Ten bands to catch before they explode at this year's End of the Road Festival, chosen by festival founder Simon Taffe.
Ohtis originally formed when Sam Swinson and co-founder Adam Pressley were high-school sophomores in Normal, Illinois (they self-released their first material on CD-Rs while they were still teenagers). Their partnership has defined Ohtis, accompanied by a revolving cast of local musicians joining the live act over the years, including multi-instrumentalist Nate Hahn.
"These guys have got that classic country and alt country thing going on, like Silver Jews, Smog and old Wilco," Simon says. "I don't think there's a single person who I've played 'The Running' to that hasn't absolutely loved it. It's heart-on-your-sleeve songwriting."
An artist, event and music collective based in Deptford, South-East London, Steam Down jump off from the sonic springboard of Afrofuturism, grime and future soul. Created to connect London based musicians and producers, it evolved into a weekly affair where the artists and an extended musical family generate spontaneous sonic soundscapes and grooves reflecting their lives in the city.
"I saw a live video and they got the crowd really going," says Simon. "I went to see them myself and they were incredible. Not at all a typical jazz act, there's so much more going on. Steam Down are among several jazz artists we booked this year, so much talent around at the moment."
"I stumbled across them at a festival last year, they were great," Simon explains. "They reminded me of a British LCD Soundsystem. I predict big things for this lot, and not just because they've been coming to End Of The Roads since they were kids."
A supremely exciting live band; Squid played the Endo of the Road Christmas show last year too and the past year has seen them share stages with the likes of Goat Girl and DUDS. With driving motorik rhythms plus the best elements of psychedelic rock and of punk thrown in for good measure, they reminds us of both Television and LCD Soundsystem, maybe with a bit of Foals.
The London-based musical polymath Shirley Tetteh is a guitarist, composer, and all-around spellbinding musician and artist. She’s a vital part of the new jazz scene; a founding member of the fast-rising all-female collective Nérija, and she’s played in spiritual jazz big band Maisha. She even won a Parliamentary Jazz Award in 2018 for Best Newcomer. Her willingness to push forward saw the birth of Tetteh’s solo project Nardeydey, a radical departure from her previous work.
"I heard one track of her 'Speed Dial' and it blew me away," says Simon. "Like early Talking Heads. Had to book her straight away!"
"Lisa has played before," Simon tells us. "It's kind of traditional Irish folk but so much more. Her voice is just incredible."
Heard a Long Gone Song - the fourth album from O'Neil - a mix of thoroughly captivating self-written and traditional songs, which are uncompromising and spectacularly soul-shaking. Her performances are as eclectic as they are authentic and the songs are stripped raw, rough and beautiful.
Named after writer and fellow Rotterdam citizen Robert Loesberg, Lewsberg are one of the most interesting bands to come out of a city currently enjoying something of an alternative musical renaissance, and their laconic, measured, arty-but-inquisitive sound is amazing.
"Someone told me Lewsberg were one of the best bands they saw at Eurosonic," explains Simon. "Reminds me of early Velvet Underground, so that was that really."
Listen to Angelo De Augustine and you’ll hear Nick Drake’s intricate guitar parts, Elliott Smith’s pure vocals, and at times, a likeness to the soulfulness of artists such as Vashti Bunyan and Joanna Newsom. "He's on Sufjan Stevens' label Asthmatic Kitty and he does sound a bit like Sufjan. Just really beautiful songwriting," Simon tells us.
After experimenting with ghostly folk and desolate electronica, California singer-songwriter Anna St Louis found her own unique voice and sound – it’s folk music but with hints of country twang, blues, and modern, atmospheric layering. "Friend of the festival Kevin Morby told me about Anna, he produced her record," Simon tells us. "And when Kevin speaks, you listen. So I booked her!"
Multi-instrumentalist John Johanna draws inspiration from studies in borderless folkways and mystical scripture, his music is brilliantly diverse, blending psychedelia, primal gospel blues and folk, and tracing a line between the music of east and west. Based in rural Norfolk, he’s a truly unique artist – one who makes devotional music that is intensely personal, yet totally universal.
"I've seen him play a few times, including at End of The Road before," says Simon. "Really spiritual, open and honest songwriter. He's really unpredictable as well, in a David Thomas Broughton sort of way."
Norwegian art rockers Pom Poko’s sound combines an eccentric mix of styles and a triumph of joy and instinct. Theirs is a punk attitude combined with a nerdy knowledge of pop history, and it makes for an explosive package that brings to mind the likes of Le Tigre and Deerhoof. "Bella Union played me their album and they sounds really fun on record," Simon tells us. "They're going to support Ezra Furman on tour now as well, which I'm excited about"