Pillow Fite (Nova Scotia)

Art Ross (they/them) and Aaron Green (he/him) come from disparate backgrounds and musical forms, meeting in the middle to comprise a band that’s tender and fierce, exuberant and gentle.

Green—a veteran of the Halifax rock scene, the guitar anchor of Floodland and Hello Delaware—and Ross—a trans songwriter with an acoustic guitar—started writing songs together over text, by accident. Pillow Fite emerged publicly at the start of 2021 with its non-binary gender-subverting aesthetics already in place and a languid lead single in “Playing the Fool.” Halifax, a town built on and stuck in rock music made by men, responded with supportive fervour, selling out back-to-back shows that saw the duo expand its sound with help from the scene’s most in-demand players.

Fans of the intimate and observational lyrics of Kathleen Edwards and the intensity and moodiness of Radiohead will find similar amenities in Pillow Fite. Between Ross’ boldly queer, bravely intimate lyrics and Green’s tasteful and inventive guitar lines—he’s also cut his production teeth on this project—they evoke weeping and singalongs in equal measure.

Drawing on the influence and emotional heft of songwriters such as Sharon Van Etten, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Tegan and Sara, Pillow Fite’s debut record solidifies a fusion of a diverse array of experiences, genres, and ideas. Flutter is a an album that is as deeply heartfelt as it is catchy against all odds. The the Halifax duo collaborated with John Mullane (In-Flight Safety, Loviet, POSTFUN) to create a project that is bold yet quiet, intimate, and full of tender moments. Pillow Fite is music for your break-up and your rebound, the future and the now, a cut and a kiss.

Boy With Apple (Sweden)

It’s like Boy With Apple tries to transport you to another universe with their dreamlike pop. A mesmerizing world of eternal sunlight touching your face, long embraces from someone you love, and unconditional comfort. The band’s emotionally charged glittershoegaze manages to convey all that and much more, perhaps more now than ever before. Their latest single “Brighter Than the Sun” is a vibrant message of what the members are capable of and ends up somewhere in between Beach House and DIIV, with a distinctive electronic touch. After their first self released single they’ve continued to release music under the DIY indie label Vårø Records.

Mouraine (AB, Canada)

Born in Sudan, bred in Edmonton Canada, destined for stages around the world; Mouraine is a name to pay attention to. His debut EP Bigger Dreams, released via Birthday Cake Records in 2021 received props from Complex, The Source, CBC, Earmilk, Exclaim!, RANGE, If It’s Too Loud, Hip Hop Canada and more. After hustling in the underground for the past few years, Mouraine is quickly making moves to emerge into the limelight on the brink of his breakthrough full-length album, In Search of Gold. Slated for release in the spring of 2023, the project is a collaboration with producer duo deadmen (Begonia, Royal Canoe, Ashleigh Ball, Ian Sweet), with features from his brother MOTO, Canadian R&B icon JRDN, and a few surprise appearances. The songs delve into Mouraine’s personal life story and deliver an intimate vulnerability complemented by captivating stories, bold lyricism and colossal beats.

“There comes a time in every artist’s career to pursue their unimaginable creativity, to find themselves and their sound. “In Search of Gold” is metaphorically a representation of my life journey. I’ve always thought that chasing possessions was going to fulfill me. But I realized that to find gold is to find your purpose, peace, and happiness, and that’s what this album means to me.” – Mouraine

As a young, first-generation immigrant to Canada, Mouraine first learned to speak English through his insatiable appetite for music. Hip Hop, Rap and R&B lyrics became his teacher, his solace, and his inspiration to use this language as a tool for self expression and survival. By the age of 11 he began writing, recording and performing original music that would lead to sharing stages with the likes of Mac Miller, J.Cole, T-Pain, Big Sean, Pusha T, Classified, and Shad. Mouraine’s music has been placed in Footlocker Ads, played live at Toronto Raptors NBA games, awarded him accolades from his community and peers, and continues to infect audiences around the world. A seemingly endless source of energy, there’s no denying that Mouraine has a magnetic ability to pull people in and make them feel a part of his music and message.

Grimelda (SK, Canada)

Grimelda (fka The Faps) has re-birthed as a really really really good band with unhinged rock songs that take art and punk to weird levels of amazing awesomeness. While their “New Daft Punk” EP (2021, Transistor 66) highlighted collaboration and genre-bending like the world had never seen, “It’s So Feeling When You Rock” (2023, Transistor 66) is a collection of absurd classics inspired by the need to claw your way through the dumpster fire in search of F U N.

Wow. Just wow. Is this the future of music? Could these two skids from the Canadian prairies be transcending sound? Or is this a regression into dank riffs? Find out by catching this ineffable aural monster in every single town on Earth for the rest of eternity.

Nita (Balearics)

NITA are an indie group from Mallorca. Their first release, Santa Paciencia (Bubota Música, 2022), has been cooked over a slow fire and in various locations. In my opinion, the album stands out because it mixes different ways of doing —home recordings with professionals, whispered confessions with noisy raids— and, ultimately, because it faithfully represents the musical concerns of Natalia, who is its main composer.

The result of this work is a varied but coherent album with masterful sequencing. Another noteworthy point is the texts. Most songs seem to talk about how life takes us, how time passes and we can’t do much, how complicated interpersonal relationships are, the fear of losing loved ones, freedom and innocence. I would highlight two verses from Nina petita, which I think illustrate these ideas well: “I don’t like it when you get dirty in vain”, but “sometimes I like you, when you get dirty with desire”.

Anyway, I can say little more about the album. I am very proud to see how people around me make music for the sheer pleasure of making it, with an open mind, with a militant conscience —everything do it yourself and such— and with such a powerful artistic discourse. I hope that this is the first link in a fruitful and joyful project.

Gros Coeur (Belgium)

On tropical rivers, psychedelic waterfalls and oceans of love, Belgium’s Gros Coeur traces all sails in his 5-star yacht. Acid melodies, Afro-Cuban grooves, smoky dancefloors and molten amps are on the cruise. Soon a stopover in your city to dance glued-tight.

Muddy Elephant

Hailing from Chester in the North West, Muddy Elephant consists of four lads that live for the stage.

The vocalist, Sam, has regularly been compared to the likes of Elvis and Bowie in his aesthetic and vocal range. Thumping beats from drummer Liam and fuzzy bass lines from Matt provides the core of Muddy Elephant’s sound. Whilst Carlos “loose cannon” Jones, provides cutting riffs that are instantly nailed to your brain.

The lads have already made an impression, on both industry and audiences. They sold out their debut headline hometown show, sold out a headline at Jimmy’s Manchester, supported Corella at The Deaf Institute and played to a packed audience at Manchester Academy 3. Their music has also been played extensively across BBC Introducing, as well as on ITV’s This Morning, on matchday at Anfield (Liverpool FC) and across CO-OP stores nationwide.

After a sell out debut hometown headline show at The Live Rooms, Chester’s largest music venue, the lads are ready to take on 2023. This is the year for Muddy Elephant to break through.

Alffa

“THE MIGHTY ALFFA” MICHAEL SHEEN

A two piece band so powerful, they became an instant success in their home of Wales and beyond, when their first single on Recordiau Côsh Records was catapulted around the globe by Spotify’s biggest rock playlists. ‘Gwenwyn’ (Poison) was the 1st Welsh language song to be streamed a million times on the platform, and since then, the band have had similar successes with their follow-up singles, ‘Pla’ (Plague), ‘Full Moon Vulture’ and also ‘Black Angel’, the lead track form their debut album ‘Freedom from the Poisonous Shadows’. “Alffa never disappoints. their music is great, their personality is lovable, and for a band who cares about quality, nobody does it better” – Keep Walking Music.

The band have stunned crowds with a massive sound that has pleased industry listeners and punters alike at Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City festivals, but as with many young acts, progress was cut short in early 2020. Dion Jones (Guitar) and Siôn Land (Drums) have never waited for opportunities to arrive, but rather elected to smash down doors and create their own path as a band.

Holy Coves

Championed by Gary Crowley on BBC Radio London and playlisted on Amazing Radio’s A List, Steve Lamacq on BBC 6 Music, with BBC Radio Wales support from Huw Stephens and Adam Walton, North Wales Psych-Rock Band Holy Coves had quite a year in 2022. Their acclaimed new album ‘Druids And Bards’ was very well received and is available now via North Wales record label ‘Yr Wyddfa Records’.

Through long time friend and Producer David Wrench, Holy Coves were put in touch with Texan Producer Erik Wofford (TheBlackAngels / ExplosionsInThe Sky) and have built quite a magical working relationship, one where Wofford found himself on Mixing and Mastering duties for the ‘Druids And Bards’ album and it has certainly contributed to their new sound and ethos.

Cowboyy

‘Rhythmic shredders running wild off an outlaw spirit’ NME

‘The art-pop quartet make their introduction’ DIY

‘Cements a new sound inspired by math-rock, post-punk, electronic and jazz’ Dork

‘Pummelling percussion had ears ringing and faces grinning, as Cowboyyy’s dissonant wall of sound lassoed the crowd into enchantment’ Clash

‘Brimming with nimble riffs, complex drum patterns, and intervals of playful improvisation’
So Young Magazine

‘These lot are an absolute hurricane, but one you want to get whipped up by’ The Rodeo

‘A properly awesome, tenebrous miasma’ Louder Than War

‘Taking from anything from math rock, 2010s alt-indie to western riffs and jazz jam-inspired ebs and flows – there’s a lot going on in cowboyy’s debut single’ Gigwise

Nodding towards early 00s indie stalwarts like Bloc Party, the debut single fuses together jazzy guitar lines with chorus heavy guitar chords, giving ‘Tennis’ a modern post-rock twist.

Elaborating on the track vocalist, lead guitarist, producer and songwriter Stanley Powell explains, “Going from quick spoken word/David Byrne-inspired vocals to melodic singing, I wanted to keep the arrangement of the mix and song simple with a constant pumping bass line. The lyrics are a very simple analogy to war, with the ants being people, the ball being a war and the tennis game being higher powers whose pleasure or indulgence in a game has a ripple effect to ‘smaller’ matters.”

The track is taken from the band’s debut EP ‘Epic The Movie’, due for release on 10th March 2023 via Nice Swan Records, which also features previous single ‘Gmaps’.

Taking a swig from the eclectic melting pot of genres that inform their idiosyncratic sound, piecing together sonic blueprints from indie and reggae as well as math rock and dance music, previous single ‘Gmaps’ was co-produced with David Evans at the Old Chapel Studios and received a slew of critical acclaim (NME, DIY, Dork, So Young Magazine, BBC Radio 1, BBC 6Music) and has invited to play SXSW 2023 in Austin, Texas in March.

Cowboyy are a musical collective. Formed by vocalist, lead guitarist, producer and songwriter Stanley Powell (21), he’s joined by bassist Reubin Yarnold(22), guitarist Kai Smith (19) and drummer Rhys Teal (19) to complete the South Coast quartet’s line-up.

Pulling inspiration from math rock all the way to jazz, post-punk and electronic music, with a fresh and modern outlook on writing and collaboration, cowboyy strive to create their own unique sound, refusing to be anything but themselves. The result? Something that straddles the lanes of art pop and alternative rock, with guitar lines and bold ambitions to create new sounding music at the forefront of the project.

Having only formed in January 2022, and going through some initial line-up changes, over the past few months cowboyy have been cultivating a dedicated live following, winning over, and confusing, audiences at every gig they play. This is also, in part, due to it being the only place you can hear their discography, until last autumn.

La Flor Romanial (Balearics)

La Flor Romanial seeks the limits of sonority creating atmospheres of controlled chaos in which we find influences from shoegaze, noise rock or post punk. Formed in 2021 in Felanitx (Mallorca) by Francesc Matas, Bernat Benítez and Àngel Ríos, they stand out for their powerful, intense and high-volume live shows of sedative and psychedelic guitars blended into a forceful and energetic rhythmic base of bass and drums. The band takes its name from the popular Mallorcan tale “La Flor Romanial” which is about a king who has a sickness that can only be cured by a flower that no one has ever seen.

In March 2022 they released their first LP, l’Estètica del delicte with Bubota Música, one of the most prestigious underground labels in the Balearic Islands. This same year they began to give a series of concerts in Mallorca, being known as one of the loudest bands on the islands.

NADUH (BC, Canada)

5 piece femme powered hip hop group, NADUH, write, engineer, and produce all of their music – meaning they have crafted a sound that’s truly representative of their collective energy – spreading unity consciousness through R&B infused beats that hit every chakra, laced with buttery-smooth vocals and herstorical lyrics. This one-of-a-kind group aims to shatter earthly constructs and help their audience access higher realms of consciousness while entertaining their urge to twerk.

Dresden Wolves (Mexico)

Introducing Dresden Wolves, an explosive post punk duo all the way from Mexico.

  • ‘Forward thinking welsh music industry showcase’

    Metro

  • CONNECT WITH US - #focuswales2023

    Stay connected with all things FOCUS Wales…


    JOIN OUR MAILING LIST