POLAROIDS + Q&A’s: The 6 Best Emerging Acts from Bottlerock 2018

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Bottlerock really stepped up its game this year, featuring a stellar line up with headliners like The Killers and Bruno Mars. In terms of emerging act, the Napa Valley festival typically showcases an amazing “sampler platter” of the newest and coolest acts to keep an eye out for. From indie rock to alt-pop and everything in-between, we picked our favorites from the festival this year – scope interviews & polaroids with each below.


AMY SHARK

Amy Shark just came off a US tour with MILCK, which included many sold out shows. Yet, Amy somehow still sees herself as only a “normal girl from Australia.” Her songs are vibey and most importantly real with honest lyrics all written by Shark herself. She has a connection with her audience when she’s on stage that makes fans instantly fall in love. Her new album Love Monster is set for a July release. 

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OTW: Tell us about your current single, “I Said Hi.” 

Amy: “I Said Hi” was a song that was always going be written by me because it’s kind of a real passive aggressive anthem for my struggle in the music industry for a good ten years. I think the main thing I want to communicate in that song is just whenever you are waking up every morning, trying to fight for whatever you believe in — you just need to keep going. As much as it’s very personal about my experiences, I definitely wanted to keep it open for everyone to be able to connect with. It’s like anyone that’s just been trying, and trying, and trying and getting nowhere, having no one believe in you — and then you get somewhere on your own merit and it’s the best feeling in the world. It actually started when I signed to my manager, and he kept telling me, “I’ve got a meeting with John Smith or whatever.” And it’d be someone that I had tried to get a meeting with — And I just ended up saying, “Tell him I said hi.” And that was how it started, and then this one day I just found that melody.

OTW: Your single, “Adore You” has over 37 Million spins on Spotify to date, how do you feel about that?

Amy: The last time I actually celebrated was when I hit a million streams —  I was like, popping bottles! That’s just so many people listening to it. It’s great. It’s amazing. America is such a big base for an Australian to tackle, so I’m just going to each city, and playing shows and meeting great people and artists, and working with great producers and that’s just where I’m at at the moment.

OTW: Can you tell us anything about your upcoming album, Love Monster

Amy: Love Monster is, I mean, I like to describe it as the first season. You know, when you just start watching a season on Netflix, and it’s really exciting and that’s what you can think about? There’s romance, and lies, and passion and there’s probably a death — that’s what I feel like this record is. It’s got so much personal, but angsty, heartache and passion. It’s like a first series of a really great Netflix drama.

OTW: What’s next for you?

Amy: There’s going to be more festivals — I’m doing Lollapalooza. It’s so funny to even say that — and doing a big tour at home. Then, I’ll be back here in the fall, to tour.

OTW: Who would you say is your “One To Watch”?

Amy: The Smith Street Band. They’re super Australian, they’re like punk rock, and his lyrics are just gonna destroy you. It’s so amazing. It’s punk, but Will Wagner is such an amazing songwriter — and they’re not even really sort of trying.


BILLY RAFFOUL

We’ve covered Billy Raffoul since his first single “Driver,” which was released last year, followed by stellar singles “Dark Four Door” and “Difficult.” His newest single, “I’m Not A Saint,” was co-written with Grammy Award nominee Julia Michaels before she decided to go out on her own as an artist. Billy’s sound is a Nashville-leaning modernized take on classic rock with a soulful raspy vocal that’ll likely make anyone a fan after just one listen.

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OTW: Tell us about the writing process for “I’m Not A Saint.” 

Billy: It came from a conversation I had with a friend [and the] co-writer, Julia Michaels. That was the first time that we had met, which was three years ago. I was really nervous — I didn’t know who she was. She didn’t really know who I was, she had heard my voice and I had heard from a mutual friend who went on to be my publisher that she was incredible —  [and] bound for greatness. I was nervous — I swear all the time and then maybe a little more when I’m scared. At some point, we just started shooting the shit about things that we do that we shouldn’t do — it was all just a joke. At some point I had said, “I’m not a saint, but I could be if I tried,” like as a joke. She said, “Well, there’s a song,” and that was it.

OTW: Who are you most excited to see at Bottlerock?

Billy: I’d love to check out Muse, of course. We saw The Struts already and I love The Struts so much — good buddies of mine. I would’ve liked to see LANY.

OTW: what’s next for you? 

Billy: Back to the studio — I’m working with some great people, producing some music, songs that I’ve written. Working with Linda Perry next week. I’m going to put a song out every four weeks.

OTW: Who would you say is your “One to Watch”?

Billy: Jessie Reyez — She put out a new tune a little while ago called “Body Count.” It’s fucking awesome — So good.


THE NIGHT GAME

You might remember a tune called “The Great Escape” by an emo band called Boys like Girls. The former emo band was fronted by singer Martin Johnson, who started a new project called The Night Game, but it 100% different from Boys Like Girls. In fact, The Night Game sounds more like a modernized classic rock throwback like Don Henley of The Eagles’ solo career. After a break from being in the spotlight and writing for artists like Avril Lavigne, Martin decided it was time to return back to center stage, which has excited both old and new fans alike.

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OTW: Tell us about your newest single, “American Nights?” 

Martin: It’s funny, it kind of started out as a party anthem, like that was a little bit like just a song I was writing from the outside. [I] wasn’t even sure it was going to be for me as an artist, but slowly kind of came into vision what it was really about — it’s like the classic American blueprint, like “Born in the USA,” you know that kind of not-so-hidden message. What I got from that was like the upbeat sort of positive chorus that I had, [and] in the verses, I could show the true characters and the truth in what America is. I isolated three characters that stuck out of my head as the three sides of the coin and then included myself a little bit in there and, it’s just about how everybody’s got this undying search for the American Dream. Even if you don’t live here, you do.

OTW: People have compared your sound to Bruce Springsteen and Don Henley with a strong 80’s vibe, what do you think of that? Did you do that on purpose?

Martin: Not really. It’s funny — a lot of journalists have been saying 80s, 80s, 80s, but it’s like, I kinda grew up in the 90s — I’d be too young to remember the culture of the 80s. My influences in formative years — I was doing musical theater. I [would be] in a show listening to the soundtrack, and I was in a little ska band — my background musically is very weird. Obviously, I’d listen to classic records that you would say influenced what this kind of is, but at the same time — I think a song should tell a story. A song’s about a story, and an emotion and I wanted every sound that was on the record to tie into what that emotion was, based on lyrics. When I was making the songs, it wasn’t really like, “Man, I need this to sound really specifically like this record from 1982 and you can only use this drum machine…” I just did what felt good and if chorus guitar chords felt good, then it’s what I did.

OTW: You have an extensive background as a writer/producer, in between the time from Boys Like Girls to this project — how did you decide to make the jump back to being an artist?

Martin: You know, at the time it was really working for me, so I just kept at it. I lost track of who I was — I don’t know if it all has to be negative in this big sob story. A lot of times in interviews they make this whole thing, “I lost track of what my musical identity was and I missed telling stories,” which is true, but at the same time it was like, dude, it was fun. I’ve been quoted saying this before, — you get your first guitar, you’re a kid, and then you look at yourself in the mirror and you’re like, “I’m going to rock.” I did lose that kid, and I had an opportunity to say, “Hey man, before the gray hairs come in I want to sing.” I really want to sing and started playing music because I wanted to sing, I wanted to tell stories, I wanted to write songs — I have more stories to tell.

OTW: Who would you say is your “One to Watch”?

Martin: The Band CAMINO. We took them out on tour, they’re really great. I like those kids.


JACOB BANKS

Jacob Banks has been releasing music since 2013, but he made his Coachella performance debut earlier this year and is currently recording his first full-length album. Jacob says about his songwriting, “I’m always two months ahead. You’re hearing songs that I recorded a year ago. So once I put them out I’m thinking, okay, I’ve already written something else that I’m excited about.” His sound is a wonderful mix of modernized American Blues and Gospel, and his vocals will literally soothe your soul.

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OTW: “Unknown (To You)” has over 10 million spins, how does that feel?

Jacob: The ungrateful answer is to say I don’t care, which is kind of my answer, but at the same time I’m grateful because people have listened to it. But at the same time, I think if we quantify success via spins, I don’t think it’s a fair representation of how much a song means to someone. It just means they listen to it — it doesn’t mean 10 million people love your songs. I’m more amazed that people come to my shows — you’re choosing to spend your time. I think that’s a more wonderful accolade for me.

OTW: What is “Unknown (To You)” about?

Jacob: It’s kind of like, “say how you really feel.” Over the years, I think it’s become more about just communication, especially between the dynamic of men. I think we’re raised to feel as though speaking is some hard task, and it creates so much division between us and how we treat the whole world. Because we’re just not raised or taught how to speak, and to be open in what we say. [James Blake] put out a song called “Don’t Miss It,” and he released a statement saying every time he puts out music people always say “Sad Boy,” and he’s like “Why can’t I just share my emotions without being temperamental, or being classed as sad boy?” I think we’re currently in the highest state of depression among men, and suicides, so I think it’s important for men to share how they feel. In the same way I see some women crave men who talk to them, but in the event that they do, I see women say, "he’s too nice for me.” Aka, I’m not used to this kind of love. I’m not used to someone who actually wants to hear me.

OTW: What was it like working with Louis The Child?

Jacob: It was dope — we were only in the studio for one day. We wrote two songs, which one of that was “Diddy Bop.” They’re just homies, man. It’s always good working with friends — I spend time with them when I’m out in LA. I think it’s rare that happens as well. It’s work. You don’t go to work and make friends with everyone you work with. It’s very few people that hang around because you have some sort of special connection. They’re really good guys as well, I’m a fan of their work.

OTW: What’s next for you?

Jacob: We just came off tour with X Ambassadors, we’ve been touring for like a year and a half straight. We’re doing festivals until the end of September, and then September, I hope to drop an album.

OTW: Who would you say is another artist who is ‘One To Watch’ for you? 

Jacob: There’s a lady called Maro that I absolutely adore. She does like really jazz inspired stuff, but she sings half in Portuguese and half in English — and she’s the best thing since sliced bread for me.


RIVVRS

RIVVRS, AKA Brandon Zahursky is actually from Napa Valley, where Bottlerock takes place. And conveniently, many of the songs in his library contrast what it was like to grow up in Napa versus being a working musician in Los Angeles. His newest single, “Burn Me Up,” is the perfect example of his experiences with the egos of the entertainment industry as opposed the simpler life he lived before. RIVVRS’ sound could be described as Mumford and Sons with a dash of the ‘80s raspy icon, Bryan Adams — take a listen for yourself and see.

OTW: What was the inspiration behind “Burn Me Up”? 

RIVVRS: I moved to L.A. four years ago from [Napa], so you can imagine — It was a beautiful life up here, and it just kinda turned to egos — all these things kinda caught up to me. I’d say I definitely entered a phase of just not being comfortable in my own skin. [Which] is why I titled the first record Unfamiliar Skin, cause I wasn’t feeling very comfortable in this whole new industry. I wrote [the song] to my girlfriend, with the intention of it being if all of this doesn’t work out, I want you to know that I will still go back to the life we had — the lyric is "I could’ve had everything, but I don’t want everything. I want you, and I want you to burn me up,” — meaning “I want you to burn up my past self, so the person that I was when I wasn’t the most comfortable being myself, I want that erased from your memory. I don’t want that light to be the only light you see me in.”

OTW: Who are you most interested in seeing at Bottlerock? 

RIVVRS: Shakey Graves and Muse were the two I wanted to see today.

OTW: Who would you say is another artist is a one to watch? 

RIVVRS: Billy Raffoul.


FLOR

You wouldn’t get that flor has a comedic side by listening to their music — in fact, you’d likely think they were very serious after listening to the songs on their album, come out. you’re hiding. The tunes on their debut album have a synth-pop mellow vibe that fans have taken notice to — and likely are anxiously waiting for album number two to drop sometime this year. As for comedic elements, most of the guys were happy with being around wine for the weekend, except McKinley who couldn’t seem to decide on any drink of choice while in the nation’s most popular wine destination — seemingly a problem.


OTW: Is it true that you use voice memos to help remember your ideas for songs?

Dylan: It’s interesting when you’re doing a voice memo. Just out of the blue, you’re listening [back] to it and you know the rhythm when you’re recording it, but then you listen to it two days later and you have no idea what the rhythm is supposed to be. 

Zach: Yeah, it ends up sounding like some avant-garde classical piece. It just doesn’t make any sense.

OTW: Why did you decide to title the album, come out. you’re hiding

Zach: Originally I wanted it to be Come Out of Your Hiding, and I was like, "that sounds messed up.” So I dropped a word and now it doesn’t make any sense. But that’s exactly why I like it. You can interpret that how you want. 

McKinley: It’s about the insecurities of releasing something you’ve been working on and creating for years in your bedroom.

Dylan: …And then all of a sudden you’re putting it out to the world and, I mean, we got lucky and everyone, or a lot of people, liked it.

OTW: Do you ever get nervous when releasing new music?

Zach: I knew that our fans were going to love it. Like, we’d been touring a little bit. I knew that they were going to appreciate it. It was terrifying to me —I don’t actually go on YouTube to this day and I don’t look at any comments because it’s still terrifying to me.

McKinley: It’s kind of scary putting yourself out there like that. And especially, it was our debut album. It might get scarier from here on out, cause we have expectations to fill.

OTW: Can you tell us anything about album two or future music?

McKinley: I feel like we feel confident about album two. And then maybe I’m scared of album three cause it’s like four years away.

Zach: There’s enough songs written, but we can write more and we can write better. And if we write more and better, then maybe we have zero songs for the album ready.

McKinley: [It’s] been a constant battle for us — that’s why we did a deluxe version of our album. Some of the songs we wrote, at this point, like four years ago. Like our biggest single, "Hold On,” we wrote when we were like 21 — and then it came out two years later. We probably have thirty-something songs sitting on the back burner right now. There’s also no consistency in how those songs come to be — you can not write a song for three months, and then Zach will write six songs in a week.

OTW: Who would you say is your “One To Watch”?

McKinley: I would say Now, Now is a big one for us right now.

Dylan: They came out with a new record that just really, really resonated with all of us. It just sounds phenomenal. 

McKinley: I’m excited for the next COIN record [and] I think The Aces — They’ve got some cool stuff up their sleeves. Maybe an ace.

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