Tuned Up’s 40 Florida Bands to Watch – 2020
Hey everyone! So far this year, Tuned Up has covered Ohio, Nashville, Los Angeles, and Indiana with our Bands to Watch features. All my life, Florida has been one of my favorite places on Earth—my family travels to Jupiter every year (north of West Palm Beach) and our trusty editor, Stephen Scheidell, is based in Boca Raton. So it made sense to dig into what’s happening in this state as far as developing artists. I discovered a lot! Who did we miss? This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive or authoritative list, but one meant for your own discovery and conversation. A playlist is included at the end. Read on:
A Wolf In the City – This emo band from Orlando seems to really love neon, judging from their socials. As a lover of all things neon and outrun myself, I can get down with that. Who says you couldn’t mix angsty music with slick aesthetics? If you’re not down with slick aesthetics, you’ll find plenty of DIY friendly sounds within. There’s not a whole lot I can say without sounding like a broken record, so I’ll just say that they’re a fitting band to kick off this list.
Airhockey – In days like these where the sun is out, it’s getting hotter, and the mood is relaxed, I need more dreampop and shoegaze for my earholes. Luckily for me, Airhockey is here to get the job done. Their latest single, “Try,” reminds me a bit of a band from Canada called Seoul that I reviewed earlier in the history of Tuned Up. I feel like waking up at sunrise just so I get the full golden hour experience while this song is playing.
Amaria – We were tipped off to this alt-R&B artist by another act on this list, DBMK. Her sound exists in the same realm as Solange—soulful, but a bit off-kilter, and very very cool. Her social media doesn’t give very many clues about her future, but Spotify is taking notice—she was recently featured on the Fresh Finds – The Wave playlist. This is moody music for many moods (say that five times fast).
Boston Marriage – Death Cab for Cutie and Daughter are both (rightfully) listed as mentions of this group, but I’m getting a touch of 90s alternative radio rock as well. The Cranberries, Natalie Imbruglia, Michelle Branch anyone? Throw it all in the sun for an afternoon and then layer in some reverb. Gosh, I can’t stop using variations of the word “vibe” on this site, and this band is one reason why. Recent independently released singles were produced by Blake Harnage (PVRIS, All Time Low).
Cannibal Kids – This group have been compared to the likes of Hippo Campus and Rex Orange County, and they were recently a featured act on the virtual Block By Blockwest Minecraft festival. If that isn’t enough clout for you to check these guys out, I honestly don’t know what to tell you, except that you’ll like their indie surf sound. I wonder if they’ve ever used a steel drum on their songs. If not, they should.
Casey Conroy – Casey is a Orlando based singer that makes radio-friendly dreampop. This isn’t the experimental kind—it’s a bit more polished, but still in that floating realm the genre is known for. We also notice that Phangs, one of our Nashville pop favs, follows her on Instagram—that’s a compelling endorsement if you ask us. Casey recently gained some notoriety via her collaboration with the Grammy-nominated production duo COASTCITY, titled “Best Shoes.”
Danny and Alex – The harmonies here are enough to make any pop loving gal swoon. That’s my purely speculative hypothesis as a straight white pale Ohio dude, anyway. Their sound is kind of old school, but they’d fit on a bill with the likes of LANY, Misterwives, and COIN as well. They’ve been playing the single release game for a minute, with their latest being the groovetastic “Man With a Minivan.” They’ve been playing some select dates in key cities prior to COVID, and it’s probably a fair assessment that they’ll continue this approach as things start to reopen. I smell major-label potential here.
DBMK – To me, this is one of the most obvious picks on this list. This duo played what was one of my favorite shows to date in the Tuned Up hangout Donatos Basement. Their style of alt-pop, on paper, is similar to many acts out there. Yet their sound has a slick polish and vaguely dark streak that permeates all of their songs, and is very fun to engage with. In fact, their forthcoming LP is titled Jump In the Dark. “Smilin'” was a eerie choice for a lead single, but we’re here for it.
Driveaway – It could be argued that bands with LANY, The 1975, and Bleachers as influences are a dime a dozen these days. And sometimes you just hear a band that’s good even if you’ve heard this sound many times before. They have the capability to get down to earth too, as is evidenced by the acoustic ballad “Grow Without Me.” Gainesville is known for other things besides THE FEST and University of Florida, like this band.
ELA Lindsey – Honestly, what’s not to like about this artist? She makes a fun, approachable, modern brand of pop. She doubles as a worship leader (sidenote, another pop artist and worship leader is Daniella Mason—rad stuff). The second highest town for listenership is Jupiter, where my family vacations every year. “We’re Going Viral” sounds like a perfectly written song for TV/Film placement. I don’t recall how I discovered this artist, but I will say that my friends Jane Marczewski and Ricky Smith apparently are fans, and that’s darn rad.
Gloomchild – This Tampa based artist is hard to classify. His latest single “Tunnel Vision” has a cinematic post-hardcore feel to it. Think of what might happen if Thrice collaborated with Angels and Airwaves. The vocals remind me a lot of Stephen Cobucci of Wolves at the Gate. A quick look at the band’s social media doesn’t reveal a lot about their future, but this latest single is strong indicator of what’s to come, I’d reckon. They certainly have the polish to go somewhere.
I Met A Yeti – With a name like this, you have to assume this band is a gimmick. But your assumption would be wrong. With their branding, female vocalist, and heavy sound, some will draw comparisons to iwrestledabearonce, but I find their sound to be a bit more accessible. This is a whimsical twist on post-hardcore that is opening my eyes to another side of the Florida scene and is making me want to connect my home scene of Ohio to Florida in new ways. It’s fun to drive and listen to this band, too.
KIDS – Tuned Up’s editor Stephen Scheidell has plugged this band to us perhaps more so than any other, and I even had the pleasure of meeting one of their members in a coffee shop in Boca Raton. This new signing to Tooth and Nail Records has a sweeping, uplifting indie sound that is a bit like The War and Drugs and Local Natives but doused in optimism. This band has huge potential to blow up in the coming years—Tuned Up is here for it. Their LP’s release date is TBA, but it will be this year.
Letters to Part – Here is a band on our list sent my way from the lovely folks in the Audiofeed/Flood City Fest scene. Letters to Part also was publicized for awhile by Hope Vista of the now on hiatus dark pop duo VISTA. So that’s a double endorsement I can get behind. Though they describe themselves as an ambient act, I hear lots of math-rock influence coming through as well. The end product is an adventurous, dynamic journey that simultaneously stays down to earth and stretches my perception of the “DIY” sound.
LIMBS – This post-hardcore act from Tampa got a lot of local love here in Columbus for a hot minute. I recall going to a show at the (in)famous Donatos Basement (sidenote, I’m not sure why I called that venue infamous, but it felt right) where they were the headliner, and it was lit, as the kids say. I’d love to see these dudes on a tour with Silent Planet. The vocals carry shades of both Garrett Russell (Silent Planet) and Caleb Shomo (Beartooth).
LYONIA – It’s hard to put words to the feeling LYONIA gave me when listening to them for the first time. The song “Tell Me Now” is poignant emotive rock not terribly far from the post rock realm. Their sound is driving and steady. A pre-COVID facebook status hints at new music on the way and potential tour plans. The latter is out (for now), but I’m hopeful that I can hear more from this band soon. That they have the endorsement of one of my favorite underground acts, Author, doesn’t hurt either.
Madtown – I love me a good hardcore band to get me fired up. Tampa Bay’s Madtown is one of those bands. Truly, one of the suckiest things about this whole COVID thing is the lack of hardcore shows. I’m not one for being in the center of the pit myself, but I’ll fist pump to all the gnarly riffs in the world. Madtown has these in spades. I’m not sure what the rest of 2020 has in store, but rest assured Madtown is dialed into the scene.
Meet Me @ the Altar – Do not, under any circumstances, think of this band only as a trio of women of color making pop punk—as a rare as that is. They make our list for their building momentum and polished songwriting. We’re cheating a bit, since only one of their members is based in Florida, but that eclectic Sunshine State sound seems to emerge here. All of the songs I’ve heard could be crowd pleasers—I hope they make it up north to test that theory soon.
Moondragon – If you know me, you’ll know that I can’t talk about music these days without discussing synthwave. I have a large lightboard in my office that has our logo in Outrun style bathing the room in neon, and I’d like to sync it to songs by this band. The sound is definitely more on the cool, slick side of the synthwave realm rather than the dystopian cyberpunk side. As cliche as it might be, I’ll recommend Moondragon for fans of The Midnight. If Stranger Things’ S U R V I V E had a sound that was a bit more accessible, perhaps Moondragon would be the result.
Nae – A few months back, we received a press release about this Miami-based synthpop artist. She has an accessible, fun sound that sounds about what I’d expect a club artist to sound like from this area. I’m getting Chainsmokers vibes from her single “Great Escape.” This should be a summer smash because a great escape is honestly what most of America needs right now… a temporary one, of course, before we get back to the tasks set before us.
Overthinker – What causes more angst than thinking too much, amirite? This pop punk act takes that idea and makes it into an infectious sound. The Orlando based band is ready to “serve up fresh hot sad jams,” according to their Facebook bio. This seems like a fitting description to us. Bands like this have a way of being melancholy and uplifting at the same time, and I’m here for it. Judging by the number of friends that already like this band’s Facebook page, I’m going to guess they’ve played Donato’s Basement in Columbus (our Ohio followers will understand the significance of this).
Palm Tree Square – I love the emo DIY aethestic of this band, from the handwritten font of their name to the hazy, cloudy cityscape in the their coverphoto, to the slightly out of focus neighborhood shot of a home obviously in Florida. I’m not going to say that this could become an iconic album cover like The Hotelier’s “Home…” record or that American Football house, but I’m also not not going to say that. Their sound seems delicate while in reality being anything but.
Plastic Pinks – This band is not new to the Florida scene, but they are new to me, so by golly I’m including these psych/garage rockers from Miami. I’m honestly hard-pressed to come up with a clever descriptor for their sound, but I can say they pull it off super well! Listening to this band takes me back to the earlier days of running this blog, when I was first getting plugged into the local Columbus scene, and I was surrounded by garage/psych bands. I need to hear this band in someone’s basement this weekend, please.
Pool Kids – I first heard of this band via the twitter account @thisbandfucks, run by DIY songwriter Absinthe Father. The emo-influenced indie sound conveys a wide range of sounds in a passionate, yet measured way. Pre-COVID, the band was scheduled to head out on tour with The Wonder Years, and I have to imagine those connections will still hold post-COVID. In any case this group has an earnest sound that is making take a hard look at the emo scene, though I’m more of an indie pop kinda guy.
PRISON – This band sounds absolutely massive, pounding into the skulls of anyone who will listen their brand of hardcore mixed with numetal. When they have the attention of a DIY contact in Florida and a podcaster specializing in CCM-influenced music based in Australia, you know they have something unique going on. Not only do they perform their music in a thrilling way, but also they dive face-first into difficult topics. Hardcore has always been a genre that has moved me by its vulnerability, and PRISON is no exception.
Queen Vulture – I believe I got wind (no pun intended) of this hard-hitting act from a certain Michael Rosado. The Melbourne post-hardcore act goes heavy and passionately. As someone who cannot do a metal scream, I’m not sure how their vocalist doesn’t completely blow out his cords every time he sings “In a Sense, It’s Innocence.” In their more melodic moments, they remind me of Rise Against.
Red Calling – When a publicist you trust from Ohio, who recently crossed 10k follows on Tik Tok (woo!), tells you to check out an epic act from Tampa, by golly you do just that. Their sound is a bit dystopian, but not so much so that the radio rock masses won’t be able to appreciate. Their sound, at first listen, reminds me a bit old-school Skillet. Could this band bring the industrial sound back to the mainstream? This approach doesn’t need to be niche. The powerhouse vocals prove that, I think.
Rick Moon – This Puerto Rico born and Miami resident lists The Beatles and Animal Collective on his influence list. That’s quite a dichotomy, and it should tell you that he has a heavy appreciation for good old fashioned songwriting and trippy psychedelic experimentation. The end result reminds me a bit of Passion Pit and Matt & Kim. As of publication, Rick is booked to play the upcoming III Points festival, headlined by The Strokes, Wu Tang Clan, Robyn, and Rufus Du Sol. His sometimes tender, sometimes gnarly sound will fit that event well.
Saint of Pine Hills – A few years ago, we had the opportunity to host a Flood City Fest afterparty at Donatos Basement. Cory, the man behind Saint of Pine Hills, was at the time in a band called Beggars, who was on tour with Wind Words (see below on this list). Only one short, earnest, folk song has been released by this project so far, but he earns a spot on our list based on the company he keeps and how much I’ve been seeing this name pop up on my socials. The song ain’t too shabby either.
Soulpax – Not too long ago, I heard someone describe Columbus band MojoFlo as fulfilling a niche of a funk act with powerhouse vocals. Soulpax could very well be the MojoFlo of south Florida. Their sound is fun and upbeat. The hook of the song “Without Reason” is encouraging and an earworm. They look like they’re a fan favorite in the region, and they ought to capitalize on that momentum elsewhere.
Sunstrife – A genre I’ve always had an appreciation for, albiet in limited amounts, is math rock. Mutemath is my favorite band, and Playing to Vapors and Of Two Minds are local favorites of mine. If touring were a thing this summer, I’d love to experience this band in a backyard environment. Oh well. When the weather is cold in Ohio and Coronavirus is past (Lord willing), I might have to catch a flight down to Orlando to live out this fantasy and chillax.
The Spring – This band from the Space Coast is a lot more down to earth in their sound than their region might imply (ba dum ksh). Their newest single, “Elk Lodge” presents a straightforward, sunny indie rock sound great for sitting in the backyard enjoying a beverage of choice, no matter which part of the country you live in. Spotify stats indicate that this band is on the rise, and I’d volunteer this single for alternative radio.
Treis – When I listen to this band the word that comes to mind is “smooth!” Yes, with an exclamation point! They describe their sound as “suburban funk,” which is what I’d imagine might happen if you combined the stylings and vocals of Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers with a pop act like Nightly or Phangs. The resulting sound is incredibly lush and full without there being too much going on. It has a very “night on the town” feel. The latest single, “Midnight Wine,” is a good one.
TWYN – All of these slick bands are making me want to take a trip to Miami so badly! Add TWYN, a jazztronica act, to the list. “Cast Me Out” is a deceptively complex song that feels simple, but when you really pay attention there’s so many little elements coming together in just the right fashion that I have a difficult time knowing what to draw attention to. I’ll just leave you with this little tidbit—one half of the duo has been nominated for multiple Latin Grammys.
Virginity – Two quick things. First, this is the best name for a pop punk band I’ve ever heard. Second, if you’re a long time follower of Tuned Up, listen to Virginity and then listen to defunct Ohio act Ohio On Hi and tell me what you think. Well, I lied. I guess I have more than two things to say about this band! Their new EP Death to the Party is out now via Wiretap Records and one of its central themes is anxiety—something we all can probably relate to right now. These dudes are no strangers to the scene, but with the release of this EP they seem poised for new success.
Wild Pines – This cinematic project comes across like an emo-influenced Tycho. Reading his influences reads like a list of my favorite artists from the past 3 years; The Night Game, The Midnight, The 1975, The War On Drugs. I’d add Come Wind to that list. I’m not sure what the future holds for this Gainesville musician, but it appears he’s been doing all the right things to make a name for himself regionally. I’d love to see him pair up with a visual artist and develop a full stage production.
Wind Words – Michael Rosado might be one of nicest and most slept on songwriters on the DIY touring circuit right now. One of my favorite moments of Audiofeed 2019 was getting to see him perform some impromptu songs during Kevin Schlereth’s set and lead everyone in worship. He cares deeply about his community, both close to home and far away, and he ought to be reaping some dividends pretty soon. Even if you’re not the spiritual type, you’ll be drawn in by the genuine nature of his performances.
Woolbright – When a band in a random FL town has less than 2,000 followers on Facebook, yet 20 of them are movers and shakers in your Ohio city that you trust, you pay attention. Such is the case with indie darlings Woolbright. Their sound is earnest, endearing, and a little rough around the edges. It’s that honest quality that I believe is drawing people toward them. NPR, Pitchfork—take notice now. Also, their singer Candace did a live stream via the Facebook page of the legendary THE FEST, where she performed in her bathtub, which is pretty awesome, if you ask us.
Years Off My Life – In the band’s own words, they’re an “emotive hardcore” band based in Orlando. They recommend their sound for fans of The Ghost Inside, Underoath, and Beartooth. Listening to their recent single, “In Motion,” I can certainly hear all of those influences, but the feeling I receive is both nostalgic and “none of the above.” I’d like to see these guys on a tour package that involves Beartooth and Silent Planet. Can you imagine an onstage collab during Silent Planet’s latest banger “Trilogy?” Chills, man. In fact, the more I listen to this band, the more I feel the vocals are a dead ringer for Garrett Russell. Also—anyone remember the band Burden of a Day? There’s another reference for ya.
Youth Antics – Okay, this is going to drive me nuts. The vocals sound so familiar! But I can’t place who they remind me of. Oh well, no matter. Was that a ruse to get you to listen? Maybe it was, and maybe it wasn’t. That isn’t for me to say. There’s a healthy balance of grit and polish to this pop rock band based in Bradenton. Also, I have to shout out their acknowledgement of INXS as one of their influences. Undoubtedly, many modern pop rock acts pay homage unknowingly to that band, and “Need You Tonight” was my jam when I was a kid.
Follow our playlist of the featured acts below: