Recommendations of up-and-coming artists seen at the SXSW festival in Austin
Across from the Hotel Vegas music venue was an outdoor performance by Valley Hush (pictured above) on March 13. I was intrigued by their experimental pop sounds, so I decided to walk over and check out their show. Valley Hush came all the way from their hometown of Detroit, MI to perform for the first time at SXSW. The band’s lineup consists of singer-songwriter Lianna Vanicelli, guitarist Alex Kaye, bass player Mat Hofman and drummer Dave Dionise. Vanicelli has been playing music for the past 10 years, and became the vocalist of Valley Hush when the band formed in 2014. “Our music is a lot of everything,” she said. “We like textured sounds so we use a lot of organic samples. It’s experimental pop, but it can vary—it’s the type of pop music that has a lot of meaning behind it.” According to the band members, music is easier for them and the audience to get into when it has a deeper meaning. “I like to write about what I am struggling with in life, and I think everyone struggles. I struggle with money and jobs, love and relationships,” Vanicelli said. “The meaning of life is a big theme in our last album.”Back in Detroit, Valley Hush has their go-to performance venue: “L Club!” they all said enthusiastically. “L Club is our favourite! Shout out to L Club!” Kaye said. Yet the band is very eager to be playing outside of Detroit. “Detroit is a small scene, and I think we have been playing for almost three years now so we are definitely ready to play more in other cities with more industry,” Kaye said.That’s why Valley Hush will soon be moving to L.A to pursue their music. “We just got funding for touring purposes so we are ready to fucking… sorry. Fuck, whatever! We are ready to fucking do this!,” Hofman said excitedly. “We will be closer to Texas,” he said. “But further from Montreal,” Vanicelli added. The band is glad to have been in Austin for SXSW. “It’s a great festival—the opportunities here are really cool, and just to have five or six shows is a blessing. It’s cool to have one week where you’re playing a shit-load of shows,” Kaye said. “And in the same city—it’s kind of crazy,” Vanicelli added.
Australian singer-songwriter Josh Cashman performed a soothing, romantic alternative-folk show on March 14 at the Hyatt Regency venue for SXSW. Cashman came all the way from Melbourne for his SXSW showcase. “This is such a worldwide-renown showcase and festival for up-and-coming artists, so [our team] applied for it, not thinking that we would even get it,” Cashman said. Cashman has been taking advantage of the opportunity by scheduling shows in cities across the U.S. “We toured around America for three weeks before SXSW. It’s been a hectic month and a half,” he said.The singer-songwriter has also been playing guitar since his early childhood. “I grew up in a house where we listened to music rather than watching television. That’s why I do music and that’s why music is a part of me,” he said. Cashman described his sound as soft, alternative folk with electronic textures. “Musicians usually describe that [their] genre is a mix of everything that you listen to over your lifetime, the things that you really like, and you pick and choose,” he said. According to Cashman, it’s all about taking elements from artists and genres he likes and creating his own kind of sound. “My music is always changing. I’m releasing an EP later this year, and I’ve got no doubt that the next EP that I will release after that will probably sound a little different—every artist evolves,” Cashman said. The new EP, he said, will focus on personal lyrics about love, relationships and heartbreak.
Rocking the stage at the legendary Dirty Dog bar on Sixth Street on March 14 was the hard rock-metal band Kevlar. Coming all the way from the small town of Erie, Pa., this was the band’s first time performing at SXSW. Kevlar consists of Kelci Margaret on vocals, Anthony Sanzo on bass, Nick Sanzo on drums and Jake Flaugh on guitar. Brothers Anthony and Nick started the band back in 2010. Flaugh joined the band five years ago, and singer-songwriter Margaret came on board two years ago. “They were looking for a new singer, and I have been a part of the band ever since and it’s been amazing,” Margaret said. Kevlar often plays gigs in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo. Their dynamic on-stage energy makes them great performers and a blast to watch. “We always try to put energy into our stage performance as well as in our records,” Margaret said. Kevlar recently put out a single called “Alibis.” “We worked with an amazing producer on it, and we put our whole heart and soul into that—we’re really in love with it,” Margaret said. The band members said they were thrilled to be at the festival. “It’s a celebration of music,” Margaret said. “We’ve never actually played at a festival like this—just to be in a town where people are all here for music and arts is incredible.”
An alternative rock band all the way from New Jersey, Shadowplay consists of Andrew Corkery on vocals, Dan Holden on guitar and backup vocals, John Sellers on bass, piano and guitar, Jamile Wiggins on drums and Edward Flynn on bass. Flynn, unfortunately, could not make it to Austin, so Michael Brandt covered bass for the SXSW showcase. The band got to play at the Dirty Dog bar venue on March 14. Shadowplay has a classic alternative rock sound, with lyrics about self-reflection. “Our music is about our life experiences with a twist of surrealism,” Corkery said. “It’s about accepting loss in your personal life, accepting it and seeing the beauty of it and moving on.” According to the band, their music is a cathartic. Although the band hails from New Jersey, they also consider themselves a Philly band, as they play a lot of gigs in Philadelphia. Corkery has also visited Montreal before. “I’ve been to that venue, it was pronounced like, ‘Orange Couch’?,” he said, referring to Divan Orange. “One of our favorite bands is the Montreal band Godspeed You! Black Emperor.”