Bands from all over the world flock to Austin for SXSW. For many, it's the only time they get to play on American shores. The appeal for foreign bands is the same as it is for local ones: the opportunity to perform in front of movers, shakers, tastemakers; and bond with other bands amidst the madness. But where some American acts can treat SXSW as if it's a chore, those who've travelled from far-flung lands often feel like they're relishing the madness, and play as if seizing the (free) day (show). Here's ten bands who, come SXSW 2014, are a sure bet to burn up some stages...
From: Goiânia, Brazil
Sound: Psychedelic, experimental, sentimental, and bursting with joy. Boogarins clearly draw inspiration from their spiritual forefathers —those half-century-ago revolutionaries who birthed Tropicália— in both their experimental tendencies, and the honey-sweet voice of Fernando Almeida.
Buzz: Boogarins' debut LP, As Plantas Que Curam, introduced them as one of 2013's Best New Bands. SXSW 2014 will mark the South Americans' first-ever shows on North American soil.
From: London, England
Sound: Cloud Boat are usually dubbed post-dubstep, but they're closer to post-rock; with the James Blake-ish vocal affects and wobbly bottom-end not disguising the widescreen grandeur of their emotive, atmospheric waft.
Buzz: Cloud Boat are signed to Blake's own R&S Records, giving them the seal-of-approval of an artist they're destined to be forever compared to. Their debut LP, Book of Hours, dropped in 2013, but it's thus far flown under-the-radar.
From: London, England
Sound: After their 2011 debut, Unlearn, introduced Cymbals as Talking Heads-y punk-funk, the band've found their feet on their third LP, The Age of Fracture, an album of blissed-out synth-pop and bilingual Balearica steeped in New Order, Hot Chip, and Metronomy.
Buzz: The Age of Fracture takes its name from a study in modern sociological psychology, and somehow involves a poetic dialogue with author Joe Dunthorne. If that sounds too nerdy for you, you can just dance to it.
Watch: "The Natural World"
From: Santiago, Chile
Sound: Glittering synth-pop drolly sung by Mariana Montenegro.
Buzz: In Spanish-language indie-pop circles, Dënver's 2010 LP Música, Gramática, Gimnasia is a modern landmark; as beloved as new classics by peers like Javeria Mena and Gepe. They followed it up, in style, with 2013's Fuera de Campo. Which leads us to our seemingly-annual SXSW question: when will Chilean indie-pop ever 'break-out' in the English-speaking blogosphere?
Listen: "Las Fuerzas"
Watch: "Revista de Gimnasia"
Evans the Death
From: London, England
Sound: Scorching indie-pop jangle beautifully, brilliantly sung by Katherine Whitaker.
Buzz: When Evans the Death introduced themselves with their great, self-titled debut, they stated their case as one of 2012's Best New Bands, delivering one of 2012's Best Albums. They've been quiet since then, but hopefully their appearance at SXSW is in anticipation of a much-awaited second album.
Listen: "Catch Your Cold"
Watch: "Telling Lies"
From: Oslo, Norway
Sound: With her carolling voice and thrummed zither, Ingrid Helene Håvik gives Highasakite a distinctive frontwoman. Their sound is sweet indie-folk, but their use of thumping percussion and widescreen '80s-ballad synths gives them the obvious air of upward-mobility.
Buzz: After a handful of warm-up singles —including 2013's Maurice Sendak-quoting In and Out of Weeks EP, which featured the memorable single "Son of a Bitch"— Highasakite are releasing their debut LP, The Silent Treatment, in March.
Listen: "Since Last Wednesday"
Watch: "In and Out of Weeks"
His Electro Blue Voice
From: Como, Italy
Sound: Noisy, throbbing, brutal guitar scuzz for fans of old-school, superfuzz'd alt-rock. Francesco Mariani, the band's creative force, has a voice so hoarse it matches the fried guitar tone.
Buzz: Last year, His Electro Blue Voice released its debut LP, via those old overlords of grunge, Sub Pop. It was called Ruthless Sperm.
Listen: "Sea Bug"
Watch: "Born Tired (not the video)"
From: Glasgow, Scotland
Sound: Fuzzy, sunny, bubblegummy garage-pop. Honeyblood are a two-piece who hail from Scotland, but have more in common with the audio-California of Bleached and early Best Coast.
Buzz: The duo recently released their first-ever single, "Bud," via FatCat; although it's the B-side, "Kissing On You," that finds them at their most melodic and vibrant. They'll be touching down in Austin as part of their first-ever shows in America.
Listen: "Kissing On You"
From: Tel Aviv, Israel
Sound: Swirling shoegaze, throttling indie-rock, and new-wave balladry, memorably sung by Juval Haring, in Hebrew, in a booming baritone.
Buzz: A recent online documentary showed Vaadat Charigim at home in Tel Aviv, making their familiar-sounding indie music against an unfamiliar backdrop of conflict. Their debut album, The World Is Well Lost, was released late in 2013, and SXSW is part of their debut US tour.
Listen: "Ze Beseder Lefahed"
Watch: "Ein Nehama Ladoachim"
From: Edinburgh, Scotland
Sound: The Fence Collective —the loose collection of outsider folkies gathered in Fife, Scotland— embraced Withered Hand on the release of their debut LP, Good News. It made sense: leader Dan Wilson has the keening voice, lyrical wit, and command of gentle melancholy that they're renowned for.
Buzz: Withered Hand has recently collaborated with Eugene Kelly of The Vaselines and Pam Berry of Black Tambourine, earning incalculable cred with twee nerds. Both appear on the new Withered Hand LP, New Gods, along with members of Belle & Sebastian and Frightened Rabbit.