For 14 years, EMP’s Sound Off! has served as a platform for

For 14 years, EMP’s Sound Off! has served as a platform for 21-and-under artists hoping to share their work and connect with the local music scene. Starting this week, the all-ages fest will host three rounds of semifinals each Friday leading to the finals. There, the semifinal winners and one wild-card band will compete for the 2015 title and the chance to perform at a major regional music festival. In the past, Sound Off! has featured then-up-and-coming acts including The Lonely Forest, Sol, and Sam Lachow. This year, the event presents a whole new batch of semifinalists:

Semifinals 1 • Friday, Feb. 13

Bleachbear This all-girl ensemble—two sisters, Tigerlily and Annabella Bird, and their cousin, Emiko—came together as a band after a summer of music lessons when Tigerlily discovered her love for guitar, Annabella gravitated toward drums, and their brother decided to stick to Minecraft. In need of support, the sisters called the more outgoing Emiko to “shake a shaker egg and sing some harmonies” for them, and Bleachbear was born, Emiko on bass. Bleachbear is one of the youngest acts in this year’s fest, but don’t let that fool you. These girls are sure to deliver, with a breezy sound they like to call “dream-pop grunge.”

Childhood friends from Orange County, Calif., the guys of Champagne Babylon didn’t become a band until members Cody and Paul figured they should try to learn to play the guitars they had lying around. After recruiting Ryan from their middle-school music class and Bryce from down the block, the band was in full force. Now based in Seattle, you can find them jamming out in the old Rainier Brewery. Drawing on influences from Harry Nilsson to Kanye West, Champagne Babylon creates a synthy kind of disco pop that sets a rhythm for groovin’. Their name, inspired by a sons-and-dads camping trip involving popping champagne at Joshua Tree, fits their sound: natural yet luxurious.

From production to vocals, lyrics to album art, Bailey Skye single-handedly creates an experience for all the senses through his haunting electronic performances. Under the moniker Nightspace, he crafts music that’s a direct product of his own emotions in a sound that varies from soft and slow to aggressive and distorted, staying sincere throughout. The term “Nightspace,” though originally the result of “just putting two words that [he] liked together,” has taken on a life of its own for both him and the audience. Through dark vocals and ambient instrumentals, Skye’s sound is reminiscent of that moment when you’re lying in bed on the edge of slumber, reflecting on your life, right before you drift into the dreamscape.

Friends Kevin and Joe have been practicing music together since high school; their original band dwindled slowly, leaving just the two most devoted members as Super Soaked. Initially inspired by garage-rock acts such as Fuzz and Thee Oh Sees, the duo has come to find inspiration in a wider array of music. Joe says their music’s bouncy energy is meant to be contagious: “We just want [listeners] to dance. If you’re not moving, what’s the point?” They envision themselves touring in a van with their “only responsibility for the day [being] getting to the next show,” according to Joe. That happy-go-lucky attitude will likely be stirred within listeners after hearing their music.

Semifinals 2 • Friday, Feb. 20

After a summer of busking at Pike Place, sisters Jordan and Rebecca and their childhood friend Gracia had so much fun making music, it was only natural to continue as a band, which they dubbed Charlie and the Rays. All with musical backgrounds, they went on to teach themselves guitar, practicing in the bathroom for the “better acoustics,” says Gracia: standing in the shower to rehearse their harmonies and using a vacuum as a mike to practice their stage presence. The band’s music is as down-to-earth as its members, channeling the likes of the Beatles and Elvis Costello to create an oldies vibe with a new-school twist. A self-described underdog in the Sound Off competition, they’ve come a long way from their improvised mikes to make it to the semifinals.

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