Top Bands Down Under

Tickets to festivals like Splendour In The Grass and Big Day Out get snapped up in days; but Australia’s time is now. A musical fomenting ground that has germinated some of the most exciting bands in recent years, here’s 9 other reasons to jump on board a jet and head Down Under.

Text Muna Noor + Ben Liew

Violent Soho
You’ve put up with the new new wave, Motown yob (Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Plan B) and even the return of disco, but now it’s time to break out the flannel shirts and throw out the shampoo-we smell teen spirit. Violent Soho from Brissy (that’s Brisbane, n00bs) in Queensland formed in 2004 and have been bringing the kind of loud, raucous noise that soon saw the rock-grunge quartet (Luke Boerdam and James Tidswell on guitar/vocals, Luke Henery on bass and Michael Richards on drums) signed to Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth’s Ecstatic Peace label. Their self-titled 2nd album was released in March and features eyebrow-raising single ‘Jesus Stole My Girlfriend’. An amped up squall of Pixie-style guitars and guttural whinging reminiscent of losers Wheatus and early Weezer, even Kurt would have cracked a grin. MN



Angus + Julia Stone
From Sydney, brother and sister combo Angus & Julia Stone were born for big things. With a work ethic honed performing in their dad’s cover band, the pair broke into the scene in 2006 and was promptly packed off to UK to win over the world and Natalie Portman – who is purportedly a fan. Released in 2007 and partially recorded in Fran Healy of Travis’ living room, their debut album, A Book Like This, was preceded by their double EP, Chocolates and Cigarettes and Heart Full of Wine and contained the delicate girl boy harmonies and fragile acoustic sensibilities that have since turned them into a magnet for accolades and awards, including a near clean sweep of the ARIA’s in 2010 for their follow up Down the Way. Internationally released in March, it was partially recorded in a sawmill in Cornwall and a water tank in Coolangatta, on the Gold Coast. MN


Tame Impala
Coming out of the sleepy city of Perth, where bands are either really good or bad, but always have a blast, Tame Impala is a head trip right to the outer limits of psychedelic rock. Consisting of Kevin Parker (lead guitar and vocals), Dominic Simper (bass guitar) and Jay Watson (drums and backing vocals), an excellent example of their musical magic carpet ride is the single ‘Half Full Glass of Wine’, a trippy melodic stomp which has brought back the art of the drum solo. Simply put, Tame Impala is Led Zeppelin, Cream and Jimi Hendrix aboard one big happy yellow submarine. BL

Van She
Signed to Modular Recordings, Van She’s 80s style post punk electro-shoegaze funk sound is the freshest thing to come out of Sydney since Aussie’s Next Top Model only Van She with their perfectly coiffed moustaches are way better looking. Comprising of Michael Di Francesco on synths, Nick Routledge on guitar and vocals, Matt Van Schie on bass and Tomek Archer on drums, the band released their self-titled debut EP in ’05 and their debut album V in 2008. Nevertheless it’s their upfront remix work as Van She Technologic for the Klaxons (‘Gravity’s Rainbow)’, Feist (‘1234), The Presets (‘Are You The One?’) and New Young Pony Club (‘Ice Cream’) among others, that will have likely clocked you round the ears and given your eardrums a beating. MN

Empire Of the Sun
Consisting of Sleepy Jackson’s Luke Steele and PNAU’s Nick Littlemore, Empire Of The Sun may have started off as an experiment, but the costume wearing duo have demonstrated their great chemistry together, most notably on debut album Walking On A Dream. Rife with flawless disco chops, psychedelic rips, and infectious synth-pop, Walking On A Dream is akin to having an uber-chic Fleetwood Mac share a dressing-room with David Bowie. Far out and spacey, it remains more electro than retro though as the Aussie lads leading us to party in a galaxy far, far away. BL

The Temper Trap
For those of you who like Coldplay but are too scared to damage your street cred, The Temper Trap might just be what you’re looking for. The Melbourne rock quartet is relatively new to the scene but their songs have already been used in popular Australian TV series Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities in addition to being programmed by DJ Shadow and remixed by Drum and Bass artist Mistabishi. ‘Sweet Disposition’, the lead single off their 2009 long-player Conditions, is a prime example. It starts soft with staccato guitars and singer Dougy Mandagi’s whimpering voice. Before long, the drums kick in and brings the urgency. BL

The Vines
Thank NME for unleashing The Vines on an unsuspecting world. Hurtling onto the scene in 2002 at the peak of the “The bands” trend in, it was their jangly first single, ‘Factory’, that caught the music rag’s fancy. If that was the spark, it was their debut album, Highly Evolved that raged into a fully fledged fire. Their old school alt rock / post grunge sound and impassioned performances conjured up the sentiment of 90s Seattle and digging up the ghost of Nirvana and was celebrated with a cover appearance on Rolling Stone mag. Three more albums, with mixed reviews, have been released since then, with the fifth looking imminent. Get ready to rock. MN

Operator Please
It was ‘Just a Song About Ping Pong’, but the infectious, indie pop hit shot them to fame and helped lend credibility to what was then a growing movement of almost embarrassingly young but capable bands. Originally formed in their Gold Coast High School with the sole aim of winning its Battle Of The Bands Competition (which they did) by an average age of 19 the band had 2 EPs under it belt, airplay on Triple J and performance polish usually seen on more mature bands. Not just an Underage festival fixture, the current lineup of vocalist and guitarist Amandah Wilkinson, drummer Tim Commandeur, keyboardist Chris Holland, Ashley McConnell on bass guitar, and violinist Taylor Henderson have played Glasto, Reading and Leeds – the biggies, and their follow up to Yes Yes Vindictive , Gloves released this year proves a few years hasn’t dented their enthusiasm. MN

You can credit Wolfmother for turning the focus onto Australia as the birthing ground of some of the most exciting and terrifying rock this decade. Formed in Sydney in 2000, the band’s self titled 2005 debut blazed a trail across the globe on the back of breakout single ‘Woman’. Comparisons to 70s rock legends like The Who, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf and Led Zeppelin were inevitable, and Led Zep even returned the compliment when they were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame – Wolfmother was invited as their guests. Latest album, 2009’s Cosmic Egg continues to push the band’s trademark hard-edged psychedelia and vintage bluesy agenda, but it’s not been an easy ride. Irreconcilable personal and musical differences have left the band depleted; fro-haired Andrew Stockdale remains the outfit’s recognizable frontman, and with a much rumoured album due out end this year and recent appearances including at Splendour, Wolfmother are looking an increasingly strong proposition for some proper rocking and rolling. MN

Get to Australian destinations like Gold Goast, melbourne and Perth via Air Asia X. Find out how at