* BY NAME MEANS ARTIST IS INACTIVE
VANSIRE (PT 1,2)
Dream-pop wonder-kids Josh Augustin and Sam Winemiller's bedroom/basement project encapsulates both the sunny glow of the coasts and the midwestern winters we are all so familiar with. The reverberant, chorus-tinged guitars bounce around the pulsating rhythms as sterile synths swell and fall into the sonic landscape. ROCKchester Pt. 1 was the first real live performance the band gave and in just a couple of years since then, they have acquired millions of streams on Spotify and a worldwide online following. Their most recent release, Angel Youth, was released in 2018 on Spirit Goth records shortly after their wintery self-released EP, The Rolling, Driftless North.
GOOD LUCK FINDING IRIS (PT. 3)
"From the misty haze of morning light emerges a sound, drawn from the rivers of spring and lifted to the edge of the forests’ reach. This is the place where the Iris climbs upward. This is the sacred hollow, the common ground of four wanderers. Ours is the voice of youth, of light, of harmony; the voice that speaks louder, crying out in search of meaning. In search of a guiding melody that returns the soul to the forest. The Iris is that which is in all of us, growing, and changing. Allowing each person to embrace their beauty, and to develop into that which they absolutely must. This is the search for that pureness of self: Good Luck Finding Iris."
WYATT MORAN (PT. 2,3,4)
There is not a local artist that can seamlessly transition between power pop riffs and slinky acoustic ballads quite like Wyatt Moran.
In 2015, Wyatt Moran set out to write an EP every year of high school. From Freshman to Sophomore and now onto Junior, the change is beyond the years of schooling.
There are two words to describe the sound Moran is developing: devastatingly honest. Those two words feed off each other—the former heightens the latter's power. Those two words are, at times, what we ought to be with each other and with ourselves; it's how we begin to grow up. Moran’s newest record, Junior, is out now.
KARATE CHOP, SILENCE (PT. 4)
Groovy and theatrical. Karate Chop, Silence combines their jazz training with inspiration from funk and classic rock to create a sound unlike most. Their 2018 EP, “No MSG”, is genre-bending and toe-tap-inducing. With a live performance full of twists and turns, KC,S is a band to look out for.
MISTER WES (PT. 4)
Punk in its finest form. Mister Wes howls, yelps, croons, and screams at the top of their lungs in their debut single, “Wazoo (College Cult)”. It seems they draw influence from anywhere they can get it. From post rock pioneers Joy Division to modern skate punk groups such as Car Seat Headrest and Rozwell Kid to experimental punk influencers Pile, Mister Wes is an amalgamation of alternative punk goodness. Their new record, “Fairway Rd N,” is out now.
MIKE KOTA (PT. 4)
Frontwoman of ROCKchester alumni, Good Luck Finding Iris, and a co-founder of the Ffake Ffriends Collective, Mike Kota is one of the most unique voices you will ever hear. Smooth and serene, Kota’s voice floats above the track of her first release, “Wasted Time”. The rain is the backdrop for contemplation. The rest is for us to decide.
GEMINI SEASON (PT. 1,2,3,4)
In a quiet house, the air floats above heads as not to disturb the sounds below. Soft-spoken and present, she's closing the blinds and letting the lights rotate off the walls...
Softly strumming and humming with the streaks of light leaking through...
The ease of the music making is hypnotic. It pours out of her like it's sparkling: there's simmering in her whisper—growing and bubbling. It's a crescendo we all expect but are never quite sure when it will come. But when it does...
ALEXANDER NATALIE (PT. 4)
“We’re all gonna die—all of us.” As damning as that seems to most, Alexander Natalie seems at peace with their brand of nihilism. Finding meaning in miserable situations is always better said than done. With the release of their first full length album, “How Much Could You Ask Of Me?”, songwriter Noah Topliff doesn’t try to make anything sound too “pretty.” Instead, he combats the somber and desolate with matter-of-factness—offering comfort in certainty and consolation in pain.
PARKWAY & COLUMBIA (PT. 4)
Emotional. Honest. Straightforward. Founded by vocalist Tyler Floyd, Parkway & Columbia is an emo-adjacent indie rock band with roots in early 2000s alternative rock and Midwest emo. Kind of like early Death Cab For Cutie reincarnated. They came all the way from Ann Arbor, MI to play ROCKchester this past year. Their new album, “Wanderer,” is out now.
W E S T K O R E A & BLACK.K LAGOON* (PT. 2,3)
A spoken word poet and a jazz student meet in an unfinished basement on a cold winter night in the heart of Minneapolis. They exchange pleasantries, profess their admiration for each others' work, and proceed to perform alongside each other.
Instantly, it clicks. The old soul and psychedelic samples synch up to the off-kilter beats that synch up to the muted trumpet that wails over the strings of words flowing fluidly into the microphone. Through the cable dragging against the stale cement, the sound travels out the speakers and into the sets of ears peering on below the small bulbed lights hanging from wooden rafters. It's a magical chain of events.
With the release of the Baby Boy EP, the world has its first look into the mind of this unlikely duo. Meandering through genres and choosing its words carefully, the record and every performance after retains the intimacy of that night—like meeting an old friend for the first time.
LEVI HENRY (PT. 4)
Minneapolis singer/songwriter Levi Henry has found the grit of Minnesota folk forefathers Mike Munson and Charlie Parr and given it a modern, emotional twist. Midwestern folk in itself is a different breed of music—it is formed in snow and dirt and hardened in ice. Henry’s most recent release, “I’m Okay", opens up that cold struggle and speaks plainly about love, loss, and surviving.
SAM BUTTERFASS* (PT. 1,3)
The creative process, I've noticed, has a way of tearing artists down and building them back up again. It's about quitting and coming back, changing and yet still repeating the same mistakes. It's the anguish, the hope and the high standards held.
To Sam, reinvention is unavoidable. The creations change as the person does. They mature and find new meanings. They adjust to their surroundings and learn to fit in different spaces. Reinvention, in this way, is inevitable; it's the only way forward.
Yet, Sam's songwriting still evokes the past tense, capturing that nostalgia in the late nights of a hometown, in the smell of coffee on the breath and snow in the socks, and in the lightness of day and all that it brings crouching behind the horizon. It's the people and places and events and emotions that grind and infuse together to form the pieces of a puzzle to be put together by him—sometimes painfully, sometimes masterfully.
CHERRY ISLES* (PT 2)
Classic alternative rock from your dairy boys™. Consisting of Sam Butterfass and Dylan Hilliker alongside live musicians Wyatt Moran and Nikola Hamilton, Cherry Isles played around Rochester and the southeastern MN area during their time together. They released one self-titled EP. Currently, all members are in different projects but still play in each other's solo projects. All members play together as the backing band of Sam Butterfass' solo project.
HAYLEY ANNE (PT. 1,2,3)
Rochester's best kept secret—hiding in plain sight.
In the auditorium of a midwestern public high school, you don't expect that kind of voice to materialize in front of you. An old soul on a beaten down mini grand.
Cut to a year later. That same voice reflecting off exposed brick as espresso machines steam and sputter. Thursdays became a day of refuge. There was a home found in the cavernous storefront adjacent to the downtown alleyway.
Cut to present day. Smoke and breath settles just above the back patio as if not ready to face the frigid air above. It has to be the 100th time she has played in the same spot but the look on her face is still the same—contentment. We cannot begin to question internal motivations; adventure can be found in a hometown, too. What we should be questioning, however, is how such immense talent exists in such a small radius.
ATOMIC CAFE (PT. 4)
Atomic Cafe was formed as the recording project of Harry Miles and Nathaniel Essma and further expanded to their current 5-piece lineup. Inspired by modern garage rock bands such as Thee Oh Sees and Twin Peaks, the band began their career playing shows in basements and garages. With the release of their EP, “Further”, the band has shifted from garage rock and noise roots towards a more polished, psychedelic pop sound. Their new EP, “Flamingo,” is out 5/17.
KOKOU KAH (PT. 3)
Casually Lit. Setting the vibe.
It's often been said but not entirely felt—music is both a solace and a survival mechanism. From living in poverty in his home country of Liberia, to living homeless without family in high school, to graduating college, Kokou Kah is the definition of a self-made man. There is a drive unlike any other in him. To practice what we preach is infrequent to us—for Kokou Kah, it's all he has ever known.
L'ENFANT* (PT. 3)
The newest project from local creative Kris Tremain. Experimentation with sampling, electronic production, and slinky keyboard solos—you can get lost in this groove easily.
MILOE (PT. 3)
"Highly emotional and honest."
Singer-songwriter drawing and blending influences from folk, rock, electronic and African music.
FFO: the sound of rain and an acoustic guitar in an open room
DYSTONIA* (PT 1)
The meme of the Rochester music scene, Dystonia—the project of ROCKchester creators Dylan Hilliker and Kevin Andrews—was a project based around collaboration and not taking yourself too seriously. The best friend duo learned their instruments together and have been playing music with one another since middle school. Over their lifespan, the group released two full length albums and two EPs as well as played numerous shows around the Rochester area, pulling in friends to contribute as they went. Dystonia serves as a reminder that anyone can form a band as long as they are willing to fail and laugh about it along the way.
PROJECT SUBSTITUTE* (PT 1)
This local jazz group consisted of various rotating members. Led by Marius Toussaint and Remi Moulder, the group played a variety of shows around the Rochester area and showed everyone in town that the kids could jazz it up too. Both Toussaint and Moulder are now attending colleges to continue their studies in jazz composition and performance, respectively.
COMMUNITY JAZZ BAND* (PT. 3)
A confluence of the best and brightest jazz players in Rochester and the surrounding areas. Always changing.
JACK PFEFFER (PT. 4)
NIKOLA HAMILTON (PT. 4)
CHARLIE BURKET (PT. 4)
SON OF MICHEL (PT. 4)
HARD-R (PT. 4)
IVORY JAMES (PT. 4)
TORQUEMADA (PT. 4)
THE MAC* (PT. 3)
STERLING HOMARD* (PT. 3)
ELAINA* (PT. 3)
LAUREN HEYDT (PT. 2,3)
TESSA STITES (PT. 3,4)
BREAKING THE THEORY* (PT. 2)
ES&F* (PT. 2)
GRACE AND CATE* (PT. 1)
EARLY EYES (PT. 3,4)
Foxy. Funky. An all-around good time. Jazz-pop group Early Eyes combines angular riffs with a smoothness unmatched by any other group in the Minnesota music climate. Started as a temporary pop-up ensemble, the group has continued to grow into one of the most exciting new indie acts in the Midwest.
They’ve got all the energy of those Dinkytown basements—sound spilling out onto the pavement. It’s in the moments between.
Their two newest EPs, All Shades of Teal and Decorating, are out now.
GULLY BOYS (PT. 4)
Gully Boys is a project fueled on determination, self-assuredness, and a DIY mentality. Formed in 2016 when none of the members knew how to play their respective instruments, the group has experienced a meteoric rise to the tune of a sold-out First Avenue main room and City Pages’ title of “Minnesota’s Best New Band". All you have to do is pick up an instrument and start playing, kids. The rest is history.
WHY NOT (PT. 3,4)
Sifting through their progressive rock sentiments, power pop choruses and math-y breakdowns, this young trio has put the work and the thought in. They're technical while remaining accessible; it's difficult and simple all at the same time.
The group have released two full length albums, an EP, and have toured extensively around the Midwest and East Coast with acts like Lunar Vacation, Citizen, and The Happy Children. Their most EP is out now.
TABBY (PT. 4)
Although known primarily for his YouTube celebrity, Tabby has shown the seriousness of his music career with two full length albums and a single that has racked up over a quarter of a million streams. With a devastating sense of humor and aversion to hyper-masculinity, Tabby puts it all out there. No topic is too contentious for commentary. The opinion is a valuable thing to possess; for Tabby, it is both a weapon and a release.
SWATCHES (PT. 4)
With reckless abandon, Swatches most recent release “Youth Can If You Wanna” rips through themes of love and growing up. The band is a perfect college radio singalong, akin to names like Vampire Weekend, The Shins, Tokyo Police Club, etc. There’s nothing that will make you feel more refreshed than the boyish throwback charm of Swatches. Their newest single, “Caffeine Dreams” is out now.
DREAMS WE’VE HAD (PT. 4)
The name says it all. Dreams We’ve Had is the dream/synth pop project of Bennett Blumberg. A wizard in the modular synth world, Blumberg creates atmospheric, luscious environments for his songwriting to live in.With the release of their first EP after Blumberg’s shift to vocals, Dreams We’ve Had garnered the attention of Spotify, receiving several editorial playlistings and a national following. The sound can fill a room fast—it’s entrancing.
GREENTOP (PT. 3,4)
There is a strong connection in art to place and person. We all know that; it informs the way we consume art. We compartmentalize works of art in different locations and associate them with different people or times in our life. We grow with the art—it changes us or we change it.
Northbound EP is the For Emma, Forever Ago of the Rochester music scene—an origin story. It is the result of a college student's retreat to Midwestern seclusion after a bout with depression and anxiety—a reassessment of the attachments made to places, relationships and periods of time.
We are given the luxury (or the burden, depending on how you view it) of time in this stage of life for self-reflection and growth. With that, the ultimate goal is to achieve clarity and a way forward. Sometimes that comes in the form of a change in scenery. Sometimes that comes in the form of the conclusion of a relationship. In this case, clarity comes in the form of a collection of songs.
Greentop, a quaint Missouri township situated alongside Highway 63, is the namesake of Isaac Jahns' solo endeavor. It holds 442 people in less than a square mile of land and passes you by with the blink of an eye, but it is a way forward. That's all it needs to be.
GLITTER MONEYYY (PT. 4)
Loud, equality-demanding, and politically pissed. Queen Trashley and TayyySlayyy are the anarchist rap powerhouses that make up Glitter Moneyyy. Originally from Florida, G$ set up home base in Chicago, earning “Best New Band of 2017” by the Chicago Reader. Akin to an equally-anarchist, equally-profane female Run the Jewels, Glitter Moneyyy makes smashing the patriarchy a total party move.
GUYTANO (PT. 3)
It's rare that young adults are as aware of their mortality as Guytano is. The pressing, cathartic shouts from lead singer Grant Hamilton leave you feeling simultaneously larger than life and smaller than your body. It's a double edged sword—we can't have the surface without what lies underneath.
FAUNA & FLORA* (PT. 1,2,3)
The name 'Fauna & Flora' implies a duality—between animals and nature, between natural and artificial sounds, between man and woman, between love and loss, between the familiar and the foreign.
There's a grand piano upstairs and a pad synth downstairs in the Nelson household; each serve their purpose. There's an alto voice on stage floating above sub bass patches, rhythmic loops, and percussive scratches, blips, and pops; all living together.
The air becomes denser by the downbeat. Each song by this Rochester trio seems to exist in a parallel universe—one where sound encompasses us like nature and we are drawn to contemplate and reflect with them. F&F’s new singles, Signs and Insight, are out now.
WEALTHY RELATIVE (PT. 3)
For Wealthy Relative, the flow is stream of consciousness. Phrases repeat themselves, walk back on previous statements, and pause for emphasis as if they are still in thought as the track continues to quiver, wobble, and writhe.
A man possessed—the overwhelming stimulus of each track toys with your head—is this really real? Can these sounds exist? What’s going on in his head? At times, Wealthy Relative is an omnipotent god in a computer world running simulations, tearing down thoughts and themes and rebuilding them as others.
In the other moments, however, he shows his humanity. Anxieties seep through, clever, playful world play is sprinkled in, and beauty/belonging is found in the midst of the chaos. Wealthy’s new EP, Not Heaven, is out now along with a video game and art installation available online.
BABY BLANKET (PT. 2,3)
The sweetest of all. Self-produced and self-made, baby blanket is a relentlessly optimistic artist—challenging all angst and uncertainty into pastel-laden synth loops and shimmering hi hats, pops, and whistles. I know—we’ve been asking him for more new music too. There’s a saying for that: all things good can wait.
THE GOODNIGHT SEQUENCE (PT. 4)
The Goodnight Sequence is the solo project of Why Not’s Henry Breen. His first release under the moniker is a genre-fluid test trial, breaking all traditional songwriting norms and finding freedom in experimentation. For fans of folk and pitch shifting.
KEVIN & THE KEEPSAKES (PT. 3,4)
A best friend, an extrovert, a performer. A familiar face in and around the local scene stepping out into the spotlight with lounge act swagger and Vegas-level grandeur along with a backing group of big band era proportions.
Kick drums and bass guitars pound and thump, pianos pulsate, brass bells cut, guitars jitter and whirl, cymbals sizzle, a man in a velvet suit croons and belts. It's all part of the job; music is—most importantly—the act of moving people.
For a short moment after, those who witness this display are struck with an ethereal energy—all the fun has been had.
BAD ADVICE CLUB (PT. 4)
With catchy melodies and bouncy, staccato instrumentals, Bad Advice Club is the Minnesotan equivalent of Vampire Weekend. Fronted by lead vocalist/guitarist and force-to-be-wreckoned-with, Ben Dyleuth, Bad Advice Club’s most recent release, “Maybe Something”, crescendos and belts out with unguarded enthusiasm. All in—all the time.
VILD (PT. 3,4)
The brainchild of Rochester photographer and creative, Emily Nelson, VILD is a fluid, expression-driven project as close to art as it is music. It is fueled by Nelson’s pursuit of self-expression and has garnered the attention of several regional players, including Treedome and Local Current. Her new single, Your Arms, is out now.
LIL TWINK (PT. 3)
The newest project from ROCKchester graphic designer/resident gay expert Andy Furness.
Trading in the angst for house beats, Furness has reinvented himself yet again. It seems each iteration is getting stronger and more entertaining than the last.
In short, Lil Twink is the unabashedly queer icon that the world needs. The first track, 'NUT ON ME', from his upcoming debut mixtape is out now.
CRS TWN HWY* (PT 1,2)
Rochester's first provocateur, crs twn hwy was the moniker of Andy Furness who has since then rebranded himself as "Lil Twink". Crs Twn Hwy was a project that confronted anxiety, angst, and depression all under the guise of self-proclaimed "spooky" beats. For Furness, crs twn hwy was an outlet to relieve tension from his daily struggles. Now, more comfortable in his sexuality and more confident in his skin, he has resolved to continue making music...just something a little more upbeat and a lot more provocative.
RYSENBERG* (PT. 2,3)
The man, the myth, the legend.
What can be said that has not already been said before? "The defining artist of a generation." "A lyrical mastermind." "His songs got me pregnant and I don't know how." Rysenberg is a man worthy of folklore, worship, and admiration.
His catalog is seemingly endless. From hits like "Rap Game Jeff Goldblum" and "4 Tha Team" to deep cuts like "Mr. I Just Took Your Thot" and "Skrt," Rysenberg's songs have encapsulated every genre known to man and almost every genre known to dog.
Life lessons such as "I never trust a thottie," "Churros sorta look like s**t," and "Roast hand // I keep it ready" ring true in all of hearts of his loyal followers.
Through the Lookin’ Ass comin’ soon…
JACK HILLIKER (PT. 3)
Influenced heavily by post-rock, post-punk, and shoegaze, Hilliker has slowly grown into a confident solo artist in the Rochester scene. Making his start playing in his brother's old band, Dystonia, Hilliker decided to focus on his own creations. The music that comes out is characterized by jangly acoustic guitar tones, a soft, broken up tenor voice, and introspective lyrics. He is working on an album entitled, “Houseflies of Wisdom”, to be released in 2019.
THE 9TH PLANET OUT (PT 1)
The 9th Planet Out is one of the more technically proficient hard rock/metal bands in the Midwest. Led by Rochester native Josh Kulack, the group is known for their show productions complete with pyrotechnics and steel risers. They recently self-released their first full length album, The 9th Planet Out, available now.
YOUNGE PARK* (PT. 1)
Pour one out for the OG indie poppers of Rochester. Formerly Newmann’s Own and The Equinox, Younge Park was a group that exuded energy and happiness in every performance. R.I.P.