MUSIC: The Next Best Thing (Part 1)

Written by Scott Manning on . Posted in Local, Music

Thanks to the recent stammering success of Provo-based Neon Trees, our town has gotten a bit more attention. Not much, but a bit.

The Trees have exploded on the national music scene well enough to have scored appearances on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live, toured with The Killers, 30 Seconds to Mars and Mutemath, and had their single “Animal” placed on Billboard’s Hot 100… and much more. I’m sure there are plenty of fans of theirs that are reading this and are mentally listing all their major accomplishments I’ve missed.

But this article isn’t about Neon Trees.  It’s about what we have coming next.

Because of them, Provo may be getting a different eye from the music industry — and we just so happen to have a couple good things in the mix to surprise them with. As some of you know, several bands based (or at least at one time based) out of Utah County made it into this years SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, one of the biggest annual festivals in the nation. Music from other local bands has been heard on MTV and other network television shows — and if you think we’ve exhausted our resources, you’re simply out of your mind.

At one time I was convinced that our town was one of the weaker music scenes in the States, but compared percentage-wise to other larger cities, we’ve got a pretty good track record so far. So, for your information, I’ve compiled a couple interviews with bands that have dug their feet into the rocky ground of the music industry and are ready to show the world what they’ve got.

More than a couple of these bands have already been featured by Rhombus, of course, but before you complain and post your disdainful commentary below, know that this is not another album or concert review — this is a compendium of some noteworthy acts whose names you’re most likely to see around soon in more magazines than this one.

Mudbison
Their name bound to be bigger than the animal it refers to, Mudbison has made some pretty big leaps recently. Spencer Russell –brother of Columbia-signed folk artist Isaac Russell — has been working his arse off on getting things in line, such as recording/mixing/mastering, pumping out music videos, and trying to get a tour off the ground. All the hard work is paying off though, as is evident by conducting a simple YouTube search and finding that the band’s very newly added videos have already garnered over 5,000 views collectively. It’d be my guess that not all of those are just from Provo either.

Upon being asked what drives him to keep working at his music career, Russell replies, “Maybe it’s teaching people morals I’ve learned through the stories I write. Maybe it’s my love for writing a tune that gives people chills. It’s probably both. Aesthetic pleasure is something I love to give, and this is the best way, I guess.”

Style: Indie pop, singer/songwriter
Sounds like: Badly Drawn Boy meets Sufjan Stevens meets Beck
Likely labels to see them on:
Asthmatic Kitty, XL Recordings, Sub Pop Records
Strongest weapon: A killer album, Russell’s ingenious songwriting ability
Biggest accomplishment: Their unique sound
Network/Connections: With a brother signed to Columbia Records and a father deeply ingrained in the film industry, Russell is likely to get his band’s music into good hands.

Imagine Dragons
I don’t know of any band that has received a quicker hype than these guys. Coming out of a victory at BYU’s Battle of the Bands in late 2009, they had achieved “Provo fame” within a few short months and began packing Velour and other venues/events to the brim shortly thereafter. After a move to Las Vegas and a couple lineup changes, ID is now the fastest growing band in Sin City — but they still aren’t content.

Lately they’ve been hitting areas nearby like L.A., Phoenix and San Francisco, all while maintaining their huge fan base here in Utah. Don’t think for a second that Imagine Dragons will fall by the wayside — you’ll soon be seeing their records everywhere you look.

Style: Indie pop/rock
Sounds like:
The Killers thrown back to a Tears for Fears/Depeche Mode concert.
Likely labels: Warner Music Group, EMI
Strongest weapon: A plethora of involved fans.
Biggest accomplishment: Showcased at SXSW 2010, shared stage with Blue October, Jet, Kelly Clarkson, Presidents of the U.S., and more.
Network/Connections: Friends — and relatives — in high places.

Eyes Lips Eyes
Having just a couple days ago changed their name from ER (which had been changed from Elizabethan Report), Eyes Lips Eyes has been cooking what you’ve been smelling. After playing a couple shows with these guys, I can attest to the level of professionalism and skill they have — things that undoubtedly will help them achieve their goal of making music their sole income. That’s what influenced their decision to move to L.A. last summer, and what continues to push them now as they have raised their marketing to a whole new level.

Spencer, the band’s guitarist, gives this piece of advice to other bands that are trying to make a living out of music: “In the end, the stuff that works the best is the stuff that no one has tried yet. So being willing to venture out and take some risks with promotion ends up paying off in the end. Once people catch up, though, you have to find something new.”

Style: Dance rock, indie/alternative
Sounds like: Interpol gets in a food fight with Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Likely labels: EMI, Warner Bros., Matador Records
Strongest weapon: Their stage energy coupled with their promoting energy.
Biggest accomplishment: Shows with The Raconteurs, Spoon, The Black Keys, Bob Dylan, and releasing two albums.
Network/Connections: Have found good friends while in LA, but no shew-ins — They’ve succeeded through blood, sweat and tears alone.

Stay tuned for some more bands to be featured in this 3-part series.

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