The Come Up’s favorite SJ sounds of 2021 (so far)

While the pandemic is very much still raging on, the state of California has decided to fully open up businesses and public spaces. This Summer will mark the first time in almost two years where it is socially acceptable to visit friends, travel, shop, and party. With this new change, venues have been announcing shows slated for the beginning of fall.

The chasm between a Spring of covid restrictions and a Fall of festivals and concerts means that the Summer has and will consist of DIY local shows that did not have to await the bureaucratic limbo that official venues have to navigate. But with the economic recession, mass unemployment, evictions, moves, self-actualization, and protests, the local music scene has transformed drastically and part of the Summer answers existential questions about the shape of local shows to come. The only way to navigate and consider the evolving music scene is to explore the artists who will most likely take to the stages in the coming months and years.

That being said, we thought it would be fun to spotlight our favorite releases so far in 2021. These releases are made up of the younger end of musicians that The Come Up historically caters to. We hope to see these artists on future lineups of backyard gigs, temporary pop-up spaces, and park shows.

And for those of you who regularly read and follow us online, we are going to focus on musicians who haven’t played a gig with us in the past. As The Come Up reaches our- *gasp*- mid-to-late twenties, we want to focus on the Gen Z artists who will eat our flesh and use it to rebuild the SJ art scene post-pandemic when we begin to gray and consider whether we should go to Outside Lands or buy property in the midwest.

Let’s get into it.

Barefoot Gen – .Wav Club Zen

Notable Tracks: Zen, Wav, Asia, Chevy Chase, Red Euros

Listening to Barefoot Gen feels a lot like observing a bunch of young, aspiring chefs make pasta, except they forgo classic techniques and opt to throw noodles against the wall to see if the pasta sticks. You ask yourself ‘why’ often with their music. Why does the single Zen begin with a Shiloh Dynasty-esque acoustic guitar and pitched vocal and delve into a DJ Screw style verse that reminds me of a Hollow Squad release? And why does it work so well?

Managing to float above the curve of the predictably homogenous landscape of South Bay Area hip-hop, Barefoot Gen’s hotly anticipated album challenges its listeners with a Pollock splattering of genres and sounds that feels like an homage to alternative hip hop’s past and it’s future. The collage on the album cover perfectly encapsulates the feel of the album; an overstimulating hodgepodge of instrumentals and flows that borrow from electronic, hyperpop, 90s Memphis trap, and industrial rap. One track will have a catchy hook that is an existential metaphor about the impermanence of California waves, then jump to a verse about heavy drug and alcohol abuse. In contrast, their use of melodic, lovesick vocals complements their dynamic bars and acts as a reprieve from Barefoot’s calling card of chaos

Previous releases from the collective and it’s individual members tend to be a bit hit-or-miss, a by-product of Frankensteining equal parts Don Tolliver, Suicide Boy$, and Death Grips. While their lyrics about sex and drugs can be fairly shallow and redundant, the self aware and poetic bars interlaced throughout the project remind you that each verse, feature, beat-switch, and sample is intentional.

Chine Slender – Worlds Away from Limbo97

Notable Tracks: CVNT KALL ME BRO +, Complicated, Worldz Away

“I call it demons and you call it trauma. The difference between it is my demons are brothers”

For a project that seemingly sounds like the rest of the landscape of trap-inspired SoundCloud rap, Chine Slender demonstrates with lyrics like the one above that there is more going on with his artistry than what it seems. Chine provides his generation with a young, more accessible 2Chainz. He never takes himself too seriously, but is aware of his own talent — his bars are punchy and witty, and his flow is more oriented around making music with bounce to it. Worldz Away from Limbo 97 is very much Chine delving into the subgenre of SoundCloud rap that is following the footsteps of Juice WRLD and Trippie Redd, but still staying fairly authentic to what makes Chine Chine. Known for creating fun, rage anthems — with the single Cvn’t Call me Bro being the standout track- Chine focuses this project on making more accessible, cloudy rap.

If we’re being honest, the notable tracks are the only ones that I recommend to people who find most Soundcloud rap pretty homogenous. If your listening rotation doesn’t have Comethazine, Juice WRLD, Lil Tecca, or Polo G, you’re not going to get much out of the project as a whole. That being said, Chine Slender demonstrates himself as the smartest and most ambitious rapper among his South Bay contemporaries. 

Chine is still figuring his sound as he gets older and steps into his career- as he should. We have high hopes his next stellar release is not worlds away.

holographic lover- Spirits EP

Standout Tracks: blackrose.exe photographs

You have probably noticed that most of the list here so far is made up of rap. And if we’re keeping it 100, everything is hip hop inspired these days. Because streaming makes it hard for listeners and artists alike not to be intimately familiar with multiple categories of musical stylings, the concept of a distinct “genre” is fairly dead. This blurring of categorizing lines is also amplified by young folks’ increasing access to music making software.  But with all of the lush production and lyrics that are just clamoring to become the key ingredient to a TikTok trend, it’s nice listening to some cool funky ambient instrumentals that most likely occupy an entirely different world of TikTok videos.

Holographic Lover made an EP that feels like the Waterworld level of Super Mario 64; effervescent, yet haunting at points. The luring synths accompanied by keys that creep throughout the track give a retro 2000s sound that reminds you of early PC screensavers. The music is an immersive calming experience, so when photographs kicks off with a trap inspired beat you’ll go “Damn it, hip hop literally is everywhere!” to “this track works so well because of the established atmosphere by the slow build-up of the project as a whole”. Holographic Lover releases feel like someone who is committing to building ambient sound that creates a through-line from Vaporwave to the modern cloud trap sound. We’re looking forward to seeing this artist get more attention for taking on such a feat.

AnotherMay- Self-Titled Ep and Right Next Door (Single)

Standout Tracks: Marigold, Los Pinguinos, and You Can Tell Me

If you’re someone who wants to vibe to songs that remind you of your failed romantic life? Well AnotherMay has you covered with an EP released by Paper House Records, San Jose’s resident alternative rock label. AnotherMay released seven songs that came out in 2020 and followed up with the single Right Next Door, which is on rotation and will make an appearance on our upcoming SJ mix.

AnotherMay (AM) is an indie shoegaze outfit that has just enough pep in their step to groove to. San Jose could use more mature indie rock acts and it is clear the band is made of seasoned musicians who are up for the challenge. AnotherMay has as a bit of a feel of moroseness that reminds me of a minimalist version of acts like Jay Som, Real Estate or Cigarettes After Sex without the trademark saturated, reverb production that makes shoegaze feel like music you dreamt up. Conversely, AnotherMay at times can feel lucid- and I’m still not sure if that works for or against their music. The vocalist gives the same sultry calm that Kings of Convenience or Helado Negro provide, which may conflict at times with the instrumentation in the songs. But at times when it sounds dreamy, it becomes less shoegaze and more like bedroom pop such as Gus Dapperton or the late great band Her’s. Early releases such as Sarah’s Room, are mostly in Spanish and have the same youthful indie rock stylings that reminds me of the now-defunct Cultbusters. While the 2020 and 2021 releases stand on their own as contemplative tepid tracks, access to the earlier discography makes you appreciate just how much this band explores the sounds- and languages- they decide to use.

But much like the love interest that clearly inspires the lyrics, there are times when the tracks can struggle to keep your attention. There are times when the drums sit in the mix in a weird way where you notice how uninspired it can sound. Or there are moments where the vocals miss the mark of being melancholy and just sound tired. While Sarah’s Room feels like a confident EP of friends in their garage making hits, their recent work ends up feeling stiff as the band works through a more tepid sound. But the sound textures such as pop synths or guitar solos like in You Can Tell Me or a beautiful track sung in Spanish like Los Pinguinos makes up for the lulls through their tracks. The single Right Next Door, with a music video which reminds me of the Chef Boyardee commercial from my childhood, remedies a lot of these issues. It feels more alive, with the use of more cymbals and harmonies to make the songs feel much fuller.

I think that if you’re someone who is into indie rock like Beach House, Helado Negro or enjoy classic acts like Nick Drake and Devandra Burnhart, this EP is worth having on your driving playlist. Looking forward to seeing more from these folks. Support Paper House Records!

Nava Onti- 1033 PROGRAM_1997 (single)

If I were to tell you about a young artist making “conscious rap” that borrows from the 80s and 90s sound, you may conjure up an image of an artist who emulates Lauryn Hill, De La Soul, or A Tribe Called Quest. SJ based artist Nava Onti instead goes for a frenzied, electro-funk that shares more in common with 90s Baile Funk or rap acts like Afrika Bambaataa or Run D.M.C. Who knew a track about police state violence and how it shapes the identity of non-white youth in the United States could slap? It’s heavy subject matter is accompanied by retro instrumentation with a Brazilian drum sample that makes it feel more like an innovation to funk carioca than an imitation of it.

This list was an attempt at covering albums and EPs, but considering the effort that came behind the video and song, this is a track that is worth spotlighting. With Nava Onti, Keida Bordeaux, and Barefoot Gen, San Jose is developing an alternative hip hop sound that seems to modernize a local scene of rappers who basically are just replicating E-40 for the umpteenth time. 1033 PROGRAM_1997 is sporadic, the lyrics are poignant, the flow is catchy, and it comes across as a raw artist who is resistant to becoming marketable or accessible. As far as ethos and sound, this is the most punk thing to come out of San Jose in a minute. We are looking forward to the follow up of this.

Do you want us to check out your music? Submit your work to us here or DM us on Instagram and you may end up on a playlist!

A Brief History on Mike Park and Asian Man Records

I first became aware of Mike Park when I saw him perform at the House of Blues on my 18th birthday. He was opening for Streetlight Manifesto and told a funny story about how he wrote a rejection letter to the band years ago and regrets it. He talked a bit about San Jose (before I even really knew where it was), the importance of the DIY ethos, and his label Asian Man Records (which I was vaguely aware of due to its place in punk music history). His set was fun and he seemed like he was an all-around genuine dude. Little did I know I was listening to one of the most iconic figures in SJ, a city that I now deeply love.

I’ve been meaning to share this little brief tidbit on Asian Man Records and Mike Park for a minute. Because he is one of many great creatives based in the South Bay. With all of the turmoil, the Asian community is facing in the wake of waves of hate crimes and violence, compounded by an even longer history of xenophobia and racism, it reminded me of the importance of showcasing an artist who has spent his entire life preaching for peace and anti-racism. I hope we all remember the importance that music and artistry have in shaping our communities. So enjoy the brief read.

The Come Up’s Best of the Scene 2019

Written by Isaiah Wilson & Riley McShane

2019 was a huge year for the local scene, with a strong slate of releases from newcomers and stalwarts alike. We’ve narrowed it down to 10 of our favorites, in no particular order. This list does not capture all of the great music that came out of San Jose this year, which makes us incredibly excited for what is to come in 2020!

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Peach Tree Rascals – Plus, Summa, Mariposa, and Mango

The immensely talented south bay collective only released one song at a time this year, but each one felt like an event. Starting with February’s sweet & mellow “Plus”, the group churned out 3 of the year’s most memorable singles between July and October. The strongest of the batch is Mariposa, a propulsive end-of-summer anthem about letting one’s true colors shine through insecurities. The accompanying music video is a goregeous demonstration of the growth of PTR’s visual brand. 

The group garnered some attention from Ones to Watch, NME, and other outlets this year, signaling the next phase of their meteoric rise in 2020.

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Knowmadic – Departure

Perhaps no figure in the scene was as deserving of some time off this year than SJ’s most prolific beatmaker. After 7 releases in 2018, this year was somewhat quieter for Knowmadic, but the 3 we got were nothing short of phenomenal. Not wasting any time with January’s unforgettable single “Faces”, he followed with the lush 5-track Drifting in the spring and Depature at the close of summer. Collectively, Knowmadic’s output this year is some of the best in the beatmaker’s young career, and reinforced his position as one of the city’s most singular and important artistic visionaries.

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Ian Santillano – 1856

One of the most long-awaited projects on this list, 1856 was as confident and emotionally resonant a debut as we could have hoped for from the multi-hyphenate known as Ian Santillano. Compact and sonically rich, 1856 shows off Santillano’s musical chops and inventive production style on tracks such as “Luv” and “Do You” but also opened an avenue for the artist to discuss the difficulty of losing his father at a young age. It was the balance between authentic vulnerability and outright fun that made this project so memorable.  

The release show for 1856 at the Art Boutiki remains one of the Come Up’s favorite memories of the year. Santillano, along with his band The Housewarmers have quickly become one of the must-see live acts in the city. We only hope they don’t plan to slow down anytime soon.

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Planttvibes – Nip it in the Bud

We did already discuss this project at length earlier in the year, but our love for Planttvibes’ (aka Julia Bozzo’s) debut album has not changed. Upon repeated listenings, the quiet, lovelorn beauty of Nip it in the Bud becomes surprisingly expansive; the engine of the album’s distinct sound powered by the timeless timbre of Bozzo’s voice. 

Lucky for us, Planttvibes was not done for the year after Nip it in the Bud. Her single “I Like” released in late June, is a dreamy and impeccably-constructed continuation of what made her debut album work. It also sees the artist opening up considerably, standing on the power of being true to herself.

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Swells & The Lünatics – Moonstruck

This is a special one for us. Back in October 2018, the Come Up reached out to a talented local artist, Austin Avila, about putting a show together for his project “SWELLS”. He did us one better and assembled a band of supremely talented local musicians and the show remains one of our favorites. Fast forward almost 1 year, and that same band set out to make a record. 

Moonstruck arrived at the height of summer, and it was well worth the wait. Impeccably produced and wonderfully original, it signaled the arrival of a powerful force in the San Jose scene. Immediately capitalizing on their release, the boys of Swells & The Lünatics went on to headline our first-ever South by South Bay festival in August and open for Shannon in the Clams in the fall. We have it on good authority that the group is taking a well-earned break while each of its supremely talented members (Austin Avila, Ryan Wall, Mitchell Licata, Kristian Buenconsejo, and Henry Stein) focus on their individual projects. But we’re not worried. They’re a Band, in the truest sense of the word. And we can’t wait to see what’s next.

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William Corduroy- Wilson

After a stream of infectious singles including “Mustard” and “Neutral” Stockton-based William Corduroy proved he can form his various sounds into a cohesive project.Primarily produced and written by Corduroy himself, this project is a groove that perfectly blends the retro pop of Prince with neo-jazz, and more contemporary soul and indie pop. This work is a sonic kaleidoscope that manages to feel fresh and exciting with every listen.

From the washed-out funk anthem “Damnage” to the slow synth-ladened ballad, “Virgin Boi” featuring a rap verse from Solyscott, Wilson is eclectic but not scattered. Every choice feels intentional.

William Corduroy and his band brought down the house at our SanJoChella show and continued to impress the San Jose scene at his own feature during July’s Waxxx Wednesday. We cannot emphasize this enough: listen to Wilson.

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Casey Cope- Dancing

Casey Cope’s Dancing is an act of rebellion. In a landscape of Bay Area hip-hop that can be overly-reliant on contrived production or overdone subject matter, Casey is a breath of fresh air. It is the reason why Cope is one of our favorite live acts, having been featured at our first Sound José show at Garden At The Flea in May.

The album cover itself depicts a jovial Casey in a suit against a magenta background, which perfectly captures the feel of the album. It is a carefree, bubbly project from a carefree artist who still arrives best dressed. With help from producer and partner-in-crime Big Soda, Casey Cope injects the project with his signature clever metaphors and references. Despite Casey’s typical cheekiness, the album feels serious in its fun. Cope is authentic in his upbringing, his sexuality, and the sound he has crafted. This album feels more like an affirmation of self than anything. Casey Cope raps ferociously in a project that feels effortless.

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Mild Monk- Radio Summer

On his Soundcloud, Mild Monk graced us with a few lofi hip-hop beats that are just as immersive and giddy as his other singles this year. These tracks are easygoing instrumentals that embody the grace and execution of a Miyazaki film. Monk creates his own universes with sound and his ventures into beatmaking are another universe we are happy to exist in.

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Dante Escher- Loomer

Loomer is the debut solo project from Dante Escher of the alt-rap collective Barefoot Gen who had an impressive 2019 full of interesting releases. Much like the artist Mauritius Cornelis Escher, Loomer feels like a methodical and surrealist creation that pulls you in.

Dante bravely ventures into the fringe sounds of modern hip hop, layering them over the framework of a pop song. Tracks will have auto-tune harmonies over production that feels like Death Grips then switch the beat into a jazzy sample.

Songs like “Nimbus” take the insane samples and auto tune and allows them to collapse into each other while “Clementine” is a palette cleanser, stripping the sound to mostly guitar, with vocals that build into a truly beautiful piece. If Escher’s release is any indication, Barefoot Gen is an incubator of serious musical talent.

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KIEDA BORDEAUX- Now Keep In Mind That I’m an Artist Vol 2.  

San José transplant Kieda Bordeaux has had a busy year releasing several projects, but Now Keep In Mind That I’m an Artist Vol 2. stands above. Named for an Erykah Badu quote Now Keep In Mind Vol 2. is a soulful piece of black artistry from an individuals comfortable in her talents and willing to stretch into new sounds. Each track has memorable sample-heavy production that is accompanied with Kieda’s mastery of cadence and flow. The production, voice pitched raps, the clever bars, is reminiscent of a TDE project. This project is fun, thoughtful, and challenges the listener to sit in the passenger seat as Kieda takes you for a ride in her work.

Kieda Bordeaux performed tracks from this project and others at our Halloween show this year.  It was her first performance in California and needless to say, she felt the love. Bordeaux is an artist to look out for in 2020. Her releases of 2019 should serve as a challenge to the local rap community to elevate their game.


 

We invite you to listen for yourself! Check out our playlist featuring our favorite local artists below:

 

Why diversity — especially gender diversity — in your local scene matters

Hi all!

We did a piece on the importance of diversity in the DIY music scene. It was featured by none other than The Bay Bridged! We are truly excited and grateful to be featured on a site that does so much to support the music scene in the Bay Area! Follow the link to give it a read!

We believe diversity isn’t just a good thing to aim for, it is necessary to the lifeblood of the DIY scene.

Source: Why diversity — especially gender diversity — in your local scene matters

Making Your Own Come Up: A Guide to Putting on DIY Shows

 

Summer is officially here, which means people all over the Bay Area are looking for ways to  enjoy themselves. Checking out a local music or comedy show is a great way to spend this special season. It is interesting living in San José at a time when so many creatives are putting on shows and events with the intent of helping the local scene thrive. And with people visiting or coming back for Summer break, your show can leave a lasting impression on an individual or the community. 

If you are reading this, you are probably hoping to put a somewhat professional show together. Putting on any show is tricky and an audience can tell the difference between a low-effort show and something truly unique that had some thought, sweat, and love behind it. With about 40 shows under our belts in less than 2 years, we figured we could provide some advice on how to put on your own DIY shows that probably won’t suck. 

1. Set A Date

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First thing is you want to have a small team of people, preferably people with experience in throwing parties, experience in art and design, who have a strong social network, and have good tastes in music. Then set up a date. You want to give yourself at least six weeks to plan out your first show and at least a month to announce it online and to friends. You want to pick a date that doesn’t compete with other events that will eclipse your show (graduations, bigger artists in town, local festivals, or that guy that everyone knows’ birthday party). 

We also recommend having no more than three to four acts for your first show and giving yourself a half hour between sets to space out your show, especially if your show will have bands. In short, your show should be scheduled to be about 4 hours with the expectation that it will run a half hour longer. Stacking too many artists will fatigue your audience and while it can get more people to show up, it makes logistics, set up, and timing a pain in the ass. If you want a super stacked show, have a strong team and some good acts line up. 

 

2. Find A Venue

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And of course, you have to choose a venue. Bars, warehouses, retail spaces, and breweries are open for a music show because it will bring people in on a slower day. A lot of retail spaces or bars have access to music equipment or they have the capital to invest in one. But using someone’s business as a venue means more restrictions on musical content and you have to run a tighter ship with set times in order to please the owners. A shop is more likely to say yes to you putting on a show in their brick-and-mortar if you will put on an event that will bring in a crowd on a slower night of the week. Unfortunately, most slow nights for a business do not land on the weekend, so choose wisely. 

Using a house as a venue tends to mean a looser structure. You don’t have to worry about a band being too hardcore or vulgar, you can charge tickets easier, and the show can progress into a party. That being said, people have to live in the house once your show is over. Just make sure that everyone involved with your show knows how to respect the space, no matter where it is. We know some fellas who were evicted after putting on a show that got out of hand. Just be smart and cautious. 

FY6A1107A photo from a basement show at the 363 House. It’s always a good idea to find a house with people who are invested in putting on events for the community.

3. Book Your Acts

What is a music show without music? Whether it is a rap show, indie rock, blues, EDM, bedroom pop, or Norwegian death metal, you want to have a lineup that excites people and gets them to dance or awkwardly nod their head off-rhythm. The Come Up tests the waters with the genres we will have on the lineup, but overall we will make sure the bands all have some common threads. Whether the acts are all jazz inspired, have indie rock feels, or even sets the same mood, you want to make sure that the crowd doesn’t get turned off by a complete change in musical style. 

There is a 70% chance that if you are reading this, you are a musician or in a band, and you will be part of the lineup. And nothing is wrong with that. But it is important to pick bands that are good, that are fairly reliable, and that will also have an investment in your show. We recommend going to local shows and meeting with bands after their sets or just browsing through Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and Spotify to find some good local acts. It is always good to carry extra cables, amps, and equipment in case a band forgets something important. And it is always good to send out an email, dm, or text with all of the show details to every group performing and hold them to that load in and sound check time. If you have some money to pay them, this makes this process easier. 

AND HAVE THE NUMBER OF AT LEAST ONE ARTIST FROM EACH ACT IN CASE THERE IS AN EMERGENCY.

Make sure that you promote the show and band and be a good host wherever you have the show. Remember there is no show without these musicians taking the time out to put on a fun show, so be appreciative and accommodating. Who knows, they may make it big and say good things about you in Pitchfork. 

4. Create a Good Flier

 

 

 

 

With this step also comes the step of creating a name for your show. You can call the show whatever you like, but it’s always a good rule to never take your show title too seriously. You want something catchy and that rolls off the tongue. It’s never a bad idea to throw a pop culture reference or callout to a show  (see SanJoChella)

Once you get that taken care of, create an eye-catching flier. We recommend having one nice image that matches vibe of the show, up to two fonts max should be on the flier, and the text should not fill the page. 

Above are some great examples of eye catching fliers with clear information about the event. Once that flier is done, put them in the local cafes and hangout spots, make a Facebook event, and share it on your social media.

 

5. Set a Vibe

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So you have the date, the venue, the bands, the flier, and you are now promoting your show. Now you have to figure out what kind of atmosphere you want to create for your attendees. What is the stage going to look like? Does the venue look sketchy? What kind of lighting will you use? Will you have someone hosting the show? Is this show about getting hype or is it chill and intimate? Are you going to have party favors? Will there be Glow sticks? Beer? Weed? Pizza? All of these questions are about establishing a tone of the show. 

Setting a vibe is about making sure people feel comfortable and have a good time at your events. It also means ensuring your space is safe and inclusive to all. Besides just being a good thing to strive for, diverse groups bring in more people, which allows you access to more artists and show organizers. 

This all ties into creating a message behind your show (is it just a fun show, a party, or part of a bigger movement?). Remember when promoting the hell out of your show to try to articulate what the overall theme or atmosphere of the show will be. Posting on Instagram, Snapchat, and your Facebook event page is a good way to create hype alone.

And make sure you have a good time, but remember your first priority is sticking to your schedule, making sure everything sounds good, and your performers and audience are enjoying themselves. DIY shows are a lot of fun with the right people, proper plans, creative minds, and good attitude. Below is a video of one of our backyard shows last year, remember to take photos and document the great work you do. Have a fun Summer Everyone!