21 Local Acts You Should Pay Attention To In the New Year

21 Local Acts You Should Pay Attention To In the New Year

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Heart Attack Man

Last we heard, the debut album from Heart Attack Man has gone missing. Missing! The anticipated fall 2016 release has been postponed until some act of divine intervention returns the masters to these guys. Let's hope it happens soon, because what we've heard so far is promising and badass. "Surrounded By Morons," the ostensible single off The Manson Family, is a nice ode to the sarcastic middle-finger vibe of late-era emo rock. It helps, too, that the tune works a nice melody behind those bummed-out lyrics. "All my problems would go away, if I just moved to New York or LA," Eric Bishop sings, reflecting back the sentiment that all too many early-twentysomethings adopt here in Cleveland. The tune features a cool video to boot. (1,000 bonus points for the slick Peking Restaurant cameo.) — Sandy


Sporting a heavy dose of psychedelic garage rock and a fine blend of open-chord strumming and tight indie-rock riffs, Goldmines has seen a great year in the Cleveland music scene. We're pretty eager to see where they take this project. Part of various Venn diagrams in the community (guitarist Mandy Look and drummer Roseanna Safos also perform in Part-Time Lover, for instance), Goldmines shares that burgeoning vision of Cleveland independent rock 'n' roll — part reverb, part distortion, a notch along the same double helix of, e.g., Northeast Ohio's Black Keys DNA. Check out their self-titled EP, released this past summer. It's a breezy listen that works as well with a bowl and a couch as with a grungy dance floor in Cleveland Heights. We dig the peaks reached during the chorus of "The Incomparable" and the Liz Phair-esque insouciance of "September," a real road trip of a song. — Sandy

Bre Vibez

The multitalented Bre Vibez has been recording since 2014 but has been a musician for much longer. She played percussion in her school band from 6th through the 12th grade and also plays guitar and the keyboard. She cites artists like Kid Cudi, Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper, and Lauryn Hill as influences in addition to local artists Tae Miles and Ezzy, whom she considers friends.

Bre Vibez's upcoming project, Vibrationz. is set for release on New Year's Eve. "I've been working on this tape for nearly two years and i must say it feels great to have finished something, even if it took me two years," Vibez says. "'Vibrationz' is exactly what the title says, the tape gives off several vibrationz and I went through several vibrationz while writing and recording. It features 12 tracks with features from Aphiniti and Kennedy Blaq. Huge shoutouts to them, because a lot of people didn't want to collaborate with me because I was so new, but these two artists in particular saw my talent and really wanted to be a part of the project." That project, she says, was an experiment of sorts. "I didn't know anything about recording when I began this project. I didn't know anything about the mixing process, or what dubs were, or reverb. I didn't know the importance of adlibs. Things were all new and I'm so glad to have dope engineers at The Coast with Adi Rei and Johnny at Vibe Studios that could teach me and explore things in order to find my sound." In 2017, Vibez hopes to collaborate with more artists and hit the festival circuit. — Emanuel Wallace


Indie rockers Hiram-Maxim — electronics-singer Lisa Miralia, guitarist Dave Taha, singer Fred Gunn and drummer John Panza — initially formed for the Lottery League, the festival that randomly places Cleveland musicians in bands with one another. At that point, the band decided upon an approach — it would make dark post-punk music. Recorded and mixed by John Delzoppo at Negative Space in Cleveland and mastered by Chris Keffer at Magnetic North, the band's debut, the first release to come out on Aqualamb Records, the imprint run by graphic designers Eric Palmerlee and Johnathan Swafford, mixes elements of noise, post-rock and punk. A new studio release, Ghosts, comes out in March. Recorded and mixed by Martin Bisi at his New York studio, it features a cameo by singer-guitarist Oliver Ackermann, frontman of the noise band A Place to Bury Strangers. "When we recorded the first record, we had only been a band for about five months," says Gunn. "On Ghosts, we have had a lot more time together as a group and have grown. This record is far more brutal and focused than our self-titled debut and explores themes of social and political injustices haunting our world." — Jeff Niesel

Cereal Banter

Cereal Banter's Joseph Joseph has played drums since he was a teenager (he was even featured in DRUM! Magazine). After spending some time in the Youngstown-based punk band You Are the War That I Want, Joseph would start a short-lived alt-weekly in Youngstown before moving to the Cleveland area and joining Scotfree & the Guilty Plea. The concept for the artsy, Flaming Lips-like Cereal Banter formed at that point. Its debut single, 2010's "Edible Confetti," a song that features squiggly guitar riffs and echoing vocals, established just how off-kilter the band could be. Recorded in Greenpoint, New York, at Lone Pine Road Studio and engineered/mastered by Guardian Alien bassist Eli Winograd, the band's 22-minute song/album, Sties of Pigs Flying with Flowers, Fields of Green Watered by Showers, represented another step forward. The song/album offers good, noisy fun that starts slow with some stuttering drum beats but picks up serious steam by song's end as Pamela provocatively screams "we're all animals" over pulsating synthesizers. Last year, Joseph teamed up with singer-bassist Nicholas Gunzburg, a local musician who was a fan of the band. They collaborated on the cassette-only Oatmeal Outburst and quickly recorded another album, Junk Jazz, that's due out in January. "The intent is to write compositions and put out more of a concept than two guys thrashing," he says of Junk Jazz. "If you listen to Junk Jazz, we want it to be more sophisticated and pop tune heavy but retain the improvisation and drum fills going to the next part and stuff like that. That's what makes our music special. You don't know what will happen next. It's conceptual not so much lyrically but musically in the sense that there's a similar theme in the opening as there is in the closing track. We use a different synthesizer on every recording just so you can identify which era of the band you're hearing." — Niesel

Joey Aich

Music has always been a tremendous part of Joey Aich's life. He sang in his school and church choirs as a younger child and found his passion for poetry and hip-hop when he was in middle school.

From that point on, Aich focused on writing lyrics to either vent about or emulate what he saw some of his favorite artists doing. It wasn't until after leaving Orange High School that Aich began to release music to the public. With the encouragement of some positive feedback, Aich decided to keep pushing forward. He released a project just before his sophomore year at Denison University. He admits that it was less than stellar, but it planted the seed. Since then he has released two projects, College D.egree (2014) and AichFiles (2015). "I get to use my voice as much as possible to promote positivity and ultimately change the world," Aich says. "I enjoy being able to share my world with others and open up my book and allow people to learn about me."

Aich's latest project, If Money Grew On Trees, is coming sometime in 2017. "Currently, the project has about 10 to 13 tracks on it including songs I've released this year, 'Emoticon' and 'GED 7249,'" Aich says. "I'm beginning to feel more comfortable with myself and my sound on this project. It's extremely Joey Aich and authentic to my life. I'm not very flashy and flaunting false realities I'm telling my story.  On some of my previous works I've tried to be myself, but by doing my own version of other people like ScHoolboy Q, ASAP Rocky, and others. Now I'm having fun creating and being myself." — Wallace

Cloud Nothings

With 2014's Here and Nowhere Else, which was recorded in Hoboken at Water Music over an eight-day period, the band opted for a poppier, cheerier sound than 2012's Attack on Memory. That trend continues with Life Without Sound, the forthcoming studio effort due out Jan. 27. Last month, the band issued the lead single "Modern Act," a caffeinated tune that features raspy vocals and sharp power pop sensibilities. The band also announced a run of North American and European tour dates; the jaunt includes a Jan. 26 date at the Beachland. "A thing I like to do with all of my records is drive around with them," says frontman Dylan Baldi. "In high school, I would listen to music for hours like that — just driving through the suburbs of Cleveland. And if it sounds good to me in that context and I can think of high school me listening to it and saying, 'That's okay,' I feel good about the record. This is the one that's felt best." Baldi worked on the songs for a good year before putting the finishing touches on the tunes with his bandmates, drummer Jayson Gerycz and bassist TJ Duke. They then joined producer John Goodmanson (Sleater Kinney, Death Cab for Cutie) at Sonic Ranch in El Paso for three weeks in March of 2016. "Generally, it seems like my work has been about finding my place in the world," Baldi says. "But there was a point in which I realized that you can be missing something important in your life, a part you didn't realize you were missing until it's there — hence the title. This record is like my version of new age music. It's supposed to be inspiring."— Niesel


Local metal band Cellbound had a great eight-year run that resulted in three albums and several regional tours. The group even released an impressive, professional looking video for the tune "Fallen Angels" that was shot at a cemetery off Pearl Road. In 2015, Olathia emerged out of the ashes of Cellbound. The group, which includes singer Chris Emig, guitarist Jake Nicholson (formerly with Black Valor), guitarist Steve Albenze (also with Idleblack) and bassist JD Donatelli, raised some eyebrows with its debut, Hunters. The album's title track features a surging guitar-based intro that gives way to Emig's soaring vocals. "Hunters did well for us and defiantly opened some doors," says Emig, adding the album charted on the CMJ charts. "At the start of 2016, we changed our lineup and brought in JD Donatelli on bass to add a heavier groove," Emig explains. "The songwriting for our 2017 release combines thrash and straight up metal along with a touch of progressive. We focused on keeping the arrangements and song lengths tight so that the melodic parts and bang your head elements don't get lost. There are eight tracks ready for the new album, but you never know if there might be another addition by the time all is said and done. That's the great part, being musically ready and having a focus and a goal, but not boxing yourself in. Metal has so many branches that you gotta climb a few and see what's hanging there and expand yourself." The band aims to record the new album at Brainchild Studios in Akron. It doesn't have a title yet, but it should be out in late spring/early summer. — Niesel

Wesley Bright and the Honeytones

Singer Brent "Wesley Bright" Wesley and a different backing band played its first gig a few years ago and he's been going strong ever since. Because of its terrific live show — sharp-dressed Wesley is a real dynamo on stage — the soul/old-school R&B band is suddenly in high demand. Songs such as "You Don't Care About Me" feature a steady bass beat and soulful, Otis Redding-like vocals. This year, Bright reemerged with a new backing outfit, the Honeytones. "We're still drawing from the familiar soul tradition," he says. "The Honeytones are going new places musically, exploring a more diverse, funkier and nuanced sound." The band will release a series of 45s throughout 2017, the first being "You Don't Want Me/Work it Out: Part 2)," a cheeky soul pop tune that Bright says sounds like Sam Cooke meets Vulfpeck. "It has gotten entire crowds singing its hook while I sing it at live shows," says Bright. "'Work it Out: Part 2' shows the band's explosive side, calling upon the feeling of James Brown's classic funk." The first single comes out this spring, with a "giant release party" at the Beachland to celebrate. — Niesel

Matthew Leeb

Singer-songwriter Matthew Leeb's new album Life Ain't Light first developed as a rough demo about five years ago. He was playing in a band in Cleveland called the Jesus Freaks at the time and guitarist Danny McDonnell and he wrote the song "Life Ain't Light." Unfortunately, those sessions were lost and Leeb, thinking the title was still very appropriate, decided to try to recreate the songs. "At the time I thought, 'Wow what a perfect way to sum up my music career,'" he says. "Life isn't light, nor is attempting to narrate your life through music. I loved that title and decided to use it at some point down the line when the timing was right, but for the time being put the idea in the back burner." Leeb, who also plays in the local neo folk act Texas Plant, started writing songs for the album with "the idea that I would be as completely honest as possible about my trials and tribulations with life and love thus far." The resulting album features a range of music. Highlights include the Beck-like "All This Time" and the rootsy "Lonely Man." Cleveland native Adam Korbesmeyer of White Out Audio (who now works in L.A.) served as producer/engineer for the project. "With countless hours devoted to focused songwriting, I crafted this project to tell the story of myself," says Leeb. "Life Ain't Light is me, summed up as clearly as possible. Whatever the fuck that means. Here I am. I called on my friends and family, for additional instruments, Danny McDonnell is featured on the guitars on nearly every song and my cousin Peter Boyle aka Boy Howdy on bass. The rest of the record is my own composition and lyrics. I wrote it for myself but more importantly for listeners to hopefully get a unique perspective into my journey so far and most importantly find a common bond." — Niesel


It was a trip to a Lil Wayne concert in 2012 that showed WOULF (an acronym for Working On Uplifting Life Fully) what becoming a legend can do. The show inspired him to take his music more seriously. After two near-death experiences in car accidents, falling out of college and being put out by his mother, WOULF released The Rebirth, which was subsequently followed by Last Night in Town and I'll Be Late. By 2016, WOULF saw himself performing with the likes of huge stars like Devin the Dude.

Last year also saw the release of WOULF's greatest work to date, Wolves Amongst Men. "It's my biggest project yet because not only did I finally make a full length debut mixtape, but it was on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, etc., for streaming purposes," WOULF says. "I also toured around Ohio for the summer." WOULF calls his supporters Rebels and his movement the Rebel Nation World. In 2017, in addition to recording a new project, WOULF plans to expand beyond this region and take his merchandising to the next level. "I have a busy year ahead," he says. "I plan to be everywhere. There's a lot of new music, new visuals and a lot more shows. I have Rebels all across the country now. It's time to spread my wings and do some shows in different states. More branding. More and better merchandise, quality over quantity I want my Rebels to feel proud wearing my clothes to the point where they can wear it every day not just to my shows." —Wallace

John's Little Sister

"John's Little Sister originally got together really seamlessly," singer Jess Sikon says. "It all kind of just fell into place. It started when Brandon (bass) and I were playing around with getting some really simple recordings of my original songs. Eventually we just decided to start playing shows." The band's EP, Keep It Safe, came out this summer, right as the band was really picking up steam on the local circuit. It's a nice collection of tunes, and words like "dreamy," "airy" and "folksy" come to mind as listeners relax to Sikon's voice and guitar and the handy musicianship of her band mates. Sandy


MAZ says that she's been creating since birth. Her mother was a portrait artist and her father a producer, so it would seem almost predestined that she would always follow a creative path in her life.

She was always auditioning and began writing songs when she was six years old — mimicking her favorite artists at the time, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. "It wasn't until high school when I started to try and carve my own aural footprint," she says. "I didn't release anything as MAZ until my 21st birthday." But her performance roots go back years, like one at the Rock Hall in fifth grade. "Seeing Michael Jackson's sparkly glove almost invoked tears and I knew that maybe one day I could be immortalized through my music as well and leave a little piece of me in my city forever," she says.

The city of Cleveland has definitely been an inspiration when it comes to her art. "Although I was spoiled with culture I came from very humble upbringing and the inner city was not pretty, it almost seemed dark and gritty like Gotham," MAZ recalls.  "I wanted to escape and find sunnier passages without realizing that the darkness is what drove me to create light." MAZ's upcoming project, Pale Moon is expected to be released in January and has been in the works for about a year. "Pale Moon was incepted in the summer of 2015," MAZ says. It's the bridge I'm building for listeners to come into my world — one that I call tender.land. However, it does come with a few warnings. As for how it sounds, I'd rather you listen for yourself." — Wallace

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