The Sound Off! Class of 2010

The annual competition pits 12 underage bands against each other in what has become a local rite of passage for up-and-coming bands. Here are the semifinalists.

Saturday, Feb. 13

By Sara Brickner 

Apache Chief, Tacoma

Sound: Lo-fi garage rock

Time together: Nine months

Apache Chief makes scratched-up, fuzzed-out garage rock that takes its cues from rock music's grimiest subgenres—hardcore, metal, and punk—without ever subscribing to any of those schools of thought. Under all that grit and reverb is a band that's managed to construct an arty amalgam more technically complex than punk rock, easier to listen to than hardcore, and more danceable than metal, with some surf guitar thrown in for good measure.

Candysound, Burlington

Sound: Pop

Time together: Six months

Candysound's mid-tempo guitar/drum compositions are as pleasantly easy on the ears as a sweet on the tongue. It shouldn't be surprising that two-man bands can produce big sounds (just look at the Helio Sequence), but it's not an easy feat. Like a pufferfish in defense mode, Candysound's two musicians have stretched themselves to sound larger than they are by employing additional musicians on their recordings. If they keep up the illusion of size in a live setting, they'll be in good shape.

Sea Fever, Seattle

Sound: Pop

Time together: One year

Seattle suffers no shortage of excellent folk bands, and Sea Fever, the only band competing on this date that's actually from Seattle, is working hard to add itself to that list. Thing is, using the descriptor "folk" or even "acoustic folk rock" is sort of a stretch here, as the band consists of two guitars, keyboard, bass, and drums. This is pop music, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Sui-Generis, Kennewick

Sound: Metal meets organ grinder

Time together: Almost two years

Sui-Generis is either out to give new meaning to the term "eclecticism," or hasn't decided what kind of band it wants to be yet. It's not often that a band dares to include pounding, death-metal shredding and French cabaret pop within the same song. Such bizarre juxtapositions make for a baffling and bipolar listening experience, and yet, the metal bits are actually pretty righteous.

Saturday, Feb. 20

By Paige Richmond

The Cat From the Hue, Camano Island

Sound: Like the Moondoggies with island fever

Time together: One-and-a-half years

The five members of this psych-folk outfit sound sweet, with jazz-inspired drums, swirling guitars, and inviting melodies. But don't let The Cat From the Hue's warmth fool you; these guys know how to write a biting lyric about the Seattle music industry. Enter "Welcome Back the Rain": "I hear the Puget Sound is the land of the green/I reciprocate the meaning with a speech about the scene." It's a hard sentiment to refute.

A cozy kitchen, Tacoma and Bellingham

Sound: Like a less freaky Devendra Banhart with better guitar skills

Time together: Three months

A cozy kitchen boasts only three regular members—Cody Madison, Kyle Gootkin, and Drew Miller, all students at WWU—and a rotating cast of extras. The collaborative result is a song like "You're Not Angry," an artful combination of strummed guitars, reverb, washboards, and static. Lead singer Madison credits his hometown of Tacoma, "a nasty, gritty, romantic and a beautiful place," for inspiring this sound.

Pan Pan (aka Sarah Jerns), Bellingham

Sound: Andrew Bird, if his voice were a trumpet 

Time together: Since 2008

At 21, Sarah Jerns plays the kind of intricate-yet-lilting compositions that should require a handful of older, more experienced musicians to write. Jerns is a near-prodigy, single-handedly playing piano, trumpet, flugelhorn, and accordion on her vocal-free songs. She brings this technical skill to compositions like "Understatement," which sound like one part Mahler symphony, one part indie rock, and all parts totally captivating.

Hooves and Beak, Seattle by way of Lawrence, Kan.

Sound: A gutsier Joanna Newsom

Time together: Since 2007

It's all too easy to compare Hooves and Beak's Whitney Flinn, a self-taught harpist, to Joanna Newsom: Her voice is high and airy, less concerned with perfect pitch than with being used as an instrument. But where Newsom oozes twee and delicate songs, Flinn sounds like she's got some demons to work out. "I want to tell you it'll all be OK, but your ex-wife has other plans," she sings on "Doorman's Song."

Saturday, Feb. 27

By Nick Feldman

Great Waves, Sammamish

Sound: Folk

Time together: Three years

Though lead singer Ashley Bullock admits she wouldn't appear publicly for her first six months with the band, her literary lyrical influence — drawing from the likes of Henry Miller and Vladimir Nabokov — and crystalline voice were well worth revealing. The quartet's debut release, Blue Blood, is five tracks of flowing melody accented by unique instrumentation.

Seacats, Kelso

Sound: Pop/Rock

Time together: One year

A band of friends (and two brothers), this truly collaborative and multitalented five-piece released an August debut EP that featured three of the members as songwriters, not to mention as guitarists and vocalists. Incorporating synth grooves, "woo"s, hand claps, and "ba ba ba ba"s, the band's undeniably upbeat and blissfully captivating Weezer-esque, '90s-inspired flavor bounces and swirls and riffs with reckless abandon.

Subtle Like a T-Rex, Port Coquitlam, B.C.

Sound: Prog rock

Time together: One-and-a-half years

Few of their songs clock in under six minutes. They aren't content using just guitar, bass, and drums. They have a lot of hair. This is one quartet that draws from such a diverse array of influences that even they themselves find it difficult to describe. But one thing is certain: Their sonic talent and cross-genre switchbacks are not to be ignored.

Us on Roofs, Gig Harbor

Sound: Indie rock

Time together: Four months

Guitarist and keyboardist Brian Fisher and drummer Nick Blodgett had been playing together for years, but when the bassist in their previous project couldn't make the stage, "biggest fan" Mikey Farrow stepped in. Now the dynamic guitar-driven trio plays catchy, impeccably structured syncopated rock that showcases Fisher's poetic lyrical approach.

 
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