Ohio artists to watch – 2019 edition

By Ryan G

We skipped 2018 (oops) but we’re back in 2019. There’s definitely a hometown bias at play here, but we think our state is full of movers and shakers. Take a good look at this list. I’m sure we missed a bunch, but that’s the beauty of living in a world with so much talent. Use this page as a jump off point for your musical exploration. Oh, and you can find several of these artists performing at our Steadfast 2019 festivities this year. Click here for more info.

Photo credit: Payne Productions

A Decade Apart: These dudes are set to melt your face off and be everyone’s big brothers at the same time. There’s something very down to earth and almost wholesome about these guys, hidden behind all the polished loud rock. They have their sights set high, and with the right eyes and ears on them they could go far. -RG

American Spirits: The emo-alternative band from Bowling Green, OH have constantly been on my radar for the past couple of years, so for that alone they deserve some recognition effective self-promo. They have a sound that is nostalgic and introspective. I’d like to see them on a bill with Something Else (also on this list). -RG

Better Anyway: This Springfield pop-punk group played their first show just a few short months ago and a few days after that released their debut EP, Reflections. An EP that over the last month of 2018 was constantly in play for me. They are part of this new wave of pop punk that has taken cues from Knuckle Puck, Neck Deep, and bands of the like. This is a band that I am curious to see what they can do. They very well could put Springfield, OH on the map. -RM

Black Coffee: I’m in Florida and I feel the need to go to an outdoor music festival. I feel that Black Coffee would fit just about any festival environment, as long as the sun is out. Throwback rock and roll for both the hair metal dads and the young rock hipsters. They are performing at Sonic Temple Festival and I’m very excited to see them. -RG

The Blue Winter: This Americana influenced project from New Philidephia is cinematic and down to earth all at once. It isn’t the main songwriter’s first foray into the scene, but we’ll address that by not addressing it. The sweeping “Alive” is a fitting counterpart to the earthy “Up on the Stage,” which seems to take the road less traveled. -RG

Graphic credit: Omnigraphicon

Brave the Sea: Fun, whiskey, loud, and fast are words that come to mind when I think about this Newark, OH Celtic rock band. If any of those words above standout to you, then this band is for you. The energy that this act possess is off the chart. Trust me you will enjoy yourself at a Brave the Sea show. They recently finished recording their second full-length, so be on the look for that. -RM

Colly: Want some breezy, summery pop rock? Here you are! We had the privilege of hosting these guys twice on pop shows – once with Phangs and once with DBMK and Sleeptalk. They wasted no time hitting the road after forming, and have already played most of the continental US. -RG

Cousin Simple: These guys won GrooveU’s InstaBand contest last year (a battle of the bands of sorts put on by music business college GrooveU – the winner gets a recording contract from the college). Local mover and shaker April Kulscar turned to me at that show and remarked that “that kid is a star”, referring to frontman Harsh Hoag. I think you’re right, April. In the year and a half (roughly) since then, they’ve established themselves as a local powerhouse in Columbus and don’t appear to be slowing down. -RG

Crooked Spines: This dream pop band is reminiscent of Real Estate, but with a dash of melancholy. I’ll bring out my wannabe synesthete here and say that the guitars feel like they’re eminating hues of pastel colors – and make me feel like I’m floating. Crooked Spines already seem to have the attention of some movers and shakers – they make an appearance at Yellow Springs’ Springsfest alongside Deerhunter and more. -RG

Dark Spring: This band caught my attention last month sometime. I noticed a friend on twitter was constantly tweeting about them. We all have one or two bands that we are really passionate about that we tweet about all the time, well this is hers. So I finally decided to check them out and I instantly was a fan. When people talk about this emo revival, this Cleveland band should be mentioned in the same breath. And they have already shared the stage with the likes of Knuckle Puck, Jetty Bones, Homesafe, The Hotelier, Wicca Phrase Springs Eternal, and more. This is a band that is primed to make some noise in 2019. -RM

Photo credit: Lily Pearl McLaughlin

Del & the Wave: This band plays a brand of feel-good indie rock that isn’t too far off from the pop punk realm. Del & the Wave are paving their own way, and have been doing some regional touring. They already had built up a bit of a resume by the time I came across them, and their hustle and friendly demeanor will definitely take them far. -RG

Effee: For the time being Tuned Up favorites Kid Runner seem to be taking a breather. That doesn’t mean their members are individually, though. Enter Fran Litterski. Effee is the pop alias of Fran, and it has some of the upbeat synth tones brought to the table Kid Runner showcases so well. Indeed, many of the songs sound like long lost cousins to Kid Runner material. Related, but their own identity all the same. -RG

En Love: The reason for our inclusion of En Love on this list is very simple. They have a powerhouse pedigree of hardcore musicians. Former members of Due Gloom, Carev Dvor, and current members of Good Enough (elsewhere on this list) make up this collective. The music is PISSED. In fact, for emphasis, I deleted ‘pissed’ and retyped it in all caps. -RG

Forever Unknown: Since I’ve become older I have taken to the saying, “youth is wasted on the young”. Well this isn’t always the case, of course. It is not the case for these high schoolers, Forever Unknown. This alt-rock band is quickly making a name for themselves locally.  In the past 5 months they have shared the stage with We Are the Movies, Nightbeast, Something Else, Grasmere, and Hello Luna. All are masters of their craft, so for these teenagers to be able to play with bands of that caliber is only going to pay off for them. This band is already scary good, so imagine what they are going to sound like in a few years. The world is truly their playground. -RM

The Forty: Yes, our own podcast host is in this band. But, America needs some 90s alternative now. The Jimmy Eat World / Third Eye Blind co-headliner this summer is poised to be one of the biggest tours of the year, and might we propose an opener? The Forty. I get “Purple Dress (That Way)” stuck in my head on a regular basis. -RG

Girl Fox: These guys relocated from Marion to Columbus to try to make a name for themselves. The mere fact that they moved to Columbus instead of another more established music city says loads about the robust nature of our scene. Anyway, we were honored to have them on Steadfast 2018 and the hustle of this Interpol/The Strokes inspired alt band shows.  -RG

Ghost Soul Trio: A local trio with heavy influence from Radiohead and Mutemath? Count me in, bro. They’re into making creative music videos too. This simplistic attempt at introducing you to this band doesn’t really do their sound justice – I just would advise that you see them live ASAP. Oh, and by the way they opened for THE Darren King last year. -RG

Good Enough: These guys are reinventing their sound, mixing post hardcore with shoe gaze and a bit of sludge. Nick Reed (formerly of Beartooth) fronts the act, and you can expect them to have ears ringing in venues all across the midwest in the near future. -RG

Grasmere: While this name may not be familiar to some of you, their older name may. They use to go by Second Story Anthem. While SSA was a pop-punk band, Grasmere leans more towards alt-rock. And this very well maybe the change they needed to get to that next level. Their latest EP at times sounds like The Wonder Year and the next Angels and Airwaves. They are letting their influences show on this record. -RM

Harmless Habit: My favorite interaction with this band will forever be running into them at SXSW. I spotted guitarist Jon Suh on Dirty 6th and asked him “did you ever play in a band called Hollywood Red?” He sputtered “Holy f*ck!” and then gestured to his bandmates, saying “Say that again!” That attitude pretty much describes their music. -RG

Hope Dealers: These guys I heard about when they submitted to Steadfast Festival. Sadly they didn’t get into the fest (we had over 150 bands submit! Whoa!) but their brand of catchy hip-hop meets funky rock and roll really tickled the ears of this writer. Per their Facebook profile 2018 was a rough year, but they hope to hit the ground running henceforth. -RG

In Winds: This is the new solo project of Dan Amaro, formerly of The Major Minor, a pop-punk band from Michigan. So why is Dan on this list? He recently relocated to Columbus, and he instantly started on this project and has inserted himself onto the local pop-punk scene with his brand of acoustic pop-punk. He recently announced his first tour as In Winds. He will be on the road for most of March supporting Fates Got a Driver, the new band of former Taking Back Sunday guitarist Eddie Reyes. So I’d say Amaro’s new project is off to a good start. -RM

Joey Aich: Joey is already an accomplished hip-hop artist in his own right, but as of recent he has been making waves as a part of the new project Carried by 6, a collaboration that includes an all-star lineup of Columbus producers and emcees—including Sarob, who guested on the Tuned Up Podcast last year. His brand of hip-hop is simultaneously contemplative and matter of fact. Plus, it has that “vibe out” quality that I love. -RG

Kali Dreamer: This hip-hop artist makes our list from the buzz I’ve been seeing in my local music circles. As someone who isn’t as plugged into to the hip-hop scene as I’d like to be, you had better believe that when a name does cross my radar I take notice. Kali Dreamer comes across as a down-to-earth individual, but his tracks are adventurous and have an almost psychedelic quality to them. I see him post on the regular about exploring other genres, like shoegaze. Artists like Nothing,Nowhere have been pioneering the intersection of hip-hop and emo; perhaps there’s another niche for Kali Dreamer to fill? -RG

Ledges: We reviewed this group’s debut full length for good reason. It’s not often you run into a group that draws influence from bands like From Indian Lakes and The War on Drugs and is taken out on the road with powerhouses like Kings Kaleidoscope. This band also makes me feel like I’m floating but with a bit more “oomph.” -RG

Life in Idle: One would think by their fan base and how often these guys play Columbus that they would be from here, but they aren’t. They are actually from Kettering, OH. They have become part of the Columbus pop-punk scene, and I love it. I had the pleasure of watching them grow over the past few years, and it has been a thing of beauty. And the scary part about is they are only going to get better, as they are in their early 20s. If you don’t believe me just go watch the video of Ryan Key from Yellowcard talking about them. -RM

Lily in the Weeds: This isn’t the first time you’ve seen this name on the blog and probably won’t be the last. I described a pop artist recently as having the right balance of class and badassery. The same applies to Lily in the Weeds. The blues-rock group is looking to melt faces across the Midwest in the coming year—and hopefully go further. -RG

Mistar Anderson: Over the past few years, I’ve developed a soft spot for hip-hop with crossover into the jazz and electronic realms. Two different directions. Yet, they have a similar feeling for me. Mistar Anderson eschews backtracks in favor of organic instrumentation, yet they would fit seamlessly on a bill with some favorites of mine like Bonelang or Until the Ribbon Breaks. They’ve been doing some touring here and there and have become a force in the Columbus scene. -RG

Motherfolk: These guys aren’t exactly new. But they did sell out a 200-capacity room in Columbus the night I typed this. They gel well with both feel-good and pensive indie rock. And their brandname is a pun for well… you know. What’s not to like? A friend of ours has already suggested them for Steadfast 2020… -RG

The Nautical Theme: I feel like I’m predisposed to like this band because I like names that have… erm, a nautical theme. In all seriousness though, I first heard about this duo from Andy Ingram, who quietly runs a quality indie label called Poptek Records. The duo’s folk/americana sound is memorable and lush. They have an impressive touring resume from previous projects. (Again) what’s not to like? -RG

Niights: This band is about to head out on tour with Tuned Up favorites The Cordial Sins—it’s easy to hear why. Their jangly shoegaze sound is reminiscent of a peppier Alvvays. They are airy and dreamy yet driving. Niights are neither aggressive nor passive. The music is confidently ethereal. They would do great on a future edition of Steadfast Festival. -RG

Of Two Minds: This math-rock collective features members from a variety of music backgrounds. Notably, drummer Matthew Bonder shares duties with BLVK SWVN and The Lost Boys Collective—two bands more known for their presence in punk/heavy music. Of Two Minds brings a math-rock sound to the table inspired by Chon—accessible yet rhythmically complex. -RG

OLDE FRNDS: It’s hard to place a label on this rising Columbus collective. Funk? Jazz? Math rock? Improvisational? If you answered “all of the above” (who knew this was a quiz?), then you would be correct. Bands on the jammier side of the spectrum always seem to thrive in Ohio. I can’t see why Olde Frnds would be any different. Plus, having Will Ong of SRVVLST fame on the skins is a recipe for success. -RG

The Ophelias: Columbus always seems to be overlooked at SXSW in favor of Cincinnati. But, when you have groups like The Ophelias emerging out of Cincy’s robust indie scene, can you really blame those curators? The band makes a down-to-earth brand of quirky folk pop. I’d like to see this band play at the Madden Road Music Festival this year (look it up). -RG

Photo credit: Ross Theissen

Overgrow: 2018 was the year that Overgrow broke out. 2019 is the year they takeover. Overgrow started as a solo project by Jake Ciccotelli that morphed into a full band of sorts. He still plays solo shows but when he tours he takes a full band. Anyways, his first release was last year, and it quickly made waves in the emo/indie world. I remember the day it was re-released by Common Ground Records, that’s all my Twitter feed was. And I was floored. If you like your music full of honesty and raw emotions, then you should check this out, because Overgrow is on the cusp of something great. -RM

Paper Lung: This is a band I came to know of a few years back when they played a show with Absolute Hero. Before that night I had never heard of them, so I didn’t know what to expect. I left a fan. Keegan Montgomery is one of the best songwriters/singers in all of Columbus, and one day people will know that. I’ve had the pleasure of watching this Columbus rock band grow into something special. In just the few years I’ve known them, they have grown so much. And the scary aspect is, they are young. So we haven’t seen anything yet. -RM

Poetic Descent: These guys haven’t played very many shows yet, and they’re already beginning to chart on the radio, alongside some industry heavyweights like Thrice and Skillet. This is the new project of Jared Lacey from Mayfly, a hard rock outfit that helped Tuned Up cut our teeth on the indie realm of heavy music outside of Columbus. It hits hard but still ought to have a fairly wide appeal. -RG

Pray For Sleep: This band is polished, down-to-earth, and fun. Also loud. I’m a little bummed that the only time I’ve seen them was the last show with their vocalist at the time. Yet, I have to say that they have what might be my favorite origin story of a band—missing their high school graduation to perform at Rock on the Range (now Sonic Temple Festival) for their second performance ever. This metalcore band is ready to take the Midwest by storm. -RG

Pray Tell: A couple of years ago, we featured Cleveland’s LEAV/E/ARTH as one of our Ohio Bands to Watch. Now, their vocalist is striking out on her own with an indie-pop project not too far off from PVRIS, from the short clip I’ve heard. I’m also including Pray Tell on this list because of the team she has behind her. Ross Thiessen (who backed groups like Feverwar and Pace of Glaciers) endorses this project, which is significant to me.

RADATTACK: I’m starting to lose count of how many influencers are telling me to pay attention to these guys. They play a distinct brand of don’t-give-a-crap rock that at times sounds apathetic but really isn’t. It sometimes sounds unpolished, but that is deliberate. These guys are young, humble, and fun. Thanks to April Kulscar for beating these guys’ existence into our skulls. Now I’m going to go listen to them and let them beat their existence into my skull some more. -RG

Rafting: This dream-pop influenced project had a single, “Loading Screen,” premiere on STEREOGUM. That’s quite an accomplishment in and of itself. The solo moniker of Dallin Stevenson (ex-Turtle Island) is already starting to tour, and I see him growing with the crowd that gravitates toward ethereal electronic music—i.e. Tycho, Jon Hopkins, Young Magic, Forest Swords. -RG

Red Rose Panic: I had to include this group because you don’t suck and get the impressive resume they have. If I were in Cleveland at the Brite Winter festival today, I’d be checking out their set. They’ve cut their teeth playing shows around Ohio, and last fall they had the opportunity to showcase in LA. Like Mistar Anderson above, they go for the full-band spin on hip-hop. The energy that must be present in their live show definitely comes through in the recording. -RG

Ritual Eulogy: In a past feature, we described Bear Your Cross as a band to watch. Well, they’ve rebranded: they are darker and more aggressive. As often seems to be the case, the bands making the darkest music have the nicest people in it, and Ritual Eulogy is no exception. The release of I Was You, You Will Be Me is proof that RE is on the rise and becoming more polished by the day. -RG

The Roof Dogs: They play a brand of indie rock that would be great at most outdoor festivals and even in a backyard campfire setting. The recordings are the right mix of lo-fi and polish—everything feels deliberate. Man, I wish it was summertime (4 more months)! Regional touring is in their future—a quick glance at their Facebook page reveals shows in Philly, NYC, and DC. They ought to resonate with the indie communities wherever they go. Someone needs to invite BroolynVegan (a prominent NYC blog) to their show! -RG

Saltlick: I’ve never met the namesake of Saltlick, Brianna Snider, in real life, but I have to imagine she’s an easygoing person with a self-deprecating sense of humor. I mean, look at the description of her music in her BandCamp: “apathetic rock.” Saltlick exists in the same family as Many Rooms and Julien Baker but puts out tunes that are bit more driving. -RG

Sam Rothstein: This guy hustles. Not only is he an accomplished hip-hop artist, he also is a local, grassroots promoter. He puts on hip hop-events and also notably a synthwave/vaporwave event, cleverly titled WAVERUNNERS. He is a person to watch as both an artist and a gatekeeper. His hustle emerges in tunes like “Great” which isn’t as self-indulgent as the title might suggest. -RG

Snarls: This group could not have emerged at a more opportune time for their genre. And they’re really good at what they do. They perform with the right mix of sass, attitude, and spunk. Snarls already have some regional touring under their belt, and I suspect it’s only a matter of time before they catch the attention of managers or booking agents of artists like Diet Cig, Whitney, and Snail Mail. -RG

Something Else: I’m not sure what “introspective post-pop” is, but Something Else uses that term to describe their sound. I had a conversation with frontman Aiden Hall at a show last year where he wondered aloud where his band fit in the Columbus scene. Well, they’ve come a long way since then! Their specialty is mid-tempo pensive indie pop rock tunes, so I suppose that descriptor above is pretty on point! Their songwriting ought to appeal to a wide demographic—older rock fans and young pop loving scenesters alike. -RG

The Sonder Bombs: Twitter followers of Absinthe Father (who would absolutely be on this list if they didn’t live in PA now) and This Band F*cks undoubtedly have heard the name of this band by now. This band is peppy, but for some reason the first “bigger” act to come to mind when I listen is Into It. Over It. The songs are driving and at times remind me of Jetty Bones a bit as well. Look for this trio to take over DIY basement spaces everywhere. -RG

Speak Seldom: This new project only has one single out, but they bear paying attention to. I first met one half of this project, Trudy Kurtz, at a Columbus Songwriter’s Association event in the early days of Tuned Up. The other half the duo, Cory Heddleston, appears elsewhere on this list as a member of Ledges. So, you have a powerhouse here. Their first single, “Home,” was recorded at the prolific Revelator Sound studio (Souther, Harmless Habit, etc) and is an effervescent electropop-meets-dreampop journey. -RG

Spirit of the Bear: We keep shouting out this band on this blog and more. In fact, they’re playing the 4th annual Steadfast Festival, our flagship event (get tickets here—shameless plug). What impresses me the most about this band is how they’ve managed to craft a sound that meshes so many different influences together and yet penetrate a scene dominated by indie pop acts. They also have their own festival, Fiction Forest, of which Tuned Up has been a sponsor. So, their curation abilities are just as good as their tunes. -RG

Tango Moms: This band has established itself as an emerging powerhouss of local hustle in the past year. The powerpop band enjoys playing any lineup they can get on—any lineup they can get on. I respect that. The music and image reflect a mix of grit and flashiness. If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on these guys to be the next “household name” in the local music community—up there with Angela Perley, Zoo Trippin’, and Damn the Witch Siren in terms of notoriety. -RG

Telehope: I learned of this Cincinnati group from friend of Tuned Up and Sound Dude, Bob Prenger. That alone ought to tell you a lot if you know him. I got to see them play direct support to 90’s Kids’ last hometown headliner. They have a sound very similar to a lot of their pop-rock counterparts, but at this point it’s anyone’s game for a lot of these bands, and Telehope are making their mark in the very important Ohio market. -RG

The Turbos: This is a band that is good at what they do, and it shows. Their music is infectious as can be and their live show is one that needs to be seen. It took me awhile to see them, and when I finally did I was left in awe. Don’t make the same mistake I did. They also are in the middle of booking their first tour. Soon the rest of the US will know about this Columbus powerhouse. We’ve featured them in a similar feature before, but given their 2019 trajectory, we thought they deserved an encore feature. -RM

Photo credit: Cusano Photography

The Vindys : I’ll be honest ; there are basically two reasons why this band are on this list. First, they appeared on Spirit of the Bear’s Fiction Forest Festival last summer—I trust those guys’ curation abilities, especially after listening to every band on the lineup. Second, they’ve earned the endorsement of a certain Dr. Charles Goddard—a pediatrician who really really loves the music of Meg Myers. Any artist that is capable of breaking his obsession for a moment you should pay attention to! And I’ve seen him post about these folks. They certainly play rock with attitude. -RG

Wait For the Day: One of the most polished metalcore bands in the scene happens to be from right here in Columbus and is already making waves on the radio. That band, of course, is Wait For the Day. This band has landed a spot on regular rotation on the nationally syndicated RadioU as an independent act. They would fit comfortably on a tour package with Demon Hunter, Fit For a King, and even Beartooth. -RG

We Are the Movies: We Are the Movies are a Columbus pop-punk that just keeps getting better. They are like a fine wine. Or maybe they are vampires, but either way this band is showing no signs of slowing down. In 2018 they released an EP that got rave reviews and 2019 is shaping up to be huge for them. If 2000-2006 Drive-Thru records was your poison, then I’ll give these guys a listen. You will without a doubt enjoy the sounds you hear. I also enjoy the fact that they are about enjoying life and being happy. -RM

What If When We Die, We Scatter?: This rock band from Jackson, OH  has been together for over a year and in that time have gone on a few tours and have played many shows throughout the Midwest. They are a workhorse band for sure, and it is starting to pay off. Last year they joined the FBT Entertainment family. The company that is responsible for Sophomore Slump Fest and has helped the careers of bands such as Riviera, Action/Adventure, bloom., and others. WIWWDWS has a 90s alt-rock/college rock sound. And live shows are insane. The future is bright for them. -RM

wyd: I’ve listened to this group a fair amount, and I still have a hard time trying to classify their sound. I won’t use gender, social status, or otherwise to qualify their sound—it just is what it is. They seem to have crafted an image that I would describe as faux-apathy mixed with bright indie sensibility. They have a rigorous touring resume under their belt already. I’m very intrigued by their future. -RG

Zach Frost: Zach is one the hardest working people I have met in the Columbus music scene. I first met him through We Are the Movies. At first I thought he was just friend of the band; nope he is their manager/slash 6th member. And he has managed other acts and does PR. The man stays busy. So when did he have time to record an EP? I’m not sure, but he did, and it’s amazing. I absolutely love that he plays the ukulele as his main instrument throughout the EP. The world needs more ukulele. -RM

90’s Kids: Corey Mouch is a man with a vision. He fronts a band with a defined image, a defined sound, and the drive to make it reach the masses. They recently sold out the 200-capacity Big Room Bar on their first hometown headliner—no small feat for a newer local. Fans of the national indie-pop scene are beginning to take notice, and for good reason. -RG

Here’s a handy dandy playlist where you can find all of the above bands:

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