The Sacramento indie music scene is really vibrant right now. Most Bay Area folks are familiar with some of the bigger names: Death Grips, Sea of Bees, Chrch, Dog Party, Hella, and even artists like !!! and Chelsea Wolfe, who got their start in Sacramento before moving away.
But right now, there’s a whole lot of smaller bands bubbling up in the underground right now that are worth checking out. Here’s a comprehensive list of Sacramento indie bands in no particular order that should be on every Bay Area music fan’s radar.
For fans of artists like Man Man and Tiger Lillies who like a bit of art-rock/musical theater in their rock and roll, the Kelps will likely be their favorite new band. Their music is heavy, punky, guitar-driven and dripping with neurotic energy. Most of their songs are these weird little dark stories about unusual and depraved characters like pornographers or supervillain sidekicks that wants to kill every superhero in the universe. Some of their tunes are straight up blues-rock numbers, while others are more in the realm of punk-rock cabaret.
Started by brothers Mason and Spencer Hoffman when they were still getting rides to school, they were clearly gifted from the get-go. Now, as young adults leading a four-piece roots rock band, Honyock are one of best groups in town, and still have so much unfulfilled potential. Most of their songs revolve around a killer mid-tempo loose groove in the vein of Tom Petty and Dr. Dog. It’s heart-on-the-sleeve rock n roll that’s flawed and spine-tingling good, the way rock and roll should be.
This trio of musicians create a lot of sound with not a lot of people in the band. It’s lush, dreamy, shoe-gaze-y, ambient post-rock. It is truly an intense band that mixes guitars, drums, and electronics into something really moody and emotive. Guitarist Leticia Garcia adds so much depth and sonic flowering with her intricate guitar work. Most of their songs are built around surreal riffs, with sonic layers built on top creating explosive dynamics.
A relatively new band in Sacramento, they’ve already made a big impact on the city’s local indie scene. They sold out a couple-hundred-capacity club last year to celebrate the release of their debut EP, and fans are anxious for more music by this talented group of youngsters. They take a psych-pop sound similar to Tame Impala and Beach House, but with a punkier edge to it. The five-piece fill out their lush tunes with 2 guitars, bass, drums and a keyboards, and top it off with vocals that are trance-y and poppy all at once.
None of the members can decide if they are post-punk, emo, or pop-punk. They are kind of all of those and none of those. Their tunes drive hard and fast, and carry the dissonant edge of out-there late-‘70s bands like the Fall and Wire, but have just as much gorgeous harmonies blended into their songs as well. The four-piece truly sounds like a cohesive unit. They write all their songs together, and three of the members trade off on vocal duties — often, they all shout along together. It’s joyful and angry in one gulp.
Sun Valley Gun Club
They love the ‘90s so much, they released a ’94 cassette-only mixtape, covering songs that were released strictly in the year 1994. They of course covered several bands that are obviously huge influence on their ‘90s-worshiping alt-rock sound: Pavement, Sonic Youth, Ween, and Mazzy Star. Folks often refer to them as “slacker rock.” Even though they clearly love a lot of these offbeat ‘90s bands, they are concise, competent passionate post-punk musicians, with just a hair of the loose, sloppy, off-kilter vibe of bands like Pavement and Sebadoh.
Probably one of the weirdest bands in Sacramento’s indie scene. The group has a seamless blend of rock and electronic instrumentation. There are moments of catchy songwriting, but often the group are destroying all remnants of traditional pop structure and weaving some dark, mind-bending, psychedelic synth-rock jams. They’ll drop in some ugly electronic soundscapes, or change it up with chanting vocals and rock drumming. Sometimes they just go for some funky disco beats. It’s all over the place…in a good way.
The band’s bio goes on and on about what failures they are and how they started out playing in one bedroom and then another and just are too scared to play anywhere else. They might be goofing around here, but this gives a pretty accurate depiction of the dreary rock sound these guys have. There’s some elements of punk, psych-pop, and classic rock, but it’s all driven by a Songs: Ohia-esque bellowing of pain style of vocals. Powerful stuff.
Singer Elmer Martinez writes emo-influenced punk songs, but he’s also a math-rock, prog-rock loving music nerd. The songs are complex and will satisfy other music nerds, but it’s not too technical for the casual music fan. At his heart, he’s an experimenter. Lately he’s forgone the full-length format to release singles, giving him more opportunities to play with style and format in any and every way. His tunes may change shape and form, but they’re always really emotional and personal.
The Croissants have a video consisting entirely of them falling out of a van in slow motion. Another has them playing in one of the member’s actual childhood bedroom, with his grandmother making a cameo appearance, telling them they’re “good.” Needless to say, this isn’t a band that takes themselves too seriously. Their songs are highly infectious pop-punk tunes with elements of indie-pop. Despite the goofiness, their style fits perfectly alongside serious punk bands like Joyce Manor and Spraynard.