In honor of our local music issue, we present DC musicians, both well-established and on the rise, who make the city’s music scene stand out. To check out these tastemakers for yourself, listen to our 30 Days of DC Music playlist on Spotify – you might even find your new favorite artist.
April + VISTA
This genre-bending DC duo recently opened for Swedish electropop icons Little Dragon during their sold-out, two-night run at H Street’s Rock & Roll Hotel last month, and stole the show with their live versions of recent releases and a cover of Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song.” They’ll continue to captivate stages while supporting like-minded acts Kllo and The JujuExchange, but be sure to listen to their spectacular EP You Are Here in the meantime. Visit www.aprilandvista.com for more.
Bad Moves are doing big things. Four DC natives with very DC day jobs joined forces to lend their incredible talent to make one of 2018’s most exciting records. Their music is cheerful, their subject matter relatable and their lyrics are seemingly handcrafted to make a live karaoke session at their shows a reality – Tell No One is practically perfect. They recently celebrated the release of the album at Black Cat in September, and I’m already eagerly awaiting new music from them while keeping this album on heavy rotation. Follow them on Twitter @BadMovesDC for more.
This DC band’s M.O. is surf rock with a soul, and an ever so slight nod to punk predecessors who occupied hallowed DC venues before them. While their lyrics deal with deeply personal matters – addictions, anxieties and general malaise – it’s clearly an outlet with which they heal and offer joy to others. Their boisterous guitars and penchant for peppering in “la la las” at the perfect moment will have you singing along in no time. No stranger to the myriad of venues on the local music circuit, they’ll be at DC9 on November 14. Visit www.bottledup.bandcamp.com for more. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW; www.dc9.club
Babe City Records-signed BRNDA make jarring, frenetic indie rock akin to Black Lips and Thee Oh Sees. Their short but impactful Thanks for Playing EP clocks in at 18 minutes but stays with you for much longer. The best part of BRNDA? Every member of the quartet contributes to vocals, evoking a fun call-and-response vibe that will have you singing along too. See them live at The Dougout on November 5. $5-$10 suggested donation for entry. Visit http://brendatheband.com for more. The Dougout: 1498 Douglas St. NE, DC; www.facebook.com/thedougoutdc
While the musician, also known as Joshua Karpeh, may be a New Yorker now, his stint in the District as a George Washington University student gives him the right to say he’s part of the DC scene. Following a critically acclaimed EP, he sold out a show this past May and stood out as one of the highlights of this year’s All Things Go Fall Classic. The performance included Karpeh singing, and playing the saxophone and flute onstage. Unfortunately, you must wait until early next year to see him live in DC – he’ll take the U Street Music Hall stage on February 1 – but it will be worth the wait. Visit www.cautiousclay.com for more. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com
Chain & the Gang
“Hey you want to check it out/ this experimental music they’re talking about?” Ian “Chain” Svenonious asks his listeners in the titular track of Experimental Music, the band’s late 2017 release for DC’s Dischord Records. If your answer to that question is yes, Svenonious and company are ready to take you on a journey. With influences from 50s-style surf rock to DC punk, and many genres in between, the track is both on the nose and a statement of the band’s ethos from their many years of making music. While Svenonious has been hard at work with one of his many other projects – Escape-ism – Chain & the Gang remain one of the most exciting and unexpected bands to grace the streets of DC. Visit www.dischord.com/band/chain-and-the-gang for more.
This project takes its name from the old school gaming console and borrows nostalgic sounds to make something totally new, courtesy of Davon Bryant. The DC native is a singer, songwriter, producer and drummer who makes extremely groovy tunes with retro sensibilities, but modern production flair. This fall, he released the spectacular jams “Outer Space” and “Up 2 U.” Visit www.soundcloud.com/burymeinamink for more.
DC post punk fans rejoice. One of the most exciting bands in the genre right now is one of our own. Their June release for Domino Records, Constant Image, is heavily featured on my “Best of 2018” list. Flasher recently shared the stage with the iconic Breeders and will return to their hometown on November 30 at Black Cat. Follow the band on Twitter @ffflasher. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com
Electropop outfit Foreign Air remains one of the hardest working duos in DC music. The smooth and spacious sounds of their 2016 EP For the Light catapulted them into the national music conversation. Their sounds have been featured in TV shows and commercials and for good reason – their brand of emotion and electronics is the stuff of a music supervisor’s dreams. To the excitement of many fans (myself included), their single “Turning” was released last month and will be included on Foreign Air’s first full-length album, to be released soon. Visit www.foreignair.net for more.
An amalgamation of members from Priests, Downtown Boys and various other DC musicians, this rotating cast of musicians is anchored by Jason Barnett, Mary Jane Regalado and Daniele Yandel. Their playful beach goth, a.k.a. surf rock with emotional lyrics, infused brand of rock provides the perfect platform for a rotating cast to meditate on ending relationships, independence and navigating existence in the online world. See them live on December 4 at Black Cat. Visit www.g-a-u-c-h-e.bandcamp.com for more. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com
SHAED’s Chelsea Lee
SHAED is comprised of Chelsea Lee and twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst. A favorite of the DC pop scene and beyond, their emotive electropop is perhaps best exemplified by their EP Melt, which came out this past September. We caught up with vocalist Chelsea Lee on what the band’s been up to lately.
On Tap: I know that you all met at a 9:30 Club show. Can you tell me a bit more about your origin story?
Chelsea Lee: I was a solo artist and a friend suggested I go see this band, raving about these twin boys who were opening. It was Max and Spencer on stage playing an acoustic set. I was 15 and instantly fell in love. We started hanging out regularly after and became best friends. We couldn’t fully commit to a project together until SHAED.
OT: You’ve played a lot of DC venues – 9:30 Club, Union Stage, Rock & Roll Hotel – do you have a favorite? A place on your wish list?
CL: We’ve toured a lot, and 9:30 Club remains one of our favorite venues in the country. We would love to play The Anthem.
OT: How has the DC music scene supported you as you’ve progressed in your career?
CL: DC has been incredibly kind to us. We just played a sold out show and recognized so many people that have been coming to see us since the beginning. Fortunately, the scene here is growing and some great music is coming out of the DMV.
OT: You recently released an EP. Any plans to release a full album soon?
CL: Right now we’re focusing on writing. For now we just want to keep creating music and see what happens.
OT: Anyone from the DC music scene you’d really like to work with?
CL: April + VISTA and GoldLink.
OT: Do you have any upcoming shows in the area?
CL: We’re playing the 9:30 Club with St. Lucia on November 6.
SHAED opens for St. Lucia at the 9:30 Club on Tuesday, November 6. Tickets are $32.50. Doors at 7 p.m. Visit www.shaedband.com for more.
9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com
The duo comprised of Lindsay Pitts and Clifford John Usher dropped their first release for the District’s own Carpark Records in 2015. Kill the One You Love is equal parts sad and smooth – everything you could ever want from a synth-pop album. The band kept fairly quiet for three years after but to the delight of all of us who love dancing and crying in equal measure, returned this year with several beautiful singles. They’ve also reimagined and re-recorded John Lennon’s iconic album Imagine in full. I can only hope this is an indication of another melancholy gem (ha) of an album on the horizon. Visit www.gems-band.com for more.
The brainchild of George Washington University graduates Liz Nistico and Louie Diller burst onto the pop scene in 2014 with “Happy with Me,” a song examining the daunting task of living up to impossible beauty standards with a crazy danceable beat. Since then, the self-described brat pop band set up shop in Los Angeles, California, and worked with artists like Kate Nash and Tkay Maidza. They returned as powerful as ever with three new singles this fall. Visit www.holychildmusic.com for more.
I like to think I’m on top of most recent releases, but my little brother is always one step ahead of me – a healthy sibling rivalry of who knows the best new artists frequently ensues. He sent along several tracks by this Maryland born, DC based rapper – 2018’s “Amazing” and “Bag” – and I’ve been hooked ever since. He raps over neo soul beats with honesty and precision, and featured his once DC residence on Quebec Place on the cover of his EP of the same name. He released his fantastic album Keep it Clean this September, complete with features from Pusha T, Taliwhoah and more. Follow him on Twitter @innanetjames for more.
Maryland-born, DC-educated Jenna Camille has natural talent and classical training in spades. Her gorgeously smoky voice finds itself combined with jazzy electronic production on her infectious tracks. In addition to writing, recording and producing her own music, she is a frequent collaborator of other acts such as BELVE, Poor boY EXP and Seven Jackson. Follow her on Twitter @JennaCamille for more.
I’ve had the joy of seeing this project, helmed by Julia Leiby, open for several bands throughout the city. Bringing together a rotating cast of like-minded musical friends, Julian makes understated but powerful indie pop worthy of soundtracking a dreamy movie montage. Their latest release, Real Distance, saw them polish their sound, and is their strongest and most affecting work to date. Visit www.juliandc.bandcamp.com for more.
This indie pop group comprised of five college friends makes ethereal anthems for anyone who loves glossy, dreamy tunes with a side of emotional honesty. They cite contemporaries The 1975 and The Naked and Famous as influences, and are a necessary addition to any playlist built for introspection or relaxation. Don’t be fooled by their chill vibes, though – the instrumentation is powerful and refined as well. Visit www.lavenderdc.bandcamp.com for more.
This pair of DC natives is set to release their album Me: Dystopia early next year. They’ll bring their vivacious marriage of darkwave (think dark and romantic), timely lyrics and worldly sounds to Union Stage on November 10 and Dupont Underground on November 16. Listen to the lead single “Company Girl” now. Follow them on Instagram @yo_soy_loiloi for more. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com // Dupont Underground: 19 Dupont Cir. NW, DC; www.dupontunderground.org
Evoking the dark and powerful feelings of genre greats PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, Luna Honey makes music that can only be described as cathartic and beautiful. While Maura Pond’s vocals stand out on every track, what anchors Luna Honey is the marriage of bare basslines and baritone sax: unsettling and comforting all at once. Don’t miss them take the stage on November 11 at DC9. Visit www.lunahoney.bandcamp.com for more. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club
Have you ever discovered a band that makes you excited for the future? Both the future of that band and music as a whole? I couldn’t shake that warm, fuzzy feeling the first time I listened to Makeup Girl’s Living Safe EP, released this past summer. While their sound is reminiscent of early Two Door Cinema Club and Humbug era Arctic Monkeys, it’s clear this band is in a league of their own. Catch them at Arlington’s Galaxy Hut on November 11 and keep your eyes on them in general – this four piece group is going places. Visit www.makeupgirlband.com for more. Galaxy Hut: 2711 Wilson Blvd. Arlington VA; www.galaxyhut.com
This band is nothing if not a supergroup. Comprised of two former Fugazi members and several other heavy hitters in the DC hardcore scene, the group harkens back to the heyday of DC punk and reminds us it’s not going anywhere. Their self-titled album was released on the beloved Dischord Records, and is a must for DC music lovers and anyone else who appreciates an excellent rock record. They’ll play Baltimore’s Rams Head Live on December 27. Visit www.dischord.com/band/messthetics for more. Rams Head Live: 20 Market Pl. Baltimore, MD; www.ramsheadlive.com
I recommend Nick Hakim’s 2017 release Green Twins to just about anyone who will listen. What I won’t recommend, however, is putting Hakim’s music in a box. His retro-futurist vibe and hypnotic vocals are just the beginning of what makes his music stand out. Citing a whole host of “one of these things is not like the other” influences, Hakim’s music is perfect for a dreamy, cold winter’s day and something you have to synthesize for yourself. He dropped the single “Vincent Tyler” this summer, and I can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for Hakim. Visit www.nickhakim.com for more.
Wylder’s Will McCarry
Wylder’s dreamy blend of folk pop is heavily influenced by the natural surroundings of their native Virginia. As they gear up for their much-anticipated sophomore album, singer and guitarist Will McCarry told On Tap all about influences, favorite venues and upcoming music.
On Tap: With roots in DC and Virginia, how have both influenced your music?
Will McCarry: Rural Virginia had a huge influence on my musical taste and the kind of songs I want to write. The organic and naturalistic elements of our sound comes from my upbringing.
OT: Do you have a favorite local venue? Any that you haven’t played on your wish list?
WM: DC is home to amazing venues. In February we headlined U Street Music Hall for a show presented by the 9:30 Club. Performing in front of fans that braved a snowstorm to be there made it one we’ll never forget. Recently we had the chance to perform on stage at The Anthem, the venue is unlike any space we’ve performed in before.
OT: How have the music scenes in DC and Virginia supported you?
WM: [We] began in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The early days playing on campus helped us discover our path. As we began performing in DC more often, venues like Black Cat and Jammin Java gave us a chance to headline.
OT: What can listeners expect from your sophomore album?
WM: I think this new record represents the next logical step for Wylder and features the most fully realized version of what I’ve always wanted this band to be. It is at once a major departure from Rain and Laura and an expansion on all the things fans enjoy about that record. Our first single from the record, “Ready to Break,” will be out on November 16.
OT: Anyone from the DC music scene you’d really like to work with?
WM: We’d love to put together a show featuring a full orchestral section performing the songs alongside us
OT: Any upcoming shows in the area?
WM: You can catch us performing live in DC at Gypsy Sally’s on November 30 alongside The Last Bison or in Tysons Corner on December 1 for an acoustic set at Records and Rarities.
Catch Wylder at Gypsy Sally’s on Friday, November 30. Tickets start at $15. Visit www.wyldermusic.com for more.
Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com
I was lucky enough to catch OG Lullabies, the project of singer and violinist Taylor Brooke, earlier this year right around the release of her EP CRUESCONTROL. The otherworldly nature of her music evokes peace and an existence on a different earthly plane at times. With an emphasis on the all-encompassing experience music creates in a listener, Brooke’s beautiful sounds create a welcome respite from your everyday woes in sonic form. Visit www.oglullabies.com for more.
Oh He Dead
I have no idea what this DC duo’s name is in reference to, but I love it. I also love their bass-heavy, neo soul and refreshingly honest songwriting. To date they only have one single and a three song EP available, but I have full confidence the duo of Cynthia Johnson and Anthony Valenti will bless us with more repeat worthy tracks soon. Visit www.ohhedead.com for more.
“I am an alien, I am a ghost, I am the devil, I am alone,” sings vocalist Nenet on the band’s track “Alien,” a meditation on identity. Self-described as “degeneration rock,” this group’s music could easily soundtrack a noir film (or more realistically, a long DC drive on a foggy day). Be sure to add their latest release, Silk, to any winter playlists you may be curating. Visit www.parksnakes.com for more.
DC’s most prolific punks of today released their album Nothing Feels Natural last year and have focused heavily on the District’s creative circuit and national tours. They run Sister Polygon Records and lend their talents to other DC bands, all while providing an unwavering political voice that’s needed now more than ever. They’ll take the stage at Baltimore’s Metro Gallery on December 11. It’s worth the trek to Charm City to see these icons in action. Visit www.666priests666.com for more. Metro Gallery: 1700 N. Charles St. Baltimore, MD; www.themetrogallery.net
Everyone loves Rico Nasty but only the DMV gets to call her our own. She’s one of the hardest working artists in any genre. At 21, she’s already released six mixtapes, including her first release as an Atlantic Records signee, Nasty. She calls her catchy, sweet blend of rap “sugar trap,” and while she’s certainly come a long way from her first hit “iCarly” to her newer releases soundtracking shows like Insecure, she’s bound to be a fixture on the national rap scene for a long time. Visit www.riconastymusic.com for more.
This experimental electronic duo will have you dancing as much as contemplating a variety of timely topics. They blend 80s synth sensibilities dating back to The Cure or Talking Heads with theatrical and impassioned vocals. Their 2018 full length release There is No Stronger Sex is a smart breath of fresh air and the answer to everyone’s contemplative but groovy needs. Visit www.strongersex.bandcamp.com for more.
This band provides an unlikely combination of pop and punk, but not in the way bands you loved in middle school did. Instead, it’s more like jagged, heavy instrumentation layered with catchy choruses sung sweetly. By combining the best elements of these two genres, the trio provides some of the most exciting tunes to come out of the city this year with their self titled debut. Visit www.ultrabeauty.bandcamp.com for more.