The Sooner State is the home of Woody Guthrie, and as you might expect from a legend like that, his sound is still heard across Oklahoma. The state is a hotbed for Americana music, raising the likes of John Fullbright, Samantha Crain, JD McPherson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ali Harter, Audra Mae, Leon Russell and countless others. But Oklahoma isn’t just about roots music. Wayne Coyne grew up here. Annie Clark was born in Tulsa. The scene is eclectic, with incredible folk and country, but also punk, indie pop and things that defy categorization.
As part of Paste’s 50 States Project, here are 10 Oklahoma bands you don’t want to miss.
Members: Ryan Lindsey, Nathan Price, Ben King, Johnathon Ford
Current Album: Can’t Get Past the Lips
Broncho carries the spirit of punk’s roots. Can’t Get Past the Lips is full of grit and tenacity that would fit perfectly in a period movie about the ‘70s or ‘80s without sounding stale. What Broncho has found is that there still plenty of life in an older sound. And a lot of fun, too.
Members: Brennan Barnes, Alex Larrea, Julian Shen, Jordan Bayhylle, Kendal Looney, Derek Moore
Current Album: EXPLORGASM
Not much needs to be said about a band named Deerpeople whose latest record is titled EXPLORGASM. If you don’t think they’re awesome, you might not believe in awesome. It’s also, as you might expect, a little weird. But good weird. Like CatDog. Just try not to be captured by “Ulysses” and its cacophony of sounds.
3. Horse Thief
Hometown: Oklahoma City
Members: Cameron Neal, Cody Fowler, Alberto Roubert, Zach Zeller, Alex Coleman
Current Album: Fear in Bliss
Though Horse Thief was born in Texas, it was raised in Oklahoma. The band members attended the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma. It seems that they took their education seriously. Horse Thief’s sound can shift from panoramic to intimate without missing a note, reminiscent of London’s Dry the River. The band’s new record is out now on Bella Union, so now’s a good time to get familiar.
4. John Moreland
Members: John Moreland
Current Album: In the Throes
In a state dripping with Americana talent, it can be hard to keep your head above water. Everywhere you turn there’s another guy or gal with a guitar, singing the way Guthrie used to. Some of them get noticed, but too few slip by without seemingly making a sound. Norman’s John Moreland crafts gorgeous songs that bleed honesty. He’s cut from the same songwriting cloth that artists like Jason Isbell come from. It may not be flashy, but it shouldn’t go unnoticed.
5. Josh Sallee
Hometown: Oklahoma City
Members: Josh Sallee
Current Album: Know Society
Josh Sallee may seem like just a young kid with an overabundance of confidence, at first. Give him a chance and you’ll find the skill to back it up. Technically proficient with a real sense of flow, Sallee has a command that most young rappers can only wish for. In the next five years, he could be otherworldly. Jump on the wagon now.
6. Parker Millsap
Members: Parker Millsap, Michael Rose, Daniel Foulks
Current Album: Parker Millsap
Everyone likes a good music wunderkind, and Purcell’s Parker Millsap is exactly that. At just 20-years-old, Millsap can’t yet legally enjoy a whiskey, something Americana music knows well, but he can certainly sing the sorrows of a drunken night. A powerful vocalist and smart songwriter, Millsap seems destined to rise to the top of the country-folk world, and sooner rather than later.
Members: Jacob Abello, Jarod Evans
Current Album: Dejvicka
Prettyboy is the recently adopted stage name of Jacob Abello, a glam-pop mainstay in the Oklahoma music scene. His latest release is a two-song EP reminiscent of ‘80s pop (when Prince became king) produced and co-written by Jarod Evans. The tunes are infectious and addictive, certain to rack up play after the play. In September, Abello’s Kickstarter for a new record, which included some dynamite rewards like his beloved gold unitard, was successfully funded. Now that you’re familiar, be on the lookout for more from the pop crooner soon.
Hometown: Oklahoma City
Members: Josh Hogsett, Richard Lindsey, Adam Thornbrugh, Jay Sullivan
Current Album: Memory Marrow
Kaleidoscopic songs that quickly turn anthemic are a staple of Tallow’s latest record Memory Marrow. Take “Soft Water,” the albums third track. It begins with a percussion solo that is quickly joined by electronic blips before the electric guitar comes buzzing in. The song builds on those few sounds, escalating ever so-slowly, teasing the listener until the three-minute mark when the explosion finally comes. Memory Marrow is full of similar gems. Add in a penchant for weird/experimental sounds and you’ve got one of the most interesting bands in Oklahoma.
9. Wink Burcham
Members: Wink Burcham
Current Album: Comfortable Shoes
At the forefront of the New Tulsa Sound, Wink Burcham’s music slides from traditional country to grass-roots folk to blues. A storyteller by nature, Burcham’s songs often contain plenty of wit and heart that grab the listener from the first words. His website says he’s a writer ala John Prine and Townes Van Zandt. We say he’s got a little ways to go before he can stand alongside those greats, but he’s off to a hell of a start.
10. Zach Winters
Members: Zach Winters
Current Album: They Were Longing for a Better Country
Winters’ songs are soft and sweet, perfect for a hushed afternoon in the season that bears his name. While much of the folk music that comes out of Oklahoma leans to the country side of the spectrum, Winters sounds as though he was birthed from the contemporary-folk mecca that is the Northwest. He belongs on shelves with The Head and the Heart, Noah Gundersen and Blind Pilot.