The Golden State has churned out some of America’s most influential names in music. Its artists span genres from 60s psychedelic rock to 90s gangster rap. Eternally cool bands such as the Doors, the Grateful Dead, the Byrds, and the Beach Boys all hail from the idyllic West Coast, as do numerous other chart-topping legends (Foster the People). In one of the most competitive and dynamic music scenes in the country, bands have to be on their A-game to generate any buzz. And if buzz matters anywhere, it matters in California. Here are five California bands making a name for themselves right now.
1. The Growlers
This 5-piece outfit from Dana Point creates reverb-soaked, post-psychedelic surf rock, and pulls it off with a charm and DIY ethic that is one part Jim Morrison, one part Frank Sinatra, and two parts California-cult magic. With a knack for alternative, lo-fi recording techniques, the Growlers’ records feel like one long, peyote-induced existential journey led in suave confidence by frontman Brooks Nielsen. The band's affinity for mustaches, makeup, costumes, and all manner of stage debauchery lead to equally compelling shows.
Check out their newest single, "Humdrum Blues," from their upcoming album, Not. Psych!, due out October 14 on FatCat Records.
Like a breath of California oxygen, Foxygen, the brainchild of West Lake Village natives Jonathan Rado and Sam France, feels both timeless and fresh. They're reminiscent of psychedelic revivalist bands of the mid-2000s, like Neon Indian, as their songs mix electronic textures with retro sounds. Foxygen's lyrics hearken to a trippy ideal of 60s California — "I met your daughter the other day / That was weird / She had rhinoceros-shaped earrings in her ear." Makes sense to me.
Though lead singer Sam France is currently in recovery after he suffered a serious leg injury on stage, Foxygen is expected to play Austin City Limits this October, as well as a fall tour. In the meantime, give a listen to the cheerful track "San Francisco":
3. Avi Buffalo
Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg, the high-pitched, long-named, compound-adjective-meriting singer-songwriter of Avi Buffalo may have been in high school when he wrote most of the tracks off the band’s debut album, but don’t let his youth fool you. The self-titled recording was met with widespread critical acclaim from national outlets. His latest single, “How Come?” (available for free download here, thank you Sub Pop), departs ever so slightly from the adolescent musings and cheerful, tight production of “What's In It For?” The new single hosts a looser, almost old-school R&B sound. However, all of the awkward, youthful glory of the band’s debut is very much in evidence here.
Haim (pronounced Hi-um) is a band you will be hearing — and probably have heard — a lot about. Made up of three sisters from the San Fernando Valley, Haim has found much praise from the European scene, and is teetering on the edge of a domestic breakout. With a sound that combines the feminine bravado of Stevie Nicks with the danceable, synth-infused beats of the most adored 80s pop machines, Haim has crafted an album rooted in retro nostalgia in top-notch songwriting.
Check out the kick-ass single "The Wire" from Haim’s newly released album, Days Are Gone.
These Los Angles-based garage rockers do not own a time machine, which might be hard to believe when looking at their album art: a vintage, fish-eyed photograph of a green, painted van driving over a suspended bridge in the tropics. It's even harder to believe when listening to their British Invasion hooks and flowery, lightly distorted guitar lines. Allah-Las sound like a road-trip down the Pacific Coast Highway 50 years ago.
Give the Allah-Las' self-titled album a listen here: