Although the members of Masked Intruder may keep their identities hidden under ski masks, the mysterious band's sugary sweet pop-punk shows that they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Claiming to have formed up in jail, the band, who go by the anonymous handles Intruder Blue, Intruder Green, Intruder Yellow, and Intruder Red, have a sound that finds them adding a criminal edge to their yearning melodies, evoking the Bay Area pop-punk of bands like Green Day and Mr. T Experience. Masked Intruder made their debut with a self-titled album, released by Red Scare Industries, in 2012 before signing on with Fat Wreck Chords, where they would unleash their sophomore effort, M.I., in 2014. ~ Gregory Heaney
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Hailing from a little suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, Kate Voegele first picked up a guitar at age 15. Influenced by the rock and roll history of the city and her father's songwriting, she began to pen her own songs from the minute she learned to play her first three chords. Voegele embraced this newfound passion, recording her first EP during her freshman year of high school, and soon after landed gigs alongside artists like Counting Crows and John Mayer. Those shows quickly led to attention from labels in New York and LA, and Kate spent the majority of her high school years diving headfirst into a career in music.
After high school, Voegele decided to attend Ohio's Miami University, where she quickly found new inspiration, and simultaneously found herself uploading song after song to her MySpace page. Kate managed to get the attention of the social network's founder, Tom Anderson, and just a few weeks later, she became MySpace Records' first signed artist. In spring of 2007 Voegele finished recording her first full-length record with Marshall Altman in LA and decided to swap her text books in for a tour bus and a year full of shows throughout the US.
Over the next couple of years Voegele toured the country playing hundreds of shows. While traveling through LA, Kate auditioned on a whim and would eventually land the role of Mia Catalano on the CW show, "One Tree Hill." What was supposed to be a two-episode run became a four-season recurrence, and Kate found herself performing eleven of her original songs to millions of viewers over the course of the show. Record sales jumped dramatically after Voegele's first appearance on the show, and she was subsequently upstreamed to Interscope Records in January of 2008. At this point Kate toured internationally with artists like Natasha Bedingfield and Jordin Sparks. She split her time between the road and the television set, and released a second full-length, "A Fine Mess," in spring of 2009.
After her first two records sold over 500,000 units, Voegele signed with ATO Records in 2011, releasing "Gravity Happens." She spent the next two years continuing to tour the US and Europe, writing new songs from airplane window seats and ultimately embarking on a new chapter in her life.
In fall of 2013, Voegele moved her home base from LA to Nashville, getting back to her songwriter roots. Being in Music City has given Kate the opportunity to work with writers like Nathan Chapman and Liz Rose, and open up opportunities to work with the country's best creative talents. With over a dozen new songs in tow, Voegele is planning an EP in for late fall '14, followed by her fourth full-length album slated for next spring.
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Philly-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Kenny Vasoli is best known as the lead singer/bassist for the pop-punk outfit the Starting Line. A native of Pennsylvania, Vasoli first joined the Starting Line while still a teenager in high school and released several albums with the band. In 2008, Vasoli released the independent recording Initial under the name Person L. His sophomore effort, The Positives, appeared a year later. In 2011, Vasoli formed the band Vacationer as yet another outlet to explore different musical styles. Vacationer's full-length debut album, Gone, followed in 2012. In 2014, Vacationer returned with their sophomore album, the languid and summery Relief. ~ Matt Collar
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Southern rock veterans Black Oak Arkansas never quite achieved the level of success enjoyed by contemporaries like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, but have remained a cult band thanks to their raw, primitive energy and the testosterone-fueled antics of lead vocalist/showman James "Big Jim Dandy" Mangrum. Named for Mangrum's hometown, Black Oak Arkansas eventually built up a solid following through incessant touring and enjoyed a run of ten charting albums between 1971 and 1976. The band also found itself with a Top 30 single in their raunchy cover of a LaVern Baker R&B hit called "Jim Dandy to the Rescue," which became Mangrum's signature song. When album sales dried up, Mangrum re-formed the band with more musically skilled veteran players and continued to tour, although the group's glory days were past.
Black Oak Arkansas dates back to the mid-'60s, when a group of young, long-haired misfits headed by Jim Mangrum, unable to find work, turned to rock & roll. However, the group was unable to purchase equipment and ended up being arrested for grand larceny after stealing items from the local school in order to get money. They were nearly run out of town and went to live in the nearby hills, locating and borrowing equipment where they could. The band moved to New Orleans in 1969 and called itself Knowbody Else, with a lineup of vocalist Mangrum; guitarists Ricky "Ricochet" Reynolds, Stanley "Goober" Knight, and Harvey "Burley" Jett; bassist Pat Daugherty; and drummer Wayne Evans. Knowbody Else recorded a self-titled album for Stax, which went nowhere; rethinking their approach, the band became interested in psychedelia and Eastern spirituality, which they filtered through their Southern Baptist upbringing. Changing their name to Black Oak Arkansas, the band secured a deal with Atlantic after several trips to Los Angeles and released its self-titled debut in 1971. While it wasn't a hit, the band toured extensively, building a reputation as a raw, incendiary live act that made up for occasional musical deficiencies with energy and the explicit sexuality of Mangrum, who flaunted his body at every opportunity and became known for such antics as miming sex with the washboard he used for musical accompaniment.
The band's second album, Keep the Faith, was a noticeable improvement, as the band had honed its sound and material through numerous live gigs; If an Angel Came to See You, Would You Make Her Feel at Home? followed the same year, featuring new drummer Tommy Aldridge, but it was 1973's Raunch 'N' Roll Live that established the group as a commercial force. That year, High on the Hog became their most commercially successful album, reaching number 52 on the charts. It was buoyed by the Top 30 cover version of "Jim Dandy to the Rescue," which featured female vocalist Ruby Starr trading innuendoes with Jim "Dandy" Mangrum. Several more albums followed before the group parted ways with Atlantic in 1976; Jett left the band in 1975 and was replaced by Starr cohort James Henderson. Lineup shifts were rampant as the group switched to MCA; Aldridge left and was replaced by Joel Williams, while the guitar/bass axis was gutted and rebuilt around Greg Reding, Jack Holder, and bassist Andy Tanas. This lineup released Race With the Devil in 1977, after the band had one last taste of success with the "Strong Enough to Be Gentle" single. Following several lackluster, straightforward Southern rock albums, the band called it quits in 1980. After recovering from a heart attack, Mangrum reunited with Reynolds in 1984 for a solo album, Ready as Hell; The Black Attack Is Back followed two years later. In 1999, BOA reunited to release The Wild Bunch. ~ Steve Huey
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White Arrows are an indie rock band from Los Angeles, California, who incorporate electronic and psychedelic elements into their music. The band was formed by singer/songwriter Mickey Schiff who, while living in New York, initially posted one of his songs online and was surprised by the amount of attention it quickly received from influential blogs and publications like Nylon Magazine. After relocating to L.A., Schiff assembled the full lineup of White Arrows, which included Steven Vernet on bass, Andrew Naeve on guitar/electronics, John Paul Caballero on guitar/electronics, and Schiff's younger brother Henry Schiff on drums. The group quickly gained traction, releasing their debut album, Dry Land Is Not a Myth, in 2012 on Seattle-based label Votiv. Tours of the U.S., Europe, and Australia followed as the band supported acts like Cults, White Denim, the Naked and the Famous, and !!!. They also made key appearances at major festivals like Coachella and Sasquatch. Their follow-up album, In Bardo, was released in September 2014. ~ Timothy Monger
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Zola Jesus is the project of Nika Roza Danilova, who crafts dark music dominated by her operatic vocals and keyboards. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Nika showed an interest in singing early on, buying voice lesson tapes and opera sheet music at age seven; soon after, she began working with a vocal coach for the next decade. Anxiety and the competitive nature of opera caused her to stop singing for a couple of years, but missing that form of expression spurred her to begin Zola Jesus. Inspired by high-school favorites like Diamanda Galás, Lydia Lunch, Throbbing Gristle, and Swans, Nika made cathartic home recordings using keyboards, drum machines, and anything else she had on hand. Her first officially released music included a couple of 2008 7"s: the Poor Sons EP on Die Stasi and Soeur Sewer on Sacred Bones.
In 2009, Zola Jesus became one of the most talked and blogged-about underground artists, and her release and touring schedule reflected that: along with the full-length The Spoils, she also released the Tsar Bomba EP on Troubleman, New Amsterdam on Sacred Bones, and an untitled, limited-edition vinyl album and a split release with Burial Hex on Aurora Borealis. For her live band, she recruited her cousin Dead Luke to play synths, bassist Lindsay Mikkola, and drummer Max Elliott. Nika also played in the group Former Ghosts, which featured Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart and Freddy Ruppert. She remained just as busy in 2010, touring with Fever Ray and the xx and releasing the cleaner-sounding Stridulum, Stridulum II, and Valusia EPs.
The following year she collaborated with Prefuse 73 on The Misanthrope Meditation Mix and released her third full-length, Conatus, which found Nika continuing to move away from her lo-fi roots and toward experimental electronic pop. Toward the end of the Conatus tour, Nika was asked to perform at New York's Guggenheim Museum, an event for which she collaborated with Foetus' J.G. Thirlwell, who provided arrangements for the Mivos Quartet. These string-based renditions were captured in 2013's Versions. For her fourth album, 2014's Taiga, Nika moved to Mute Records. Named after the Russian word for "forest," she wrote and recorded the album on Washington State's verdant Vashon Island and mixed it in Los Angeles with longtime collaborator Dean Hurley. ~ Heather Phares
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The Rocketboys' sound reflects the Texas landscape from which they hail: vast, yet sparse, desolate, yet rich and abundant. Often eschewing familiar lyrical themes of romance and love for songs of brotherhood, family, life, and death, The Rocketboys' catalog chronicles the band's journey throughout its often tumultuous existence.
The Rocketboys was born in college dorm rooms in Abilene, TX and swiftly achieved critical acclaim from debut EP "Sing, Bird, Sing" and LP "20,000 Ghosts" before 3 members departed in 2011. Overcoming the nearly fatal blow, the remaining members, Brandon Kinder (singer & guitarist), Justin Wiseman (keyboards) and Josh Campbell (bass), resiliently crafted "Build Anyway" (2012) - a lush, cathartic album which cemented The Rocketboys' status as a formidable rock band.
A strong track record of commercial success testifies to The Rocketboys' keen ability to create and capture unique, emotional musical experiences. "One Tree Hill," "Private Practice," "Elementary," and many others have channeled the band's thematic energy. Reviews often highlight the band's parity with textural acts such as Band of Horses and Death Cab for Cutie while retaining the mass appeal of Coldplay, The Verve and Keane.
No strangers to the road (the band will perform its 700th show this year), The Rocketboys continually find fans across the country with a powerful live show. Armed with a growing collection of new material for a third full-length album, The Rocketboys hit the studio in May leading up to a busy fall tour schedule and ultimately the next chapter in their musical odyssey.
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A tight sextet with a gospel-tinged neo-soul garage sound complete with horns and a dynamic lead singer, Birmingham, Alabama's St. Paul & the Broken Bones' stirring live shows quickly garnered them a fan following when the band was formed in 2011. Led by vocalist Paul Janeway, an impassioned soul singer with James Brown-like stage moves and command, and also consisting of Browan Lollar (guitar, vocals), Andrew Lee (drums and percussion), Jesse Phillips (bass), Allen Branstetter (trumpet), and Ben Griner (trombone and tuba), the group self-released an EP before signing with Single Lock Records, which issued a debut full-length, Half the City, early in 2014. ~ Steve Leggett
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Pianist Ben Thornewill, guitarist Tommy Siegel, and drummer Jesse Kristin first came together in 2003 as undergraduate students at George Washington University. Sporting a quirky, brainy pop sound that took its cues from the likes of Ben Folds and They Might Be Giants, the three logged several years together under a different name, the Sunday Mail, before rebranding themselves Jukebox the Ghost in 2005. Following graduation, they released their debut album, Let Live & Let Ghosts, and relocated to Philadelphia.
Boosted by positive reviews, Jukebox the Ghost began touring in earnest, first as the opening act for one of their biggest influences (Ben Folds) and then alongside some of their pop-minded contemporaries (Tally Hall, Jenny Owen Youngs, Nightmare of You). By early 2010, they'd signed with Yep Roc Records and gone into the studio with producer Peter Katis, known for his work with atmospheric rock bands like Interpol and the National. With Katis adding a darker element to the band's sound, Jukebox the Ghost released their second album, Everything Under the Sun, in September. That same year, the group celebrated a milestone with an appearance on the David Letterman Show, followed by tours with Barenaked Ladies and Jack's Mannequin, before heading back into the studio to record their third full-length, 2012's Safe Travels. In May 2014 the band issued the single "The Great Unknown," which was followed by their eponymous fourth long-player later that fall. ~ Andrew Leahey
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Hailing from the Minneapolis half of Minnesota's Twin Cities region, hip-hop collective Doomtree spin their MCs' eclectic influences into a highly literate brand of Midwestern rap. Forming gradually as like-minded artists came together, the group consists of rappers P.O.S., Cecil Otter, Dessa, Sims, and Mike Mictlan, along with producers Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak. While the individual members have been putting out albums on their own, Doomtree's self-titled debut was released in 2008 on the collective's eponymous label. The group continued to stay active with its False Hopes series of recordings, and its second official album, No Kings, arrived in 2011. ~ Gregory Heaney
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In Defence has been hitting the road since 2006. Starting as a hardcore band, In Defence incorporated wicked fast riffs with a satirical message. The early days brought the mantra 'Call More Dudes' to the basements across America. Calling for social change and bringing together Dudes of all shapes and sizes - no matter your gender, sexual preference, or dietary habits.
Later, In Defence kept that same tongue in cheek delivery and coupled it with ripping thrash riffs. Once In Defence was gaining some attention, it became clear that people needed to be taught proper mosh etiquette, and 'Don't Call Me A Moshist' was born. 'Fuck That Shit, Let's Circle Pit' was the new message for the kids. Then, In Defence started to raise issues that didn't seem to make much sense: moshing in a circle and tacos instead if pizza. Maybe the fact that In Defence had people debating such meaningless topics was the joke itself. It's hard to say.
Have you ever seen a room full of punks yell 'The Police Are Fucking Rad'? In Defence has. Have you ever pissed off black metal fans by confusing them with Juggalo's? In Defence did. And they did it all while praising Rob Halford. Praising him not only for being in one of the greatest bands ever, but for being out while doing it - especially during a time when Nu Metal was all the "rage".
Nowadays, In Defence still keeps the van in motion. Crossing the US multiple times a year, In Defence has toured/shared the stage with bands such as: The Casualties, MDC, Toxic Holocaust, DRI, Cro-mags, Goatwhore, Skeletonwitch, Danzig, plus many, many more.
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Animal Collective were formed in Baltimore County, Maryland, by longtime friends and musical collaborators Avey Tare (David Portner), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), Deakin (Josh Dibb), and Geologist (Brian Weitz). With a penchant for genre-hopping and studio experimentation, the group began drawing comparisons to everyone from the Residents and the Flaming Lips to the Incredible String Band and the Holy Modal Rounders. Solo and side projects proved to be a continual occupation for most of the group's members, particularly Panda Bear (Young Prayer, Person Pitch) and Avey Tare (Pullhair Rubeye), but Animal Collective proved to be the most successful of all the musicians' ventures.
The Collective released their debut album, Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished (originally titled Avey Tare and Panda Bear) in 2000 on the band's own Animal imprint. It was the first in a pair of captivating releases; the other was 2001's Danse Manatee (originally titled Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist), which explored the fringes and intersecting boundaries of freak folk, noise rock, ambient drone, and twisting, melodic psychedelia. The live album Hollinndagain, which documented the band's debut tour alongside Black Dice, arrived in 2002, followed by 2003's Campfire Songs and Here Comes the Indian, the first albums to commit to the name Animal Collective and the first to feature all four members. The latter record was released on the group's newly minted Paw Tracks label.
As the Collective's popularity grew, so did their reach, resulting in a distribution deal with English independent label Fat Cat, which issued their first two albums as a package deal and paved the way for subsequent releases. The band returned in May 2004 with the triumphant Sung Tongs, a mysterious, fragilely melodic album that garnered positive press both at home and overseas, resulting in a series of successful international tours. The Prospect Hummer EP, which featured a collaboration with underground British folk legend Vashti Bunyan, arrived in early 2005, followed by the commercially and critically acclaimed full-length Feels later in the year. The band released the People EP in 2006, followed by the much heralded full-length Strawberry Jam in 2007, the band's first for Domino Records.
Merriweather Post Pavilion, the group's eighth and most accessible record to date, was released in 2009. It cracked the Top 20 in America and peaked at number 26 in the U.K., making Animal Collective the toast of the international blogosphere while also establishing their strength as a commercial force. Touring kept them busy for much of the year, but they did find some time to return to the studio and finish a short EP, Fall Be Kind, which appeared in November. In 2010 the group expanded its experimental sound into the visual realm with ODDSAC, a "visual album" that featured new material as the psychedelic soundtrack to a film starring the members of Animal Collective and directed by Danny Perez. Their next proper full-length, Centipede Hz, followed in 2012 along with an EP of remixes from the album entitled Monkey Been to Burntown in 2013. ~ James Christopher Monger
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Pop/rock songwriter Kina Grannis began exploring music as a child in Mission Viejo, California. After spending her younger years performing in front of her stuffed animals and singing with her sisters, Grannis discovered her aunt's guitar at age 15. She received her own guitar the following year and spent a month honing her songwriting skills, taking influence from the likes of Jason Mraz and Vertical Horizon. Her songwriting efforts continued at the University of Southern California, where she was selected by the Thornton School of Music to produce a six-song EP during her sophomore year. The resulting EP, Sincerely, Me., was released in 2005. Two years later, she recorded a song for Rachael Lawrence and Deborah Ellen that became heavily featured in several episodes of General Hospital.
After graduating from USC, Grannis relocated to Austin, Texas, to sing and record with a band. She also began uploading her performances to YouTube, which helped her win a Superbowl contest in 2008. A contract with Interscope Records followed, but Grannis returned to indie status shortly thereafter without releasing anything on the label. Instead, she self-released her first full-length album, Stairwells, in February 2010, cracking the Billboard 200 in the process. She spent the next two years touring in support of the album, stopping everywhere from British Columbia and New York City to Europe and Asia. Her sophomore outing, Elements, was produced by Matt Hales (aka Aqualung) and released in early 2014. ~ Katherine Fulton
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Made up of four siblings, Echosmith is an emo and '80s dance-rock-influenced band from California. Formed in Los Angeles in 2009, Echosmith features lead singer Sydney Sierota, guitarist/vocalist Jamie Sierota, bassist/vocalist Noah Sierota, and drummer Graham Sierota. The band signed to Warner Bros. in 2012 and a year later, opened for Owl City on tour. Also in 2013, they released their debut full-length album, Talking Dreams. In 2014, Echosmith returned with the five-song EP, Acoustic Dreams, which featured acoustic reworkings of cuts off Talking Dreams. ~ Matt Collar
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Indiana-based Murder by Death first caught the attention of Thursday's Geoff Rickly while playing a gig together one night in their hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. Rickly promptly brought the band, then called Little Joe Gould, to the attention of his friend Alex Saavedra (Eyeball Records owner), and the group was signed immediately. The band was comprised of vocalist/guitarist Adam Turla, drummer Alex Schrodt, bassist Matt Armstrong, cellist Sarah Balliet, and pianist Vincent Edwards. They issued a 2001 self-titled EP as Little Joe Gould before the band eventually decided to change its name to Murder by Death, taken from the 1976 Robert Moore mystery of the same name. The bandmembers felt the new name better represented their ominous sound, which combined elements of artists like Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Johnny Cash, and the Decemberists.
Their first full-length, Like the Exorcist But More Breakdancing, was released on Eyeball in August 2002. Touring early on with bands like Cursive, Interpol, and the American Analog Set, the band did a summer 2003 split with Volta Do Mar before following up that fall with the well-received Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them? The record was something of a concept album based around the Devil waging war on a small Western town. A benefit 7" appeared at the year's end in memory of Ten Grand's Matt Davis, and the band continued to turn heads nationwide on tours with the likes of Lucero, the Weakerthans, William Elliott Whitmore, and Rasputina.
Edwards amicably parted ways with the group in mid-2004 to go back to school, and when his touring replacement also left by the year's end, the remaining members of Murder by Death decided to just carry on as a more rock-oriented quartet. Balliet, though, picked up keyboard parts along with her cello. After extensive touring, the bandmembers went back to college for a bit while writing their third album. Murder by Death eventually issued In Bocca al Lupo on their East West imprint, Tent Show Records, in May 2006. Another concept album, this one was produced by J. Robbins (Against Me!, Dismemberment Plan), and explored themes of sin and redemption, somewhat inspired by Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy. Touring continued through the summer, including a headlining stint with Langhorne Slim opening.
In March 2008, Murder by Death released Red of Tooth and Claw on Vagrant Records. The band followed up again in 2010 with its fifth studio album, Good Morning, Magpie. Two years later Murder by Death returned with Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, which found the band taking part in a crowd-sourcing campaign through Kickstarter for the vinyl release of the album. The campaign would find them becoming the third highest-earning band since the site launched. ~ Corey Apar