The 20 Rising Australian Bands You Need to Know in 2019

The scenes in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and beyond are bursting at the seams with young acts. Here's who you should watch in 2019.

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The 20 Rising Australian Bands You Need to Know in 2019

There’s an indie-rock tradition that burns bright in Australia. The U.S., Canada, Britain and other countries where guitar music has played a big role in popular music have their own conventions, but Australia is almost methodical in its culmination of alternative scenes. Home to iconic rock groups like Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and The Birthday Party, the continental country now finds itself in a new era of alternative music, one where it’s producing some of the best indie-rock music anywhere. Young bands are springing up all over the place, leaping from their respective scenes in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and beyond and shooting for nationwide (even worldwide) acclaim. After Courtney Barnett attracted global interest, we began to look to Australia for our next favorite rock artists. Breakout bands like Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and The Goon Sax are already following in her footsteps, also taking cues from veteran alt-rockers like Twerps. After a slew of great Australian releases in 2018, we’re again looking Down Under for the next great crop of Sydney rockers, Melbourne guitar-pop players and Brisbane sceners. Here are the 20 Australian bands you need to know in 2019, listed in alphabetical order:

1. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys

This Sydney band’s second full-length Rot came out in 2017, but didn’t really start to register overseas until 2018. Rot was released in America by the idiosyncratic indie What’s Your Rupture, and it fits in well with the general aesthetic of that label, which also released records by Love is All, Parquet Courts, Iceage, and fellow Australians Royal Headache. Rot is a lo-fi blast of classic pop songwriting with a slightly raw edge, with hooks and solos crashing into each other like drunks dancing at the local indie rock dive bar. —Garrett Martin

2. Camp Cope

The second album from Melbourne trio Camp Cope isn’t particularly interested in social niceties, despite its title (How To Socialise & Make Friends): From the LP’s peppy opening bass notes, vocalist/guitarist Georgia “Maq” McDonald, bassist Kelly-Dawn “Kelso” Hellmrich and drummer Sarah “Thomo” Thompson use their shaggy, accessible indie-rock to address everything from music-industry sexism (“The Opener”) and sexual assault (“The Face of God”) to relationships of all stripes (“UFO Lighter”). Georgia Maq’s voice is at the center of it all, the album’s single most powerful instrument: She’s unfailing in her raw honesty, whether thumbing her nose at mansplainers or remembering her beloved late father, spinning vital and emotionally charged art out of whatever life throws at her. —Scott Russell

3. Cool Sounds

With a band name that sounds like the title of a Spotify mood playlist, have Melbourne’s Cool Sounds figured out how to attract listeners in the streaming age? I would argue that, yes, Cool Sounds make immersive, chillaxed rock primed for playlists and coffee shops, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. In fact, their 2018 LP, Cactus Country, is very good, and while it was a sleeper stateside, it appeared on several best-of-2018 lists in Australia.
Cool Sounds aren’t exactly a collective, but their lineup, usually toggling between six and seven musicians, is still larger than that of your average Aussie indie-rock band. —Ellen Johnson

4. Flowertruck

Sydney-based Flowertruck’s debut album, which was released in March 2018, is called Mostly Sunny, and there’s not a more perfect description for their ample, radiant synth-rock. Their sound, much like Phantastic Ferniture’s or Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s, is distinctly Aussie, with an emphasis on hooks and rock-solid melodies. The band says their album is “a valuable addition to any discerning motorist’s passenger-side seat or glove compartment,” and it is, but it’s also primed for beach-side boomboxes. As you sludge through a lousy North American winter, this record will conjure images of our friends in the Southern Hemisphere soaking up the sun. There’s enough darkness in the world—why not treat yourself to something light and easy? —Ellen Johnson

5. Jade Imagine

When on the hunt for hot new Australian bands, we figured Courtney Barnett’s own label, Milk! Records, might be a good place to start the search. There we stumbled upon Melbourne’s Jade Imagine, who combine the best of slacker-rock with a distinctly Aussie surf-pop sound. The band’s frontwoman, Jade McInally, has been on the Melbourne scene since the early 2000s, but it wasn’t until 2016 that she sent a pile of demos to Dave Mudie, Barnett’s drummer. From there, McInally formed Jade Imagine with several other vets of the Aussie indie realm: Liam “Snowy” Halliwell of The Ocean Party and Ciggie Witch, Tim Harvey of Real Feelings and James Harvey of Teeth and Tongue. Together, they’re Jade Imagine, and they’ve yet to release a full-length LP, which means 2019 could be their big year, if we’re lucky. —Ellen Johnson

6. Loose Tooth

Another Milk! Records signee, the mint rock trio Loose Tooth dropped their second LP, Keep Up in 2018. I must admit I was skeptical: How long can Melbourne really keep up the guitar-pop game? But Loose Tooth were a pleasant surprise. Their transcendent rock certainly takes cues from bands like The Cure and that classic Melbourne jangle, but it’s nevertheless some of the freshest sounds coming out of the Australian metropolis. Etta Curry, Luc Dawson and Nellie Jackson know a thing or two about hooks, and “Keep On” is especially infectious, like a pleasant nag. With Barnett on their side and plenty of catchy rock melodies in their heads, this Loose Tooth won’t fall out anytime soon. —Ellen Johnson

7. Moaning Lisa

Moaning Lisa are the missing piece from Australia’s thriving indie scene. In an arena flooded with sunny guitar pop and wistful lo-fi rock (which is all great—don’t get me wrong), Moaning Lisa serve a welcome slice of grunge. The band’s four members, Ellen, Hayley, Charlie and Hayden, met at school and are now based in Canberra, Australia’s capital city. So far, they’ve only released a handful of singles and an EP, 2018’s Do You Know Enough?, but that’s a good thing: If all signs point to yes, there’ll be an album on the way in 2019. In their song “Carrie (I Want a Girl),” they approach their queer identities with wit and smarts, and they salute their female music idols along the way, including Carrie Brownstein, Courtney Barnett and Kim Deal. If all goes right, Ellen, Hayley and Hayden will someday add their own names to that roster of badass lady rockers. —Ellen Johnson

8. Oh Pep!

When Melbourne duo Oh Pep! released their debut album Stadium Cake in 2016, they were quickly tagged “indie-folk,” a catchall phrase for acoustic music tinged with pop production, or just lo-fi folk-rock that’s not widely received. But indie-folk doesn’t feel like the right classification anymore. In fact, no one piecemeal subgenre feels applicable to Oh Pep!’s new record, I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You… (released in October via ATO), which is at once delicious pop music and bluegrass-adjacent folk. But, at the same time, it transcends both of those classifications. The opening ballad, “25,” is a string-reliant melody reminiscent of a classic Hollywood movie score. “Hurt Nobody” is a a deep-cutting emotional rendering, while album standout “What’s The Deal With David?” is the sonic equivalent of running through a glossily shelved candy store. I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You… is everything wonderful about good, crunchy pop music and everything marvelous about mindfully arranged folk compositions. —Ellen Johnson

9. Orion

Australia has been the center of the punk and indie rock world for the better part of a decade now. Orion has that same energy but with a goth fixation that unmistakably marks them as Cure devotees. Their 2017 LP on Melbourne’s Cool Death Records was a surprise treat that year, and a US tour last fall showed that their atmospheric, chorus-heavy pop songs might be even more powerful life. There was a band about a decade ago called Blank Dogs that drove all the record collectors crazy with their very lo-fi take on ‘80s 4AD; if Blank Dog had been less concerned with noise and willful obscurantism, they could’ve been as good as Orion. —Garrett Martin

10. Phantastic Ferniture

Everything about Phantastic Ferniture sounds like it’s meant to be temporary, and it’s hard not to find that concerning. Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin is in the midst of releasing new songs and prepping for the release of her second full-length album Crushing, out in February, and the words “Phantastic Ferniture” appear only once on her Wikipedia entry as an “associated act.” The band’s official description, meanwhile, pegs it as a side project for all three people involved: “Phantastic Ferniture is the project of old friends Julia Jacklin, Elizabeth Hughes, and Ryan K. Brennan, who wanted to shake the shackles of their meticulously crafted solo work to experience a second, giddy adolescence.” That rather makes the band sound like a calculated escape from the individual careers they’ve been pouring their hearts and souls into for years, but not one with a lot of stakes or future—if their solo work is meant to be taken as “meticulously crafted,” Phantastic Ferniture’s songs are implied to be raw or spontaneous by comparison. But might we suggest that’s a good thing? The self-titled debut from the group is chock full of compelling songs, from the rhythmically intoxicating “Uncomfortable Teenager” to the soaring “Fuckin ‘n’ Rollin,” to the simplistic but devastatingly catchy “Dark Corner Dance Floor.” Jacklin’s silky voice is wonderfully applied to this particular brand of propulsive indie rock, while Hughes is the perfect complement in small flourishes that take each song to the next level. This may be a band that was assembled without concrete plans for the future, but we’re hoping the reaction Phantastic Ferniture has received thus far convinces them to re-invest in what could become rock’s next great three-piece. —Jim Vorel


11. Pious Faults

Barely out of their teens, Brisbane’s Pious Faults released the furious album Old Thread on Feel It Records last year, ripping through nine songs of squealing punk and Birthday Party-influenced noise rock in under 20 minutes. A little too weird and arty to call hardcore, they still have the speed, anger and indifference to melody you expect from that genre. The two-part epic “Worship the Surface” is a rich centerpiece for the album and their live sets, a minor cataclysm of discordant guitars, hyperactive bass, and deathbed caterwauls that gives way to a dub-inflected sheet of feedback. —Garrett Martin

12. Psychedelic Porn Crumpets

First rule of band names: make sure your name doesn’t contain the genre of music you play. The band’s colossal, eccentric pop/rock sound is undeniably psychedelic and it’s kind of cheesy to have the genre explicitly in the title. After giving them a pass for a corny, playfully ridiculous name, you can let yourself wander in their magical, sweeping soundscapes. Singles like “Social Candy” and “Marmalade March” invoke equal amounts of high-spirited fun and virtuoso musicianship. Listening to their music requires listeners to abandon their inhibitions and embark on whatever gleaming psych-pop joyride they offer. Their sound is accessible and melodious enough to appeal to pop/rock fans while their musical proficiency and wacky euphoria will also gel with diehard psych fans. —Lizzie Manno

13. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever wastes no time in getting to their strength—jangling, propulsive pop-rock—on their debut full-length Hope Downs. There is no table-setting track here. No slow fade in or superfluous into. In fact, opener “An Air Conditioned Man” almost seems to pick up in medias res when you press play. This seems appropriate for R.B.C.F., an Australian quintet who hit the ground running a few years ago. They released their excellent first EP Talk Tight on the Sydney-based record label Ivy League, then moved to Sub Pop for 2017’s The French Press EP. The former is a bit more relaxed and acoustic, while the latter cranks up the volume and pace. Together, they’re a thrilling introduction to a promising young band. Hope Downs fulfills that promise, first by tumbling out of the chute on “An Air Conditioned Man” and then by barrelling through nine more taut pop-rock gems in just over half an hour. —Ben Salmon

14. Sampa the Great

It’s no secret Australia is something of a dead zone when it comes to rap/hip-hop, which is why when someone like Sampa the Great comes along, she must be celebrated and protected. She’s already well-established in Oceania—she even beat out Paul Kelly and Jen Cloher for the Australian Music prize in 2017—but she’s still relatively new to many of us stateside. Originally from Zambia, Sampa Tembo relocated to Australia as a young adult where she immersed herself in the Sydney scene. What’s most beautiful about Sampa’s music is her seamless mix of influences: world music, neo-soul, African beats and even trap all play a role, and the result is a marvelous mash-up heralding the African diaspora. —Ellen Johnson

15. Sweater Curse

2019 is the going to be Sweater Curse’s moment. After a year of clever youngsters delivering some of the best indie-rock music, I’m ready for more, and this Brisbane trio is ready to provide. They’ve yet to release their debut LP—or even an EP—but their singles, especially the regretful “Can’t See You Anymore,” were enough to grab our attention. If they opt to release full-length material in 2019, they’re bound to attract fans of artists like Forth Wanderers, Camp Cope and Snail Mail. But Sweater Curse aren’t copy-cats—their walls of sound, tongue-and-cheek phrasing and vocal teamwork are entirely their own. —Ellen Johnson

16. Terry

Melbourne’s Terry has perfected a blasé, disaffected take on indie pop that smartly avoids cynicism and sarcasm. Last year’s I’m Terry, their third album in three years, is another strong collection of unassuming pop hits—often flat and plodding in that Australian way but always richly melodic, and with a warm homemade aesthetic that reflects the modesty typically found down under. Terry’s one of those bands that could’ve existed at any point in the last 30 or 40 years—they would’ve fit right in on Flying Nun—but are also always unmistakably themselves. —Garrett Martin

17. The Goon Sax

“I’m so scared to get out of here / But I really want to get out of here.” It’s a line from “Strange Light”—a late standout from the sophomore LP by The Goon Sax—and I’m not sure there’s a lyric that better sums up the feelings of late adolescence. Those prime years when your conflicting instincts are all fucking with each other, and the endless possibilities preached at you from childhood become paralyzing instead of promising. Growing pains and dawning realizations abound, but it’s in this mess that we finally wind up meeting ourselves. It’s an experience you might have all over again after listening to We’re Not Talking, the latest effort from the Brisbane trio. The band’s first album, filled with achingly familiar suburban references like Target and sweaty-palmed hand-holding, was released when Louis Forster, James Harrison and Riley Jones were just 17. This makes Talking, released two years later, an interesting crystallization of growing up. Taken out of context, a line like “I never knew what love meant / And I still don’t,” would be grounds for a heartbreaking ballad, but here it’s just a passing observation, a scanning self-analysis on the way to being an adult. For The Goon Sax, growing up sounds pretty good. —Madison Desler

18. Tiny Little Houses

With so many bands flitting in and out of Melbourne, it can be hard to keep track of who’s worth listening to. Tiny Little Houses, a four-piece, self-described “whatever rock” band from Australia’s second-biggest city, cut through the noise. Aside from having a great title, their debut LP, Idiot Proverbs proves there’s more than just happy-go-lucky rock coming out of their home city. At times, Idiot Proverbs is downright self-deprecating: On the first track, the band compare themselves to a literal “Garbage Bin.” But the album examines poor self-confidence with a sense of humor, leaving the listener feeling more entertained than depressed. —Ellen Johnson

19. Tropical Fuck Storm

We’re not sure why so many Aussies got bit by the bad-band-name-bug, but Tropical Fuck Storm were certainly not exempt from the plague. If you can pardon their unfortunate moniker, however, and focus on their music, you just might find yourself smitten with their manic psych-rock. They released a totally bonkers-in-all-the-right-ways record in 2018, the weird and wild A Laughing Death in Meatspace. Fans of the now-defunct The Drones might recognize Tropical Fuck Storm’s lead singer, Gareth Liddiard, who was a founding member of the former band back in 1997. Liddiard is still working with Drones mate Fiona Kitschin for TFS, but it’s a completely different animal. They recruited two Melbourne vets, Erica Dunn and Lauren Hammel, and now it seems like the four of them might be Australia’s version of Diarrhea Planet, a kind of mythical live act and purveyor of noisy pop-punk. TFS aren’t for everyone, but if they’re for you, we’re pretty sure it won’t take you long to get on board. —Ellen Johnson

20. TV Colours

Is this stretching the word “rising” too far? Purple Skies, Toxic River was pretty much the best album of 2013, and there’s been nary a peep since from Canberra’s TV Colours, a one-man project from Bobby Kill. The band did release some new t-shirts in 2018, with a note promising more music soon—that Facebook post is almost a year old at this point. That first LP was criminally underheard in the States, though, even with a domestic release on Comedy Minus One, and so it’d be negligent of us to leave them off a list like this. On Purple Skies TV Colours delivers pop-punk in the best possible meaning of the term, a modern day successor to the terminally catchy disquiet of bands like the Buzzcocks and the Mice, but recorded on what sounds like a four-track from the early ‘90s. Kill squeezes more warmth and color than you can imagine out of that lo-fi set-up, brightening up the programmed drums and classic riffs tightly coiled together on every song. Look, it’s true: “Beverly” is a song that should be on every “best of the decade” list, and blasting out of every bored, anxious, unsettled kid’s window every summer night for the rest of existence. And hey, it’s from Australia, so good job, island continent. —Garrett Martin