15 Bands to Watch in 2015

Local bands and artists to pay attention to in the new year

In the past, we've used our annual Bands to Watch round-up to take a look at the local scene to see which up-and-coming acts stand poised to make some noise in the coming year. We've tweaked the formula a bit this time around. Instead of simply focusing on new bands, we've provided profiles of local bands with a significant release coming in 2015. Even though he has a studio release ready to drop in the first quarter, we've excluded Machine Gun Kelly because he's really become a national act. Here's a look at 15 local acts that look to make an impact in 2015.

Broccoli Samurai

The year is closing on a new Broccoli Samurai, with 2014 seeing the departures of a founding bassist and guitarist. But the horizon is a glowing one. The current lineup — Ryan Hodson on keys, Chris Walker on drums, Josh Sebo on bass, Mike Miller on guitar — infuses a new energy into the region's headiest jamtronica outfit. They spoke with Scene from an eastside recording studio, where they're putting late-night work into the next album. Word on the street is it's a doozy. "We're really excited for the names we're getting in here to help us out with this album," Ryan says somewhat guardedly. And with a fresh batch of compositions, the band sounds more excited than ever. "We've definitely learned each other's styles a lot more by playing together so much over the years," Chris says. "We've been getting a lot more locked-in and structured with songs, as well as trying to blend songs together and have a seamless set."

The band's growth translates into both renown in cities far from Cleveland and a hometown reputation that's built on communal passion. Recent shows around town and elsewhere (available online, often enough) bear out as much. Audio from the Nov. 26 gig at the Beachland is circulating, with the band chopping up a host of newer songs. They're becoming more creative in how they integrate keys and synths with lead guitar and funky bass lines. All of that adds up to an energetic live show with plenty of aural enticements and dancing. Already, 2015 is shaping up to be Broccoli Samurai's biggest year. They've left a terrific impression on the Cleveland music scene, and all signs point to deeper moves in the coming months. With promises of "huge announcements" that can't yet be divulged, the guys are psyched about what's to come. And you should be too. The first festival announcement came out in early December, with Broccoli Samurai picking up a slot at the Ville over Memorial Day weekend. That's one more reason to eagerly await the summer months. (Sandy)

Listen here.

Cobra Verde

Earlier this year, local glam/indie rockers Cobra Verde celebrated their 20th anniversary with a short tour. In 2015, they plan to put out a new album and reissue three of their albums. The band has had its songs featured in TV shows such as Sons of Anarchy, Shameless and Entourage. The touring line-up — singer-guitarist John Petkovic, drummer Mark Klein, singer-guitarist Frank Vazzano, bassist Ed Angel Sotelo and guitarist Tim Parnin — has kept a low profile for the past five years as band leader Petkovic has focused on other projects.

"Cobra Verde has always been as much of a road movie as it is a band — we could go on tour without having a show booked," says Petkovic in a press release. "It's always been more about the adventure and the pure joy of wandering and bumming around than the destination, than hustling T-shirts. We've always taken that same approach with our music. We would be happy making an album, even if it never came out and we threw it away without anyone hearing it. Some might find that as 'not caring' and being somehow dismissive of the art. We've always thought that that's the only way to create it. We've always been too fucked up of a band to calculate every move. The downside is that we might have enjoyed more success here or there, doing this or that. But we've done whatever we've wanted without caring how it would be judged and it's been liberating. Unlike a lot of bands that have been together for a while, we actually enjoy doing this." The new album doesn't yet have a title but Petkovic and Co. have written about 20 songs so far. It's due out in the fall of 2015. (Niesel)

Listen here.


The guys in the thrash/power metal outfit Deadiron recorded their forthcoming album, Into the Fray, late in 2013 and through the beginning of 2014 at Dave Piatek Studios. Drummer Tom Walling shot the photo for the album cover and designed the logo. "We like to keep things in house if possible," he says. "We're very DIY." On the song "Cast No Shadow," the band writes about the events of the Arab Spring and on "Travis-ty," it pays tribute to the troubled Travis Bickle, the lead character in the cult classic film Taxi Driver. The group has just released a music video for the track "Bloodline," and it has a CD release show scheduled for March 7 at the Agora.

"We wanted to maximize audience turnout and interest in this show by expanding beyond the confines of our own style of music, especially because [the local metal act] Solipsist is having their CD release show the same night as ours at the Foundry, and thus, the metal community will be split," says Walling. "We have also invited several talented comedians to perform prior to and between musical acts." The group will also travel to Germany over the summer to play Wacken Open Air 15, the annual metal fest that draws tens of thousands of fans. (Niesel)

Listen here.

Essential Groove

Building a band and a community of fans is always a complex act. Doing so as a young, class- and job-strapped eight-piece is even tougher, but Essential Groove has been doing just that for the past few years. They've developed a nice rep around town for an awesomely danceable, must-see live show. But over the past six months or so, the band has played fewer shows than what's typical. They've been hard at work assembling a springtime EP release and, as far as official plans go, a summertime album. As they slip new tunes into their setlists, the excitement has only grown for new studio takes. The band draws on a number of different influences, including most notably the jam band ethos.

"Our music has a large jazz influence and our horn players are especially active in the jazz scene," drummer and singer Emilio Jarufe says. "Improvisation is a monumental part of our music. The solos you hear live are almost never planned, which is what makes the songs different and fun." Last year, the band released The Bright Side, which Emilio says offers a "tame" version of the band -- fewer solos and improvisatory "goodies" that now make up such a major part of the band's live presence. Still, it's an enticing album. "Rain," for instance, combines jaunty riffs with upbeat percussion and calls to mind the more reggae-inclined elements of 311. Lead guitarist Nick Jammal dishes up some fine work on that tune, foreshadowing the rampant shredding he tends to throw down onstage. (Sandy)

Listen here.

About The Authors

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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