For underground bands, sudden success has become mainstream

Recently, bands that were jamming under the radar have been making an abrupt climb into the mainstream. These acts’ meteoric rises have turned them from unknowns to stars in an instant.

Marisa Lorion | Daily Trojan

What was the trick to their sudden success? In some cases, it took a certain song to generate some fame, or perhaps a debut album with huge buzz around it. Instead of changing their styles or pulling off some stunt, these acts simply got the right opportunity and took it.

Among the mainstream risers are bands such as Florence + the Machine, Local Natives and Mumford & Sons.

Florence + the Machine

Florence + the Machine is the stage name for British pop-singer Florence Welch and the band that accompanies her. Welch hails from London and released her debut album Lungs in the UK during the summer of 2009.

Until Welch’s performance at the Video Music Awards on Sept. 12, Florence + the Machine had been surfing amid underground bands, dropping singles and covers as a means of garnering more attention.

Florence + the Machine really landed in the mainstream after Welch’s VMA performance. The show publicly exhibited Welch’s unique, earthy singing style and powerful edge — as further evidenced on Welch’s debut album.

Welch’s rendition of “Dog Days Are Over” was an exquisite mixture of fairy tale costumes and high-energy tribal dancers. Welch and the dancers were choreographed to perfection and Welch’s vocals succeeded in exemplifying the very reason Florence + the Machine was at the VMAs.

The award for Best Art Direction in a video, given to “Dog Days Are Over,” and Welch’s VMA performance of the song undoubtedly played a pivotal role in propelling Florence + the Machine into their newfound success.

After Welch’s VMA recognition, Lungs soared to No. 2 on iTunes’ albums chart, while “Dog Days Are Over” jumped to No. 9 on the singles chart.

Florence + the Machine later released “Heavy in Your Arms” for the soundtrack to Eclipse, the third installment of the Twilight series. Welch is currently in the studio, working on her second album, due out by 2011.

Local Natives

Local Natives has been experiencing a similar breakout year — minus the frenetic VMA buzz.

Although the indie band is based in  Silver Lake, it released its first album Gorilla Manor in the United Kingdom during fall 2009 before it was released the following February in  the United States.

Local Natives is becoming known for its unique use of percussive waves of sound, piano melodies and rich, luscious vocal harmonies, as evident in their hit “Wide Eyes.”

The single is a hypnotic, psychedelic, folk-sounding song that penetrates the eardrums with its heavy percussion but simultaneously evokes the soothing qualities of a lullaby with the underlying chant of the chorus.

“Wide Eyes” has undoubtedly become Local Natives’ most recent and most powerful hit; the sound present in the song is the quintessence of Local Natives’ distinctive tone that has generated positive feedback and appeal.

Local Natives caught the eyes of critics and fans when they opened for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes in the band’s 2009-2010 tour. Opening for such an indie powerhouse is not an easy task; however, Local Natives were able to pull it off successfully, garnering comparisons to other notable indie bands such as Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend.

Local Natives’ successful opening gig seemingly opened the eyes of the public and proved that the group was worthy of the spotlight. The band recently headlined a September show at the Music Box in Hollywood and is currently touring the United States and Europe.

Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons emerged from London’s folk scene with the production of their debut album Sigh No More in October 2009. Mumford & Sons is an idiosyncratic folk band that couples unique folk instruments — such as the mandolin and banjo — with patriotic-sounding vocal harmonies and rhythms.

Mumford & Sons’ appeal is found in the band’s high energy and enthusiasm during live performances. The musicians themselves are profusely talented and they play their respective instruments with tact and mastery, but also have no problem — and are quite notorious for — switching instruments with each other on stage.

Lead singer Marcus Mumford’s voice resonates deeply, giving Mumford & Sons’ songs a powerful, but paradoxically delicate feel. Winston Marshall serves as the band’s banjo expert and provides upbeat riffs; Ben Lovett plays keyboards and the accordion, giving the songs tonal class; and Ted Dwane supports the lower registers by plucking his gargantuan string bass.

Mumford & Sons have enjoyed moderate success in the United Kingdom, but their musical identity has since skyrocketed as the band has begun touring in the United States and making appearances on talk shows, including the band’s set on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Tuesday.

The highlight of Kimmel’s free concert was the song “Little Lion Man,” which got the entire crowd jumping, clapping and stomping in classic hoedown fashion.  Mumford & Sons proved to be energetic, entertaining and modest, warmly accepting the crowd’s applause.

Mumford & Son’s performance on Kimmel and kick off tour in the United States has served as the tentpole for revealing themselves to the public, as their fan base has exploded within the past year and their public profile as exciting musicians continues to grow.

These bands broke into the mainstream suddenly, but they do not look to be fading anytime soon. It was their talent, not gimmicks, that helped to bring the fame, and that’s what will keep them in the spotlight.

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  1. […] With the way the independent music scene works, it’s not unusual for bands to blow up very quickly. However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean that it’s weird to watch. The first time I saw Local Natives, they were playing at a 150-capacity club and seemed shocked that any people actually bothered to show up, much less selling out the place. This time around, they were at a venue ten times that size–which wasn’t packed, but still had a respectable audience. This Cannery show was truly set apart as a completely different experience once I witnessed grown women pointing at the band and saying, “I’m going to marry that one.” It’s a natural enough result of increased success, but I have to say that it still felt pretty strange. I don’t want to be that jerk bragging about liking them first, because Local Natives deserve the best and I’ve certainly been evangelical about them, but I want to say this as a spectator of the buzz game. Also, if you have the opportunity to see Local Natives live, you should take it, because they’re lovely and sound amazing and make you feel good about being alive and able to see great music. Enough of my boring blather, here are some pictures. (But maybe also check out this article.) […]

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