Updated: Sep 22, 2020
The Los Angeles area has been known for years to supply the world with some of its most cutting edge, up-and-coming acts. From the Sunset Strip to Echo Park, Southern California bands display top of the line songwriting and performance chops while looking to make it big in Hollywood. It’s a melting pot for styles all around the city; there is hip-hop, pop. folk, rock, metal, psychedelic funk, and more. Today, we are going to tell you 10 of the rising Los Angeles groups to keep your eye on with a bonus act mentioned at the end!
I met SOKOJO while co-lining on a bill with them in the mid-city at The Mint LA. They’re one of those bands that just made me stop and think to myself, “Dang. I like this. They are good.” Although I have a soft spot in my heart for any guitarist wielding a Gibson, the blues indie band remained gripping throughout the performance with heavy rock riffing and heartfelt lyrics.
While they are gigging out often with several shows cancelled recently due to the pandemic, SOKOJO has only officially released two songs, “More” and “Something Real” on SoundCloud. However, I’ve noticed on their social media, during this time, they have been in the studio recording a few new songs. It’s exciting to hear new music is being created by this musical group.
The founding members are twins Kris and Kyle Soekotjo. Growing up in San Francisco, a scene known for its rock history, the duo realized how impactful music is for its listeners. That’s what lead to their starting of SOKOJO. Add to the mix, Sebastian Neudeck on drums and the band proves to have great dynamics. Check out their music here: https://soundcloud.com/sokojo
2. KARA CONNOLLY
With a luxuriously spontaneous air to her way of songwriting, Kara Connolly is great in the way that she melds pop music with folk country. Her debut album, “Life in Rearview”, boasts the single of the same name. It’s absolutely catchy and the lyrical content makes one think, “What have I left behind, and what have I left behind that I can’t remember?”
Her full debut album, “Life in Rearview”, put Kara on the map almost immediately, as it made it onto the first round ballot for “Best Pop Album of the Year” at the GRAMMY Awards. Additionally, it was nominated for two Hollywood Music in Media Awards (Best Independent Music Video and Best Message Song/Social Impact).
We can expect big things from Kara, as she remains open-hearted to her listeners and brings us the message of a well-lived life. You can check out Kara Connolly’s music on all major streaming platforms, including Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7z1txpxDu73WkZKUhM7WKp?si=HKza0VsZS8ayLpm1hu8L4w — Watch her recent video “Marry Me”: https://greenweddingshoes.com/kara-connolly-marry-me-exclusive/
3. DINA RENÉE
Sporting captivating hooks and uplifting good vibes, Dina Renée can be seen all about Los Angeles. From hosting karaoke nights where she belts her vibrato or performing at places on the Sunset Strip, Dina always keeps the audience entertained with her authentic pop star personality. Her most recent single, “What I’m Not Gonna Do”, is glossy and bright. The song contains several layers of instrumental styles including synth, beats, and in the bridge, an acoustic guitar.
Her melodies are unique and bring the listener into the now. So much so, it has lead Dina Renée to become a success, while being herself and encouraging others to do the same. She plays the piano and sings popular music in a way that makes us all want to go back to the 2000’s or late nineties.
Her music video for "What I'm Not Gonna Do" is nothing less than awesome with a funny edge. It showcases her totally getting fed up with a significant other who just doesn’t get it. Ending with the note, “It’s not you. It’s him”, the video reminds us to stand up for what we know is right in a relationship. Check it out, filmed in her Barbie Pastel Palace, a dream come true:
4. THE HIGGS
I’ve been a fan of The Higgs for a while. The first time I saw them play was at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom a couple years back in Denver, Colorado. They certainly had a hype going on then and continue to now. It turns out they are based in Southern California, which proves to be great for our jam band rock scene here in Cali.
I realized this while seeing them play at their recent sold out Troubadour show where they opened for Twiddle in March 2020. It was fun, the place was packed to the gills, and the band was fresh. They continue to be something new every time I see them play with heavy emphasis on the jamming and potential improv of the moment. The band blends funk, rock, and jazz elements to keep the audience dancing.
Recently, the group has released an 11 song album titled “Rose Will Fall - Mixtape”. It’s their second live album compilation. This is right on point, as the band is known for their live performances, especially with their dedicated fan base in the jam band scene. For the project, they collaborated with J.P. Hesser of Cast Away Studios. Listen to the album release here: https://open.spotify.com/track/2KQNM1Ww5iqgHE5EdukKDQ?si=ybZv6sl9Q6GVnGqGHNSk_w
5. MOTHER ROSE
Mother Rose is a modern rock alternative band from Southeast Los Angeles that has been fusing acoustic and indie styles for over 5+ years. Their persistent progressive rock sound has wowed audiences with high energy and unruly guitar licks. There is even a blues element, I noticed, in their song “This Point of View”.
Their music has an indie easy-listening vibe to it with strong melodies and tempo. The singer, Ruly Rivas, sings in a passionate manner often with emotive lyrics. I find their sound interesting, as they are mixing at times under-the-stars tweed country sounds with alt-rock droning.
It just so happens that during this interesting time of 2020, they have been live-streaming, creating content, and playing many songs off their most recent album “The Man in All My Stories”, released on March 8, 2020. You can stream the full release here: https://open.spotify.com/album/2y6Bkp5f18Fu9hq1XM0bbD?si=t3FJZr8DTKic-2Tw6MnYfw
6. NERVOUS VULPIS
Nervous Vulpis is a SoCal based rock band that has been making waves while playing venues such as House of Blues Anaheim, TRiP Santa Monica, The Blvd, and more. They have such snappy and singable choruses and verses. The songwriting is precise and relatable while staying different and at times poetic.
The band consists of Alex Nobles (Vocals/Guitar), Matt Kilgore (Guitar/Vocals), Kristen Michael (Drums), and Eder Villagran (Bass/Vox). They play alternative rock that has in-tune chord progressions, jumping drums, trucking bass, and inviting singing. The band is alternative, post grunge mixed with a bit of hard rock.
Nervous Vulpis happens to have an EP on the way titled “Still Living”. I got a sneak peek, and it’s a very inspirational listen. They recorded the release at Steakhouse Studio in North Hollywood. Well-done and beyond, honestly, this band is tearing up the scene. They are on their way and perform often in the SoCal region. Be sure to follow them on SoundCloud, so you get all updates when they release their newest music, you’ll be glad you did: https://soundcloud.com/nervousvulpis
7. XIAN SOUNDS
Xian Sounds is a sultry style singer reminiscent of Amy Winehouse meets Lake Street Drive. With a deep voice that is conversational and alluring. She is backed by a funk style band with her as a powerhouse on the vocals. She has a sweet demeanor with a lot of core behind it.
Her recent song, “Writing’s On The Wall (Anxiety)” is comforting, and yet perplexing, as to why a delightful gal would feel so downtrodden. It’s a great listen for someone who wants to feel their feelings.
She is 70’s influenced pop with a blues flair. Empowering and a great listen. You can check it out here: https://open.spotify.com/track/6wcYaU0muhnIKNiSXeccQg?si=jte7pZIWTr2NulN-mRUJsA
8. CHRISTIE HUFF & KEROSENE HYMNS
Kerosene Hymns, often fronted by Christie Huff, is an LA based band fusing hard rock, blues, and country. Each musician has an individual career in their own rite, but when they get together, it is always something special. Individually and collectively they have performed to sold out iconic LA venues including: House of Blues, The Viper Room, The Whisky a Go Go, The Mint, Hotel Cafe, and more. In early 2020, they performed to their dedicated UK audience, and the band normally performs at the annual SXSW show at Shakespeare’s venue.
As mentioned before, the band consists of Christie Huff on lead vocals and guitar, Mr. Trent on lead electric guitar, T-Roy on the drums, and Bill Scott as bassist/producer. The supergroup combines new-school rockabilly sounds with a strong energized performance that draws crowds far and wide.
They’ve been a staple in the Los Angeles area for a number of years. Check out their performance of “Rockstar” live from The Virgil:
9. REVEREND DOCTOR
I have had the delight of getting to know SoCal based Reverend Doctor recently via his live-stream performances and by having him as a guest on my podcast. He is such a compassionate individual with an ear for music and a heart for art. With a beautiful voice and knack for playing the guitar, Revered Doctor provides socially aware lyrics with a spirit of celebration.
His elevating and sincere pop writing style aims to connect people and build community. This is evident in his recent single release of “Better Together’. The song meditates on bringing groups of people, no matter their views, together as one. It inspires us to be real with our neighbors and get to know one another.
The opening line strikes a motivating chord with “If you lean on me, I’ll lean on you, we can both be standing, when we get through.” It makes sense, when we help lift each other up, we benefit the greater good. Take a listen to this energizing hit here: https://songwhip.com/reverend-doctor/better-together?fbclid=IwAR3Z6mGFuzEd--5P0AyIz4bEC14cOZULwc8N1cmQfw7JHr5clz5Tar0XKPg
10. BLOOMING FIRE
Number 10 on our list always reminds me to hang ten and go enjoy the outdoors. The activist-charged psychedelic band prides themselves on being vocal about justice, sustainability, and animal rights. Beginning with Sierra Madre and Dryden Van Cleave, the band soon expanded to add Sierra’s brother, Ian Nagay, and fourth member, Robbie Coe.
Sierra leads strongly on the lead vocals, where she sometimes jumps on the guitar and sometimes serenades us with her saxophone. Ian represents on some hip-hop style singing, synth, keys, and nature-sound loops. Robbie Coe keeps the heartbeat going for the band on the drums, and Dryden on lead electric guitar.
The group is a remembrance of what the 1960’s would look like today, as the band actively performs at rallies on climate change and at enlightening events such as Burning Man and Lucidity. Check out their recent performance of “Waterfalls” at TRiP Santa Monica:
11. KENDRA & THE BUNNIES
And at number 11, which happens to be my favorite number, we have my favorite band! Well, what can I say, it’s me! Kendra & the Bunnies, lead by Kendra Muecke is a Los Angeles based psychedelic folk rock Americana act. As a singer-songwriter, poet, and guitarist, Kendra’s method of presentation relies heavily on story-telling to paint a vivid picture of world peace and collective understanding for the listener.
Combining electric and acoustic guitar, percussions, audio samples, and quick-wit limericks, Kendra & the Bunnies has been taking the scene by storm. Performing nationally, all around Los Angeles, and on live-streams, Kendra has found success with audiences of all creeds and ages. Two of her songs from her debut album “of Vinyl” have charted on the Digital Radio Charts with “Gust & Dissolve” reaching as high as #38 on the Top 50 Adult Contemporary Airplay Charts.
Her upcoming single “NYKO, NYKO” is being released on Thursday, August 27, 2020. The track features guest artists Garrett Morris (The Higgs) and Marcus Rezak (Marcus Rezak Solo Project, Shred is Dead, FrankenZaps Monster). You can check out a preview of the song and pre-save it to your library here: https://snd.click/c12g9hbq
About the Writer:
Kendra Muecke of "Kendra & the Bunnies" Music is a singer/songwriter, writer, actress, spiritualist, and published author. She performs psychedelic folk rock Americana with an emphasis on storytelling and poetic presentation. She is based in Los Angeles, CA. https://kendraelisabethmuecke.com