South By Southwest: A taste of Minnesota

A&E breaks down some of the locals heading to SXSW.

Jackie Renzetti

The Minnesota artists heading down to the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, this year represent an array of genres, from techno to vintage country. Some of the bands have been performing together for barely a year, while others have a decade or more under their belts. Here’s a look at some of the groups.

 

Step Rockets

The Step Rockets are a roughly 2-year-old band that’s released two singles so far — “If You Tried,” in March 2013, and “Kisser” in July. Channeling techno and psychedelia, “Kisser” is perfect for brightening up a week night with its catchy refrain and pulsating beat. Adding to its light-heartedness, the band released a goofy music video for the album that’s set in an aquarium.

Chatham Rise

The indie rock band Chatham Rise released their self-titled LP in April of last year. Filled with beautiful, chill instrumentals, they’re comparable to Youth Lagoon and Beach Fossils. Though they certainly have a more relaxing feel to their music, they cite the ’90s alternative band Galaxie 500 and Spacemen 3 as influences.

Nicholas David

Nicholas David, AKA Nicholas Mrozinski, describes his music as “from the heart, for the heart.” This former “Voice” contestant and St. Paul native has been given the nickname “The Feelin’,” which he now uses as his Twitter handle. The nickname is appropriate — his music certainly generates a lot of feels. Mrozinski’s four newest soulful and folksy tracks can be found on his EP “Say Goodbye,” his sixth release since 2004. No matter what you call him, one thing is certain — his authentic, honest and soothing voice has the capacity to speak straight to your heart.

John Mark Nelson

This 20-year-old songwriter came out with his first album, “Still Here,” in December 2011, and followed it up with “Waiting and Waiting” in August 2013. His often sage and sometimes anecdotal lyrics match his style of acoustic folk comparable to fellow Minnesota band The Pines. More music can be expected from Nelson soon — last year he ran a Kickstarter, and in February 2013 it reached its $15,000 goal to fund his next album.

Communist Daughter

If you’re looking for classic indie rock, Communist Daughter is perfect. Since 2010, the group has released two albums, each featuring chilling harmonies and telling lyrics about life and loss, with songs both melancholy and upbeat. With balanced male and female vocals, they’re comparable to Minnesotans Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps, Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles (now Field Trip) and Haley Bonar.

Gramma’s Boyfriend

Gramma’s Boyfriend will make their second SXSW appearance this year. The group includes several Minnesota musicians, including Haley Bonar, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Jacob Hanson, Luke Anderson and Mike Lewis. This combination gives them an angsty, vivacious punk-rock air, best modeled by their song “I Got This Feeling” off of their first and only album, “The Human Eye,” released in 2011.

Jeremy Messersmith

This indie pop songwriter is sure to enlighten listeners with his insightfulness. His newest album, “Heart Murmurs,” was released in February. Messersmith’s music features complex instrumentation, including strings, which adds volume to his soothing vocals.

Sonny Knight and the Lakers

This jazzy group contains the perfect mix of soul and groove. At the moment, they may be most recognized for their personality-infused cover of the Beatles’ “Day Tripper” for the Current’s Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 5.” They just released a single titled “Hey Girl,” which is bound to make you “move across the room,” as Sonny Knight boldly demands before a gripping saxophone solo. More of their upbeat, swinging work will be available on their debut LP, set to come out in April.

Black Diet

   This indie rock ‘n’ soul band won a trip to perform at SXSW after being deemed the best band in Vita.mn’s “Are You Local?” competition last Thursday at First Ave. They got a lot of attention after being selected to play at First Avenue’s “Best New Bands” on Jan. 30. They released their first single, “Thrown Stones,” last May, and their second single, “Unbroke,” at the beginning of this year.  The six members of Black Diet emanate energy from both their recordings and live performances. With frontman Jonathan Tolliver’s sweeping voice and dominating stage presence, it’s no wonder they won the festival spot.