One man bands are usually young guys who write, play, and then track and mix, all of the instruments, and sing, produce and master their own songs. Performing live is often impossible for a one man band, which is why, over the past decade, they are often referred to as “bedroom artists.” Since the mid 2000’s, there have been dozens and dozens of one man (and woman too) bands profiled on IRC, who, often because of their popularity (in which case record executives often pick the band members), or a natural desire to perform live, have wound up in a band. Just a few examples would be Bon Iver, The Tallest Man on Earth and Oberhofer.
This debut of the 5 DIY Solo Artists You’ve Gotta Hear artist profile and playlist series kicks off with the buzzed-about Los Angeles artist, Davis Fetter, followed by Bring Prudence from Brooklyn; Ben Kernion of Pittsburgh; Tapes and Tubes from Olympia, Washington; and Ian Burn from St. Louis, Missouri.
Davis Fetter – Los Angeles, California
When Davis Fetter, a Los Angeles musician, was 12 years old, he heard rock and roll legend Chuck Berry for the first time, and from that moment on, he was hooked on rock and roll. Not long after being converted to rock by Berry, Fetter’s parents bought him a Gibson 335 guitar. Before he was even a teenager, Fetter was learning how to play rock and roll simply by listening to Berry and other artists. Over the years, Fetter’s music would gain him his own recognition as an artist. In fact, Fetter has opened for artists such as Peter Murphy, Blondie, Chris Cornell, The B-52s, Young The Giant, Local Natives, and The Airborne Toxic Event. That’s an impressive list of bands to have opened for.
Davis is inspired by the iconic songwriting of artists like The Smiths, Elvis, Roy Orbison, Lou Reed, and John Lennon, along with the euphoric melodies of The Libertines, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Buddy Holly. Overall, he says that his musical influences include His guitar tones are unique, technical, and spacious at the same time. Vocally, Davis’ range gives him the freedom to hit Little Richard type notes with the effortless cool of a Morrissey or Julian Casablancas, and the childlike raucous of Peter Doherty. His sound has been compared to Arcade Fire, The Strokes, Glasvegas, John Lennon, and James Brown.
In August 2012, Fetter’s single, “I See Love,” went #1 on LA’s KROQ Locals Only broadcast, earning the song additional airplay on London’s XFM. Fetter’s songs have also been featured on MTV, FX, Oxygen, Sky Network, and in various independent films. Nylon Mag featured Fetter’s track, “Euphoria” on their Sept 2011 mixtape. His latest single “I Won’t Let The World Break My Heart,” clearly demonstrates Fetter’s talent as a songwriter, vocalist and musician. Fetter has no plans at the moment to release an album, stating that he’s a “singles guy.” It would be nice to see him put out a debut album. The second single, “Look What You’ve Done to the Boy,” and the accompanying music video, is yet another excellent track that adds credibility to Fetter’s profile.
“I Won’t Let The World Break My Heart” – Davis Fetter
“Look What You’ve Done to the Boy” – Davis Fetter
Bring Prudence – Brooklyn, New York
The one-man electro pop band project of Brooklyn resident songwriter, musician and producer Oleh Zaychenko, called Bring Prudence, was an interesting discovery in our submission box. Zaychenko records quirky, heavily melodic pop songs with a 80’s new wave/goth edge, drum machines, chunky bass lines, understated guitar parts and Casio-sounding keyboards on tracks like, “Don’t Break My Heart,” complete with Zaychenko’s nerdy style vocals that remind us a lot of They Might Be Giants. His musical influences include Depeche Mode, Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen, and The Talking Heads. Bring Prudence’s EP, Aliens, was dropped on August 5th.
“Don’t Break My Heart” – Bring Prudence from Aliens
“Grandview” – Bring Prudence from Aliens – August 5th
Ben Kernion – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh DIY indie psychedelic guitar rock musician Ben Kernion began writing and recording music during 2004 to 2006 while attending audio engineering school in New York City. After graduating in March 2012, Kernion moved back to his hometown of Pittsburgh after being evicted from his New York apartment for noise complaints. Along with Marko Zyznewsky, Kernion co-wrote the music to “The Rust,” the standout track from his debut album, Tunnelvision. The album cover art for the release is awful, which is why we avoided using it, but the alternative wasn’t much better. (If you’re going to use crayons, at least come up with something stunning; not some chicken scribble that looks like a seven-year-old did it; a seven year old lacking artistic talent at that.)
Recently, we started asking musicians who submit their songs for review, “what is indie rock,” in their own words. Kernion wrote: “Indie rock to me is any music that honestly reflects the unique thoughts and feelings inherent in each of us, individually, and as communities, performed with at least one traditional element of rock.”
“The Rust” – Ben Kernion from Tunnelvision – Feb. 17th
“The Sinking Facts” – Ben Kernion from Tunnelvision
Tapes & Tubes – Olympia, Washington
Another one-man band, Tapes & Tubes, is the work of Olympia, Washington experimental recording artist Austin Potter, who occasionally gets help from family and friends, although his recordings are primarily his work, from the writing and recording of instruments to the mixing and mastering of the final tapes. His DIY recording of the lo-fi, dreamy, hazy pop song, “Salad Days,” reminds us of American Analog Set and in other areas of the album of My Bloody Valentine, specially on the track, “My Own America,” which is reminiscent of the droning vocal layering MBV’s Kevin Shields used on the band’s classic album, Loveless. Both tracks are off of Potter’s self-released album, simply titled, 27, released on August 5th. Potter also hosts a weekly radio show at KAOS 89.3 FM in Olympia and lists his top musical influences as Yo La Tengo, Dump, The Feelies, Neil Young, and Lambchop.
“Salad Days” – Tapes and Tubes from 27 – Aug. 5th
“Empty Pockets” – Tapes and Tubes from 27
Ian Burn – St. Louis, Missouri
It happened on a January evening in 2013. Suddenly, it all clicked, and the young, aspiring musician Ian Burn was inspired to write and record his first song titled, “Enough.” From St. Louis, Missouri, and only 20 years old, Burn attempted to write an album’s worth of material, but soon he discovered that he could actually write songs better and more quickly if he approached his songwriting from a non-album framework. Plus, as Burn said in his submission, he has been “trying to write music, but could never finish either the music or the lyrics.” For the songs that he has finished so far, we are impressed by the raw, untainted sincerity and lo-fi magnificence of DIY.
Should he continue to hone his skills, we think Burn has a lot to contribute as a songwriter and musician. He sings about avoiding mediocrity and embracing a life of curious searching for his place and meaning in life, which is perfectly normal for a young man to do, and it’s a process that lasts a lifetime. He found that attempting to write music within the concept of an album was blocking him from finishing songs, both lyrically and musically, so he now writes and records a song a month, which he indicated works well for him.
“I started writing music cause I have some things to say,” Burn told IRC. “I’ve been playing guitar for about 10 years, so most of my songs start from the guitar and then I build them up. Genre wise I think my music is just rock n’ roll. Besides Petty and Dylan I’m a big fan of Link Wray and a lot of early rock/surf music… I write and record all the parts on my laptop, but do the drums/bass through a USB keyboard. All this is done solo, usually on the floor in my room.”
Burn has a nasally, pitchy voice woven together with jangly blues guitar and simple, clear cut, drums and rhythm, reminiscent of early Tom Petty. Burn currently performs at open mics around the St. Louis area.
“Nothing To Lose” – Ian Burn from First EP – May 1st
“Far From Here” –Ian Burn from First EP
“Enough” – Ian Burn from First EP