Every year, we here at the Aquarian feature a list of bands from our area that are unsigned. From punk to ambient, Brooklyn to Philadelphia, five-piece to solo acoustic, the artists on this list bring a level of musicianship, songwriting, and overall talent to the table that would generally be overlooked if they weren’t supported by a major record label.

 

A Film In Color

Brian Eno once said, “Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” No offense to Mr. Eno, but this isn’t always the case, especially with A Film In Color’s discography. This Bergen-based band might play ambient music, but their use of dynamic changes and experimentation with silence will keep you hooked through their eight-minute-long instrumental jams.

 

Adversities

Hardcore has always had some ground in supporting messages, with artists talking about politics, broken homes, and more recently, faith. One band that exemplifies this meshing of faith and personal distress is Adversities. This New Jersey five-piece formed from now-defunct metalcore act The Divine Threshold, and have played extensively in the area with bands including Meridian, Counterparts, and Day In Day Out. With intense vocals and rhythms that make you want to get up and move, Adversities are worth listening to, and even more so seeing live.

 

Ambary Lake

Pop punk. Alternative. Progressive. Post-hardcore. All of these can be used to describe this group of artists. What started as metal band All We Are has turned into the genre smashing Ambary Lake, incorporating everything from ambient guitar licks to hardcore beats. Following on the heels of The Ground Beneath Us is their acoustic Summer At The Lakehouse EP, coming out this spring. As bassist/vocalist Nagee Diaz-Corpening puts it, “There is something on it for everyone to enjoy.”

 

Azrail Noir

There are some who see music as a form of entertainment, combining the same four chords with the same pop archetypes, selling out arenas and stadiums globally. Azrail Noir is the antithesis of this, experimenting with music, creating dark soundscapes, stunning visuals, and even bringing the occult into his sound. His live shows are another monster altogether, combining expressionism, improvisation, and an occasional surprise guest musician.

 

Bedtime Stories

Sadness usually isn’t celebrated. In fact, most people hate feeling sad, angry, or any kind of negativity. Bedtime Stories, on the other hand, revels in it. Composed of wordsmith Mike Yablon and (sometimes) guitarist Ben Scardo, bassist Jon Maisto, and drummer Ricky Hall, this spoken-word act tugs at your heartstrings and makes you feel profoundness you never thought possible. They’re for fans of La Dispute, listener, mewithoutYou, and Pianos Become The Teeth.

 

Cannonball Statman

One part Les Claypool. One part Mr. Bungle. All parts acoustic folk punk. Cannonball Statman has some zany lyrics and amazing guitar skills, but the real spectacle comes from his live shows. Statman has done everything, from dancing onstage to bringing the microphone and stand into the middle of a crowded room for the audience to scream at the top of their lungs because of a forced amputation. This Brooklyn native frequently plays shows around NYC, so it should be easy to catch him if you’re in the area.

 

Check Your Morals

Clifton, NJ is only known for a few things, like Hot Grill or their marching band, but Check Your Morals is changing that. This Clifton-based pop punk outfit has quickly risen through the ranks of other high school-borne bands, playing Skate And Surf 2014, and sharing the stage with Hawthorne Heights this March. Led by frontman Kevin Dzubia, these dudes are for fans of Four Year Strong and Saves The Day.

 

Cryptodira

Long Island has always had a strong musical community, giving us bands like Glassjaw, Stray From The Path, and Taking Back Sunday, however, a new act is rising through the ranks. Unlike the post-hardcore/emo movement of the early 2000s, Cryptodira are part of the growing progressive death metal wave, playing dynamic multi-sectioned pieces lasting well over four minutes each. They have done extremely well for themselves, sharing the stage with The Dillinger Escape Plan, Shai Hulud, Between The Buried And Me, and Deafhaven.

 

Fight For Your Friends!

In the vein of Frank Turner and Against Me!, George Brudermann, the sole member of Fight For Your Friends! shows us the softer, more melodic side of punk rock as he shreds on his acoustic guitar. He currently has an EP, entitled F4FY, available on Bandcamp, in which he recorded all of the instrumentals himself, save for guest vocal/guitar/harmonica appearances by friends. Fight For Your Friends! will occasionally feature other musicians performing live with Brudermann.

 

Franchise

Chaos and creation have always gone hand in hand in nature. Volcanoes create new lands. Nuclear fusion powers our solar system’s sun. Alternative/post-hardcore band Franchise exemplify this chaotic creation in their music. They seamlessly blend clean melodies with raging vocals and rhythms, making what can only be described as cataclysmically beautiful. Franchise is for fans of The Chariot, letlive, and Night Verses.

 

Hodera

Matthew Smith, like so many others on this list, is a solo artist writing musical pieces meant for full bands. Hodera, the name of his self-described “sad boy indie/alt folk rock” project, was conceived in March 2014, and has played consistently since, from Pennsylvania to Georgia to Tennessee. Smith released Reset To Default in June 2014, and can be likened to Coldplay’s older sound, as well as Bright Eyes.

 

Low Road

Low Road are a North Jersey-based band that aren’t afraid to go toward the roots of hardcore. Composed of NJ hardcore veterans and members of The Banner and Leathermouth, this group brings immense amounts of energy to their shows in the form of guitar shredding, brutal drumming, and two-step beats that will send anyone into the mosh pit. They’re currently working on a full-length album, entitled Kingdoms Crumble.

 

Ocean Of Illusions

North Jersey deathcore band Ocean Of Illusions have been playing shows around the area for the past two years, earning a name for themselves and a small following of loyal fans. This group plays some of the heaviest music you’ll hear, with extremely low tones and vocalist Zachary Howard delivering inhuman gutturals. Ocean Of Illusions are currently working on new music to blast in our faces, and are for fans of Within The Ruins and Oceano.

 

Patent Pending

Once again, Patent Pending have ended up on our pages, and still, they are an unsigned band. That hasn’t stopped them from taking the world by storm with their infectious music. Hailing from Long Island, this group has not only played extensively Stateside, but they have also toured the UK with the legendary Bowling For Soup, as well as played shows throughout Europe. Even their side project, Mario And The Brick Breakers, has gained fame through a YouTube documentary. Patent Pending have been around for nearly 14 years, and are showing us that you don’t need a label to achieve greatness.

 

Pine Barons

Pine Barons hail from, surprisingly, the Pine Barrens of South Jersey, and bring a unique spin on bands trying to be unique. While most indie acts try to incorporate uncommon instrumentation for the sake of looking cool, Pine Barons use them for the sake of their own sound, bringing in an accordion, banjo, xylophone, and various types of hand percussion for acoustic performances. They have made great strides, playing with DRGN KING and Holy Ghost Tent Revival, as well as touring with The Districts through February and March of this year.

 

Prospect

South Jersey-based Prospect have been around since 2012, playing their own form of metal, heavily infused with ‘90s punk and hardcore. They have been working tirelessly on an EP and plan to have it out sometime in 2015, and until then, you can catch them playing shows in the area. This four-piece is for fans of loud music and high energy performances.

 

Science

Do you Trust In Science? You should, because these talented musicians have recently released their debut full-length, 20XX, featuring numerous notable NJ musicians, including Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance fame and Papa Reese of Reese Van Riper. Science differ from other indie bands in that their progressive roots bring precise technicality, as well as heavy chromaticism into their songs. Much like other bands on this list, they frequently play around the area, and even had the honor of playing Maxwell’s final show in 2013.

 

WASTE LANDS

From the ashes of hardcore/punk group Gnar Life rises WASTE LANDS, a more serious musical endeavor from its members. At a little over a year old, they have already released a debut EP, Bare The Bitter, and shared the stage with NJHC veterans 96, The Banner, and Low Road. One of the major calling cards of WASTE LANDS is for various audience members to call out “O’Doyle Rules,” harkening back to their time as Gnar Life.

 

We’re Ghosts Now

Formed by brothers Max, Jake, and Ben Resnick, We’re Ghosts Now have been playing around New Jersey for the past couple of years, bringing their own twists to the indie scene. Much like Yellowcard, this band features heavy violin usage and sings of love and loss. With their own Spotify page and a fanbase that reaches out to Ohio, We’re Ghosts Now show their merit as talented musicians who’ve hit the ground running.

 

Your House

Most bands are seen as just that, a group of people who come from similar musical backgrounds. From the second Your House takes stage, though, you can see the real familial relationship the members share with each other. This indie/emo trio sings of love, friendship, and heartbreak, bringing more than enough energy and dynamics than you’d expect from an acoustic act. They can be seen frequently playing around the cafés and bars of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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