Five Local Bands Set
To Hit It Big In 2016
Undiscovered Sounds: Jared & The Mill, Bear Ghost, Harrison Fjord And More Highlight The List Of Arizona Locals With Their Eyes Set On The National Stage In 2016
By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine
Jan. 26, 2016 — Arizona has always been an interesting place to be a musician, even in the best of times. There is certainly a community here that craves an audience, but it can be difficult to find one. Truly, unless your band is named the Gin Blossoms or Jimmy Eat World, there aren’t more than a handful of bands that have ever made it big coming out of the Phoenix metro.
All of that being said, there is proof that the uphill battle and potentially discouraging factors will not deter hopeful acts from around the state as they make music and make a push to breakout on the regional and national stage. And though there are a lot of bands gaining momentum around Arizona right now, there are a few that have some particularly noteworthy reasons to be hopeful that 2016 will be the year that the world at large learns their names.
Jared & The Mill
A group of people can get together and have all the talent in the world, but it won’t do them a whole lot of good if the other pieces of the puzzle don’t fit into place. As a band that seems to have put those pieces together, Jared & The Mill has gained local recognition due to good old-fashioned hard work.
The guys refer to their music as “western indie rock,” and for those who may not be familiar with that term, the band shares more than a few similarities with Mumford & Sons, though Jared & The Mill is far from an imitation.
The band formed in 2011 and once its first full length release, Western Expansion, came out in 2013, Jared & The Mill has been very hard at work touring, writing, playing and engaging with fans to ensure that people know who they are. That relentless dedication seems to be working. Opening for major acts like The Killers, Zac Brown Band and Cake certainly didn’t hurt the band’s rep either.
One of the biggest indicators that something far beyond local recognition is brewing for Jared & The Mill is the band's Spotify numbers. Their song “Breathe Me In” has nearly 400,000 streams and its latest single “Life We Choose” is very close to 100,000. There are many bands signed to big labels with less streams than that, which points to big things on the horizon for Jared & The Mill.
In 2016, the band is doing everything but slowing down.
“We are headed to Nashville next month to record for an upcoming release. After that, more touring, South by Southwest, and more touring. The best way to keep momentum is to never stop moving,” said bass player Chuck Morriss III.
You can check out Jared & The Mill at the band’s website at www.jaredandthemill.com
Trying to describe Bear Ghost’s sound is a tricky task, because, while some bands evolve from one album to the next, Bear Ghost is on minute by minute journey that can only be described as a mix of Tim Burton’s dream rock band and the perfect opener for Panic! At The Disco.
The band describes its sound as “an exhilarating experience that will leave you questioning your life's direction and/or making your leg muscles twitch in rhythm to our slick, slimy grooves,” if that helps.
"We don't have that thing where we say 'that isn't our sound or this isn't our style.' Some of our stuff is somewhat theatrical, and crazy and it's very layered with a million vocal harmonies but then we have some stripped down stuff. It's all over the place but it's not something that we consciously do,” said bass player and “bad vocalist” Andrew Heath.
When listening to the band’s 2014 EP, Your Parents Are Only Marginally Disappointed In Your Musical Taste! or either of their singles from their upcoming album Blasterpiece, it is very difficult to tell that Bear Ghost isn’t on a major record label with a massive production budget. Eventually, their polished sound will be noticed.
The band recently won 98 KUPD’s Playdio contest, beating out nearly 30 other rock bands from Arizona and KWSS (93.9 low-powered) named the single “Necromancin’ Dancin’” the third best local song of 2015. Part of the reason for the notoriety is that other bands trying to get their name out there often rush to put out recordings and cut costs. Bear Ghost, on the other hand, has spent nearly $6,000 on recordings that it never even released, because the band didn’t feel that the results were up to snuff.
"If we don't think it's great, we're not going to put it out there,” Heath said.
Bear Ghost is releasing its first full length album Blasterpiece on Feb. 20 with an accompanying CD release show at Last Exit Live. You can find the band at www.facebook.com/bearghostattacks
On the one hand, Okilly Dokilly sounds like it could just be good for a quick laugh, but on the other hand the Ned Flanders-themed metal band (Nedal, as the members call it) has already proven more than any band currently working in Arizona that a national audience is ready to embrace its quirky take on an established genre.
The band was almost literally an overnight success. A feature on Entertainment Weekly’s website and an interview with Rip It Up both went viral and gained the band more than 30,000 Facebook likes in a little more than a day. The band doesn’t at all mind that a gimmick is the reason, either, because the members maintain a balance between the music and the fun of Simpsons super fandom.
“If it was the gimmick that made people laugh, that's just dandilly doodilly, and that's all we really set out to do. It's a very equal passion between music and The Simpsons for us. That's what made this project so attainable when we first thought of it. Plus, our fans are also Simpsons fans and thus, the best kind of people,” said the band's lead singer, who identifies himself as Head Ned.
Okilly Dokilly is fully committed to the bit, as they all dress as Ned Flanders on stage and have Flanders related names, including Head Ned, Bled Ned, Red Ned, Thread Ned and Stead Ned. Simpsons fans will also appreciate the Flanders-centric song titles like “Nothing At All.”
Outside of its unrelenting dedication to Flanders, the band is a lot like any other up-and-coming bands and its upcoming year will reflect that.
“We're playing a few shows around town while we work on an album. Most of the year we'll be slowly making progress. We all still work day jobs, so we stretch what time we have to focus on band things, like any other local band,” Head Ned said.
You can find Okilly Dokilly at www.facebook.com/OkillyDokillyBand
Chandler’s seven-piece progressive, experimental, indie jazz newcomers Harrison Fjord opened its latest album, Puspa In Space, with the words “Are you ready for the future? The future is now.” It is a little like the band might have been asking itself that question.
Fjord is the newest band of this particular list, having started up in June 2013, but signs are pointing to the possibility that it may have to be ready for some level of success fairly soon.
The band uploaded a video for its song “Approximately 906 Miles,” which was recorded live at the Mogollon Rim, on Dec. 17. With the help of the Reddit community, the video has amassed more than 60,000 views. Sure, that number could be looked at as a drop in the bucket when compared to “Gangnam Style,” but for a relatively unheard of band, it is very impressive.
"We knew that the project was going to be special, so there was no way that we weren't going to
put our all into it musically. We knew it was going to be something that we were going to be proud of,” said vocalist Dallin Gonzales.
Though having seven members in the band presents scheduling challenges, being that members are in school and working, Gonzales wouldn't have it any other way, because it offers the opportunity for collaboration and allows the members to flesh out the sound that fans seem to be responding to.
"We're definitely happy that people are taking note of what we're doing, because I don't think it necessarily fits into any box or specific genre,” Gonzales said. To that point, Yab Yum Music and Arts just named Fjord Best New Band.
As for 2016, the band plans on releasing some more live videos, because of the success of “Approximately”, and it will also be touring this summer.
You can find Harrison Fjord at www.harrisonfjordmusic.com
Image by Jim Hesterman.
Right now, Fairy Bones may be the most beloved band in Phoenix. Ever since its EP came out in 2013 on local record label 80/20 Records, there has been buzz surrounding the four-piece rock group that defines its sound as “theatrical punk rock.”
Last year saw the realization of that buzz in a lot of ways. The band released its first full length album, Dramabot, and it went on two tours. As much credit and success as that has garnered Fairly Bones locally, though, the band is very much ready and looking to make the next step in 2016.
"We feel like we're local professional, but we're not professional professional and if we want to take this thing far, we have to be professional professional,” said lead singer Chelsey Louise.
Bridging that gap will, for the band, entail a hard focus on the music and making sure it has something to offer that is radio ready, a proper stage set up and ensuring it has a presence to go along with it, which anyone who has seen them perform will probably tell you shouldn't be a problem.
Aside from playing a few select shows, like the Bear Ghost CD release show and the McDowell Mountain Music Festival, the band will be taking a different focus for much of the year.
"We're writing an entirely new setlist full of entirely new songs and everything. Later in the year, we'll release a single and have kind of a rebranding,” Louise said, who added that the band will then audience test the material to help figure out what to do with it.
Fairy Bones has absolutely proven that it has what it takes to conquer the local scene, and
its mindset is very much focused on taking its success further than that, which seems very possible given the amount of love Fairly Bones already gets.
You can find Fairy Bones at fairybones.com
Editor’s note on Undiscovered Sounds: Every so often, Modern Times Magazine talks to bands or other musical performers who have yet to hit the jackpot both in the Phoenix metro and beyond. For some of those featured, it may be the first time they have been interviewed. Others may have been working for years for their ship to come in. But all of them have the dream. They may make Undiscovered Sounds, but their sounds are not unworthy.
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