Bands to Watch – Where Are They Now? [Part 1]

By Ryan G

I don’t really have an eloquent introduction here. We think you might be curious about what some artists we’ve chosen in Artist/Band to Watch features past are up to today. This is part 1 of our attempt to chronicle some of those folks. Enjoy! There’s still plenty to discover! -RG

.boy (Henry Blaeser, Ohio Bands to Watch 2020)

Joel Henry Blaeser, originally of the psych rock collective Turtle Island, sure has been up to a lot in the years we’ve known him. Following that, he has gone off on his own in the Tycho-esque solo electronic project under his own name Henry Blaeser, and now he’s one half the psych/electronic pop duo .boy (the other half is Roger Phelps).

Last year, .boy released the effervescent August EP and followed up with a myriad of remixes. The latest, a Noosa remix of “Bowie,” holds a special spot in the .boy canon, being a sort of full circle moment for the duo. Noosa was a regular artist spun on Roger Phelps’ college radio station back in the day; five years later, they’re collaborators.

Indie kids and rave lovers will like this project.

81355 (Sirius Blvck, Indiana Bands to Watch 2020)

Last year, our biggest advocate for Indy music, Topher Parks, penned a very thorough list of rising acts in the Hoosier state and since then Blvck has been a regular in Indy features on this blog. Little did I (Ryan) know, Sirius Blvck had another thing coming—a new collaboration with David Moose Adamson and Oreo Jones called 81355, pronounced “Bless.” The project will be dropping their debut LP via the 37d03d label, founded by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and The National’s Bryce and Aaron Dessner.

This act has received some major press; no surprise there. I’m a bit shocked I haven’t seen their name pop up on a major festival lineup yet, but no sweat; the year is still young.

As cliché as it sounds, the genre is impossible to define. To call this act an “experimental hip-hop trio” feels inadequate. I just know its smooth, layered, and enjoyable. And isn’t that all we’re looking for, anyway? I will mention that this act feels like a distant relative of Polyenso.

Alaina Cross (Nashville Bands to Watch, 2017)

Alaina Cross is everywhere.

The pop songstress is emerging as a queen of the sync world in Nashville. Notably, Batwoman on the CW picked up her single “Go To Work,” a collaboration with VYCEROY in the season premiere. Also, Alaina can be heard singing in a recent promo for a Yankees/Mets game—doesn’t get much more all American than that.

Expect many more singles to come from the singer. I particularly enjoy “Go to Work” as a song that on paper is a hardly a surprise song for TV placement, yet feels fresh and fun enough to get my attention, amongst many peers trying to accomplish the same thing. Her late 2020 single “Leave It On the Dance Floor” brings to mind a dive punk bar in the 80s… as much as someone who wasn’t really alive in the 80s can picture it!

Beyond Here (Nashville Bands to Watch, 2020)

Many bands chose to wait for the pandemic to pass before releasing music—but not Beyond Here. Discontent to sit still, they roared into 2021 with an EP, appropriately titled New Dangers. Straightforward rock and roll was the name of the game, here. “Go There” was a fist pump–worthy single that we enjoyed last year.

Just over 3 months later, the band is back in the studio recording their follow up EP. This one will be titled Imposter. Look for the band playing out where possible and pushing their releases hard on the interwebs throughout the balance of the year.

Bird & Byron (LA Bands to Watch, 2020)

Bird & Byron have had a busy quarantine.

The duo aspire to open for soul rock groups like Black Pumas and Saint Paul & the Broken Bones on tour. This might be possible in the not terribly distant future if they stay on their current track.

Since our LA Bands to Watch feature, the duo have done a lot of songwriting, including with an EDM artist named Shipwreck.

In recent months they’ve found traction on Tik Tok—a popular quarantine method of self promo for many. Notably, each week they’ve been doing something called One Take Tuesdays; coming up with a song on the spot and recording it in one take. Then, they release it into the wild via a short Tik Tok clip, imperfections and all.

As of the time of this post, the band recently wrapped up recording for their forthcoming release. They are working with Andrija Tokic in Nashville, known for his work with Alabama Shakes. They are also confirmed to play WonderBus alongside Wilco, GROUPLOVE, Black Pumas, and many more. Fitting, given their tour wish list.

Charlotte Sands (Nashville Bands to Watch, 2020)

Watching Charlotte Sands’ growth over the past year has been thrilling to say the least.

We were first introduced to the Nashville pop starling at The Cowan, a venue attached to a TopGolf in Nashville. She opened for Tiger Drive, playing a chill set of stripped down pop tunes. Her distinct brand of bops evolved, and she found fame on Tik Tok when she posted a demo for “Dress,” a homage to Harry Styles that blew up. The single now has millions of listens on Spotify, and the follow up single “Special,” an angry pop punk banger about love lost, is another side of Sands that begs for airplay at max volume.

“Special” is probably my favorite release from her so far—it’s great as an outlet to blow off steam to and as a dose of honesty.

Hoity-Toity (LA Bands to Watch, 2020)

What is there to say about Hoity-Toity, except that they’re one of the bands that has owned DIY music social media since lockdown in all the right ways?

We already knew the music was good and catchy. But they proved to the world that they’re fun, approachable, and care about people when it counts—and not in a performative way. A viral video on Tik Tok by chance only further catapulted the LA quartet’s momentum.

They also released one of the best produced lockdown livestreams by an independent act that I’ve seen.

Finally—I will reiterate something I posted on Twitter; a tour with Snarls, Hoity-Toity, and Jetty Bones would be a dream lineup.

Idle Threat (Nashville Bands to Watch, 2017)

I could sum up Idle Threat’s progress in one sentence and have it be mostly satisfactory. Last year, they released their debut EP on Tooth and Nail Records. They’re a signed act now, sharing a legacy with many acts they’ve undoubtedly looked up to.

Their popular DIY event, ThreatFest, is on hold for obvious reasons, but suffice to say there are still numerous reasons to keep this band one to watch. Recently, they dropped the music video for “Cement,” which you can view below.

Jared Marc / Arlo Jax (Graceful Closure Ohio Bands to Watch 2016, Euvoia Ohio Bands to Watch 2020)

It’s hard to keep up with everything our longtime pal Jared Condon is up to.

After putting his original inspirational alt-project Graceful Closure to rest and experimenting with a mysterious alter-ego in Euvoia, Condon has dove full-steam into making arena and TV ready bops as just his “what you see is what you get” fun self, in Jared Marc. And, the instrumental stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else is released under the moniker Arlo Jax, taken from the middle names of his kids.

All of this happens while Jared plays keys in CCM pop act Austin French’s band. Shoot, I feel tired after typing that! What a prolific artist.

Check out his latest release, Villain – a 7 song EP.

This artist might be more familiar to you than you think. Fairly recently, his song “We’re Gonna Make It” could be heard on an episode of Shark Tank. I wonder if Mr. Wonderful has Jared on his playlist now.

Meet Me @ The Altar (Florida Bands to Watch 2020)

This band almost doesn’t need an introduction. One of the biggest success stories on our list belongs to Florida pop punk trio Meet Me @ the Altar, who inked a deal with Fueled by Ramen and plan to be one of the biggest acts in the world. Some artists are allowed to say cocky things, and MM@TA is one of them! “Garden” absolutely slaps.

Recently, the band released a follow up single, “Hit Like a Girl.” The phrase that was an insult back in the day has been flipped on its head. It slaps too. And when the band says they believe they can be one of the biggest acts in the world, you can’t really fault them for saying so.

Night Darling (LA Bands to Watch, 2020)

When we first picked up on Night Darling being a band to watch, they hadn’t released any music yet. I was scrolling through Instagram looking for groups that appeared to be on to something. A live performance clip and a mysterious feed were all it took to sell me.

One year later, the dream-folk-indie-gaze-whatever group has released four songs. Or, if you want to simplify it—they’re a mix of pop and darkwave. An album is on the way. They can’t wait to continue to reveal their “bizarro world” and in their words, “Expect tons of visual content and an album from us, whatever else happens is a glorious mystery we can’t wait to unfold.”

For now, dive into their 4 songs they have floating out in the wild.

Quiet Entertainer (Tennessee Bands to Watch, 2016)

This project, the alter-ego of Nashville based Greg Freeman, has in practice been a “little engine that could” amongst his ambient and electronica counterparts.

Known for his kinship with MUTEMATH, Quiet Entertainer functions as a down to earth idea, meshed in experimentation and collaboration. In this spirit Quiet Entertainer plans on two releases this year. One is more hip hop leaning. The other leans heavy into the electronica followers of his are familiar with.

Look for a song with James Tate dropping soon.

I’ll be looking forward to his next orchestral collaboration or gadget invention in the meantime.

Wandering Stars (Ohio Bands to Watch, 2020)

This industrial project is one of the most prolific that I’ve ever featured on this site. If there’s a person out there who would win the award for the best happy medium between shameless self promotion and staying quietly in the background, Wandering Stars’ Derek Christopher would undoubtedly be the recipient.

There’s been a lot going on in the Wandering Stars world since our initial post. There are at least 2 unreleased albums in the works (that I’m aware of). I will say that I’ve heard one of them and it would have made at least my personal top 10 of 2020 had it be released that year. They’ve been getting radio play in Australia. And, most recently, “Star Na Die See” off the Somnambule record has been picked up by radio in Norway. Yes, Norway.

In addition to nonstop work with Wandering Stars, the group is involved with The Joy Thieves, a worldwide collaboration that has involved members of Minsitry, KMFDM, PiG, and others.

Derek Christopher has been involved with the production of new music from Cherimondis J, a neo-classical genre fusion artist who made our Ohio Artists to Watch, for 2021.

Last but not least, there’s a score involving a noir film Wandering Stars is involved with. How mysterious!

Yabé (KiND, Tennessee Bands to Watch 2016)

Photo by @ryansmallhands [IG]

I’m a little sheepish to admit I didn’t realize that former KiND frontman Grabahm Vitek didn’t have a new electronic outlet in Yabé until very recently. KiND were a Tuned Up favorite at SXSW 2016 and even played a Tuned Up showcase in Columbus later that year with Fever Fever, Year of the Buffalo, and Beyond Pluto at the famed CD929 (then CD1025) Big Room.

In summer of last year, Yabé released an EP titled Makes You Feel, and just recently followed it up with “Sensi,” which is reportedly inspired by Japanese art and architecture. Yabé leaves behind his mathy indie pop in favor of straight-up house music. In a post Vitek notes his habit of sleeping overnight in the studio during the recording process so he could tap into that lucid dream state when the moment struck.

You can get a sense for what makes Vitek tick by checking out his personal Instagram @dojo.mod which highlights forays into architecture, design, and real estate brokerage.

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