Seattle Music 2014: Indie Pop Bands

Shake it to the upbeat sounds of these local indie pop acts
Jared Cortese, Dom Cortese and Julia Massey, in their basement house party venue “The Cortex,” July 15, 2014

What’s your favorite current Seattle band? If you have trouble answering (or if you draw a blank after Macklemore), we’re not going to judge. But we are going to suggest it’s time to check in with the city’s thriving indie music scene. New local bands are exploring sounds, blurring genre boundaries (though we’ve wrestled them into categories here) and playing vibrant live shows all over town (see our Live Music Venue guide). Even with this sampler of 50 bands, we haven’t scratched the surface of Seattle music. Listen right here—where you can stream songs from all 50 bands—and also try tuning in to KEXP (the city’s unsurpassed discovery engine for local music) for a whole week. Soon enough, you’ll have an answer to the above question—and you might just go on and on. Peruse the local bands in the other genres here.

Julia Massey & the Five Finger Discount/The Jesus Rehab

Gateway Bands: Regina Spektor/Weezer
We decided to put these two bands together for two reasons: 1) They share a drummer (Dominic Cortese), and 2) the bands’ lead singers, Julia Massey and Jared Cortese, are married to one another—which perfectly embodies Seattle’s closely knit music scene. Massey recalls Regina Spektor, with her playful voice, prolific songwriting and bouncy pop lyrics, and Cortese’s sound is reminiscent of Weezer, for its big power chords and shrieking, catchy solos. juliamasseymusic.com; thejesusrehab.com
How would you each describe your sound? “Our music plays like a soundtrack for a planetarium/laser show: kid-friendly and cosmic.” —Julia Massey; “It’s energetic, hook-driven muscle pop that makes you feel OK about losing your mind a bit...or a lot.” —Dominic Cortese

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Lena Simon

Gateway Bands: Liz Phair, Metric
If you have a band in Seattle, chances are you’ve played with Lena Simon. She plays bass with La Luz (page 99), sings with choral trance band Pollens, has played drums (on the Jay Leno show) with Mary Lambert (of “Same Love” fame) and is an all-around Renaissance woman when it comes to musical instruments. Her personal project, Kairos, may be layers of dreamy synthesizers juxtaposed with poppy, rhythmic drum beats and stabs of guitar, but don’t try to pigeonhole Simon. It’s futile. kairostime.bandcamp.com

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Cataldo

Gateway Band: Paul Simon
Eric Anderson (aka Cataldo) builds his songs as if creating a forest from a single seed. He writes bold, beautiful pieces that might begin with just a whistle or a hum. He also knows his way around percussion, often giving a hint of hip-hop with his drums, especially evident on his 2014 album, Gilded Oldies. His lyrics are a mix of child-like appreciation for music, pointed expressions of love, and a nod to the past and future. cataldomusic.com
How would you describe your sound? “Brainy, feelings music you can (occasionally) dance to.” —Eric Anderson

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Lemolo

Gateway Band: Cat Power
Meagan Grandall of the duo Lemolo (with a new drummer, Emily Westman) writes songs that are eerie but always exquisite. She is equipped with one of the sweetest voices in the city (though she’s based in Poulsbo) and yet she shrouds herself in mystery. In a way, she is a ghost. In a way, she is hyperpresent. She seems comfortable on either side of the spectrum. She calls to mind Cat Power singing lullabies across a misty river. Her music can chill to the bone. lemolomusic.bandcamp.com

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Prom Queen

Gateway Band: Lana Del Rey
Also known as Leeni, this prolific Seattle singer first came on the scene with chiptune compositions (using Nintendo Gameboy sounds) and has since honed a 1960s Parisian noir aesthetic. But she never forgets her sense of humor, especially in the videos for her most recent creation, Midnight Veil (12 songs about topics ranging from genie bottles to gender equality), in which she poses variously as a sweetly murderous girlfriend and in male drag. Often sporting a big black bouffant and wielding a pink guitar, Prom Queen looks as though she stepped straight out of a David Lynch movie. promqueenband.bandcamp.com

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Dude York

Gateway Band: The Strokes
The band’s 2014 album, Dehumanize, reflects a range of influences, from pop to garage rock to surf. Members have cited Frank Ocean as a major influence, along with Dinosaur Jr., and their song “Heartland” features a slow vocal punk aesthetic with a mixture of speeding snares and clapping rhythm guitars. An all-American band born of a rebellious spirit, Dude York shares a lineage with The Ramones. dudeyork.bandcamp.com

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Jherek Bischoff

Gateway Band: David Byrne
An experimental composer who uses anything from ukulele to strings to hand drums and his unique Broadway-esque voice, Jherek Bischoff composes intelligent, quirky and even, at times, moody music with a backing orchestra. In collaborations with David Byrne and Beth Fleenor, among many others, he has written sublime music for dancers and symphonies. The Bainbridge Island–raised musician, who lived for many years on a boat with his parents sailing the West Coast, plays myriad instruments—from tuba to electric bass—and has been called a “pop polymath” by The New York Times. Bischoff recently cut a new record of ambient orchestral work, which he’ll play from with a chamber ensemble, on September 4 at The Moore Theatre (stgpresents.org). jherekbischoff.bandcamp.com
How would you describe your sound? “Dramatic orchestral pop music. I love orchestras and I love pop music song structure—I like to blend these together.” —Jherek Bischoff

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Tacocat

Tacocat (Bree McKenna, Emily Nokes, Eric Randall, Lelah Maupin), at The Paramount, July 18, 2014

Gateway Band: Le Tigre
This punky, plucky, palindromic group appears to be all about fun, but the surf pop sound is just the sugar coating on the message that you can still be a feminist and dye your hair, dance on a surfboard and dress up in lobster costumes. The group’s song “Crimson Wave” is a hilarious tribute to the menstrual cycle with a tinge of early Go-Go’s. Over the summer, Bluebird Microbrewery and Creamery on Capitol Hill named an ice cream after them—Choco-Tacocat (chocolate-dipped waffle cone chunks in vanilla ice cream). Consider Tacocat Seattle’s nod to the original Olympia riot grrrl, Kathleen Hanna. tacocat.bandcamp.com

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