2017, you’ve been killer. An insanely good year for unearthing new talent, the array of new bands on the scene has been astonishing. From bluesy post grunge music to raw gritty punk, the underground rock’n’roll scene is thriving and alive, full to the brim with raw new talent. Some bands I’ve been blown away by this year are brand new discoveries, such as SHEAFS and White Room; others are bands I fell in love with last year who have used the past 12 months to consolidate and reaffirm their impeccable skill, False Heads and Calva Louise being perfect examples of this.
Here are Indie Underground’s Bands to Watch in 2018
A nod to retro 60s music with a groovy elegance, White Room are injecting a spirited vitality into old rock’n’roll with their fresh and vibrant burst of energy. Their sound is wonderfully 60s, with a heavy Sgt. Pepper’s tone running throughout. Infused with a neo-psychedelic 90s rock sound, the band bring a shoegaze post psychedelic aura to their music, using soft sitar-esque guitar riffs and a thudding tambourine to infuse their sound with rich authenticity.
Wonderfully fun and energetic on stage, Anteros are a fiery band full of artistic glamour and a fashionable elegance both live and on record. Laura’s voice is powerful and deep, but also soft and delicate when it needs to be, bringing together indie rock with a warm, mellow pop aura. The band blur the boundaries between indie and pop, their careless arrogance and elegance allowing them to pull off such an interesting fusion of genres. Artistically and fashionably, the band capture an aesthetically vivid elegance which makes for a raw hypnotic feel unique to an Anteros gig.
Full of harrowing power and a richly vivid darkness (both lyrically and through their deafening riffs), Yonaka have used the past 12 months to prove themselves as one of the UK’s best live bands. Theresa’s voice brims with an aptitude for power, and her vocal naturally flows from sensually soft, light whispers to richly intense bursts of power, gliding with ease over the ear-splittingly heavy riffs. Lyrically evocative, the poetic cynicism embedded in Yonaka’s tracks make for truly spectacular pieces of music.
Brooding, moody and carelessly arrogant, Hotel Lux are a dark five piece sticking to raw underground DIY roots, which are slowly making them the faces of London’s post punk subculture. Their sound has a deranged mysticism to it, very unique and intensely curated, which is immense live to say the least. As a five piece, they use grungy bass lines and raw riffs to build up a punk aura, but also entwining synth keyboard sounds into their music to blur the raw post punk sound with an 80s/90s feel.
Inspiring a feel of vivacious grungy punk, LIFE are an abrasively messy in your face punk four piece hailing from the streets of Hull. Their music is gritty, thrashing punk which makes no attempt to hide the hectic wild thrill which LIFE encapsulate so well. Lyrically, they refuse to shy away from a politically crass stance, and make direct digs at the USA on its gun laws & race laws in Euromillions. The stance they take is a refreshing and invigorating one, giving British punk a kick up the arse.
One of London’s most intriguing and captivating live bands, 485C capture the essence of neo shoegaze indie rock perfectly. A stunning five piece, they are a guitar rock band, playing elegantly delicate riffs perfectly in sync to build up a very refined, articulately contained sound. Adam’s voice has the brooding grit and rawness of a post-punk poet, and his controlled screams over the sharp guitar are musically audacious. This indie psych-rock vibe 485C have going on is delicately old school, with their unique sound and set up refreshingly modern, a thought provoking contrast.
They’re viewed by many as the faces of London’s rock’n’roll scene, bringing classic indie rock to the forefront with their immense guitar rock sound; and after seeing them live it’s hard to see why anyone would disagree with this reputation. Their sound is richly infused with sharp riffs and tight as hell vocals, with Luke’s rough gritty lead vocal backed up stunningly by the soft harmonies from bassist Perry. Guitarist Mike plays riffs to a delicate perfection, with a really natural sense to the way he plays, enhancing the feel of honesty to their sound. It’s class rock’n’roll, with a beautiful feel of rich romanticism to Luke’s vocals and lyrics.
An immense force from the bubbling scene which is London’s underground punk scene, Calva Louise are revitalising what punk can sound like, giving it a lick of pop with immaculate riffs and lyrics. Jess is an incredible frontwoman; as lead guitarist, her riffs and the natural way she plays guitar is mind-blowing, her approach to playing the guitar on stage coming of as it being second nature to her. Her sharp screams and screeches can instantly change to soft whispers and a pop-esque delivery, backed up beautifully by sharp drumming and a raw, tight bass guitar which is hooking and gripping, hence why they go down a riot live.
The Velvet Hands
60s rock’n’roll was revolutionary, an integral era for what rock music of today is, so modern day bands who encompass that authentic 60s sound are always an exciting band on the circuit. The Velvet Hands merge 60s and 70s elements, creating a really vibrant, fun sound. There’s a certain confidence to them, their overall sound and look definitively similar to The Rolling Stones, or Squeeze. It would be obtuse though to compare them directly to these bands, as the four piece have a really fresh youthful vibrancy which makes them exciting and modern, rather than cliché or seemingly stuck in another era. Their sound is brilliant too, very fun and groovy which is an absolute belter live on stage.
The best live band around now, no doubt of that, False Heads are an insanely riotous raucous three piece heading up a revolution in what DIY post punk guitar rock really is. Luke’s snarly spitting vocals are harsh and raw, and his riffs are insane, particularly the solo riffs in Retina and Slew. The thrashing aggression from Jake’s bass guitar and Barney’s drumming sets the tone for a rough, gritty punk edge, and all their tracks are packed with this abrasive grit. Lyrically punchy and focused on nuances, Luke Griffiths is genius in his lyricism. Witnessing the three piece live is always an experience and a half, and if you crave a dose of real punk then look no further than East London’s finest.
Messy, rowdy, ferocious. Strange Bones encompass so much in their music, both on and off stage, and are one of the best bands to see live. Mosh pits and crowd surfing are natural at a Strange Bones gig, their rowdy punk sound and the rigidity of their music always making them a mind-blowing band to see live. Their riffs are deranged and manic, and the political lyricism and sharp vocals from Bobby amplify this punk boldness even more so. There’s an insatiable chaotic sense of madness to their sets, fuelled by the purest taste of punk aggression and angst, which is authentic and real. Only Strange Bones could pull off rat masks, balaclavas, and band merch emblazoned with the slogan ‘Theresa is a Terrorist.’
One of the coolest bands around right now, four piece BREED are building up an untouchable reputation for themselves, with rowdy crowds and killer riffs integral to their live sets. It’s indie rock/ post punk, bringing raucous riffs to the face of their music, tracks like Gimme More and Get With It having an anthemic feel to them. Jake’s voice is particularly standout, as it’s packed to the brim with grit and gravel, his voice tearing ever so slightly as he pushes it which makes for an intense post punk vibe. The guitar riffs are looped and repeated, which builds up a thrashing rock’n’roll sound, which would help explain why they’re such an exciting, popular live band in London at the moment.
Dark, brooding and controversial to a degree, The Blinders are brash and crassly uncaring which gives them an immense sense of intrigue. Johnny Dream & His Codeine Scene are the alter ego band, otherwise known as Tom, Charlie and Matty. The stunning, filthy lyricism is hauntingly vibrant, tracks like Ramona Flowers being cuttingly sensual, with tracks like ICB Blues nodding a head to more socially and politically aware controversy. They’re riotous and uncaring in nature, and are complex in sound, bringing a post psychedelic/ punk sound to their stages (psychedelic in essence and performance rather than sound), theatrical immensity rippled into their gigs. From Tom’s smudged black eyeliner covering half his face, to the controversial messages smeared across his chest (such as Fuckin’ Vote Labour! and Fuck The NME), The Blinders are a theatrical riot on stage, dramatic, raw, and intense as hell.
Imagine a blistering combination of dirty riffs, garage-esque lyrics, and a dark and deep vocal delivery, fuelled by a gritty brutality howling through the music; that’s Peckham based five piece YOWL for you. Their sound is a bitter, miserably pure London one, their music capturing the harrowing essence of the city. Alike to bands like Dead Pretties or LIFE, the discontent and pain that comes through in YOWL’s music is gripping, with a raw relatability. Something snarling and almost sad behind their music gives their tracks an element of emotional resonance, YOWL gripping their listeners in a way only musicians completely honest and open (vulnerable, in a sense, through their lyricism at least) could be able to.
Authentically British in sound, LICE have that dirty pure punk sound, with nasty riffs and snarling bass lines tearing through their tracks. Built on foundations of hectic abrasive riffs and unusual, unorthodox beats and grooves, LICE have an artsy aura to them, very unconventional and avant-garde and subsequently thrilling. Their sound is riddled with satire and a dark gritty garage edge, and LICE sound like they’ve stepped out of a post punk subculture which is slowly starting to take over the UK, city by city. The thrilling rawness of the guitar, played alongside the casual vocals which come across as careless and moody, give the band something so incredibly special. I’ve extremely excited by this underground upcoming subculture made up of bands like Hotel Lux, YOWL, HMLTD, shame, LIFE, The Moonlandingz, Goat Girl, and LICE…maybe the most exciting scene going on right now.
A disordered four piece whose sound brims with outlandish punk vitality, The Slumdogs are a snarling force of chaos and immensity hailing from Blackpool/ Leeds. The faces of the dark grungy punk scene bursting with new talent, The Slumdogs’ sound is a chaotic mess of riotous, distorted punk. The thrashing aggression and insatiable energy in recent single Nightmare is immense, the track and video alike a homage to the roots of DIY punk.
Sheffield’s finest band at the moment, SHEAFS are a vividly vibrant indie rock band with a punchy post new wave bite to their music. Beautifully astute and elegant live, the band have a Shimmer Band/ White Room feel, and there’s an integrally raw feel good beat to their music. Their classic guitar rock sound is inherently infused with gritty vocals and sharp riffs which draws a similarity to post Britpop music, akin to the early 2000s indie rock/ post punk scene. Live, SHEAFS have an impeccable presence too, always going down a riot with their audiences at small and large venues alike.
A cocktail of deep riffs, gritty tough vocals and a dirty sense of mysticism rippled through their lyrics, The Wholls are an immense four piece with an insatiable appetite for edgy lyricism and hooking, gripping riffs. Each track by The Wholls is special and unique in its own little way, all of their music though being built on the same foundations which are tough and gravely vocals, fuelled by heavy guitar and pounding, thudding rich loops and riffs from the drums and guitar, both lead and bass. Arturo’s voice has the glass shard quality; it’s sharp and cutting, refined on the edges but scratchy and grating when he pushes it. A stunning live band, the abrasive approach to The Wholls and carelessly reckless attitude they possess turns their music from sharply written delicate rock tracks to blistering, blazingly hot guitar rock anthems.
Thinking back to the roots of punk, the really genuine roots of honest 70s punk music, politics jumps out at you straight away. Politically crass and uncaring bands have always fuelled punk music, and Naked Six are a band hanging around the DIY scene right now, pushing their angst and infuriation into their music. A two piece from York, think fat riffs and scratchy vocals which transmit a feel of pain and anger, frustration almost. There’s a militant feel to the duo, the hectic chaos to their sound being gripping and meticulously put across on stage.
A frenzied mess of theatrically dramatic chaos, Avalanche Party are a harrowingly brooding, beautiful mess of a band. Their uncaring nature comes through in their abrupt and unorthodox style, a darkly intimidating yet at the same time intriguingly inviting aura being produced. There’s a feel of brooding intimidation, with lead vocalist Jordan almost coming across as possessed, and the frantic post punk nature to Avalanche Party intertwines with their brooding garage rock sound, a lethal combination which they pull off with a natural flair and ease.
A boozy sound infused with a dark post grunge rawness, Dirty Orange inject a fresh vitality into classic rock’n’roll, using rich bass lines and gritty sensually projected lyricism to capture and entice their audiences. It’s a raw and sexy sound, with a deeply pure element of Americanised nostalgia to it. Debut EP XXX is intensely impassioned, packed with filthy riffs and a raw spitting vocal throughout. The three piece are delicate and meticulous in their sound too, blending a variety of sub-genres and influences together to generate a uniquely idiosyncratic aura.
Fuelled by thudding bass lines and a vivacious beat, Thee MVPs have a cutting edge sense of pop grit to their music, with a vividly immense rock sound. Tracks like Funeral pack a nasty raucous punch, a deep groovy aura to their sound. An astonishing live set up too, the band throw out a refined cocktail of indie rock, grunge, and pop, which is hell raising and stunning to listen to.
A spirited four piece from Bedford who have a gritty edge rippled through their music, The Scruff have been one of 2017’s most exciting band. Developing from a band who were well known and popular but on a local level, The Scruff have developed hugely over the course of the year, gaining immense recognition from rock’s biggest names, such as BBC Radio One, This Feeling, and Radio X to name but a few. Their humour and cheek is infectious, their spirit and personality firmly embedded in their music. Their tracks can go from being raucous anthemic rock’n’roll tracks, to more subtle, stunningly emotive pieces of music, most notably Her which features emotional and harrowing lyricism.
Safe to say 2017 has been incredible, promising a lot for the new year. Thanks to the love and support for new music bubbling in the underground scene, new music seems to be thriving more than ever before. The work promoters like This Feeling, Pink Rabbit Events and Double Denim do is amazing, backed up by an emerging scene of writers, photographers and bloggers, like Sophie Arnold, Arianne Jessop, The Zine UK, Northern Exposure and more. Photographers in 2017 have fuelled the music scene immensely too, big shout out to Alan Wells, Mollie Yates, Lindsay Melbourne, Annie Warner, Luke Jones and Lewis Evans for their spectacular work.
2018, get ready
Some Might Say is a DIY zine for upcoming post punk, indie rock and grunge bands; Issue Two is a ‘Bands to Watch in 2018’ special, featuring the majority of bands on this list plus more. With exclusive features and photos, you can grab a print copy now for just £4. Buy here
Check out Indie Underground’s Big in 2018 playlist here