10 biggest buzz bands from SXSW 2014

SXSW 2014 saw 2200 bands playing on 100 stages, over six days. Because that’s way too much music for any one brain to handle FL has done the hard yards, trawling the internet, blogs, Twitter feeds and canvassing our contacts on the ground for the 10 most buzzed about international acts from the most hectic musical event of the year.

(Photo above by Adam Kissick/NPR)

1. Kelela

LA-based singer Kelela is a second-generation Ethiopian immigrant, whose electro-infused R&B landed her on BBC’s coveted Sound of 2014 shortlist. She released her debut mixtape, Cut 4 Me, in October last year through independent dance label Fade To Mind. Kelela has described her music as “not just weird, it’s deliberately off-putting”, but despite her best efforts still counts Beyonce as one of her biggest fans.

The Buzz

“She’s the coolest act I’ve seen thus far. Long, braided hair shaved on one side, monochromatic outfit but more importantly: she owned that stage. So much effortless swagger, and so much enjoyment of playing her songs to a loving crowd.” – triple j’s Zan Rowe


BANKS, aka 25-year-old LA musician Jillian Banks, makes “dark R&B” and her fusion of electro, pop and hip-hop has drawn comparisons to The Weeknd. Already making friends in all the right circles, BANKS’ 2013 EP London features collaborations with the likes of Jamie Woon, Lil Silva and Totally Extinct Dinosaurs. She cites Fiona Apple and Lauryn Hill among her key influences and is set to release her debut full-length record through Harvest Records (White Lies, Death Grips) later this year.

The Buzz

“While her electronic-based songs usually have stretches of conventionality, you’ll have a song with jazz chords and a shuffling rhythm followed by one with thundering beats, chest-rattling bass and giant, gothic vocal samples. The music mirrors her unexpectedly physical stage moves. She skulks around the stage, fluid and graceful one moment, lurching and awkward the next, her long, side-parted hair covering half her face.” – Spin

3. Perfect Pussy

Perfect Pussy’s frenetic debut album Say Yes To Love is 23 minutes of distortion and searingly honest lyrics. The band’s bluntly provocative name might force you to clear your internet history, but frontwoman and lyricist Meredith Graves says it’s empowering with the added bonus of cutting down her critics. They featured on our recent list of the “”10 bands bringing rock back.

The Buzz

“There aren’t too many new punk bands that outlaw pop from the equation without sacrificing songcraft in the process. Perfect Pussy have solid songs, a beautifully muddled sonic assault and a casual command of the stage. Despite singer Meredith Graves’ between-song claim that she was ‘terrified’ to play Stubb’s on Wednesday night, the band blew the crowd out of their skins.” ” – Fuse.TV

4. Wet

Brooklyn three-piece Wet produce upbeat electro-pop in the vein of MS MR and Purity Ring. Led by singer Kelly Zutrau their music has been described as “The xx fronted by Solange or at times even Patsy Cline”. Wet released their debut EP last year through well-respected US indie Neon Gold Records (Ellie Goulding, Haim, HAERTS). Expect an album later this year.

The Buzz

“Singer Kelly Zutrau… sounds like Madonna, circa ‘Like A Prayer’, which is great because even the way she gawped at everyone – sullen, sulky, pissed off but still a bit playful – had a touch of Ms Ciccone about it too. Last time I saw them there was none of that, but here, against all the odds, they were full of attitude.” – NME

5. Arthur Beatrice

Since forming (way back) in 2011 this UK four-piece have been compared to Wild Beasts and The xx. Their spacious pop is defined by the dueling boy/girl vocals of Ella Girardot and Orlando Sheppard, while their sparse rhythm section is held together by brothers Hamish and Elliot Barnes. Despite having been on the UK media’s radar for some time now, the band only just released their debut album Working Out in January.

The Buzz

“Arthur Beatrice made their U.S. debut and impressed fans who had crammed their way in for the Preatures. Lingering somewhere in between R&B and indie rock, the English quartet boasted strong vocalists and intricate musicianship that could pull in fans of both The xx and Kan Wakan.” – Buzz Bands LA

6. Wolf Alice

This North London four-piece started out as the solo project of vocalist Ellie Roswell who teamed up with guitarist Joff Oddie after a run of disappointing solo gigs. As Roswell tells it, “Joff and I both did the rounds of north London open mics, always meeting weirder people than ourselves. One day we realised we’d done all the hot and not so hotspots and still only had 10 Facebook likes each, so we were definitely doing something wrong. We were angry and upset so we just channeled that into our amps instead.” Since then the pair have enlisted Joel Amey and Theo Ellis, released their debut EP _ Blush_ in October last year and was named the single most blogged about band in the UK by BBC radio 6.

The Buzz

“First ever show in America, being baptised at the British Embassy with a sardined crowd. Ellie’s voice is flawless on stage, reminiscent of Juanita Stein of Howling Bells in it’s smooth, clear and strong call. They’re all incredibly tight, live on stage.” – triple j’s Zan Rowe

7. Eagulls

Another act off our “”10 bands bringing rock back list. This Leeds outfit (fronted by sneering livewire George Mitchell) put in a memorable appearance on Letterman, and their all-caps manifesto posted online is something to behold: “To all beach bands sucking each others dicks and rubbing the press’ clits. I am going to cut your hair clean off,” they threatened. They released their first single ‘Tough Luck’ in October last year and their self-titled debut LP is due out on Partisan Records some time this month.

The Buzz

“Leedsian punks Eagulls added a bit of organized chaos to an otherwise tame Wednesday night showcase, becoming the first to effectively inspire a mosh pit. The sand of Austin’s Stubb’s venue kicked into the eyes of those who stood a little too close. Like the Manchester post-punk bands of yesteryear, frontman George Mitchell left no room for banter: Get in, get out, play hard.” – Fuse.TV

8. Glass Animals

We picked Glass Animals as a band to watch back in November, and it seems the people are well and truly taking note. This UK four-piece was formed by 23-year-old vocalist/songwriter David Bayley, who previously spent his time experimenting with organic and digital sounds in “an isolated, home-built studio deep in the forests of Oxfordshire”. Recently the band emerged from the woods to be nabbed by Wolf Tone – the new label of super producer Paul Epworth (Florence + The Machine, Friendly Fires, Foster The People). Their first collaboration with Epworth is ‘Pyslla’, a Radiohead-esque cut of soulful dub. They will be in Australia this April and their debut album is due later in the year.

The buzz

“At once groovy, off-putting, and sensual, their quirky pop (think Alt-J, Wild Beasts) seems to be more of a mindset or experience than simple sonic arrangement. The music seeps into your bloodstream, a sinuous and ultra contagious flow of good vibes that could be likened to a euphoric trip to a technicolor Neverland” – Consequence of Sound

9. Hozier

Irish musician Andrew Hozier-Byrne had a huge hit with his song ‘Take Me to the Church’ last year, thanks mostly to Reddit. The powerful video that accompanied the track depicted the violence against Russia’s LGBT community, and went viral after it was shared around by the online community. However, his music is more delta blues than new-wave soul and he names blues legends like “Junior” Kimbrough as his biggest inspirations.

The Buzz

“Though he does often explore both folk and country in his material – I found myself frequently forgetting he was actually from Ireland and not some place known for their Delta Blues – it’s obvious he draws much inspiration from gospel music. The words “Lord”, “Amen”, and “worship”, pop up often in a number of his songs, and, while not exactly religiously-motivated, they hint at an influential spiritual upbringing. Live, his vocals, too, carry extra depth; rich, soulful, and accompanied by a slight rasp. His Hype Hotel set proved there’s more to him than just a viral headline.” – Consequence of Sound

10. Royal Blood

Brighton rock duo Royal Blood were the rock band nominated for the BBC Sound of 2014, alongside a list of ethereal indie R&B types and earnest singer-songwriters. The duo – Mike Keer on bass and vocals and Ben Thatcher on drums – have been compared to Queens of the Stone Age and, inevitably, The White Stripes and Black Keys. Alongside Tame Impala and Miles Kane, they’ll be supporting Arctic Monkeys at two huge shows in London’s Finsbury Park in May. Although more impressively they had support from Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders – who sported their t-shirt at Glastonbury last year – when they’d released just one track.

The Buzz

“Best on ground, live, so far. Straight up bluesy rock n’ roll played very well. Dang they were tight. Also, I’m deaf now.” triple j’s Zan Rowe