In honor of Black History month, let’s take a look at some Black musicians in alternative music. These groups take pieces from all genres- hip-hop, rock, R&B, blues, punk (things Black artists have had a hand in creating since the inception of the respective genres)- and in turn create something new, fresh and absolutely wonderful.
(from top to bottom)
Where to begin with the Grammy nominated band Alabama Shakes? This fantastic group, lead by powerhouse Brittany Howard, flows so easily between rock, soul and blues that it’s hard to just label them as simply a “rock” band. Formed in Alabama in 2009, the group consists of Howard (lead vocals and guitar), Heath Fogg (guitar), Zac Cockrell (bass), Ben Tanner (keyboard), and Steve Johnson (drums). With just one album to their name- 2013’s Boys and Girls- they’ve gathered up three Grammy nominations; have played Letterman, Conan, Saturday Night Live and Later… with Jools Holland; have done Glastonbury and Austin City Limits; and have even performed for the Obama Administration (jfc). Plans for 2015 include releasing their sophomore album and touring, with dates already up on their website. Make sure to check out their music on Spotify and purchase it on Amazon or iTunes (or a local record store if you’re in to vinyl things).
Known for her wild head of blonde hair and sultry vocals (and also the fact that she’s related to goddess Vanessa Williams), Jillian Hervey is half the duo of LION BABE, alongside producer Lucas Goodman. Playing with the sounds of soul, hip-hop and electronica, LION BABE just released their self-titled debut EP in December 2014, which features the singles “Jump Hi” (with Childish Gambino), and “Treat Me Like Fire”, which has two dopevideos to accompany it. A snippet from the SXSW website explains their EP in succinct, sophisticated, hipster language: "The EP is a sublime collection of tracks which showcase the band’s ethos for fearlessly reworking and reinventing the familiar, combining it with their love of fantasy and the surreal, to make their own unique pieces of art; a new kind of soul."
Since they formed in New York in 2012, the pair have played SXSW and have signed to Interscope Records. Check out their Soundcloud and website.
Listen to a PHOX record for like a minimum of 45 seconds and you’ll get a taste of blues, pop, classical and rock. Described as “a self-sabotaging group of sad sack children from Baraboo [Wisconsin]” (their own words), PHOX was formed in 2011 and consists of Jason Krunnfusz, Matthew Holmen, Zach Johnston, Matteo Roberts, Davey Roberts, and the gorgeous Monica Martin (you might have seen these stunning pictures of her floating around Tumblr!!! she’s really pretty). They released their self-titled debut album in June 2014 (recorded in Justin Vernon’s home studio!), and have played some pretty huge festivals, from Lollapalooza to the iTunes Festival to SXSW. They are up to play Bonnaroo and Coachella this year and are signed to Partisan Records. Check out their super cute website and purchase their music.
Peter and Kerry
Originally formed as a side project between two solo artists, Peter and Kerry is a new wave folk duo from London. The group consists of Kerry Leatham and Peter Lyons and together as Peter and Kerry, they have released the 2011 EP Clothes, Friends, Photos, and the 2012 album La Trimouille. Their music slides beautifully through several genres, from electronica to retro pop right on up to folk and rock. Described as whimsical, thrilling and dreamy, Peter and Kerry cite their influences as, “dancing the Charleston at rented cottage discotheques; tiny shiny shorts; Christmas jumpers; the river at Thollet.” Check out their delightful videos their singles “I Don’t Know" and "Knees" and visit their Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. Also watch them cover the Amerie bop “One Thing” here.