The incorporation of electronic sounds into alternative music is hardly a new phenomenon. In the mid-2000s, bands such as Cobra Starship and 3OH!3 made names for themselves in the scene with their synth-heavy infusions. And while the resulting “neon” era seemed to be short-lived, these artists were largely ahead of their time.
With the mainstream takeover of EDM in the 2010s, a number of popular groups adjusted their sounds accordingly. Some reoriented completely toward a new genre, following in the early steps of nightclub legends Breathe Carolina. Others added new elements to expand on their 2000s foundations.
Read on to find out about 10 alternative artists who embraced electronica elements for a whole new sound.
Any scene kid remembers Andrew McMahon as the frontman for Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. Though McMahon’s early sound was markedly sunny relative to other pop-punk acts of the time, it took a hard lean toward pop with his solo venture Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness. The project employed electronic beats and dreamy synth for a unique spin on pop rock that quickly became a radio staple.
Death Cab For Cutie
Scene-favorites Death Cab For Cutie had an early advantage for electrification. Vocalist Ben Gibbard started dropping danceable tracks via his indie-pop side project, the Postal Service. Gibbard took on similar leanings on 2013’s Electronic Anthology Project Of Death Cab For Cutie, which reimagined “Soul Meets Body” and “Champagne From A Paper Cup” in an ’80s new-wave style. Since then, the band have progressively experimented with electronica, incorporating synth throughout both 2015’s Kintsugi and 2018’s Thank You For Today.
If you’d asked us in 2010 which bands we expected to dip into electronica, we wouldn’t have said Evanescence. After all, fans know the alternative-rock outfit for their haunting, metal-leaning backings. Though we’d never challenge their dynamics, they proved it once and for all with their 2017 release, Synthesis. The electronic/orchestral record modernized favorites such as “My Immortal” and debuted two new tracks, “Imperfection” and “Hi-Lo.”
Thirty Seconds To Mars
Maybe we would’ve guessed a decade ago that Thirty Seconds To Mars would be collaborating with mainstream pop icons such as Halsey. They really had that star quality locked down from day one. The group’s progression into synth-laced, radio pop rock isn’t incredibly surprising given their early incorporation of electronic elements into their music. However, comparing 2018’s AMERICA to their debut self-titled album in 2002 is like night and day.
If you really want to age yourself, try talking to anyone young about Marianas Trench‘s hard-rock days. While the band began their transformation into a pop-rock outfit on their 2009 sophomore album, Masterpiece Theatre, they really took a distinct turn with 2015’s Astoria and 2019’s Phantoms. The latter especially incorporates a wide range of electronic elements that would land it comfortably on any modern radio station.
Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy‘s diversion from their classic pop-punk sound was unsurprisingly met with mixed reactions. While it seems unfair to judge such a mainstream outfit for growing with radio trends, we understand why purists were confused. After all, the electropop sounds of MANIA are a far cry from where the band set their foundations in the early 2000s.
Bring Me The Horizon
Bring Me The Horizon‘s progression into synth-accented pop felt more like a sudden lurch. When they dropped That’s The Spirit in 2015, the last thing we expected was the next one to feature Grimes. 2019’s amo proved to be a welcome, although arguably short-lived, change of pace, though. While the band returned to their heavy roots on 2020’s POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR, their continued incorporation of electronic sounds keep them feeling undeniably modern.
Plain White T’s
Plain White T’s‘ 2018 album, Parallel Universe, felt exactly as it was titled. The iconic pop-rock outfit jumped into ’80s-reminiscent dance pop like that’s what they’d been playing all along. And while incredibly surprising, the result was groovy as all hell. Can we just request an official “Hey There Delilah” remix next?
What’s more surprising, the sonic progression or Bill Kaulitz‘s short, blond cut? From emo rock to full-on electropop, Tokio Hotel are one of those bands you might not recognize from their 2007 or 2017 sounds. While they still dabble with rock elements, their latest album, Dream Machine, is the epitome of synthwave. We can’t decide which sound we like better, but the good news is they’re so far apart, we really don’t have to.
Enter Shikari are another band who made the jump into danceable electropop as if it were nothing. They also incorporated a variety of electronic elements into their early work. However, the 2020 release of Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible really marked their transcendence from electronicore to nightclub prodigies.