The CL Intern Issue: Hometown heroes - Florida artists making it big

From Benjamin Booker to Hundred Waters, we've put together a list of some noteworthy talent coming out of the Sunshine State

Posted by Cody Smith on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 11:04 AM

While Florida may not boast as many national artists as NYC or LA, we’ve still got a few great ones repping our weird state. Tom Petty, KC and the Sun-shine Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rick Ross, Against Me!, and Less Than Jake got their starts in Florida and paved the way for four rising acts currently making waves. Representing Tampa, Orlando, and Gainesville, they may just carry the torch (or in Florida’s case the orange) into the national spotlight.

Benjamin Booker - MAX NORTON
  • Max Norton
  • Benjamin Booker
Benjamin Booker Let’s kick off this list with someone who quite literally embodies the “hometown hero.” Benjamin Booker grew up in Tampa, graduated from Hillsborough High School and moved to New Orleans after playing solo shows in the Tampa Bay area. Drummer Max Norton accompanies the rocker and their debut album drops August 19 on ATO Records (joining labelmates like the Alabama Shakes and Band of Horses). ATO Records head Jon Salter flew down to catch Booker’s set at New World Brewery for WMNF and offered him a deal shortly after. Booker crafts pure rock ‘n’ roll flavored with a side of gritty grunge, blues and soul, armed to the teeth with a raspy croon, rollickin’ guitar jams, and speedy drumming. Who can argue the success of a musician who's performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, opens for former White Stripes frontman Jack White this summer, and joins the lineups of festivals like Lollapalooza and Newport Folk Fest? Booker returns to Tampa on October 25 for the Coral Skies Festival and a welcome-home set.


Set and Setting
Local metal fans love the offerings from Tampa Bay acts, but one hometown favorite recently began receiving national attention. Set and Setting are no strangers to local venues but their sights are now set on cities like Boston and Philly when they tour with metal heavyweights Mouth of the Architect and North in the coming months. If touring the country wasn’t enough, their upcoming album Memory drops via globally recognized label Prosthetic Records on September 2. We can’t say we’re surprised by the band’s success, though; Set and Setting’s monstrous riffs and unrelenting energy were destined to reach greater heights. They play Tampa’s Southern Darkness Fest on August 23.

XXYYXX Don’t scoff just yet at this next act’s unorthodox name. XXYYXX, otherwise known as Marcel Everett, hails from Orlando and produces music fitting his otherworldly title. Songs like “DMT” live up to their druggy names, chilling your bones with moody ambience, glitchy drums, abstract yet catchy vocal splices and manipulations, and fuzzy synths. Albums like his eponymous disc are cut from the same cloth as producers like Aphex Twin and DJ Shadow, but Everett’s reliance on vocal samples adds more accessibility to a genre defined by its separation from musical platitudes. Orlando imprint Relief in Abstract noticed the producer’s fledging talents and promptly signed him, launching both the label and Everett’s music to a much more massive audience. XXYYXX’s releases remain few and far between for now but we’re all eagerly anticipating more strangely alluring music from this Central Florida favorite.

Hundred Waters - TONJE THILESEN
  • tonje thilesen
  • Hundred Waters
Hundred Waters The last group on this shortlist may have the most room to grow, but don’t underestimate them for a second. Signed to Skrillex’s record label OWSLA, Hunred Waters paints sonically complex portraits drenched in lead singer Nicole Miglis’ airy musings and enveloped by mesmerizing production from Miglis’ fellow members. Gracefully fusing elements from post-dubstep, shoegaze, indie pop, and folk, Hundred Waters epitomizes the new age of indietronica by infusing their influences with a now-distinct sound. Piano keys glide across incomprehensible echoing, fluttering guitar strings pluck away over brooding drums, and reverberating bass acts as the chaotic conductor. Pitchfork named their latest LP The Moon Rang Like A Bell “Best New Album” and the group has played festivals like Austin City Limits and Sasquatch. They’ll be coming to St. Pete in support of Interpol in November, a pairing too juicy to pass up.

Other Florida acts to watch:

Beach Day (Hollywood): This trio evokes the nostalgia of ‘60s girl groups with pure surf-garage entertainment.

Merchandise (Tampa): This buzzy post-rock quartet's highly anticipated 4AD Records debut After the End drops August 25.

Jacuzzi Boys (Miami): Featured at Big Guava, these Miami rockers (and their impeccable harmonies) seem destined for greatness.

Fake Problems (Naples): The favored punk/indie hybrid will release a new album this year.

Levek (Gainesville): These punk rockers have been quiet since last year's Look a Little Closer, but don’t discount their Pitchfork-featured music just yet.

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