The Alphabet Soup Festival: The ABCs of FYF

FYF Fest 2014
Returning for its 11th run this week, Los Angeles’ annual FYF Fest has consistently embraced another three-letter acronym–the DIY aesthetic. Ten years ago, organizer Sean Carlson started the festival at 18 as a means to channel his boredom into something tangible. The first FYF (Fuck Yeah Fest) Fest was a one-day affair taking place in a couple of small venues in the heart of Echo Park, with 15 local bands on the bill. The next years saw the organizers experimenting with the festival’s format–in length (from one day to two to three and somehow back down to one), in the addition of comedy acts (Sarah Silverman graced the FYF 2 bill), eventually down to location, when they relocated to the LA State Historic Park in 2009 to accommodate the growing festival. Ten years and another venue change later (this year’s festival will take place at the LA Sports Arena & Exposition Park), the festival has grown considerably but still keeps to its local roots. This year’s FYF fest boasts a lineup of 59 bands (upon the departure of Death Grips due to their post-breakup cancellation) spread out among two days and strong ties to the community, including a diverse cornucopia of local food vendors like Kitchen Mouse Cafe and Donut Friend.

In the spirit of the festival taking place this weekend, we decided to compile an A-Z list of artists you should check out at this year’s festival (if you happened to snag a ticket before it sold out). Disclaimer: this isn’t a complete, 26 point list, since there just weren’t any bands playing that started with Z (and about 7 other letters). But we got close! Check out our recommendations below.


Angel Olsen – Earlier this year, we praised Olsen for her “assured composition and vulnerable honesty” in her hauntingly ethereal compositions. She brings a special warmth and intimacy to her genre-spanning music, which ranges from crooning country to buzzing garage rock. The St. Louis-based artist started her career by touring and recording with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the Cairo Gang, but she’s found great success as a solo musician since then. Her breakthrough sophomore record Burn Your Fire for No Witness features her smoky wry vocals and biting lyrics at the center of her transfixing musical universe. Catch her at FYF on Saturday and check out a live video of her song “Hi-Five” below.


Benjamin Booker – The first record Benjamin Booker ever bought was Elephant by the White Stripes. As fate would have it, he was hand-picked by Jack White himself to open for a handful of shows on his 2014 US tour. And we don’t blame him. The New Orleans-based Booker’s brand of blues rock brings in a down and dirty punk aesthetic and his gnarly voice that sets the music he writes ablaze. What’s also notable is that his focus on music was pretty accidental—his failure to find a job in journalism led him to write music. It was a very serendipitous choice, indeed. Catch him at FYF on Sunday and check out a live video of his song “Have You Seen My Son?” below.


Connan Mockasin – “I’m the Man That Will Find You”—a borderline-creepy statement or a Connan Mockasin song? Both; it’s both. Hailing from Te Awanga, New Zealand, Connan Mockasin is a psychedelic pop mad scientist with a penchant for the peculiar. He originally played with a blues-pop band Connan and the Mockasins, but decided to drop the ‘and the’ and continue as a solo artist. His latest record “Caramel” is rife with oscillating psychedelic guitar and sensual breathy vocals, occasionally augmented by pitch-shifting. He’s known for his wild live performances that may or may not involve sabers. Catch him at FYF on Saturday and check out a video of his song “I Wanna Roll With You” below.


Darkside – Never has a name so succinctly defined a band. Darkside, a collaboration between producer Nicholas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington, are wizards at making some pretty dark music. But it goes beyond simply dark. Their compositions are moody and minimalist with sparse but emphatic guitar and a cinematic feel. Jaar even adds his sultry vocals to some tracks. To take it to the extra mile, their live set at FYF will be accompanied by live scenography from Children of the Light, who create “abstract and highly spherical scenographies” using a variety of mediums. Catch them at FYF on Sunday and check out a live video of their song “Paper Trails” below.


Earl Sweatshirt – As a member of the hip-hop collective Odd Future, Earl Sweatshirt has been in the spotlight of the rap community for a large part of his adolescence. His connections have also helped him advance his own solo career, starting with his acclaimed mixtape Earl in 2010. In the few years following, his presumed disappearance was revealed to be him being sent to boarding school in Samoa until he was 18. Taking their collective to heart, he was a guest vocalist on Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids” from Ocean’s debut record, and in turn, Ocean was featured on Sweatshirt’s “Sunday” from his debut Doris. His deadpan and focused delivery and down-to-earth raps are top notch. Catch him at FYF on Sunday and check out a video of his song “Sunday” below.


Future Islands – This band’s meteoric rise to household name is all thanks to a completely stand-out Letterman performance that changed everything by going viral earlier this year. It caught everyone by surprise. How does he have the stamina to dance like that? How does he growl like that? The questions were swirling, and the hype, totally worth it. The triumphant synth-pop that Future Islands craft so well is taken to another level live, thanks to Samuel T Herring’s intense full-body performance. He ungulates, emphatically hits his chest, and produces these throaty growls that we’ve never heard in a setting like this. He takes the spotlight, but is an incredibly humble performer who is grateful to be able to share his music. Catch them at FYF on Saturday and check out a live video of their song “Back in the Tall Grass” below.


Gardner, Jacco – So, we bent the rules a little to include Mr. Gardner on this list because he’s such a great musician! A young Dutch musician in his early twenties, he crafts music that recalls the best of baroque pop of the 60s—it’s just as twinkly as you would imagine. Like a 60s treasure trove, his debut record Cabinet of Curiosities is full of toy pianos, reverbed vocals, and that general Phil Spector-production vibe. But like any modern musician, he gives a fresh take on his retro influences. Catch them at FYF on Sunday and check out a live video of his song “Puppets Dangling” below.


Haim – It feels like those three sisters (with the enviable lush hair) captured the music world by storm last year almost out of nowhere. But they certainly did not come from out of the blue. Growing up in a musical family in the San Fernando Valley, the Haim sisters were a part of their family band Rockinghaim and sisters Danielle and Este were part of the tween pop group the Valli Girls. When they decided to all play music together as Haim (pronounced like ‘lime’), they had humble beginnings playing other band’s residencies, but never their own. Live, they’re known for their wild sense of humor and feel-good attitude–and especially Este’s crazy bass faces–that complement their R&B-tinged pop-rock well. Catch them at FYF on Sunday and check out a video of their song “The Wire” below.


Interpol – These New York post-punk scenesters were integral in the post-punk revival of the early 2000s, and their debut record Turn On the Bright Lights is practically a modern classic. After takin a short break between records, with frontman Paul Banks releasing solo material, they recently announced their fourth record El Pintor (which is an anagram of Interpol), which is due out next month. With the release date so close to FYF, we’re bound to hear some new material, and perhaps even a newly-rearranged live lineup–Paul Banks played bass on the record while touring member Brandon Curtis of Secret Machines played all the keyboard parts. Catch them at FYF on Saturday and check out a video of their song “All the Rage Back Home” below.


Joanna Gruesome – Perhaps you thought they were a sloppy Joanna Newsom cover band when you first heard of them. We’ll admit that we did too. But the young members of Joanna Gruesome are far from embodying the melodic harp styling of the angelic crooner (though they match her in heart). Hailing from Cardiff, they released their debut record Weird Sister last year on the acclaimed label Slumberland Records. It’s simply brimming with brash punky energy and driving melodies. The wall of sound is enough to knock you off your feet at times. Live, they’re as energetic as ever, shying away from interacting with the audience verbally but definitely making up for it physically. And they’re known to do a mean cover of Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat” that sounds timeless. Catch them at FYF on Sunday and check out a video of their song “Sugarcrush” below.


Kelela – Kelela’s smooth and sultry vocals alone have the power to send shivers down your spine. But her combined with her music, a collaboration with UK electronic labels Fade to Mind and Night Slugs, is a match made in heaven. After appearing on Teengirl Fantasy’s track “EFX,” she was connected to label Fade to Mind, which she collaborated with for her debut mixtape Cut 4 Me. She intentionally wanted her album to sound like a remix effort, so she sang over tracks produced by Djs of the label. The product is a diverse pop gem. Catch her at FYF on Sunday and check out a video of her song “Cherry Coffee” below.


Little Dragon – Little Dragon actually has a big history. They formed a band in 1996 after meeting as classmates at their high school in Gothenburg, Sweden. Despite that long history, they didn’t have any formal releases until their 2006 single “Twice.” They just released their fourth record Nabuma Rubberband, which features the soulful voice of Yukimi Nagano and a minimalist electronic atmosphere. Nagano spoke about how the band has stayed together through the years in a recent Buzzfeed article. Catch them at FYF on Saturday and check out a video of their song “Twice” below.


Mariachi El Bronx – This year’s FYF lineup hosts many acts performing twice in some capacity. The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond, Jr are both performing solo sets, Caribou’s Dan Snaith is performing as Daphni, and LA punk band the Bronx are performing as their mariachi alter ego Mariachi El Bronx. They craft some pretty straight-up mariachi music that takes cues from their brimming punk energy. They’re perhaps most well-known on a wider scale from their guest appearance on a Killers holiday song, “Happy Birthday Guadalupe” a few years ago. Seeing this music in the heart of Los Angeles seems like it’s meant to be, even down to the mariachi outfits. Catch them at FYF on Saturday and check out a live video of their song “Revolution Girls” below.


Pink Mountaintops – Stephen McBean is a man of many colors. His dual projects Black Mountain and Pink Mountaintops, which are pretty much creative collectives with revolving members, take on very different sounds. While Black Mountain is more accessible, Pink Mountaintops features the more experimental side of his brand of dark psychedelic rock. Currently, the lineup features just him and Gregg Foreman, though it’s involved members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Black Angels in the past. They just released their fourth record Get Back this April, and it’s chock full of slow-burning jams. Catch them at FYF on Saturday and check out a video of their song “Second Summer of Love” below.


Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels is a collaboration between rapper Killer Mike and producer El-P, and they’re definitely giving other rap collaborations a run for their money. Two accomplished musicians in their own rights, the collaboration started to take root as El-P produced Killer Mike’s 2012 record R.A.P. Music. Soon after, in 2013, they released their debut collaboration album, which plays on their strengths of rapid-fire wordplay and beat-heavy production. They’re also a lot of fun at festivals, as shown by Killer Mike’s recent Lollapalooza takeover of Spin Magazine’s Instagram account. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see this again for FYF—keep your eyes peeled on their Instagram. Catch them at FYF on Saturday and check out a video of their song “Run the Jewels” below.


Slint – FYF is known to have at least one cult-favorite reunion as a part of their lineup. This year, there are a good handful, but if you decide to see any, Slint is one of the reunions to see. Back in 1991, their acclaimed sophomore record Spiderland helped to innovate the post-rock genre with sparse and peculiar guitar arrangements and frequent tempo change-ups. It still stands today as one of the most experimental records of its kind. Sadly, they broke up right after its release. Since then, they’ve helped to curate the 2005 ATP Fest and have had stints as touring members in other bands like Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Their FYF appearance is one of the last chances to see them in California for the foreseeable future. Catch them at FYF on Saturday and chceck out a video of their song “Good Morning, Captain” below.


Todd Terje – This Norwegian producer “sneezes 4 love,” has a dough recipe on his website, and has made one of the best dance records of the year. Todd Terje, whose stage name is an homage to fellow producer Todd Terry, took ten years to make his debut record, but boy was it worth the wait. In fact, we called It’s Album Time the “definitive elevator music for the year.” Even the cover has that sleazy 70s disco vibe. Whatever your speed, his music is completely easy to fall into a dancing fever with, in that amazing cheesy disco way. Catch him at FYF on Saturday and check out a video of his song “Delorean Dynamite” below.


XXYYXX – At the height of the chillwave wave the world was catching on to, Marcel Everett was the prodigal son that rose from obscurity. Hailing from Orlando, the 18 year old captivated the Internet when he released his debut record in 2012, recorded entirely on his computer. He crafts some ambient dark masterpieces a la contemporary James Blake that he describes as “doing drugs on a freeway…underwater.” Since then, he’s done remixes for Usher and Tinashe but has stayed relatively quiet about new music of his own other than a new single released recently. Expect grand new things from him at FYF. Catch him at FYF on Saturday and check out a video of his song “About You” below.

The FYF Fest takes place August 23-24 at the LA Sports Arena & Exposition Park. Check out their website for more details.

Written by Hailey Simpson
Now attending college at UC Berkeley, Hailey's main passions in life are attending every concert she possibly can while keeping up with her studies, drinking copious amounts of Philz Coffee, and spinning tunes on her college radio station KALX.

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