20 underground Melbourne bands you ought to know
23.07.2021

20 underground Melbourne bands you ought to know

Mug - image by Matthew Shaw (@melonshaw)
Words by Tom Parker

Spanning punk, garage, soul, jazz, hip hop and more.

Many Melbourne bands go about their business under the radar, not chasing glorification or publicity. As CLAMM’s Jack Summers previously noted, “Some of these underground bands are the best bands ever, and they don’t seem to give a fuck about taking it to the next level.”

It’s the DIY attitude that comes with the word ‘underground’ and it continually produces fantastic music that’s often more erudite and reflective of the world’s chaos than other commercially-minded songwriting.

To save you from spending hours trawling through Bandcamp to find the next unearthed gem, come with us as we spotlight a host of Melbourne underground bands you ought to know.

Keep up with the latest music interviews, news and reviews here.

Delivery

Delivery is made up of a bunch of Melbourne musicians from bands such as Future Suck, Blonde Revolver, The Vacant Smiles, Kosmetika, Polly & The Pockets and more. Full of wirey synths and magnetic guitar lines, this post-punk five-piece play with a joyful freneticism and unity that makes them irresistible to the underground music lover.

Give this a spin: Their 2021 single, ‘Floored’.

Muma Ganoush

To me, Muma Ganoush would be the perfect band to book for a house party, delivering radiant, sonically-wondrous guitar-pop that would offer the perfect soundscapes for a lively backyard filled with mates, tinnies and buoyant chatter. Their 2020 debut album, The Big Beam, is one of the unearthed Melbourne gems of the last 12 months or so.

Give this a spin: I said it… their 2020 record, The Big Beam.

Program

Ahhhh the wily, minimal guitar chimes of Program, a band that befit their name to a tee, crafting oozing, motorik rhythms that recall the Krautrock greats that came before them. Yet, Program’s dialogue is different, pervading modern Australian witticisms and observations. Their 2019 album, Show Me, is on point.

Give this a spin: The song ‘Memory’ from Show Me.

Galah

Probably the most anonymous band on this list, Melbourne’s Galah don’t even have a recorded song to their name as yet. You’re probably wondering how they make the list then. Well on one fateful Brunswick Music Festival night in 2021, I descended on The Retreat to catch Galah play their only gig to this point.

Across the 40 or so minutes of that performance, Galah, made up of members of Eggy, Sledgehammer, Bad Bangs, Kosmetika and beyond, took us on a Dirty Three-like instrumental journey, melding violin with swirling guitars and echoic vocals to create their own stratosphere of sound. It was wild.

Give this a spin: If they had physically released a song to this point, I’d have a call to action here. But they haven’t haha.

 

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Carpet Burn

Forming at the beginning of 2019, the Carpet Burn narrative has been largely told through the live space, where the four-piece have been a regular fixture on the gig circuit, broadcasting their jangly garage-pop to Melbourne music lovers across the city. Yet, in May 2021, the band emerged with their debut single, ‘Butterfinger Hands’, a track that takes a turn, telling the story of one of those clumsy days, where it’s hard to hold onto things without dropping them.

Give this a spin: Check out their four-track 7-inch, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Carpet Burn, out now via Spoilsport Records.

Kosmetika

Creators of arguably my favourite bassline of all time, Kosmetika are another band who fit the underground bill. They’re fucking great but are relatively unknown to the mainstream listener. They released one of the best local albums of 2019 in Pop Soap and continue to go from strength to strength.

Give this a spin: ‘Spooky’ is home to that fateful bassline. 1:40 in… let that groove take you awayyyyyyy.

Big Supermarket

Another band hidden within the deepest obscurities of Melbourne’s underground music scene. Big Supermarket don’t have an Instagram page, nor a Facebook page and I’m not actually totally sure whether they’re still together… Their 2019 record, 1800, is just splendid though – a melange of spacious garage-y synths and fuzzed out vocals. A sonic dream.

Give this a spin: 1800 is a must listen.

House Deposit

House Deposit straddles Melbourne’s everlasting dolewave movement with perfection, crafting enduring pop songs that capture the everyday anxieties of a Melburnian. Narratives explore happenings such as moving home, unemployment, depression and other occurrences with a wit and clarity that’s not often seen.

Give this a spin: The seven-minute sax-filled journey that is ‘House Deposit’.

ctrl + me

If you’re a Tram Cops fan, you could very well be across Michael Moin’s new project ctrl + me – an outfit that create an otherworldly brand of psychedelic dance music. Seeing them live at Meadow Festival was a treat so it will be interesting to see what’s next for the project.

Give this a spin: ‘Coca Cola’ is the perfect encapsulation of Moin’s fresh wizardry.

The Slingers

Supported by the Flightless crew, The Slingers have cultivated their own genre. The band’s self-anointed brand of ‘motel pop’ is alt-country inclined, and sees them trade timeless tales of the past with cunning observations of today’s bizarre world. Wondrous stuff.

Give this a spin: I love an epic and ‘Happy Birthday to Me’ is exactly that.

Moon Rituals

It wouldn’t be an article exploring Melbourne’s music underground without a mention of Mikey Young. So it is with great excitement that I introduce you to Moon Rituals, Young’s collaboration with Sarah Hardiman, an equally-inspired cult figure of Melbourne’s music scene who you might know from bands, Deaf Wish and Brick Head.

Moon Rituals is far more scaled back compared to Hardiman’s other projects. It’s spacious synth-pop that takes your mind to other realms.

Give this a spin: ‘Poison Tongue’ from Moon Ritual’s self-titled 2018 album is fucked good.

Quality Used Cars

Francis Tait has quietly established himself as one of Melbourne’s most uncanny songwriters. He’s also one of the city’s most willing music chameleons, having navigated everything from jazz to blues, surf rock and psychedelic expanses across the years. His new project, however, is perhaps his most inspired.

Quality Used Cars is as personable as its name – a band filling you with warmth from the first chord, one that pairs Tait’s conversational drawl with steady country musicality. Yet, the lyricism is the most arresting part of the QUC vehicle – monologues that provide snapshots of the everyday with a joyful irony not often captured in contemporary music.

Give this a spin: Quality Used Cars’ Good Days/Bad Days is one of the best local albums of 2021.

Romero

It wouldn’t be absurd to call Romero the best band on this list. If Mr. Teenage were the most underrated Melbourne band of 2020, this power-pop five-piece take up the mantle in 2021.

Romero first caught my eye at Meadow 2021 where they overcame inclement conditions to deliver a performance that was both powerful and technically erudite. Frontwoman Alanna Oliver is easily one of the most talented Melbourne artists right now, and her four-strong rhythm section is no slouch either.

Give this a spin: 2020 single, ‘Honey’.

Birdsnake

Taking a turn into funk and soul territory, Birdsnake are the definition of unknown and underrated. A troupe of six local talents, at the time of writing, they only had one recorded song out in the world. Featuring POOKIE, Fl-Smiley and none other than Melbourne luminary N-fa Jones, ‘Stationary’ is an effervescent jazz-rap gem. Keep your eye on these guys.

Give this a spin: ‘Stationary’ obvs.

Beatnik Collective

Straddling similar territory, Beatnik Collective formed in 2018 and have become one of the city’s most exciting instrumental dance acts. In a similar vein to Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange, this four-piece deliver instrumental forays fit for MDMA highs where hips revolve and limbs are untamed. It just hits the spot and I want more, more, more please.

Give this a spin: ‘Moonee Ponds Bounce’ from their 2021 Collections EP is an absolute bop.

Sledgehammer

Sledgehammer is the project of Sophia Lubczenko, who you might know from Bad Bangs, Sagamore, Fraser A. Gorman’s band or even the enigmatic band mentioned earlier in this article, Galah. First seeing Sledgehammer play at The Old Bar a few years back, Lubczenko’s talent was evident. She’s not just a skilled vocalist but also a commanding frontperson and Sledgehammer’s effervescent brand of garage pop really pops live when Lubczenko is in full flight.

With their 2021 EP, Better Never Than Late, now out in the world, if you see Sledge’s name on a bill you’d be stupid to miss it.

Give this a spin: ‘Inward and Abroad’ off Better Never Than Late is a Sledge classic.

Blonde Revolver

Blonde Revolver is the new punk band taking Melbourne by storm. Having only recently released their debut single, ‘Red Ruby’, Blonde Revolver’s reputation has been carved out on the stage, with the band having already supported Pinch Points – performing at The Croxton no less – Vintage Crop and The Cherry Dolls over their first 12 months of existence.

I went to their first-ever show at The Retreat and it was clear from the dumbstruck audience reactions post-show, Blonde Revolver are something special.

Give this a spin: Just one track out in the world at the time of writing and it’s a beauty – ‘Red Ruby’.

Mug

If you’re a fan of Broadcast, Vanishing Twin or Stereolab, then Mug might be up your alley. Steeped in the European art-rock influences the aforementioned bands have carved out, there’s also nods to Melbourne’s Little Band Scene here, with the eccentric pop artistry of Essendon Airport and Use No Hooks also in the frame.

The project of Sam and Lily Harding, Mug have just released their debut self-titled EP, a record that occupies its own space in the Melbourne music scene.

Give this a spin: ‘Connection’ has all the motorik sensibilities that you could want from an art-rock song. Trish Keenan would be proud.

Sandy Dish

Sandy Dish are brazen, in all the best ways. Listening to the band on record, you get the feel this punk five-piece love what they do, with two and three-part harmonies presenting them as a united outfit; best mates who have probably thrown epic house parties and got cooked at festivals together.

I haven’t had the chance to see them live but apparently they’re all the rage. They’ve just emerged with a new EP too and the soundtrack for my weekend revelry is sorted.

Give this a spin: ‘SPEWIN’ is apt.

Wurli

Last but certainly not least, Wurli is the soul project of Prudence Illingworth, Nanon Karnchanachari and Will Brewster. Regular giggers on the local circuit, much of Wurli’s talent is in Illingworth’s vocals.

Tender and arresting, Wurli’s narratives carry raw, unconditional weight with Illingworth at the front and their debut single, ‘Rectify’, is indicative of this – a song about navigating a broken relationship, and the prevailing remorse that stays with you beyond it.

Give this a spin: ‘Rectify’ is fantastic.

Keen on another fun read? Come with us as we remember Aussie music’s iconic ’90s through six unheralded bands.