The University of Oregon has opened its gates to the world, and as you read this, freshmen with guitars and amps are swapping numbers, meeting up and starting their musical journeys. It’s hard to say what the music scene around campus will look like by graduation, but right now, there are still plenty of students and recent graduates kicking around the scene. Here are a few bands not to miss when they inevitably play around the campus area this year.
1. The UO graduates (plus one student, trumpeter Jasper Walton) of Face For Radio have been staples of the campus music scene for nearly half a decade. They describe themselves as “folk punk,” but there’s as much ska, soul and straight-up heart-on-sleeve pop in their horn-damaged sound as anything else. Their debut album I Can Explain…, which dropped last July, features their exuberant sound in a stripped-down, minimally produced setting.
2. Eugene’s most ambitious punk band, Girls Punch Bears, have been playing together since high school and are still going strong with guitarist Nathan Adams and drummer Walker Carroll now enrolled at the UO. If you still think punk shouldn’t have weird time signatures, organs, saxophones or six-minute songs, stay away from this band — or turn on the Girls Punch Bears EP or their May debut Could It Be True? and open your mind.
3. Led by rapper BigMo (full disclosure: a former EW intern), The Nouns are one of the few hip-hop groups to make a name in the rock-dominated University of Oregon music scene. The fact that they’re a tight live band, built around a rotating cast of skilled young jazz players, probably helps. BigMo, who recently moved to Portland, works without The Nouns as well and has released a number of solo mixtapes, best among them his 2013 debut Both Sides of the Sand.
4. If your buddies dragged you away from karaoke night to see Spiller, no fear; these UO School of Music and Dance students will likely bust out a hit you’d love to belt sooner or later. Their formidable cover repertoire includes songs by everyone from The Beatles and Vampire Weekend to OutKast and Schoolboy Q, but they’re not just a glorified cover band. Their intricate originals, situated halfway between math rock and revivalist emo and filled with twin-guitar interplay, are sure to keep their audience on its feet as much as anything.
5. As mathy as Spiller but even more out-there and improvisational are Sleep Inertia, whose performances have in the past featured the following things: elaborate visuals, improvised circuit-bending and drummer T.J. Martin-Lokey painting in the background. They’ve toned down the projections and the paintings lately, but they’re still looking for, as Martin-Lokey describes it, a “palatable and organic” form of art to incorporate into future performances.
6. With Trucks Go Easy around, there’s no need to trek out to Papa’s Soul Food to get your Southern-fried fixings. These recent graduates are shaggy-haired, bearded and swampy as hell. But they don’t coast on down-home aesthetics, even if they pose in a pickup truck on the cover of their debut Po’ Boys Remedy. They’re a tight and melodic band, as willing to show off their hooks as their chops. Drummer Taylor Jones also plays in the brand-new Coastal Ghost.