As 1999 came to a close, boy bands and nü-metal acts were at the top of the charts. Trends in mainstream culture changed the following century, as pop punk, screamo and other Warped Tour acts smashed through the charts.
Which band do you most associate with the time period between 2000-2009? Is it the power pop of the All-American Rejects? The screamo of the Used? The mainstream rock of Thirty Seconds To Mars? Or is it someone else? Whatever your answer may be, it’s probably not one of these 15 underrated scene gems.
After Midnight Project
If Let’s Build Something To Break, After Midnight Project’s debut (and only) full-length, had been released during the screamo/post-hardcore boom earlier this century, the band certainly would’ve been around for at least one more album. The record was produced by revered scene icon John Feldmann, and it has all of the elements of a classic Feldmann LP: anthemic choruses, loud guitars, passionate screams and perfect melodies. But don’t feel too bad for the band’s vocalist Jason Evigan, as he currently writes songs with huge artists such as Maroon 5, Dua Lipa and Selena Gomez.
The Apex Theory
It takes a lot of balls to even try to play a measure in 11/8, let alone compose a song in said unorthodox time signature. From the get-go, Los Angeles’s own the Apex Theory proved that they were an extremely ambitious and musically skilled four-piece, and the band attempted to carve a unique lane for mainstream odd-metered and frenetic rock ’n’ roll. Sadly, the band never truly exploded to the skies, even with a name change to Mt. Helium toward the end of their career.
Imagine this tour (part one—we’ve got another exciting showcase to reference later): punk powerhouses the Ataris, pop-rock darlings Sugarcult, shredders Rufio and Autopilot Off, the greatest pop-punk band you’ve never heard of. It actually happened in 2002. Orange County, New York’s Autopilot Off (formerly known as Cooter) signed with Island Records at the beginning of the century and released one perfect EP and one incredible LP on the label. We never thought we’d come back around.
BEDlight For BlueEYES
New Jersey’s BEDlight For BlueEYES are probably best known for their standout cover of Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper,” but their amazing and musically diverse originals, which combine a more-than-skilled band playing crunching post-hardcore with the wide range of incredible ’80s-hair-metal vocals, deserve much more notoriety too. It’s such a shame that we only have one EP and two LPs to show for it, as this group had so much potential to become a career act.
Perhaps the largest band on this list, Sweden’s Blindside were primed for global domination in the early 2000s. They had the songs, they had the look and their releases were timed when their genre was at its commercial peak. But two major-label releases in, the band were still relatively unknown stateside, playing smaller capacity venues in the states than the figureheads and fans anticipated. Sad! There must have been some sort of disconnect lost in translation because Blindside were peerless live.
Vagrant Records certainly ruled the beginning of this century with diverse powerhouse acts such as Dashboard Confessional, Alkaline Trio and the Get Up Kids. Somehow, Louisville, Kentucky’s aggressive and frenetic Emanuel didn’t achieve the same degree of fanfare, and many musicians were shocked, as this band were certainly a band’s band. Timing should be blamed for such, as a plethora of clones persisted and thrived several years later and into the next decade. Make tonight special and listen to their discography this evening.
Speaking of conquering the beginning of this century, monster label Fueled By Ramen rose to prominence just a few years later in the mid-2000s with heavy hitters such as Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco and Paramore. However, few acts on the label fell under the radar like Seattle’s Forgive Durden, who released two independent EPs before being scooped up by FBR. Despite 2006’s Wonderland being the best album that the next band we talk about never recorded and 2008’s Razia’s Shadow: A Musical truly actualizing a scene rock opera perfectly, the band never achieved superstar status like so many other acts on the roster. Cue the sun.
Gatsbys American Dream
Gatsbys American Dream were outcasts in a sea of ’em. Their literary lyrics were a tad too esoteric for the mainstream to digest (who the hell writes a song about William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies?), and their actual sound combined just about every single genre in the book. Still, the band’s four albums found them an ardent cult following who freaked the fuck out when the band’s Facebook page changed their cover photo in January. Hopefully they’ll do more than that ASAP.
Timing yet again could be blamed for destroying a fantastic band. If Gratitude’s self-titled debut and only album had been released around the time of Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American in 2001, the band certainly would’ve been around for many more records. Then again, a similar statement could probably be said about singer/guitarist Jonah Matranga’s older band Far, and specifically the revered record Water & Solutions, which came out in 1998—that gem was ahead of its time. Theories aside, Gratitude’s record makes its listeners feel all right.
Orange County, California’s Home Grown were primed for global domination by the time they signed to Drive-Thru Records in the early 2000s. The pop-punk group already had a minor hit in “Surfer Girl” and were on the cusp of releasing their most accessible and quality full-length Kings Of Pop in 2002. But things don’t always go as planned, and the band released one more EP and broke up a couple of years later, never to be seen again. Had they continued making music, they for sure would be mentioned much more in the same breath as DTR contemporaries New Found Glory, the Starting Line and Finch.
Imagine this tour (part two): the Nintendo Fusion tour in 2004 featuring the incredible Story Of The Year, the then-amazing (and now awful, just Google them) lostprophets, My Chemical Romance just before they got huge and the greatest screamo band who you’ve never heard of, Letter Kills. LK seemed to have it all: a vocalist who could scream and sing with the best of ’em, a lead guitarist who was light years better than his peers on the six-string and a perfect 12-track album called The Bridge. Sadly, it didn’t work out, as the band broke up shortly after they were recording their follow-up album. Lights out.
Before the Madden brothers started MDDN, they had DC Flag Records, which was a subsidiary of conglomerate Epic Records. Brooklyn’s Lola Ray were a bright star on the D.C. flag, and the band’s debut album, I Don’t Know You, features 10 flawless tracks that are sadly nowhere to be found on any digital service providers. The band released one more record off the label two years later and ceased being a full-time act soon after that. Time is industry.
Monty Are I
Rhode Island’s Monty Are I made waves for approximately 13 years as a unique symphonic rock band before calling it quits in 2011, just after their second LP (and first major-label release), Break Through The Silence. Aside from tours with large acts such as Sum 41, Hawthorne Heights and Taking Back Sunday, the band weren’t much of a household name. Happily, the band released their first single in eight years this past December and played a sold-out show in January.
My American Heart
Your favorite bands absolutely love My American Heart. It’s true. Ryan Scott Graham of State Champs is such a big fan that he named his side project after one of the band’s songs, Speak Low If You Speak Love. But MAH deserve your attention for so much more than that. The San Diego quintet absolutely excelled at writing emo-pop tracks, and it’s unfair that much of the world was too tired and uninspired to notice.
Jealousy can be an extremely bitter thing. Many industry pundits theorize that it’s what prematurely ended the career of Seattle’s Vendetta Red. After hearing about the lofty advance that Epic Records gave to the band upon signing them, many other acts got upset, blacklisted the five-piece and refused to share the stage with them. It was a great castration, as “Shatterday” should’ve (and could’ve) been as big as “The Taste Of Ink.”