Between the likes of Snow Patrol, Biffy Clyro and beyond, Scotland set some solid roots in the ’90s mainstream alternative explosion. Don’t mistake its prominence in the music scene as a thing of the past, though. The country has been churning out new powerhouse bands well into the modern era.
Though relatively small compared to other alternative hubs such as the United States, Canada, Australia and the broader United Kingdom, the Scottish scene is enviable. Bands such as Twin Atlantic and Frightened Rabbit emerged in the 2000s and piqued our interest for well over a decade. Now, a new wave of artists is following.
Here are 10 emerging Scottish alternative bands that you should already be listening to.
Dancing On Tables
Atmospheric and anthemic, Dancing On Tables have been making hearts throb since their debut in 2016. They bring a sort of ’80s pop quality to their polished and radio-ready brand of indie rock. They’re truly a must-listen for fans of alt-pop powerhouses such as Artist Vs Poet or Hot Chelle Rae. Be sure to check out their latest single, “Tell Me,” for the ultimate dose of danceability.
swim school bring the sort of visceral, indie-leaning sentimentality that we expect from Scottish music and then add a sharp edge. Hard-hitting and, at times, bordering on grunge-y, the band boast a diverse eclecticism that will keep you on your toes. Their latest track, “let me inside your head,” which dropped in March, gives off a gritty vibe that you might expect from a Halsey-fronted version of Nirvana.
The Ninth Wave
The Ninth Wave have exactly the sound you’d expect from an outfit operating under such a wave. Though they only debuted in 2017, you’ll be hard-pressed to believe that they haven’t been progressing the new-wave genre since the ’80s. Exuding refined and modern goth ambiance, they’ll fit right into any playlist alongside Joy Division and Blaqk Audio alike. Give their latest release, “Everything Will Be Fine,” to see what we mean.
Mark Sharp & The Bicycle Thieves
If you’re a fan of rousing indie-rock punches that will shake you to the core, you might as well just add the entirety of the Mark Sharp & The Bicycle Thieves to your regular rotation. It’s impossible not to be immediately consumed by their dynamic displays of stadium-ready, pop-infused alt-rock. Give their 2019 EP, MS&TBT, a listen and just try to tell us it doesn’t align near the crossroads of MGMT and Of Monsters And Men.
The Roly Mo
Thrash-punk bands of this caliber seem to be a rarity nowadays. The Roly Mo exist as a bit of an enigma, both calling back to the days of the early genre and simultaneously representing its progression. Punchy as hell with angst to match, their far-reaching catalog of hooky anthems could definitely hold its own next to recent works by Teenage Bottlerocket and the Lawrence Arms. The band are fresh off the heels of their debut EP, TRM, so you should give it a listen for a good idea of what they’re about.
Retro Video Club
Retro Video Club may have only broken out onto the scene in 2017, but we’re honestly shocked that they’re not already one of the biggest radio staples of their generation. Their gritty, raw approach to guitar-driven indie rock is nothing short of mesmerizing. No doubt, they belong on every high-energy road trip playlist that houses the likes of the Hunna and Circa Waves. Their latest track, “Checkmate,” dropped earlier in March. Just go ahead and save it for constant listening.
Pleasure Heads fluctuate seamlessly between “smooth as butter” and “gritty as all hell.” It’s the type of range you might expect from a band with decades of experience and dozens of releases. But don’t be fooled—this band only hit the scene in 2017. Though they’ve only put out one EP and a handful of singles to date, their catalog is a showcase of eclecticism that pushes back against genre boundaries. Think the Kooks meet Heart Attack Man, if you can imagine it… Just check out their most recent song, “Cosmopolis,” and you’ll see what we mean.
Dead Pony only debuted in 2019, and they’re already taking the alternative scene by storm. Take a listen to their latest release, “23, Never Me,” and you’ll see exactly why. The duo don’t hold back on power, contrasting a Scottish indie foundation with high-energy, post-punk ferocity. No lie, we might just kill to see them on a lineup with both Pinkshift and Snail Mail.
Chris Greig & The Merchants
Reader, beware: You’re about to get some songs stuck in your head for weeks straight… That is, if you ever manage to shake them at all. It’ll be worth it, though, because Chris Greig & The Merchants may just be the best thing to happen to indie pop since Florence + The Machine. Their upbeat, danceable energy is unparalleled, perhaps only overshadowed by the punchy vocals that demand a singalong. Their most recent single, “Tired Eyes,” will become a karaoke staple before you know it, so you might as well get it down now.
Spyres are certainly one of the newest bands on this list, having debuted their first single in 2019, but you’re not going to believe it. With just three tracks, they’re already climbing the ranks of notable rock bands of the modern era. Truly, we’re shocked that these songs aren’t already making the rounds in Hollywood blockbusters and Netflix originals. They’re as moody as they are anthemic, invoking likenesses to Wolf Alice and Badflower.
Who are your favorite bands to come from the Scottish alternative scene? Sound off in the comments!