13 Phoenix Bands You Need to Know in 2013: The Complete List
I Was Told There'd Be Whiskey didn't start out as a serious band, but it didn't take long for the band's mix of punk and country to clean up its act. In early 2011, Mickey Kawa (guitars, vocals), Chris Stylen (guitar), Kevin Shumway (bass), and Zach Shipp (drums) started goofing around, but when they were offered a show in April, they had to quickly write enough songs for a full set.
What they came up with works. Accented by cowbell and tambourine, knotted velveteen guitar, and throaty, whiskey-soaked vocals that blend country and punk, I Was Told There'd Be Whiskey falls in line with like-minded genre miners like Drive-By Truckers, Against Me!, Wilco, and The Gaslight Anthem.
They shine on their debut self-titled LP but do so even more in a live setting, where their ramshackle punk rock roots simmer under the rootsy arrangements. -- Lauren Wise
Samuel L and the Cool J's
Joel Marquard already plays in one of the coolest bands in Phoenix, the much-adored Gospel Claws, but he can't seem to figure out what to do with his downtime. In 2011, he released a solo album of scratchy agnostic gospel music called The Through and Through Gospel Review. In 2012, he went another direction with his mod-R&B combo, Samuel L and the Cool J's.
Feel free to ignore the punny name and focus on the music: Whereas Through and Through explored Marquard's sacred influences, Samuel L and the Cool J's is all pure pop for now people. Marquard himself hangs in the back, letting Los Angeles-based frontman Haendal Balzora lead a pack including members of Where Dead Voices Gather, Dear and the Headlights, Wooden Indian, and Yellow Minute.
Balzora's vocals are wild, careening over arrangements that suggest The Animals had they signed to Stax Records, with the demented organ-grinding, spiking electric guitars, and tight drumming that implies. The long-distance affair makes shows rare, but if the band continues to impress as it did while debuting at Yucca Tap Room, it won't be long before it's recognized as Phoenix's premier soul combo. -- Jason P. Woodbury
The Phoenix foursome French Girls follow a familiar formula in their punky approach to rocking out: stripped-down chords played at a vivacious pace.
Harking back to the early "Blitzkrieg Bop" days of punk rock, this local crew has a knack for catchy melodies and sing-along-friendly chants that are fun to listen to in any setting. Singer and bassist Che Beret and drummer Chiffon Baton are the lovely ladies anchoring the rhythm section, while the balls of the band, Jean Jacques Clouseau III and Michel Ouioui, churn out grinding guitar riffs and wailing backup vocals.
With the aptly French inspired noms de plume -- not to mention oddball lyrics, foot-stomping beats, and Beret's purring delivery -- there's plenty to enjoy at a French Girls show. Individually, these rockers are no strangers to our increasingly impressive music circuit, but this particular lineup is relatively new on the block.
Since their debut in March, they have managed to string along several shows across the Valley, setting up what should be an exciting upcoming year. With a vixen of a woman at the helm, Beret and company are a local lock for Phoenix artists you need to know in 2013. Get ready for more 1-2-3 drumstick click-clacks and howling "oh oh ohs." -- Anthony Sandoval