With a title like “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin is naturally an enticing destination for new bands and artists looking to get their music careers off the ground. However, not all of these musicians necessarily have the income to make it doing music full-time, especially at the start of their careers. Black Fret, a local music non-profit, looks to solve this issue. Every year, the organization nominates a group of artists to be eligible to receive grants to help support them in the creation and live performance of their music. As a result, the 2016 Black Fret nominees represent what the charity believes to be among the best acts currently active in the Austin music scene. Here are five of our favorites from this year’s pool of nominees.
Forming at Austin’s St. Edward’s University in 2012, Magna Carda has since become the most important hip-hop group in Austin. Their blend of live instrumentation and studio production styles has earned them comparisons to the legendary Philadelphia group The Roots. Over the course of their 4-year career as a group, the band has shared the stage with Joey Bada$$ and The Pharcyde, played at ACL, and released five full-length projects, including their breakout mixtape, Van Geaux.
There’s not much to be known about Bee Caves at the moment. The five-piece band released their debut EP, Animals With Religion, in 2014, filled with a variety of indie-rock, folk, and a hint of electronic. Gathering from the band’s Facebook page, it seems like Bee Cave is currently preparing a full album of material, which is great news, considering how consistent their EP is.
Calliope Musicals’s eclectic, self-proclaimed “psychedelic party folk” has made them an outlier among the Austin indie scene. Already two albums deep in their discography since releasing their debut EP in 2011, the band has earned a dedicated following through their high-energy live show. Their Black Fret nomination isn’t even Calliope Musicals’s first big honor, as they were awarded Best New Band at the 2016 Austin Music Awards.
Leopold and His Fiction
Although he was raised in Detroit, Daniel Leopold AKA Leopold and His Fiction has made a name for himself in Austin. His grungy, garage-rock crossed over with elements of blues evokes an off-the-rails take on The White Stripes, unhinged and raw, yet subtly refined with a more transparent charm that Jack White never allowed to fully shine through. Leopold only seems to be going up as well, teasing a new album on the way with the wildly unapologetic lead single, “Cowboy.”
Walker Lukens has already left behind the indie guitar pop of his debut album, Devoted, progressing in the direction of electronic-tinged R&B. This makes for an exciting change of pace, even in an artist that’s still relatively new to the scene. With so many established acts out sticking to their winning formula, it’s impressive to see an artist willing to take musical risks so early in their career, and can only mean even better things are to come from Walker Lukens’s in the future.
(Photo Courtesy of Black Fret)