12 Victorian artists to keep a close eye on in 2021
18.02.2021

12 Victorian artists to keep a close eye on in 2021

Words by Alex Callan

From indie rockers to R&B songstress' and techno-disco maestros, these are the new artists we're rooting for.

When it comes to musicians coming out of Victoria, we’re spoilt for choice. Maybe it’s something about that fresh air that fuels creative masterminds, but we can’t complain. Here’s a small look at the acts we’ll be keeping our eye on this year – you should too.

Thando

This Zimbabwean born R&B songstress has been absolutely killing the Melbourne scene. Thando first blew me away at By The Meadow 2019 and my support for her was only further solidified by her Byron Bay Bluesfest performance. Having shared the stage with Sampa The Great and Remi in the past Thando quickly made a name for herself as a figurehead of Australia’s R&B movement.

Now spending a large part of her time collaborating with the likes of Morelife Crew, Amin Payne and more recently Digital Afrika, Thando has also been making waves into more dance based communities. Her relaxed flow, which bears a similar vibe to the casual deliverings of ‘Noname’ provides easy listening whilst still maintaining such power and dominance in her lyricism.

If you don’t believe me give the provocative breakup number ‘Happy’ for a spin. She has an Noname flow ‘Internet’ style relaxed vibe whilst maintaining such power and dominance in her lyricism; take ‘Happy’ for example.

WVR BVBY

Before I talk about this group I want to clarify that their name is pronounced ‘War Baby’. Please do not make the same mistake I did of going to a festival and telling people you are keen to see ‘Waver Baby’… You will be looked at weirdly.

A lot of people may not be aware of the bustling dance-orientated jazz scene emerging in Melbourne but it’s growing exponentially. With ‘Mildlife’ and ‘30/70’ now having streamcounts in the millions, it’s evident the scene is on the rise but unfortunately bands like Sunnyside, Surprise Chef, The Seven Ups and WVR BVBY are somehow not getting as much attention as I feel they deserve.

WVR BVBY have been around the tracks for a little while now. Having won over crowds at both Meredith and Kennedys Creek in the last few years, it seems the group have constantly established more and more hype within Australia. Their loungey jazz vibes have a slight psychedelic tinge to it; making WVR BVBY the perfect introduction for listeners who may not be as acquainted with the improvisational aspects of jazz and are looking for something with a more spacious flow.

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Smarts

If you came across my review of ‘Who Needs Smarts Anyway?’, you would not be surprised that they made this list. For one, it was one of the best releases I came across last year. Secondly, it’s kind of flipped the Melbourne punk sound on its head and I love that.

It still maintains that unique Antifade Records sound that we all love but adds in some incredible elements. Most notably, Stella Rennex on Saxophone, who adopts a similar approach to The Saints, Radio Birdman and Hunters and Collectors by keeping the horns subdued as part of the rhythm section. The difference it makes to the overall sound is incredible, especially considering it flows adjacently to frantic proto-punk riffs and 70’s-esque synths.

Anticline

As we said when Anticline’s Debut EP ‘Urgency’ was reviewed last year, Anticline are “a winning lottery ticket that no one has claimed”.

With only one EP under their belt the unsigned Ballarat metalcore outfit are delivering freshest sound in the scene since Polaris first popped up. Putting an effort into constantly changing tempo, Anticline truly highlights that metalcore isn’t the stagnant genre that many Triple J endorsed acts may highlight it as. They have also notably disregarded the clean vocals commonly attached to metalcore, giving them a much rawer sound whilst still remaining incredibly technical.

If that wasn’t enough, 2020 saw the group win a stack of ‘EP of the Year Awards’, an incredible achievement for a band with no label backing.

Merve

One thing I’ll never forget was the double up of Merve into Objekt rounding out the Sunday night and bringing in the Monday morning at Golden Plains 2018. I mean, how could I? When 303 basslines are used as well as Merve embraces them, it’s almost a guarantee her tunes will get stuck in your head. Since then the Collingwood based artist has gone on to play some of Australia’s biggest festivals; ‘Let Them Eat Cake,’ ‘Splendor In The Grass’ and ‘Strawberry Fields’ as well as delivering her debut Boiler Room set live from Pitch 2019.

Having been the recent guest DJ for a ‘Triple J Friday Night Mix’, it’s only a matter of time before Merve is held in the same esteem as some of Australian’s biggest electronic artists.

Bones and Jones

About damn time, Bones and Jones are finally getting the recognition that they have always deserved! With large scale music outlets like NME and ABC/Triple J jumping behind the Bellarine based group, their ever growing popularity has seemingly soared in the last 12 months. With ‘Ginger Gold’ being set for release at the end of the month and some of the album’s material already accumulating up to 15,000 listens on Spotify, it seems like this may well be the groups biggest release to date.

Reviving the blues rock sound and adding some impressive elements (like the droney slide guitar on ‘Reckless’), Bones are truly putting their own spin on the local rock scene. With beautiful 60’s inspired vocal harmonizations between Jasper Jolley and Finn Chappell and a sound that would appeal to most demographics, Bones and Jones are a shoe-in toe to become favourites of the Australian Festival circuit (when it’s back running).

Brick Head

Having played in Deaf Wish for years, Sarah Hardiman has been working on a new project alongside Carolyn Hawkins (School Damage, Parsnip).

Merging punk, grunge and shoegaze elements together, Brick Head is the newest face on the Melbourne punk scene and they are definitely worth checking out. Their debut EP ‘Thick As Bricks’ has deservingly won over a bunch of fans online since it’s release in mid-2020 and the hype around seeing them live has only been building.

Songs like ‘Fight’ have 90’s era grunge sensibilities to them with the use of linear downtuned riffs and distorted vocals, while ‘D.I.E.D’ has a more chaotic approach; adopting some incredibly different guitar tones that will completely commandeer your attention.

At this point their online presence is relatively new, meaning they can be a little bit hard to find. But, you can check out ‘Thick As Bricks’ in full on their Bandcamp.

The Seven Ups

To put into perspective just how good The Seven Ups are live, I’m going to give an anecdote about my friend Ben. Ben once saw The Seven Ups on a Friday night, on the Sunday night he apologised to a group of us by saying, “I’m sorry that all I’ve spoken about this weekend was how good The Seven Ups were. But, they were so, so good!”

Ben’s not wrong. In fact, The Seven Ups are damn near one of the most mesmerising acts playing around Melbourne at the moment.

Fitting into the aforementioned growing Melbourne jazz scene, this 7-piece takes an approach akin to The Budos Band or Naxatras by utilizing the incorporation of heavier guitar tunings to coincide with their horn arrangements. Although as a group they are undoubtedly an Afro/Funk band, so much of their sound is lends from rock and psych-rock. It’s an incredible contrast that few can execute with such finesse.

The Seven Ups have been bustling away on the festival circuit for a few years now and their recently sold out headliner show at The Corner Hotel highlights just how much it is paying off for them.

With ‘Abode The Clouds’, the groups newest single being released in January there’s hopes that another full length may be in store for 2021. Guess we will have to wait and see.

Sirens

Having finished VCE last year, Sirens are ready to take on the psych-rock scene. The Bellarine based four-piece has been making waves over the last few months; initially playing free shows on The Barwon Heads mainstreet, now shredding the stage at The Barwon Club (seeing as the members are now overage).

With the groups debut EP set for release in the next month or so, the hype for Sirens has been growing massively; especially since their appearance at the Ocean Grove bushfire fundraiser, ‘Festival 56’ seemed to get a bunch of crew talking.

Until the release, the only real snippet I can show you is taken from that live set. If you give it a watch, I feel you’ll find yourself blown away by their dreamy soundscapes.

Agung Mango

Agung Mango has been blowing up for the last year or so but I’ve got the feeling one of these days he’s going to become an ‘overnight success’ with American crowds. The Melbourne local has been gathering steam of the bat of his appearances at Golden Plains and Spilt Milk and the release of his 2020 collaborative album with Nikodimos, ‘Son of Agung’ will only further propel his success.

The 22 year old of Balinese descent has made a name for his live shows, incorporating a full band arrangement to help convey his sound which at times blends between jazz, punk, funk and soul all whilst maintaining a hard-hitting rap feel.

With a string of collaborations already lined up for 2021 and a following leading towards Triple J crowds, Mango is almost a sure fire in for 2021’s Hottest 100 Countdown.

Travalley

In a similar Indie-Rock vain to Slowly Slowly and The Pretty Littles, Travalley have been getting a lot of attention lately, even selling out shows in Melbourne.

The two Ballarat based brothers, Levi and Sam Mellington only started releasing music in 2018 and have been amassing some pretty massive plays on Spotify and some love from radio stations.

Their newest single ‘Mr Right’ displays relaxed surfy hooks and upbeat Indie-pop choruses and is only further the lads in the right direction. Definitely a band to catch before they get massive… in fact, a little birdy may have told me that a Geelong show might be in the works….

Roza Terenzi

I was always going to include Roza Terenzi (Katie Campbell) in this list but I was sceptical, only because she moved to Berlin last year and I knew some smartass would call me out on that.

But you know what? Just because an artist from Melbourne moves to Berlin doesn’t mean that we won’t cover it in this list because at the end of the day, what she is doing deserves to be noticed.

Making the move at the beginning of last year, Campbell has not only put her attention into music; having released multiple mixes, an EP and her debut album all within the last year, but also into her label, ‘Step Ball Chain’.

Having dropped the ‘Stylish Tantrum’ EP to mark the first release by ‘Step Ball Chain’, Campbell plans to create a label that represents ‘off-kilter modern, contemporary dance music’. If the unreleased trance tracks in her Resident Advisor set are anything to base my judgement off…I think she’s onto a winner here.

Definitely an artist and label that is worth checking out.

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