ROCK THIS PLACE
Turn it up to 11 with 12 of our favorite new bands from Auckland to Brooklyn.

Photographed by Shane McCauley. 

Photographed by Shane McCauley. 

BROODS
HOMETOWN: Auckland, New Zealand

Receiving encouraging Twitter DMs from Lorde and touring Europe with Haim are the new normal for New Zealand siblings Georgia and Caleb Nott, who grew up singing rounds in the car with their family on road trips. (“We were young and didn’t know it was like something out of The Brady Bunch—just tragic,” jokes Georgia.) Of course, having musicians for parents certainly didn’t hurt their chances of becoming the latest Kiwi sensations. “Our dad plays guitar, and our mom plays guitar, flute, piano, and sings,” says Georgia. “And Caleb and I have been performing together since I was nine and he was 11.” Back then, their mother guilt-tripped the brother-sister duo into entering Nelson’s Got Talent, a mall competition named after the South Island town on the Tasman Bay where they grew up. “We entered it with this one song that we decided we were OK at, and we ended up winning all these mall vouchers,” says Georgia. They unloaded the loot on their mom, but kept making music. Soon enough, Lorde collaborator Joel Little was Facebook-messaging them. He wound up producing the duo’s fog-burning synth-pop single “Bridges” and is also manning the decks on their upcoming full-length for Capitol Records. One of the biggest highlights so far, however, has been touring with Haim, this month’s cover stars. “It was pretty much just like a little kid’s dream come true,” says Georgia. “We got to go to all of these places that we hadn’t been before, and we still get tweets from the Haim fans we met, saying that they love everything we’re doing. That’s pretty cool—it’s all you can hope for, really.”

Catfish and the Bottlemen photographed by Dan Wilton. Phox photographed by Eric T. White.

Catfish and the Bottlemen photographed by Dan Wilton. Phox photographed by Eric T. White.

CATFISH AND THE BOTTLEMEN
HOMETOWN: Llandudno, Wales

Catfish and the Bottlemen are a week away from finishing their debut LP (slated for a late-summer release), and frontman Van McCann is feeling chatty. “I’ve not seen anybody except the same six people for a month,” he says, laughing. “Have we got some time to talk?” The isolation of studio life is a far cry from the 21-year-old’s infancy. “My mum and dad were from a little town in England and they ran off together, mad about each other with nothing but a backpack,” he says. His parents had difficulties conceiving. “They tried for a test tube baby, and I was their third attempt—we spent the first two years of my life just traveling around in a car being vagabonds.” McCann’s first memory of music was an Australian busker called Catfish the Bottle Man playing wine bottles like a drum set, but when it came time to put his own sonic creations out into the world, McCann opted for a more traditional rock setup, combining the garage-pop-disco sensibilities of bands like The Strokes and Phoenix with narrative hip-hop-esque lyrics inspired by The Streets. So far, the band has gained a reputation for being hard-working, or, as The Guardian puts it, “uncool,” but they’re not immune to the occasional bout of bad behavior. “I had to sneak in to our first gig with my friend’s ID because I was only 14 or 15,” says McCann. “It was in a beer garden, and they paid us in beer. I got too drunk and was thrown out of my own gig.” School wouldn’t have him, either. “I was in the band and daydreaming all the time,” he says. Lucky for us, the dreaming has not ceased: “I told the lads when we started, ‘If you stay with me, I’m going to make you rich.’ And this is when we were rubbish. But I think we can be the best band on the planet, because if you don’t then why would you do it?”


PHOX
HOMETOWN: Madison, Wisconsin

Phox frontwoman Monica Martin is technically on vocal rest, but it’s not stopping her from squeaking out stories about her indie-pop sextet, who met in high school through musicals and marching band in the circus town of Baraboo, Wisconsin—or diagnosing her interviewer with impostor syndrome. “I mean, you fucking work at NYLON—that’s baller as hell, but then you go home and you’re watching Girls covered in Cheetos dust, and you’re like, ‘Oh my god; this is me.’” She would know; she’s also a sufferer. “Wisconsin as a whole is so polite, to a fault,” she says. “When people started coming to our shows and being supportive, it took a minute for me to say, ‘Oh they mean it; they’re not just being nice.’” Living a couple of towns over from Brian Joseph doesn’t hurt, either. The fellow Wisconsinite and Bon Iver collaborator wound up producing Phox’s forthcoming full-length debut, out June 24 on Partisan. These days, their songs are reverberating well outside their time zone—not surprising since Martin’s awkward humor and the band’s brand of soft soul via hollow-body guitar bends and cymbal crashes is an easy draw. “Things have been moving really quickly,” says Martin. “John Cameron Mitchell contacted us, and his play, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, just debuted on Broadway. So we’re sitting around talking with an idol of mine, and he’s saying that he admires what we’re doing, and he’s wearing our T-shirt. It’s all just becoming more and more surreal.”

Pennybirdrabbit photographed by Felisha Tolentino. Samsaya photographed by Nathaniel Wood. The Last Internationale photographed by Felisha Tolentino.

Pennybirdrabbit photographed by Felisha Tolentino. Samsaya photographed by Nathaniel Wood. The Last Internationale photographed by Felisha Tolentino.

PENNYBIRDRABBIT
HOMETOWN: Los Angeles

Singer-songwriter Penny Reber had just moved to Los Angeles and was still living in her car when she met Sonny Moore at a downtown warehouse party back in early 2010. He messaged her on Facebook the following day, and the two quickly became inseparable. So when Moore, a.k.a. Skrillex, asked if she might contribute her inexplicably ethereal yet earthy vocals to a little song called “All I Ask of You” for his Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP, she was game. “I remember he said ‘dubstep’ to me, and I didn’t really know what he was talking about,” she admits. “I come from a different world of music.” Her solo material under the Pennybirdrabbit moniker makes that clear enough. Her most recent EP, Look for Love, is a collaboration with Dutch producer Young & Sick and a giddy update on indie-pop that pairs show-tuney boy-girl vocals with synthesized snaps and steel drums. Now signed to Atlantic, Reber’s career has picked up enough that she no longer has to live in her car, but she only recently quit working at a diner in order to pursue music full-time. “I really miss it,” she says of her former day job. “I’m a people person.”


SAMSAYA
HOMETOWN: Oslo, Norway

As she spells out quite plainly in her feisty single “Stereotype,” Samsaya makes music that is impossible to categorize. The India-born, Norway-raised singer mixes hip-hop, rock, and classical Indian music to create can’t-not-dance pop, and considering the number of new fans who stopped her during our brief stroll at this year’s SXSW festival (her debut performances on U.S. soil), the combination is making quite an impression. “That kept happening the whole week!” she enthuses a few weeks later over the phone. Her own first fandom moment happened the day she heard Dinah Washington’s voice in a Levi’s commercial. “It was this song ‘Mad About the Boy,’ which was all the lyrics I wasn’t supposed to listen to, and it was so exciting,” she recalls. “Every time that ad came on, my world would stop.” Her strict upbringing clashed with that of her Norwegian friends, which fueled a lot of explosive energy, but “music was a great ventilation,” explains Samsaya. “I always felt a bit like an alien, but music was a place where I felt at home.” She began writing rhymes when her mom forbade her from hanging out at a local youth center. “I made my room into a club and started recording on a four track,” she says. After she scored a few acting and VJing gigs, her folks began to come around, and she’s sure to pick up some more converts this summer when her self-described “magma pop” erupts via her first full-length released in the U.S., Bombay Calling. “My music is coming from the depths of me—it’s like a flame I have no control over,” she says.


THE LAST INTERNATIONALE
HOMETOWN: New York City

New York natives Delila Paz and Edgey Pires had been writing folk-blues protest songs for years when they realized that the one thing missing from their sound was a Rage Against the Machine, Brad Wilk-style drum beat. So to find themselves at Tom Morello’s L.A. home on the last Thursday of this past November was something of a Thanksgiving miracle. “Tom called me and asked if I was doing anything, and I wasn’t,” says Wilk. Jam sessions were scheduled, and the trio hooked up with producer Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Neil Young) to record We Will Reign, set for release in June on Epic Records. “We rehearsed for like two weeks, and then we made a record; it just felt like wildfire,” says Wilk. “We got a rough track of ‘Battleground,’ the first song we recorded, and I usually don’t do this, but I went home and I played it. And then I played it again, and again, until like 2:30 in the morning, just kind of getting high off it.” He laughs. “And then we re-recorded it, truth be told.” While songs like “Workers of the World Unite” and “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Indian Blood” have an undeniable political slant, Pires admits that they, themselves, are forever searching for truth. “This band doesn’t have the answers—nobody does, not politicians, or even philosophers or professors. I believe in being involved in your community and the process of hard struggle against the state and capitalism, and in people uniting for their rights—that in itself is the real transformative moment. And we’re just part of that. We’re just human beings in society that happen to play music, and if we can say something through our music, we’re going to say it.”

Astr photographed by David Shama. Pearls Negras photographed by Larissa Felsen.

Astr photographed by David Shama. Pearls Negras photographed by Larissa Felsen.

ASTR
HOMETOWN: New York City

In the middle of a sweaty SXSW performance, Astr’s mesmeric frontwoman Zoe Silverman removed her circa-’90s pastel windbreaker and made just one request of her rapt audience: If one of her boobs were to slip out the side cutout of her leotard, would all of the people recording the performance on their cell phones please refrain from posting said incident to the Internet? Despite a tendency to flail about to the fluid beat of her band’s dark, disco-infused electro-soul, everything remained in place—until their next showcase. “My top unsnapped and it was just hanging down,” says Silverman, laughing, a few weeks later back in New York. “I held it up, but after the song, I was like, ‘Uh, you guys...does anyone have some Super Glue or a rubber band?’” The incident did give her partner, producer Adam Pallin, a chance to practice his stand-up routine. “I just let everyone know that my nipples were doing just fine, hashtag blessed,” he says. The two met at a yoga studio juice bar, but they both have musical roots—he as one half of the soul-pop duo Little Jackie and she as the daughter of Tommy Boy Entertainment founder Tom Silverman. As Astr, they’re well on their way to superstardom, with one EP down (Varsity) and a full-length on the way via 300, former WMG chief Lyor Cohen’s new music venture (Astr was his first signing). Musically, their goal is to bridge the gap between disparate genres and audiences. “Music is like a Thanksgiving table,” says Pallin with a laugh. “When people don’t want to be together, but they can still get behind a common interest.” But the most important thing, they stress, is maintaining a close connection with fans at their live shows. “We’re not on some other plane,” says Silverman. “We have tech malfunctions and wardrobe malfunctions, and we’re just trying to keep it together.”


PEARLS NEGRAS
HOMETOWN: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Alice Coelho, 18, and Mariana Alves, 16, were taking theater classes at Nós do Morro in Rio de Janeiro’s Vidigal neighborhood when they were recruited to join an after-school hip-hop workshop led by local rapper Jeckie Brown. “In the first class, only me, Alice, and her younger sister showed up,” says Alves. “She taught us how to improve our rhyme style and wise up our lyrics.” Jennifer Farys, 17, stopped by one of their rehearsals a short while later—after a vote, she was invited to join the group. Coelho’s little sister left to pursue other interests, and the trio, a favela-bred Destiny’s Child for the dubstep era, was set. They caught the ear of U.K. producer Jan Blumentrath, who approached them after a show. “He tried to talk with us, but we didn’t understand a single word,” says Alves. With the help of a translator, they learned that he wanted to record some songs with the group in a makeshift studio he’d set up in his rental apartment. “It was really nice, but we didn’t take it too seriously,” says Alves. A year later, Blumentrath returned with his Bolabo Records partner David Alexander and crew to record Pearls Negras’ Biggie Apple mixtape and a video for “Pensando em Você.” Since then, they’ve been name-checked everywhere from BuzzFeed to RollingStone.com. And to think, Coelho had no intention of attending the rap workshop. “It was raining, and I went out to buy a packet of biscuits for my father when I saw Jeckie in the street,” she says. “I thought, ‘Damn, the woman from the rap classes is coming down the road!’ So I had to say I was going.”

George Ezra photographed by Dan Wilton. Bad Suns photographed by Felisha Tolentino.

George Ezra photographed by Dan Wilton. Bad Suns photographed by Felisha Tolentino.

GEORGE EZRA
HOMETOWN: Bristol, England

George Ezra seems like a nice enough guy, all wholesome, chiseled handsomeness and an easy laugh over the phone from a local pub, where he’s a couple pints in. But press play on the video for his chugging, bluesy, Lucifer-evoking “Did You Hear the Rain?” and the low-lit inch-long scar above his eyebrow hints at a history more shadowed, perhaps even a crossroads deal for impossibly catchy singles like “Cassy O” and “Budapest.” Truth is, the Hertford-raised, Bristol-based 20-year-old singer-songwriter simply cut his teeth on the gristle of Tom Waits and Woody Guthrie, placing him next in line in a series of young U.K. artists bringing traditional rock, folk, and blues forms back from near-death (see: Jake Bugg, Tom Odell, et al.). Most of the songs that’ll find a place on his debut LP slated for this summer were written while traveling Europe by train. “I keep journals, and I fill them out with all sorts of rubbish,” says Ezra, explaining his creative process. “Some of it’s fiction; some of it’s real. I leave each notepad for three months or so, and then I come back to it, and there are songs there for me, like, ‘Ah! I don’t know who wrote this, but thank you!’ Of course, it’s me, but I’ve got a really bad memory, which is a good thing when it comes to writing.” At times, he’ll even forget his own lyrics while performing, but luckily his growing fan base is willing to help. “I just finished my first headlining tour around Europe, and it was exciting knowing that people had been hearing the tunes,” he says. “I’m quite a relaxed person, but each night I’d get off stage and be like, ‘Fuck! These people actually know the songs.’ I can’t quite get my head around it.”


BADSUNS
HOMETOWN: Los Angeles

Bad Suns frontman Christo Bowman should be relaxing. In just a few days his band will head out on a major North American tour with The 1975, but truth be told, he’s right in the middle of the busiest week of his life. A couple of nights ago, Bad Suns had their first television performance (Conan); the following night, they played their first sold-out show (Santa Ana’s Constellation Room). “We’re also wrapping up the album,” he says of the band’s debut LP, due this summer. “It’s been pretty mad.” The long, strange trip began about a decade ago, at Bowman’s first concert—Blink-182 and No Doubt. “I was the kind of kid whose passions were always shifting, but after weeks of begging, my parents finally gave in and bought me a guitar—my reward for consistent practicing was tickets to that show,” he says. “It was a really fun one.” He met guitarist Gavin Bennett in junior high, and the rest of the guys were introduced through mutual friends. “Somehow we all ended up in one band at one point, and things picked up quickly,” says Bowman. Their own first show happened about two years ago, at Rock City in Camarillo, California. “It was also our friends’ band The Neighbourhood’s first show,” says Bowman. “It’s been fun to watch where they went from there—and where we’ve gone.”

Courtney Barnett photographed by Janell Shirtcliff. Denitia and Sene photographed by Eric T. White.

Courtney Barnett photographed by Janell Shirtcliff. Denitia and Sene photographed by Eric T. White.

COURTNEY BARNETT
HOMETOWN: Melbourne, Australia

The seeds of Courtney Barnett’s languid lyricism might have been planted in a 10th grade English class. “We had a lesson where we had to deconstruct this R. Kelly song, and we spent, like, a whole hour going through the lyrics,” she says. “That was the first time I pulled apart a song.” By that point, she already knew her way around a melody, having spent her youth searching for Nirvana tabs online and copying her older brother and his friends who played in bands. A couple of years later, she was performing open-mic gigs near her home in Tasmania. And last October, the now-Melbourne-based singer-songwriter released The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, which helped her book a number of festival gigs this summer, including Firefly, Lollapalooza, and Outside Lands. With another LP in the bag that she hints “might come out at the end of the year,” she’s clearly on the verge of stardom, but Barnett is a strong proponent of setting reasonable goals. “I try not to have too high of expectations,” she says, “but if we’re talking dreams, maybe I’d record an album in Venice...with David Bowie.”


DENITIA AND SENE
HOMETOWN: Brooklyn

Back in 2011, soul vocalist Denitia was moving in to the Clubhouse, a four-story Victorian home base for a Brooklyn artist collective, when she met Sene, a hip-hop producer who’d worked at the space for about four years. “The day I moved in, a bunch of the musicians who are associated with the place, including Sene, did a house show,” explains Denitia. “Later, he asked me to sing a song on his album, and we just decided to keep working from there.” Less than two years later, they released the His and Hers LP, an intimate, scintillating bit of electro-R&B equally suited for a quiet, romantic night in or a wild fashion week after-party out. In the years since the Clubhouse was established, its Ditmas Park neighborhood has become a hub of sonic activity and a home for The National, Sufjan Stevens, Sharon Van Etten, Lucius, and countless other musicians. But Sene stumbled upon the collective/venue by accident. “I met these kids at a show, and they asked me to stop by and knock out a verse, and it turned into four or five years of work,” says Sene. “Then I met Denitia there, which has turned into two and a half years so far. So, when it gets going with us, I think we just need to hit every party we can!”

PS: Here's the playlist I made for Vevo's Guest List series, starring many of the bands featured here.