Feature Stories

Six Dallas Bands Under 21 to Watch in 2015

Here at the Dallas Observer, we don't have an incredible grasp of time travel - in fact, we still couldn't explain the plot of Primer to save our lives. That being said, it's still fun to feign premonition and guess which young movers and shakers are set to become breakout acts as the year grinds to a close.

So as we stumble bleary-eyed and hungover into the Year of Our Lord Twenty-and-Fifteen, we find the bands of North Texas lined up for another year of laps around the track of our precious regional music scene. Come what may, these are the trusty steeds our money's riding on. And all of them are 21 years old or younger.

See also: The 2014 Dallas Observer Music Awards Winners 50 Signs You've Been Partying Too Long in Denton

New Science Projects Denton

Fuzz folk gets a bad rap due to the infinite and exhausting discussions revolving around a certain Holocaust-influenced concept album that shall remain nameless. But New Science Projects breathe fresh air into the genre by swapping out "so soft and sweet" for punchy and pulverizing. More fuzz, less folk; after all, this is a band whose members are largely ingrained in Denton's punk scene one way or another.

The enigma known as Dale Jones writes wickedly cunning narratives that get whirled around in keyboards, crunchy acoustic guitar and slinking bass lines. Two-minute eruptions of frenzied emotion whiplash back and forth between thundering and whispering volumes. All of this is to say, these guys absolutely annihilate live shows and level the concert floor, and you'll be yelling along even if you don't know the words. They've even got a few new songs recorded already, so expect a new album to make waves in 2015.

Old Potion Denton

Offering an entirely different sub-genre of folk, Old Potion trade in fuzz for fervor. The group is one of innumerable Denton crossover projects, formed by members of No Touching and the talents of solo artist Claire Morales. The call-and-response between Morales and fellow vocalist Dylan Kellam creates a dynamic that's both catchy and entrancing. These carefully constructed arrangements allow even an element as simple as a harmonica solo to command full attention.

In its history, Old Potion has been treated mostly as the side project and less so the main focus. Most of the musicians have been largely preoccupied, but the stars have aligned and the lineup has been fairly finalized. The band is already primed for success to start the year off: Their debut EP is slated for a mid-January release. Judging from the recently shared single, "Cries & Whispers," we can only expect a superlative folk record.

Cheap Haircuts Plano

If Tom Delonge sang for the Decemberists, you'd have Cheap Haircuts. Lead singer Mitchell McDonough doesn't just match Delonge in timbre, but also in the nostalgic, charmingly juvenile lyrical content. Enveloping a deceptively childish veneer are rich compositions filled with piano interludes and trumpets. It's a complexity that stems far beyond a garage band you would expect from a group of college freshmen.

Cheap Haircuts has carved out a tidy little spot in the pop-folk realm and holds a daring amount of promise. Clever lyrical turns and starkly honest ones ("Mixing drinks with Kool-Aid powder" comes to mind) create an absolutely beguiling breed of storytelling that you forget is coming from a songwriter that's only about 19 years old. It's the kind of raw songwriting talent that, through some inexplicable fate, has found a perfect home in the accompaniment it exists in. They've only just shown what they're capable of, and no matter which direction the band takes, it's clear it will captivate.

Dead Words Fort Worth

Hailing from the western end of the Metroplex, Dead Words adhere to the tried-and-true framework of '90s pop-punk: Three chords strummed rapidly accompanied by lyrics either condemning establishments or lamenting boredom. Older Green Day, the Offspring and NOFX all come to mind. The higher register of Garrett Hollowell's voice clashes magnificently with the heavy guitar tones and the adaptive, diverse punk drumming. The contrast allows his lyrics to remain coherent, which is imperative as they hold a depth of meanings.

Just last month they started playing shows over at Gas Monkey, expanding their reach beyond Fort Worth and Denton, and even talking of a West coast tour. Their last EP came out in March 2014, so anything is possible as they continue their conquest of the local region and beyond.

Just Another Monster Dallas

Just Another Monster was, fittingly, Frankenstein-ed together from a few DFW bands. The horror-punk outfit has been making the rounds at local metal-oriented venues and establishing themselves as the preeminent band in their genre. What sets them apart is their disinterest in being a "heavy" band with a massive wall of sound. Instead, they generate weight through narrative, grim lyrics and chunky guitar riffs.

The biting chants of backing vocals catapult the songs into an otherworldly energy that's equal parts gripping and almost intimidating -- it's called horror punk for a reason, after all. An immediately noticeable influence is the Misfits, but Just Another Monster branches out and shows its diverse understanding of horror-punk and its roots. If you're prowling around Deep Ellum during a full moon, just let yourself be drawn to the howling that is Just Another Monster.

Plunge Denton

What would 2015 be without a bit of doom? In the fall of this year, Plunge put out an EP that was about as heavy as depleted uranium. This super-massive sludge record tapped into something foreign for the members of the group: it kept a slow tempo. Addition by subtraction proved to be the key to making a record colossal enough to create a singularity, and the only thing that could make it heavier was the masterstroke of a song title, "666-MAGE-BLOOD." Bass-heavy and grinding riffs built this consciously created record, and its follow-up could take any number of directions with this sub-genre of metal.

Inside reports say that the band's drummer has been trapped in a Potbelly's for several weeks. But despite this unavoidable tragedy, new songs are being written and the band seems ready to launch (or dive) into the new year. These guys are somehow also running a house venue, playing in several other bands and/or attending UNT. Maybe they really did create a black hole to manipulate space and time.


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Matt Wood
Contact: Matt Wood