9 Colorado-bred artists you need in your life right now
Rent sucks, traffic is the worst and brunch lines have never been so long. But hey, at least Colorado’s music scene is on point. It’s true, never before has the state seen a creative community on such a massive scale, reaching into every genre the world has to offer. The once disparate cow town has grown, and so too has the musical talent offered.
Success never comes to individuals who spend their lives following in the exact footsteps of idols — there’s nothing unique there, it’s been done. Ietef “DJ Cavem Moetavation” Vita is far from that, tackling the issues he sees in his community through education, creativity and — most importantly — fresh food.
In his single “Wheat Grass,” Vita raps, “I got a job with some teens, teaching hip-hop history and how to grow greens,” a stripped-down distillation of what he and his music are about. Instead of money, drugs and guns being the subjects of his flow, it’s about how to tend the earth, grow food and lead a healthy lifestyle to build a better foundation for the future.
“I’ve gotten a lot of love for my creative and non-traditional approach with hip-hop,” says Vita. Along with various awards in hand, his health-first ideology has garnered him features on sites like CNN and the Huffington Post, even in Oprah’s magazine and shoulder to shoulder with the president. Most recently, a viral video of his endeavors pulled out of the documentary From Gangs to Gardens blanketed Facebook for weeks. He’s getting the attention he deserves.
“Where the average rapper might be thinking about partnering with an alcohol brand or shoe company, I’ve partnered with Champion Juicer,” Vita says of his current ventures. “My wife and I are [also] producing an interactive plant-based recipe book.
“In the future, we plan on partnering and working with more like-minded companies to market to urban communities, because food justice matters.”
You’d be forgiven for thinking that someone pulled the plug on good ole fashioned rock ‘n’ roll in order to plug in some talentless EDM DJ’s laptop. But the Bandits are here to remind you that rock is alive and well.
“Our music is heavy rock,” says singer Lulu Demitro. “We love to dig into riffs and make people move.”
Comprised of siblings John and Lulu Demitro — and drummer Andrew Oakley — Bandits can be found rattling the ceiling of some of Denver’s best venues, though the band prefers to keep things dark and intimate. “The upside is that you can start building a really loyal fan base,” Lulu says of being an independent band. “It’s important to build an audience that cares about what you’re doing and wants to see you grow.”
It’s loud, aggressive, and has enough blips and blops in it to evoke a lovesick nostalgia for early Nintendo video games — something even younger generations can get behind. It’s called Church Fire, made up of Shannon Webber and David Samuelson, and it’s likely creating in a genre you’ve yet to explore.
“More than sending a particular message with our music, we hope to create a mood and an energy that resonates with people so that they want to find their own meaning in what they hear and see from us,” says the band. “Our highest aspiration is to invoke a sense of the luminous and sacred for ourselves and we hope that translates to our listeners.
“Failing that, we like to have fun while loudly exercising our demons.”
Look up “crushing it” in the dictionary and you may see a picture of Maddy O’Neal. After parting ways with her former project Krooked Drivers, Maddy has been blazing a fiery trail of her own with plenty of support from Denver’s tight-knit scene. “It’s been amazing,” she says, “I think being in Denver, in this community of people and musicians and artists has helped me grow in so many different ways.”
O’Neal has undoubtedly flourished since going solo, releasing her heartfelt debut album Introspect in June. In it, she even shows off her previously unheard singing voice on her favorite track, “No Master Plan.”
Between releasing her album and opening Red Rocks Amphitheatre for Pretty Lights last month, O’Neal is well on her way to becoming a major player in the Denver electronic music scene, bolstered by her raw talent, nimble mixing skills and humble attitude. “I just want people to feel something from my music,” she says, explaining her motivations to forge her own path. “I feel like a lot of artists these days feel pressure to follow trends. People want to take the short route to reaching people rather than letting something develop organically.”
When Qbala speaks, people listen. The energetic emcee’s music, a mix of “boom bap with an old school underground hip-hop flavor,” demands constant attention from listeners, forcing them to think while being engulfed by fierce lyricism and gritty beats.
After a successful run as a college basketball player, Qbala picked up a mic and went to work, adding a fresh perspective and a unique voice to Colorado’s burgeoning hip-hop scene. Although Qbala’s flow is crafty and complex, the message is simple: “Live life to the fullest. Stand for yourself and what you believe is right and speak your mind.”
Eros and the Eschaton
Even though they’re planted further south than most bands involved in the local scene, Eros and the Eschaton has still forced its claws into the regional industry with ease. Its popular lo-fi, distortion-heavy sound has pushed the act onto various festival lineups and still garners impressive airtime on CPR’s OpenAir 102.3. The support hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“People who choose to live here tend to be a little wild, a little untamed,” they say of Colorado. “But the sense of community is what makes it home.”
Far from giving in to current musical trends, Eros and the Eschaton is chiseling a sound into the sphere that few bands tackle. It’s “really loud rock ‘n’ roll, [with] pop hooks and mayhem.”
The best way to describe a new-boom in Colorado’s music is calling attention to the young blood in the industry. Old-schoolers paved whatever way they could, but now have to take a backseat to burgeoning artists like YaSi, a relatively new voice, but one so powerful you’d think she’s been doing this for decades. She’s quality, when the rest of the world is still running on the idea of quantity.
“[Music is] not only therapy for me, but I love connecting and helping people,” says YaSi about her outlet. “The world is really fucked up, but we have music to get us through it. So I hope when you listen to me, you feel understood.”
Like most musicians, Carter Matthews is a real character. The man behind Toy Box, one of Denver’s most unique electronic acts, describes his sound as a “melodic journey through unexpected tones and sounds that push the boundaries of modern sonic capabilities.”
“On the surface, the music sounds like a playful pod of dolphins frolicking in the sparkling sea, but the deeper you listen, the more you realize that each song is a unique labyrinth of diverse aural stimulation,” he explains. Simple, right?
Though it isn’t easy for a DJ/Producer to stand out in Denver’s already saturated market, Toy Box manages to do just that with the help of his trusty mandolin, which he incorporates into most of his tracks for an unexpected yet refreshing musical experience.
As one of Red Bull’s hand-selected artists for its Sound Select series, Sur Ellz is often nestled inside some of the hottest bills around the state. Backed by his Magic EP released last year (and countless singles since), his addictive croon that got him there is akin to most R&B powerhouses on the market today. He’s on the rise.
And what would a soft voice be without sexual context? “Love is love,” he says about the feelings in his tracks. “It doesn’t take a lot to love someone.” With that, he opts to open “Pandora’s box, to give artistic freedoms back” each time he creates a piece. It’s all from the heart, and on its way up.