The annual South By Southwest festival is arriving faster than you can say “taco truck,” and before you know it, Austin will be overrun with film, music, and tech geeks from across the country.
And for good reason: Literally hundreds of bands are scheduled to take over Austin March 12 – 15, from the small-record-label indie (Saint Pepsi, Sylvan Esso) to high-profile names (The Weeknd, Lady Gaga). Every year, a few artists become the talk of the 400,000+ fans tromping through the Texas state capitol, emerging from the buzz crucible as next big things. Here, SiriusXM U’s Rob Cross picks six almost-famous bands to watch.
Who: London Grammar
Where they’re from: London, UK (duh)
Why they’ll blow up at SXSW: Already something of a big deal in their home country (their debut studio album, If You Wait, peaked to No. 2 on the UK Albums Chart), London Grammar seamlessly infuse trip-hop with electronica and indie-pop. “Think Florence & the Machine meets The XX,” says SiriusXMU program director Rob Cross, who regularly spins London Grammar on his channel. “America will catch on sooner or later.”
Who: Sylvan Esso
Where they’re from: Durham, NC
Why they’ll blow up at SXSW: A collaboration between vocalist Amelia Meath (Mountain Man) and electronic musician Nick Sanborn (Megafaun), Sylvan Esso create slow, bass-heavy grooves flecked with quirky electronic accents. At the moment, Cross reports that their single Coffee is one of the most asked-about songs on XMU, which leaves little doubt that SXSW will be a breakout week for the duo.
Who: The Orwells
Where they’re from: Elmhurst, IL
Why they’ll blow up at SXSW: One of the many acts you’ll hear live from the Fader Fort on XMU, The Orwells come clad in skin-tight jeans, mop-top haircuts, and an IDGAF attitude. With a retro sound and look reminiscent of The Strokes and/or the Stooges, at this point the band is perhaps best known for taking over David Letterman’s studio with a live rendition of Who Needs You, where lead singer Mario Cuomo thrashed around and basically made sweet, sweet love to the stage. Who knows what else they’ll do at South By?
Who: Saint Pepsi
Where he’s from: Long Island, NY
Why he’ll blow up at SXSW: Rising electronic star Saint Pepsi, aka Ryan DeRobertis, is well-versed in using sample-based electronics to create a handful of flashy, multi-genre, Girl Talk-esque tracks. Get familiar with such standout tracks as Mr. Wonderful and Baby, both from DeRobertis’ debut album, Gin City.
Where they’re from: Leeds, UK
Why they’ll blow up at SXSW: Playing a heady mix of melodic post-punk, garage pop, and straight-up punk rock, Eagulls are a sassy crew of young British boys who just put out their debut album and made their network television premiere on Letterman (where, fun fact, bassist Tom Kelly got a commemorative tattoo with Bill Murray’s name). Energetic enough to get indie arm-folders diving into the mosh pit (a place you probably haven’t visited since age 15), Eagulls will no doubt feel right at home in the beer-slicked, chaotic Austin atmosphere to come.
Where they’re from: Saratoga Springs, NY
Why they’ll blow up at SXSW: Joshua Carter and Sarah Barthel might be signed to a major label, but according to XMU (who’ve been playing them for literally years), the electro-rock duo remains relatively unknown to the pop music masses. Phantogram’s moon is rising, however: They released their second studio album, Voices, just last month, and the pair reportedly plan to release an EP with their discoverer: Big Boi of OutKast. Sounds like their run at SXSW will be just another notch on an already-successful year.