South Park Magazine

August 28, 2012

Rock the house

Charlotte-based bands are poised to make it big with newly signed deals.

In years past, when a local band wanted to make it big and sign with a record label, they packed their bags and headed to California or New York (Jodeci, Firehouse and Anthony Hamilton are just a few examples). But with the high-profile success of bands like the Concord-based Avett Brothers, who will release its second album for Columbia/American this month, that's starting to change. Despite a declining record industry, several Charlotte-based bands have signed deals in recent months. Here are five to watch.


Irish transplant Jimmy Brown and his Charlottean wife Ashlee Hardee Brown started the group in 2009 as a duo before fleshing it out with family members. It quickly created a reputation for high-energy live shows, and a 2010 EP “The Storm & The Eye” was well received. The group announced it had signed with Columbia, home to the like-minded Avett Brothers, during a concert at Visulite in late December. Members: Co-vocalists Jimmy and Ashlee Hardee Brown (also on guitar and keyboards, respectively), multi-instrumentalists CJ and Jordan Hardee. Sound: Rollicking orchestral folk-rooted pop not unlike the Avetts and Mumford & Sons that’s big on familial harmonies and divides its focus between the marrieds in this “matrimony” with a balance of beauty, heart and energy. Next Up: The group spent late summer recording its upcoming full-length in Nashville. A release date is to be determined.

Jon Lindsay

In June, Charlotte-based pop singer-songwriter and band leader Jon Lindsay released his second full-length label release, “Summer Wilderness Program.” What’s different about this album is that Lindsay is releasing it as the flagship artist for a brand new label he (or his girlfriend, rather) coined Bear Hearts Fox Records, an imprint of North Star Media. North Star is a Detroit-based music publishing company that shops songs to TV, film and commercials. It counts Lindsay among its songwriters, who include Ice-T, Taj Mahal, Bobby Womack, Bruce Hornsby and Charlotte pop-rock band the Hot Gates. Lindsay, who has backed fellow Charlottean Benji Hughes on the road, has spent the last few years touring the US. Sound: Harmony-filled pop songs in the spirit of classics like the Beach Boys, Beatles and Elvis Costello with modern flair. Next Up: Lindsay heads to Europe for the first time this fall.


The Charlotte quintet began 2012 in Baltimore recording its second album with producer Brian McTernan (Circa Survive). After eight years together, the band formerly known as Harvard dropped the As to avoid legal issues when it signed with Equal Vision Records (of Albany, NY) in April. The label is home to long-running, well-known indie acts and former major label bands Eisley and Say Anything. Guitarist Jason Shaw says it has made a difference in a short time. “Before, we were on a smaller label where I was doing 70 percent of everything,” he says. “Nowadays Equal Vision has everything taken care of.” Members: Jesse Clasen (vocals), Lee Herrera (guitar), Jason Shaw (guitar), Tim Cossor (drums) and Garret Leister (bass). Sound: Experimental and expansive rock with roots in both indie rock, hardcore and progressive post-rock with soulful vocals comparable to Jamiroquai or Adam Levine. Next Up: Booking a cross-country U.S. tour for late summer/early fall, shopping for a booking agent, and putting the finishing touches on its Equal Vision debut.

Sugar Glyder

Formed in 2008 by friends from the Matthews/Mineral Springs area of Mecklenburg County, Sugar Glyder has played it smart. It has toured economically, eating cold cuts and sleeping in state parks. At home, it draws a few hundred fans regularly (which isn’t an easy feat for a local act) and has also opened for Neon Trees and Silversun Pickups. In January it signed with Washington, D.C.’s ORG Music. Though ORG’s known for its vinyl reissues of beloved albums by artists like Nirvana, it also has a small roster of acts like legendary punk bassist Mike Watt (Minutemen, Firehose, Stooges). Members: Daniel Howie (vocals/guitar), Chris Rigo (guitar), Emily Aoyagi (bass) and Bobby Mathews (drums). Sound: Grand arena-ready rock that’s less theatrical than Muse and quirkier than Coldplay. It boasts polished arrangements, lyrical guitar lines and ample hooks. Next Up: In March it recorded its upcoming album with producer Steven Haigler (who has worked with The Pixies, Fuel, Local-H and Charlotte-based bands Hopesfall and justincase) in Port Jefferson, New York. Bernie Grundman (whose credits include Michael Jackson and Dr. Dre) mastered the album. A release party is scheduled for Amos’ Southend the first weekend of November.


Though it hasn’t had a big presence on the local music scene, this pop-rock outfit is the culmination of two better known local acts – Concord’s Campbell the Band and Charlotte’s Flagship Brigade. Frontman Drake Margolnick previously toured as bassist for Charlotte-based big-time Christian rock singer-songwriter John Mark McMillan, while Campbell the Band toured regionally and had its own sizeable following. Together the group signed with California-based indie label Bright Antenna, whose acts include Middle Class Rut and `80s band OMD (who sang “If You Leave” from “Pretty in Pink”). Flagship released its debut EP “blackbush” this summer and recently completed tours with label mates the Wombats and a handful of dates with Wolf Gang (who opened for Coldplay in Charlotte). Members: Drake Margolnick (vocals/guitar), Matt Padgett (guitar), Grant Harding (keyboards), Michael Finster (drums). Sound: More like it hails from North London than North Carolina with deep, emotive vocals and atmospheric layered guitar work amid pop hooks – think the Bravery or U2 at its darkest. Next Up: Recording its debut full-length in nearby Athens, Ga. It’s tentatively scheduled for an early 2013 release.

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