new artists roundup, 2016
NYLON, june/july 2016
“Self-care is so important,” says Jamila Woods. She’s sitting in a coffee shop in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, her hair wound in several Bantu knots. “It’s a reminder to spend time on myself,” she says of the style, which she spent an hour perfecting on a recent morning. The 26-year-old singer-poet hasn’t had much time to spare as of late: She’s been juggling a full-time job at a non-profit with an exploding music career—one that’s found the soulful, gospel-raised artist working on her debut album, when she’s not stealing the spotlight on cuts by Chance the Rapper and Macklemore. “I don’t always feel in control of my skills,” says Woods, admitting that she’s just starting to acknowledge her exceptional talent. “I have to harness that.” DAN HYMAN
WTF (Where They From): Chicago
Earned It: Raised on a diet of church choir and a capella groups, Woods initially blended in with the pack. Recently, however, her undeniable voice and celestial hooks have forced her to the front, namely with her poetic turns on Chance’s “Sunday Candy” and Macklemore’s lightning rod of a track, “White Privilege II,” which sparked her solo career.
U Remind Me: Much like India Arie, Woods’s voice is literature sprung to life; her funky hip-hop production calls to mind early Erykah Badu. But don’t box Woods into any one genre: “Because I sing the way I do, people might think it’s R&B. It’s OK with me if people can’t see all my influences,” she says, citing a wide range of unexpected inspirations, like Incubus. “My voice will be the through-line.”
Pon De Replay: “Blk Girl Soldier,” a biting rebuke of racial and gender stereotypes. “They want us in the kitchen/ Kill our sons with lynchings/ We get loud about it/ Oh, now we’re bitches,” she sings on the track.
Personal Jesus: “My grandma. She basically raised me and my siblings,” says Woods. “She’s also the one who brought me and my sister to church, and it’s how I fell in love with gospel music and had my first experience singing in front of people. We were in a choir called the Sunshine Band and she would say, ‘You are singing to make the old people happy. You bring sunshine into the old people’s lives.’ That was the most affirming experience ever. It’s always stuck with me.”
I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times): Woods cites the 2015 Pitchfork Music Festival, where she performed with Chance and Kirk Franklin, as her favorite performance so far. (“There was a moment when Kirk Franklin was grinding against me and I was like, ‘This is amazing!’”)
Heartbeat Song: Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby.” “Me and my friend in college would always close out karaoke with it,” says Woods. “Anything that’s super difficult to sing, I love that.”
We’ve Only Just Begun: Woods’s debut album is due out this summer.
The R&B scene is twisting and turning toward an increasingly alternative sound. Mabel, however, is here to remind us of the classic vibe that made us fall in love with the genre.
WTF (Where They From): London and Stockholm
Family Affair: Mabel’s parents are Neneh Cherry and producer Cameron McVey. “I think I took after my parents. Using music as one of my main ways of expression just felt natural,” says the 20-year-old.
Earned It: Clearly, the singer prioritizes quality over quantity—she took the internet by storm with just two singles to her name. The tracks take us back to the ’90s and early aughts, when girl-next-door R&B singers ruled the radio waves.
U Remind Me: She once posted on her socials that a fan (very aptly) described her as “the female Drake.” We’d add that her laid-back style is reminiscent of One in a Million-era Aaliyah, and her impressive vocal range brings Sade to mind as well.
Pon De Replay: “Know Me Better” (and her feature on SBTRKT’s “I Feel Your Pain”)
Personal Jesus: Mabel cites Lauryn Hill, Beyoncé, Kehlani, and Drake as inspirations, but her friends and family impact her work as well.
Cheerleader: In January, Adele tweeted that Mabel’s “My Boy My Town” was “so beautiful.” “That felt incredible,” says Mabel. “I’ve always respected the way she tells real stories and shares her experiences, which isn’t always an easy thing to do. I try to do that, too—to always be as real as possible. I’m hoping that’s what she heard.”
I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times): Earlier this year, Mabel toured with Years & Years. “On our last night we played Wembley. It was only my fifth gig ever,” she recalls. “To play a venue that size was definitely something I’ll never forget.”
Thriller: Mabel’s afraid of the dark. “I still sleep with the light on in the hallway and leave my door open,” she says.
Heartbeat Song: “Headlines” by Drake
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This): While she’d love to win a Grammy, Mabel’s main focus is making an album that she is completely happy with. (“One thing at a time!” she says.)
Every generation needs a band that captures its ideals and identity. For the romantic, socially aware kids of the internet era, Transviolet are well on their way to fulfilling that role.
Say My Name: Sarah McTaggart, 27, sings lead, backed by Judah McCarthy, Michael Panek, and Jon Garcia (all three of whom are 26 years old).
WTF (Where They From): Los Angeles via New York City
Earned It: This isn’t your run-of-the-mill pop band. For every sway-inducing love song in their catalog, they’ve got a thought-provoking track that touches on self-identification, establishing themselves as an honest, authentic reflection of what it means to be a millennial. (Also, Twin Shadow remixed one of their tracks, so there’s that.)
Pon De Replay: “New Bohemia”
U Remind Me: Transviolet are what would result if Lorde and Halsey wrote songs together while sitting on a moonlit beach in Southern California.
Personal Jesus: John Lennon. “I love how he could take such complex ideas and transform them into something anyone can understand,” says McTaggart.
Cheerleader: Katy Perry, who tweeted that “Girls Your Age” was her “Song of the Day” last July, only to be followed up by a Harry Styles co-sign
Walk on the Wild Side: “At SXSW, we played nine shows and did 12 interviews and five photo shoots in four days,” says McTaggart. “We went from cursing the day we were born while dragging our gear—on foot—to the next gig in 90-degree Texas heat, to feeling [like we were] on top of the world after sharing the stage with these insanely talented people. We got to play with Jack Garratt, Declan McKenna, Peaches, Misterwives, AudioDamn!, Gallant, and so many more. By the end, we were sweaty, sleep-deprived zombies, but so inspired by all the amazing artists we played with and the die-hard fans who were so passionate about discovering new music.”
Thriller: Spiders were McTaggart’s biggest fear, “until Trump supporters became a thing,” she says. “Absolutely terrifying.”
Heartbeat Song: “Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t sing along to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen,” says McTaggart.
We’ve Only Just Begun: This summer is set to be a major one for Transviolet—they’ve got a ton of performances planned at various festivals, along with the release of their debut album.
They’re low on fucks given, but high on our list of musical acts that can perfectly express our gamut of feels.
Say My Name: Alex Luciano (vocals and guitar), 20, and Noah Bowman (drums), 23
WTF (Where They From): New Paltz, New York
Started From the Bottom: “Our start was very casual,” says Luciano. “We were bored on a Sunday in August 2014 and decided to try playing music together. I had never been in a band before, and the idea of playing electric guitar was so crazy. We had a ton of fun and realized that, hey, maybe we could do this!”
Earned It: The duo has an effortlessness that’s hard not to appreciate. With lyrics like “Come on, take my hand/ Fuck all your romance/ I just wanna dance” on “Scene Sick” and “If I told you I loved you, I don’t know who/ It would scare away faster” on “Sleep Talk,” Luciano can speak volumes in just a few words, accompanied by Bowman’s infectious beats.
U Remind Me: If someone sang the brutally honest thoughts that you have after one too many Blue Moons on a Saturday night, it’d basically sound like a Diet Cig track.
Pon De Replay: “Dinner Date”
Personal Jesus: Luciano’s 12-year-old sister Kailee is her biggest inspiration. “It’s tough being a tweenage girl and she is the coolest, most confident person I know,” she says.
Cheerleader: “Um, Will Arnett tweeted about digging our tunes once,” offers Luciano.
Walk on the Wild Side: “Going to SXSW and inhaling tacos while running down the street with all of our gear and a stolen garden gnome” has been the band’s wildest experience thus far, says Luciano.
Thriller: Bowman is terrified of snakes and Luciano recently discovered a new fear after her shoelaces got stuck in her tuning pegs while performing. (“A high kick gone very wrong,” she explains.)
Heartbeat Song: Aaron Carter’s magnum opus, “Aaron’s Party (Come Get It)”
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This): The band has three goals: Release a full-length record, tour in Australia, and go to Disneyland.
She’s changing the face of electronic music, and transforming its sound with quirky flourishes in her ethereal beats.
WTF (Where They From): Sapporo, Japan
Started From the Bottom: “My father was a pro musician, and he taught me how to use GarageBand when I was in elementary school,” says the 21-year-old. Later, she bought Cubase 7 with money she made from her part-time job at a ramen restaurant.
Earned It: From the rushing waters in “Mizu” to the infectious beat of incoming and outgoing iMessage alerts in “iPhone Bubbling” off of Qrion’s self-titled EP, every sound imaginable is fair game to be incorporated into her music.
U Remind Me: Qrion’s beats are what should play in Zelda when Link gets resurrected by a life.
Pon De Replay: “Mizu”
Personal Jesus: Her influences include Jacques Greene, Tokimonsta, and Skrillex.
Cheerleader: Ryan Hemsworth featured Qrion on his track “Every Square Inch.”
I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times): Her favorite performance was in San Francisco at That Venus Patrol & Wild Rumpus Party. “That night was really amazing,” she says. “I’ll remember that view from the stage forever.”
Walk on the Wild Side: Last year, a Vine of Qrion dancing to “Bandz a Make Her Dance (Hitmane Kokirimix)” during her live set went viral. “Many of my favorite artists emailed me like, ‘I love your dancing, where can I download that song?’” she recalls. “I thought, ‘The internet is...wow!’”
Thriller: Qrion’s terrified of sea life. “I have no idea why I’m afraid of it because I really like seafood. But I can’t look at pictures of whales, fish, or coral under the sea. Even if it’s just an illustrated encyclopedia, I can’t touch it. I also can’t go to aquariums.”
Heartbeat Song: “Best Friend” by Young Thug
We’ve Only Just Begun: Up next, the producer will release an EP old-school-style, as a physical CD.
If your playlist is lacking both quixotic ambience and heartstring-tugging lyrics, this band is here to fill that void.
Say My Name: Paul Klein (lead vocals), Jake Goss (drums), and Les Priest (keys, guitar, and vocals)
WTF (Where They From): Tulsa, Oklahoma; Bentonville, Arkansas; and Poplar Bluff, Missouri, respectively
Started From the Bottom: The guys initially met in Nashville, then Klein returned to Los Angeles to work on his solo career as Goss and Priest continued to collaborate. “I asked if I could fly back for a few days to work on some songs with them,” says Klein. “In four days, we wrote and recorded ‘Hot Lights’ and ‘Walk Away’ and put them on the internet. That’s when we became a band.”
Earned It: Apart from sounding amazing overall, the trio go the extra mile in everything they do, including curating their website and merchandise to fit their minimalist aesthetic.
U Remind Me: LANY are what would result if The 1975 and Frank Ocean had a sleepover and watched Purple Rain on repeat for two dreary days in Brooklyn, then flew to L.A. and hit the studio.
Pon De Replay: “Where the Hell Are My Friends,” dream-pop meets R&B at its best
Personal Jesus: Matt Healy. “He just gets it,” says Klein.
Cheerleader: Sam Smith. “A while ago, way before NYLON was ever asking us questions, he posted our album art on Instagram and said that he liked us,” says Klein. “I couldn’t really breathe when I saw it.”
Hide Away: “When we’re not touring or writing, I try to run around L.A. and take it all in,” says Klein. “Point Dume is my beach. Philz Coffee in Santa Monica is my spot. Sunset bike rides on The Strand, 3rd Street Promenade, American Rag on La Brea, SunLife Organics in Malibu for açai bowls—I’m the biggest California cliché.”
Heartbeat Song: “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber. “What is it about that song that’s so singable? Ed Sheeran, you freaking genius,” says Klein.
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This): The band’s main goal is to have their debut album hit No. 1 on the charts. (“And I practice my Grammy speech all the time, so…,” adds Klein.)
She’s a testament to the increasingly fluid boundaries between genres—and proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
WTF (Where They From): Red Bluff, California
Started From the Bottom: “I started playing music formally by way of my elementary school’s music program,” says the 27-year-old Glaspy, recalling her introduction to the fiddle. “Really, I feel like my musical journey began in the living room [of my childhood home], where the stereo and all the guitars were.”
Earned It: Right when you’d classify her as a folk singer, she dips into blues, borrows from alt-rock, and invokes jazz to craft her own signature sound.
U Remind Me: Glaspy’s music is what it would sound like if Norah Jones and Joni Mitchell held a séance to summon Billie Holiday and Jeff Buckley for a jam session.
Pon De Replay: “Somebody to Anybody”
Personal Jesus: “My biggest inspiration is life as I know it,” says Glaspy. “As long as I’m living, I’ll be inspired by every little thing. Nora Ephron used to say, ‘Everything is copy’—I relate to that.”
Hide Away: Glaspy is a member of a private library in New York City, and she rides her bike there to read.
Thriller: “I fear nothing,” says Glaspy, before admitting that there are actually a few things—heights, avocados, and small spaces.
Heartbeat Song: “Sugar... Oh, honey, honey/ You are my candy girl/ And you got me wantin’ you,” sings Glaspy (in other words, “Sugar Sugar” by The Archies).
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This): Glaspy’s goal is simple—“I hope to move people,” she says.
We’ve Only Just Begun: Her first record, Emotions and Math, drops on ATO Records in June, and she’s already started working on the second. Glaspy’s got her sights set on other endeavors, too. “I was an actress as a child and I’m hoping to bring that back into my life,” she says. “I’d also like to be writing fiction someday. There’s a book in me somewhere, but I’ve got to make the time to do it.”
At just 18 years old, she’s already proving to be a powerhouse pop vocalist.
WTF (Where They From): France
Started From the Bottom: Kaye began singing at age 10, and a friend signed her up to audition for France’s Got Talent when she was 13. Things progressed quickly from there: “I won [the show], met my producer at 14 and started working on my debut album at 15,” says Kaye.
Earned It: Distinguishing oneself in the oversaturated world of pop music is no easy feat, but Kaye is doing so with her unexpected vocal techniques, alternating between belting and whispering—sometimes within the same song.
U Remind Me: Kaye’s music sounds like Sia absentmindedly humming melodies as she does her spring cleaning. Perhaps the Australian singer-songwriter is aware of the similarity, considering Kaye had first dibs on a track that she penned, “Freeze You Out.” “My album was not even out yet, so it remains a big mystery how this came about,” says Kaye. “I’m just proud and happy, and don’t really want to know more. Sia is one of my favorite artists.”
Personal Jesus: Bruno Mars
Cheerleader: “I was opening for Lindsey Stirling [in 2014] and instantly fell in love with her personality,” says Kaye. “We talked about working on something together, and I wrote ‘Sounds Like Heaven’ and sent it to her. She played her violins on it—it was a dream come true!”
I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times): Kaye’s favorite performance was her second concert in Paris at L’Olympia, which she calls “the most mythical venue in France.”
Thriller: Her biggest fear? Leeches.
Heartbeat Song: “Just about all of Lana Del Rey’s songs,” says Kaye.
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This): As far as what she hopes to accomplish in her career, the singer remains ambivalent. “I’m 18 and blessed,” she says. “I enjoy it, and try not to worry about the future.”
We’ve Only Just Begun: Kaye will be touring throughout France this summer, and hopes to perform for her American fans in the coming months.
After making waves in Philadelphia’s indie-rock scene as the frontwoman of Little Big League, the dream-pop star has gone solo and a bit more somber, with raw lyrics that depict close encounters with death, mourning, and unrequited love.
Say My Name: Michelle Zauner, 27
WTF (Where They From): Born in Seoul, South Korea, and raised in Eugene, Oregon, Zauner is now based in Brooklyn.
Earned It: Zauner can record a song a day (see: her cassette projects June and American Sound/Where Is My Great Big Feeling?) and her debut album, Psychopomp, proves that she can channel this productivity even in the face of pain—many of the songs on the record are reworked tracks that she wrote during her late mother’s battle with cancer.
Pon De Replay: “In Heaven”
Personal Jesus: Björk. “I remember seeing her on a VH1 special when I was a kid and being so blown away by her weird voice and appearance,” says Zauner. “The quality of work that she’s produced both visually and sonically is truly astounding.”
Walk on the Wild Side: What’s the wildest experience of Zauner’s career so far? “The sheer number of kids that have thanked me for my work,” she says. “So many people have shared their experiences of feeling less isolated as an Asian American, or how [Psychopomp] helped them grieve after losing a mom, dad, or sibling. It’s really wild to hear these stories and feel like I’ve touched some people.”
Hide Away: Zauner spends her free time “working on music, making kimchi, and watching Game of Thrones while drinking wine out of my tusk goblet.”
Thriller: Birds are Zauner’s greatest fear. “I once had to feed my neighbor’s parrot. I am forever scarred by the experience,” she recalls.
We’ve Only Just Begun: Over the next couple of months, Zauner will be releasing music videos and touring. She’s hoping to put out a second album next year. '
The Scottish alt-pop prodigy has got just the right amount of edge to carve out a path away from the rest of the crowd.
WTF (Where They From): Glasgow, Scotland
Started From the Bottom: “I wanted to be Taylor Swift, so I made my mum buy me a guitar, and taught myself how to play over one summer,” says KLOE.
Earned It: Few artists can master the happy medium between refreshingly new and comfortably familiar, but KLOE does so with the expertise of someone who has navigated the industry for years, despite only having been signed last year, when she was just 18 years old.
U Remind Me: She sounds like Banks, as a teen rebel you’d find smoking under the bleachers one minute and sitting in the back of the room during a Shakespeare Club meeting the next.
Pon De Replay: “Teenage Craze”
Personal Jesus: The Weeknd
I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times): KLOE’s favorite performance of her career thus far took place at Club NME at KOKO in London back in January. “I feel like it was the first gig where I properly came into my own,” she says. “I was really proud of that performance, and I’ll never forget the audience singing my lyrics back to me.”
Hide Away: When she’s not working on music, you can find the singer in her bedroom back in Scotland, “listening to music in the dark with the world drowned out,” she says.
Heartbeat Song: She’s got two songs that she can’t help but sing along to—Lisbon’s “Native” and Erik Hassle’s “No Words.”
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This): KLOE’s main focus right now is to “make a fucking badass album and tour the world with it.”
“Does that make any sense? Sometimes I feel like the shit I say doesn’t make any sense,” Bibi Bourelly says with a laugh. We’ve finally secured time to chat between her performances on opposite ends of the country, and our long-awaited conversation is sprinkled with modest interludes like this one. The habit reveals an endearing characteristic of the stellar singer-songwriter: She, like everyone else, gets a bit self-conscious when put on the spot. Make no mistake, though; Bourelly, who turns 22 in July, is far from lacking in confidence, evidenced by the fearlessness of tracks that she’s written for both herself (“Ego,” off of her debut EP, Free the Real: Part #1, for example) and some of the industry’s giants (like Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money”). “I’ve been around the world and have seen a lot of different people, and I’ve realized that people live their lives doing shit that they don’t even like because they’re scared,” says Bourelly. “It wasn’t that I was scared to be myself—I was scared to not be myself. I was more afraid of being hated for being who I was.” Now that the rising artist has overcome that fear, there’s no telling what peaks her career will reach next.
WTF (Where They From): Berlin
Family Affair: Though her father is famed jazz musician Jean-Paul Bourelly, the singer confesses that he had no influence on her interest in music, and that it’s just her natural means of self-expression. “I never paid attention. It was just like, ‘Daddy has a show,’” she says. “And I never consciously decided to make music. It was something that I was born into, and it is something that I’ve always done my entire life.” She established her bluesy sound as early as eight years old, and worked with a vocal coach, MFA Kera, at age 13 to refine it.
Earned It: Bourelly can write a hit song within minutes, and evoke tears within seconds with her raw, gravelly voice.
U Remind Me: She maintains that she has no definitive sound that can be described, since she’s penned songs for such a wide variety of artists. “I’ve written pop records. I’ve written soul, I’ve written country records,” she says. “But one repetitive factor in my music is that it is very conversational. It’s honest and natural.” (If we were to make a comparison, though, we’d say her songs sound like what Elle King and Rihanna would create after getting lit at a Beyoncé concert together.)
Pon De Replay: “Sally”
Cheerleader: “At the Grammys, Kendrick Lamar stopped me and was like, ‘You’re so dope. My fiancée put me on to you,’” the singer gushes. “I’m like, ‘I’m dope? You’re dope! What are you saying? The fuck?’ I would love to work with him.”
I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times): Bourelly’s favorite performance was at Columbia University in New York City. “I loved it because there were a bunch of kids going so hard,” she says.
We’ve Only Just Begun: Part two of her debut EP drops this summer—and “fuck yeah, I’m working on an album,” she adds.