Over the years, some pretty influential bands have called Houston home in one way or another, from Archie Bell and the Drells to ZZ Top to the Beatles (Houstonian Billy Preston was essentially the Fifth Beatle for the Let It Be album) to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. If you’re feeling a wave of emo nostalgia, you probably even remember Blue October. But, you protest, who are the latest and greatest musical acts from this fair city? We’re so glad you asked. Here are five current bands from Houston that you need to know about.
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- 5 Houston Bands You Need to Know About in 2022
First of all, it’s pronounced “krung-bin”; second, the name means “airplane” in Thai; and third, you need to know that this band is the future, they are the present … they are, in fact, the moment. The band comprises three members: DJ, the embodiment of time itself, never off, always on, on drums; Laura, the definition of calm, cool, and collected, who plays the bass with riffs that will vibrate their way right into your soul and wrap their arms around your heart if you need them to; and Mark, who, through his guitar, channels an encyclopedic knowledge of songs from almost any culture you could think of (and a lot of cultures you probably can’t). What we love about Khruangbin is that they don’t make their influences a secret; they encourage their fans to discover the musical traditions that inspire them.
For evidence of their hometown sound, see their two recently released collaborative albums with Fort Worth crooner Leon Bridges, titled Texas Sun and Texas Moon; if you listen closely to the former’s title track and lead single, all of Houston’s musical influences are there, from the Spanish guitar on down to the zydeco accordion. Better yet, on “First Class,” the opening track of Khruangbin’s most recent noncollaborative album, Mordechai, DJ, Laura, and Mark all make their local loyalties clear, chanting “H-Tooooooown” during the song’s final movement. As they put it themselves, they’re a band that sounds like they’re from everywhere, and, truly, what is more Houston than being from everywhere?
To bolster their résumé in recent years, they played on the Jay-Z and Jay Electronica track “A.P.I.D.T.A.,” which samples their 2018 track “A Hymn,” and were officially commissioned by Beck for a remix of “No Distraction” and by none other than Sir Paul McCartney for a remix of “Pretty Boys.” We can’t wait to see what else they have up their sleeves.
Fade Em All
What would a punk band sound like if they were fronted by Prince? An awful lot like Fade Em All. To be very clear, this isn’t pop punk; this is Houston hardcore, and Fade Em All, consisting of Isaiah Rusk (vocals), Oscar Santander (guitar), and Cory Williamson (drums), is really not kidding about it—they want to see you in the pit. The trio, formed in 2015, isn’t afraid to chop and screw their sound, either, as evidenced on the aptly titled track “Houston” from their 2022 album, Houston Riots.
It’s been nearly 30 years since Pacific Northwest punk pioneers Bikini Kill first shouted “GIRLS TO THE FRONT,” inspiring a wave of femme empowerment in a punk scene that had been very male-dominated. So it was a very welcome moment when Fade Em All first made their own waves on the internet after a video of an all-girl mosh pit at a Fade show went viral. Punk music with a conscience? Yeah, we’ll catch you in the pit for that. Literally: we’ll be there to pick you up when you fall.
We knew Camera Cult—a self-described working-class indie pop trio with Ricky J. Vasquez on guitar, keys, and lead vocals; David Gonzalez on the beat machine; and Skyler Scholtes on drums—was special when we saw the imaginative, Red Dead Redemption–meets–Narcos music video for “Location.” Then, they busted out a slab in the music video for their recent single “Street Dreamz,” and we fell in love. But it was the dance-floor dreamscape of Gonzalez’s spacey beats and Vasquez’s pop punk–inspired vocals on “Camaro” that induced us to join the cult. Camera Cult has a fresh sound with familiar influences (artists like Neon Indian, Toro y Moi, and Chromeo) that makes them a must-add to any sensible chillwave playlist.
Gulf Coast Soul: that’s the sound, the motto, and the culture of a Suffers show. You might recognize the seven-piece band from their work backing Houston’s Rap All-Stars at festivals across the city, with their soulful symphony of horns, guitar, congas, and keys, plus the show-stopping voice and youthful lyrics of frontwoman Kam Franklin.
On their own, the Suffers are absolutely guaranteed to get you on your feet; if you don’t believe us, just ask David Letterman, who was over the moon after their performance on The Late Show in 2015. If you need further evidence of their bona fides, the entire list of Houston acts who have done an NPR Tiny Desk performance is as follows: Megan Thee Stallion, Khruangbin, Maxo Kream, Tobe Nwigwe, James Francies, and The Suffers.
Their most recent album, It Starts with Love, is their best yet and features standout tracks such as the anthemic “Don’t Bother Me,” “Yada Yada,” “How Do We Heal,” and “Take Me To The Good Times,” which also serves as the theme song for Dare to Lead, the new podcast from famed author and notable Houstonian Brené Brown.
Nietos del Viejo
This corrido trio, formed in 2018 by brothers Andy (lead vocals) and Ryan (bass) with their cousin Joe (guitar), sings a melancholic, Spanish blues attuned to the ecosystem of street life that surrounds them. But because they grew up on Houston rap music, too, that aesthetic influence makes its way into their videos. Take “De Malandro,” for example, in which you can find custom trucks, psychedelic skulls, fitted caps, and flamethrowers—OK, maybe the flamethrowers are their own thing. The song’s protagonist lets us know they drive a Silverado and carry a .38 caliber for anyone who wants to test them, and Houston even gets a shout-out in the final line of the song. Now tell us you don’t feel that.