By Radio.com Staff
At this point, everyone knows who’s headlining Coachella, but what about those acts playing the early hours of the festival? You know, the ones written in the fine print who have the difficult task of playing for those festival goers, who presumably, though we’re not here to judge, haven’t had an alcoholic beverage yet?
For those people who want to get a bright and early start to their festival experience–doors officially open at 11 am–we’ve come up with a list of six early afternoon acts that you’re not going to want to miss. No matter how late you stayed out the night before.
Some of these acts are extremely new (RATKING, Young & Sick), while others are on the cusp of mainstream fame (MS MR, Saints of Valory). One of them has a funny name and an extremely sweet voice (Waxahatchee), while another has a singer who doesn’t usually like leaving the house (Bear Hands), but is doing it in honor of Coachella. That’s got to be worth a little of your time, right?
All of these acts though are ones you’re going to want to see now. This way, a few months from now, you can brag to all your friends that you saw them when.
So read on below and schedule yourselves accordingly. And bring sunscreen, it’s going to be hot out there in the afternoon sun.
The festival circuit is not always kind to the quiet and introspective folk singer. Katie Crutchfield, who performs under the name Waxahatchee, knows this. “We definitely feel like the tiniest fish in the biggest pond,” she said. “I’m a little nervous because I know it’s the biggest crowd we’ve ever played for. It’s like the biggest crowd so far, times four. So it’s pretty crazy.”
Crutichfield released her second album, Cerulean Salt, last year and since then has been on the road, spending a month in Europe and making two full trips around the U.S., which spanned a total of five months.
In that time, Crutchfield–who recently gained some notoriety after her song “Be Good” landed a spot on Walking Dead–learned a thing or two about reading a crowd and says for an outdoor show like Coachella, where there’s so much space between the performer and the festival goers, she’ll be sticking to a standard rock set.
“I usually play solo songs, but with a crowd like this it would be really hard,” Crutchfield explained. “It’s a bunch of people who just want to have fun and not quietly take in these really quiet, sad songs.”
Even though she has to forgo her sad, quiet songs for the day, Crutchfield, she’s looking forward to playing outside in front of such a large crowd, which will include her twin sister, Allison from the band Swearin’ and her mom. Both of whom will be watching from the wings. “They’re kind of younger and just really, really excited,” she said of her parents, who often come see her perform. “It’s cool that they’re with me when I get to do cool stuff.”
Crutchfield is also excited to treat the crowd to a few new songs, which she says sound much different from her last album, a record which sounded much different than the one before that, 2012’s American Weekend. “I feel like, for now, that’s the way I want to make records,” she said. “Just to keep myself interested and keep people on their toes.”
As for her next album, she says she has it “kind of” figured out, but Crutchfield’s still working on writing lyrics for a whole slew of songs she wrote years ago. “I’m kind of a perfectionist with the lyrics,” she said. “It’s the kind of thing I can’t force. I have to wait for it to come to me.” Not that she minds, the creative process is her favorite part about being a musician. “It’s exciting to have something new on the horizon,” she said. “To have something to take over your mind a little bit.” -Shannon Carlin
Waxahatchee plays on Friday at 1 pm on the Mojave stage.
“Pop music doesn’t always have to be as cookie-cutter as it was in the past,” says Lizzy Plapinger, the female half of proud pop duo MS MR.
Producer/instrumentalist Max Hershenow concurs, but with a caveat: “We’ve never shied away from the fact that we love pop music… but it’s pop music that pushes the boundaries of what pop is…What people are willing to listen to is so much more diverse now,” he says, citing Haim and Lorde as examples.
So, what changed in the past few years, allowing the likes of Haim, Lorde and–they hope–MS MR into the mainstream?
“I think it stems from the fact that artists like Adele, Mumford & Sons and Goyte, who had huge audience support at their shows, crossed over into radio and redefined the radio landscape,” Plapinger explained. “It sort of changed things and then there was this desire for music that was more nuanced and sincere and authentic and heartfelt, but that also had pop melodies.”
Their left field pop sensibilities are on full display with their current single, “Think of You,” that has one of the catchiest (if not quite so FCC-approved) choruses of 2014. The song is about a doomed relationship, but the video has a lot of fun re-creating the New York public access show TV Party.
“It was an opportunity for artists in New York to take over the airwaves to play music and have weird interviews,” Plapinger said of the show. “[Jean-Michel] Basquiat was on it, the members of Blondie… it was such an incredible time to be an artist in New York. We wanted to reference that in our video. This is what TV Party would look like now.”
But it’s not all fun and games when it comes to festival season. Hershenow says they approach festivals like Coachella, along with Bonnaroo and Firefly, both of which they’re on the bill for this year, as a challenge. “It’s fun to have an opportunity to win people over,” he said.
It’s a good thing that traveling just got a whole lot easier for the band: “We graduated to a tour bus!” By next summer, if all goes according to plan and their brand of pop takes over, they may need a fleet of buses to take them to even more festivals where they’re playing bigger stages at later time slots. – Brian Ives
MS MR play on Friday at 2:50 pm on the Coachella stage.
Saints of Valory
With their upcoming set at Coachella–and, for that matter, every show they ever play–Saints of Valory want to make old people feel young again and to make young people feel like they’re really living.
“It’s a difficult thing to do,” guitarist Godfrey Thomson told Radio.com. “If we can impart that to other people than I think we’ve done our job and we’ve done something that few people can do…That’s really what Saints of Valory is about – the live show and trying to impress people.”
The band has been doing just that with their song “Neon Eyes (Into the Deep),” a radio friendly track off their Possibilities EP, that is full of hooks, which will undoubtedly translate well to the Coachella stage. Their latest single, “Long Time Coming,” which they describe as “very sexy Brazilian carnival meets cool guy on drums,” should also get the early bird crowd moving.
This Brazilian flare dates back to when the band’s singer Gavin Jasper and Thomson met as kids in Rio de Janeiro where their parents were working abroad. But it was until 2010, when keyboardist Steven Buckle was brought into the mix and they played “Providence,” the first song they ever wrote, that the stars seemed to align.
“There was that magic in the air that you can’t really talk about, but you can feel,” Jasper recalled. “That was the point for me where it was like, ‘It feels like we should share it with other people.’”
The band hopes to bring that same magic to the stage this weekend.
“With the festival dynamic, you get thousands and thousands of passionate music fans,” Buckle said. “I think the plus to that is you can have some pretty magical moments…where the energy from the crowd takes off and it really gets exciting to be playing that show.” – Annie Reuter
Saints of Valory perform on Saturday at 12 pm in the Outdoor Theatre.
Young & Sick
Nick Van Hofwegen’s parents were not musicians, but luckily, they had an impressive record collection. That’s how the Norwegian born artist turned musician, better known as Young & Sick, discovered two distinctly different musical acts that would inspire him to create his own music.
“They don’t really have a lot in common with each other, but I remember like hearing Nirvana for the first time and it making a very big impact in my life, just seeing Kurt Cobain was incredible,” he explained. “And like hearing Steely Dan at a very early age. That production was so intense, it was kind of like a ‘woah’ moment.”
But don’t be fooled, Hofwegen sounds very little like either of those previously mentioned acts. Instead his self-titled debut, which came out earlier this week, is a unique blend of R&B and soul that would make Prince proud. And though there isn’t any clear sun, sand or surf influences, Hofwegen says his adopted home of California also played a part in the sound.
“A lot of it was me getting back in touch with nature,” he said. “Just really hiking and seeing all the beauty that California has to offer had to do with what the album ended up being.”
This includes opening track “Mangrove,” which Hofwegen wrote while paddling around in a canoe during the final mixing of the album. When Hofwegen sings, “I am so damn happy/Something must be wrong,” you can’t help but feel like Pharrell is off somewhere quivering in his oversized Vivienne Westwood hat. Hofwegen swears though that it’s not as depressing as it sounds.
“It is like a beautiful sadness, allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by everything around you and like for a second, just feeling so lucky,” he explained. “Floating around, mixing an album, you can’t help but feel like the luckiest person on earth, like you can’t be that happy. It’s scary.”
What’s even more scary for Hofwegen is the threat of losing his anonymity as an artist. For years he’s been designing album covers for Maroon 5, Robin Thicke and Foster the People, developing his own style that was inspired by the simplicity of the line drawings done by native tribes in New Mexico. Most people had no idea what Hofwegen actually looked like, and he was okay with that. Since, as he explains, music doesn’t need a face.
“A lot of bands in the ’60s and ’70s, were way more interested in making a beautiful piece of artwork for a cover instead of trying to pose for a photo,” he explained. “Right now, sometimes it feels like if you look at a band photo it looks like product placement more than anything else. It feels forced. It takes away a lot of the mystery that should be in music.”
Hofwegen added, “I’m not talking about staying anonymous or forcing mystery. I think it’s just interesting to have art speak for itself, keeps it more pure to me.”
That being said, Hofwegen says it’s an honor to be playing Coachella, which he attended for the first time last year. But with only 15 shows total under his belt – including one in Austin where he performed for sick puppies as part of a fundraiser for the no-kill shelter Austin Pets Alive! – every show is pretty meaningful. “Every show feels so special at this point. That probably will fade,” he said. “But I hope not.”– S.C.
Young & Sick play Saturday at 12 pm on the Mojave stage.
Our first question, when speaking with Bear Hands’ guitarist Ted Feldman, is an obvious one: how do you have a band with an agoraphobic lead singer?
“It’s difficult. [Singer Dylan Rau] doesn’t pick up his phone all the time and there’s a lot to do. A lot of stuff like this,” Feldman said, smiling at the meta-reference to our interview, before continuing. “He doesn’t really have agoraphobia. He’s just lazy.”
The group have been making a splash with their single “Giants” but the real story here is their music videos, all directed by Feldman. They’ve released three so far from their latest album Distraction.
Feldman tells us that the “Agora” video was inspired by Bad Lieutenant – amazingly enough, the Nicolas Cage/Warner Herzog remake, not the original. And that is why there was a cameo from a dragon.
“It wasn’t like a dragon, like a fire-breathing dragon. It was a sweet little thing called a bearded dragon,” Feldman explains. “We were trying to get an iguana [like in the movie Bad Lieutenant]. There’s this iguana that shows up with these bizarre close-ups. It’s kind of like Nic Cage’s [hallucination] when he’s extremely high or freaks out. So it was a little reference to that. But ended up with a dragon, which was cooler because it’s a dragon.”
Though this is the east coast-based group’s first trip to Coachella, they’ve been well briefed on what to expect. Specifically when it comes to festival maintenance.
“I expect to see some good music and that they’ll be a lot of people in a very sunny place…I hear that the grounds are really nicely kept,” Feldman said. “That’s like the extent of it. Everyone’s like, ‘It’s so clean.'” – Courtney E. Smith
Bear Hands play Saturday at 12:50 pm on the Mojave stage.
Some new artists would be nervous to make their Coachella debut, but not RATKING. “It’s gonna be a piece of cake,” Eric Adiele–better know as the Harlem hip-hop act’s beat maker and producer, Sporting Life–told Radio.com over the phone.
You can’t blame the guy for coming off a wee bit conceited. His group, which consists of teenage rappers Wiki and Hak, were added to the festival’s bill before they even released their debut album, So It Goes. That of which dropped this past Tuesday and has earned them comparisons to fellow Coachella performer, OutKast. Quite specifically Hak’s delivery on “Remove Ya” and their latest single, “So Sick Stories.”
This isn’t much of a surprise to Adiele, being that all three of RATKING’s members grew up on a healthy diet of Andre 3000 and Big Boi. “Their drive and their art and their way with words,” he said. “It’s dope as anything to be compared to them, like, s–t, you hear a little Andre? I feel great about being compared to someone we really respect.”
But while other artists are looking to their forefathers for inspiration, RATKING want to pay their respects by doing their own thing. “You have to give homage to what came before you and understand those who did it before you,” he said. “But for you to do something different you have to push it all aside and do you.”
When they hit the outdoor stage at this year’s Coachella the guys plan to treat it like any one of their other hundred gigs, most of which have been considerably smaller, barring an appearance at last year’s Pitchfork Festival in Paris. “That was a year ago, and that was huge,” Adiele explained. “But we’ve grown so much since then.” As for what they’ll play though, it’ll be a mix of their old and new songs, along with even newer material.
“I’m so over the album, I’m on to the next project,” he said laughing. “I mean, Wiki and Hak would say differently. But we tend to work like that, on to the next one.” – S.C.
RATKING plays Sunday at 12 pm at the Outdoor Theatre.