6 Athens Bands You Should Know
With the City Series, TIDAL investigates the local music scenes of U.S. cities. Enlisting the expertise of a locally-based music writer, we explore the past, present and future of music in each town. In this feature, Gabe Vodicka picks out six hot Athens acts you need to hear.
The last decade has seen a more inclusive spirit emerge in Athens music, as a massive dose of DIY energy has been injected into the downtown club scene.
Thanks to the work of certain promoters and musicians, bands and genres that were once relegated to word-of-mouth house shows and scrappy warehouse parties are now playing some of the most prominent stages in town.
The injection of punk energy into a staid status quo has arguably benefited all sides. Well-established local musicians have been visibly re-energized by creating alongside young, headstrong artists, while those artists have in turn been educated and inspired.
And though there is an ongoing debate about the town’s live-music economy—spurred by a rise in donations-based or no-cover shows—this free-flowing exchange of art and ideas has revived local venues’ reputations as true centers of creative commerce.
Below, representing this freewheeling spirit, are some of the new (and newish) Athens bands you should know:
Blending the fiery fury of early-‘80s hardcore with the trained restraint of Krautrock and post-punk, Athens five-piece Muuy Biien has quickly and decisively plowed its way to the top of Athens’ music scene.
The young band has earned high marks from local and national press for its two impressive full-lengths, 2012’s scrappy This Is What Your Mind Imagines and 2014’s slightly more polished D.Y.I.
They continue to win converts in Athens and elsewhere with their fierce live shows, which are anchored by frontman Josh Evans’ steely stage presence and snappish vocals.
Little Gold, an offshoot of Brooklyn buzz band Woods, began several years ago in New York City, but songwriter Christian DeRoeck set up camp in Athens in 2012.
His project has since enjoyed a fruitful second act, becoming a fast favorite on the local live scene and releasing the stellar Spectral Sight LP in 2014.
The band’s rowdy, restless garage-rock is tinged with subtle hints of country and power-pop, a sort of reckless but captivating rock and roll patchwork rich with both heart and melody.
Though Athens artist and musician Kristine Leschper has yet to release a proper album, her Mothers project has already inspired praise from some influential names in music—after happening upon a Mothers performance in early 2014, acclaimed indie-folk troubadour Howe Gelb invited Leschper to join him for the second show of his two-night stand at Athens’ Normaltown Hall.
Mothers’ music is tough and tender, centered around Leschper’s mournful vocals and sparse, sure-footed guitar and mandolin playing. Though she has occasionally incorporated other musicians into her sets, Leschper’s solo performances are riveting.
Mothers’ first full-length is reportedly nearing completion and should be available in the next few months. Keep an eye out.
murk daddy flex
When Terence Chiyezhan isn’t playing a mean six-string with Athens-based screamo standouts Nurture, you can find him crafting expansive, organic lo-fi beatscapes as murk daddy flex.
The project sprang onto the scene in late 2012, when a series of immersive, DJ Shadow-esque instrumental compilations Chiyezhan had posted to Bandcamp began to gather buzz around town. In summer 2013, murk daddy flex released MDF, his incredible first full-length.
Chiyezhan followed that up last year with Genesis, a sleeker outing (though it was still recorded and sequenced entirely on Audacity) that, along with an instantly legendary AthFest set, solidified his reputation as one of the most inventive producers and performers in town.
Ruby the RabbitFoot
True to her band’s name, Ruby Kendrick had a charmed 2014.
You might have caught the Athens singer-songwriter holding hands with Macklemore in the music video for Fences’ “Arrows.” Meanwhile, her group’s sophomore effort—and first for New West imprint Normaltown Records—New As Dew proved a real pleasure.
The album, with its no-frills pop-rock approach, is musically assured and lyrically intricate. It’s warm and fuzzy on the surface, though Kendrick’s wit shines through in opportune moments, like the biting couplet that opens single “Ways.”
One of the most exciting bands to emerge from Athens over the past few years, free-pop trio Shade expertly blends avant-garde melodies with propulsive rhythms and tangled guitar patterns while still somehow making it palatable for the average listener.
The group’s debut album, Pipe Dream, was released in 2014 and captures the magic of Shade’s sublime live show, where frontwoman Phelan LaVelle leads the band through a maze of high-octane, head-nodding future-rock.
In some ways Shade is the typical Athens band: self-made, fully involved, effortlessly cool and incredibly hard to categorize.
Gabe Vodicka is the music editor at Flagpole, the Athens, GA alternative weekly newspaper. He has contributed writing to publications that include Tiny Mix Tapes, Creative Loafing and The Portland Mercury. He plays guitar, cooks, drinks beer and lives in Athens with a wonderful wife and two temperamental cats.
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