough to miss their stops in Austin will live to regret it. In other news, Razor Braids‘ magnetic, altruistic, and compelling frontwoman Hollye Bynum recently wrote a guest post for A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents about the beauty, pitfalls, and highlights of touring in a post-COVID world.
Razor Braids‘ SXSW schedule can be found here.
I have a TVOD tattoo on my left arm, so not including them on this list would be pretty darn absurd. To put it simply, TVOD isn’t a band. TVOD is a cult of debauchery, blissful mayhem, and exquisite chaos. I can’t tell you exactly what to expect, as every one of their performances is entirely unpredictable for everyone involved, the band included. Here’s what I will say: just go see them. BUT, know your limits. And enter the pit at your own risk.
And side-bar: TVOD‘s bass player Lyzi Wakefield is hands-down one of the most talented musicians I’ve had the pleasure of encountering in New York. That is all.
TVOD‘s SXSW schedule can be found here.
With their debut self-titled album, Brooklyn indie rock trio Hello Mary have significantly developed their expansive breadth of sound from gritty 90s-flavored alternative rock to kaleidoscopic tunnels of sound replete with schoolgirl gang vocals (“Special Treat”), psychedelic fuzz (“Looking Right Into the Sun”), and classic straight-ahead rockin’ (“Rabbit”). Julia Cumming from Sunflower Bean touted them as her “new favorite band,” and Tanya Donnelly is also a self-proclaimed fan. I should probably mention that the members of this band were barely out of high school when they first emerged, a fact that makes me — somebody approaching their mid-twenties — feel like an elderly curmudgeon who might consider drafting a retirement plan if I think about it any longer.
Hello Mary‘s SXSW schedule can be found here.
Coco & Clair Clair
Coco & Clair Clair, the experimental pop duo made up of Taylor Rose Nave and Claire Marie Toothill, has been on my radar for a minute. The moment I got a whiff of their clever subversive pop bangers, they did not disappoint. Their songs are the perfect combination of playful, bitchy, and crass. The mood of each song is seamlessly complemented by an effortless blend of airy Soundcloud soundscapes, reverb-drenched dreampop production, and glitchy tinges of hyperpop. I’m a pop girly at heart, so for me this duo is the perfect feast of versatile sound design, bad bitch energy, and humorous lyrical easter eggs with 21st-century pop cultural references.
Coco & Clair Clair‘s SXSW Schedule can be found here.
Softee is the solo pop project of artistic multi-hyphenate Nina Grollman, soundtracking the anxiety-ridden angst of mid-twenties blues laden in the perfume-scented pheromones of a lesbian disco hut. I started listening to Softee in my sophomore year of college, and I simply cannot fathom how I would have reacted if I could have told my nineteen-year-old self that I would get to interview her five years later. With new songs that trade the airy singer-songwriter ambience of her old material for a litany of propulsive earworms with subtle industrial production, Softee‘s artistic progression has been quite a treat to watch from afar (and IRL).
Softee‘s SXSW schedule can be found here.