11 Philadelphia DIY Bands You Need to Know

Here are the best underground artists from one of America's busiest hubs

Music Lists Bands You Need To Know
11 Philadelphia DIY Bands You Need to Know

As a devoted house show enjoyer, I find all of these bands to be a very crucial piece of my heart and tremendously under-exposed outside of the East-Coast pocket. The Philadelphia DIY scene is enveloping and hypnotic, exploding with basement shows that date farther back than the early days of beloved pop-punk bands like Modern Baseball, Mannequin Pussy and Algernon Cadwallader. They set a precedent in the city for indie punks to come, and were one of many iconic Philly bands who were once considered underground, playing their self-made music for their peers within the Temple and Drexel University college scenes. Alex G, Slaughter Beach, Dog, Japanese Breakfast and more are spoken of as mythical creatures at such shows- recognized for their successful upbringing by sooty, pipe-spraying and overheating basements.

We’ve been raised upon cold, unfinished cement that grows warm beneath crowd bodies, and we look up to the bands and singers who have broken out beyond the city. Pill Friends, Blue Smiley and Cyberbully Mom Club are old friends of the DIY scene. Philadelphia is an opulent hub for music—and there’s a never-ending crew of hardworking artists here, as the scene continues to evolve and multiply. Having spent my own years of college deeply involved in the DIY landscape and attending shows every week, it feels impossible to not know these bands and love them. I think that anyone from Philadelphia would happily vouch for them, too. To celebrate one of America’s strongest music communities, here’s a taste of the best up-and-coming, underrated artists coming out of a thriving scene, including One Trick Pony, Alltheflowers, Kicker and more.

Alltheflowers is the passion project of Riley Hall and Patrick Sinisgalli, whose vocals blend together to create true magic. Their sound is difficult to compare to anything else, while still grazing borders of the indie genre on their debut album Casted by a Wizard, Magic for a Witch, which they released in November 2022. Hall sings lead on most tracks, beating into our hearts with her feathery vocals and impassioned lyricism. The entire album feels psychic and painfully expressive, especially so in the lead single “I’ve been painting again.” Adding in Ryan Hankins, Taylor Borthwick and Esther Landis to complete the group, they are set to release an EP titled Cool Dog on July 12th, unveiling a new direction for the band.

Angsty and ethereal vocals with loud, catchy riffs, Annabelle’s music is deeply effective and powerful. Beginning with a solo project at age 15 and recording on GarageBand for iPhone, Annabelle Oyler now plays with Nate Raichle, Prim Pettine and Josh Hellauer as a four-piece. The band released an EP in April called Mope, and the project emphasized upbeat, dancey riffs that pair well with sweaty basements. It is upbeat and acute, drawing inspiration from The Cure, Current Joys and New Order. Unique vocals perfectly draw over top of the repetition and blend consistently with the introspective indie-rock on Annabelle’s 2021 debut Wait. The song “Ego Death” is my favorite of Annabelle’s discography, as it encapsulates all of the intense youthfulness the band displays every night on stage.

Blood Moon Ball
All over the place with eclectic and spirited emo music, Blood Moon Ball was originally the solo project of Jason Hankins. The singer/songwriter has been self-producing music since 2016, and his latest release is an off-beat alternative album called Heart Attack Riot from 2022. Hankins’ music is bewildering and sparkling, highlighted by a vibrant stage presence. Hankins loves to jump around and shout until he goes blue, which loosens and ignites each crowd. He says that his music is “meant to convey as many things as possible about myself to my future self. I like having little time capsules, online, through music.” His fourth full-length LP Diary of a Teenage Runaway draws influence from Bright Eyes and My Chemical Romance, and is set to arrive this month.

Pulling influences from Pavement, Built To Spill and Slow Hollows, Kicker’s alternative sound has accumulated into their newly debuted album Irish Goodbye, which they recorded at Hidden Fortress in Brewerytown. Their work is powerful with quick, punchy melodies and candid vocals from lead singer Ben Wosczyna. Playing their first show in May 2021 at a basement venue in North Philadelphia, The Mansion, the band has since played an eight-stop tour this past month. Members Finn Angel, John Duesler, and Hayden McGarvey, and Ben himself are garnering momentum in not just the Philly scene but across the East Coast altogether. Every time I’ve seen them play, it’s pure joy, and the tracks launch people into devotion and movement.

Littlesurfergrl is the real deal, and she will sing you right into a feathery dream. It’s the solo project of Lauren Wilson, whose layered harmonies are enchanting. She is another one of those artists who completely enrapture you with her sound when she performs. Her work is heavily inspired by Alex G and The Beach Boys. Most of her work is written, recorded and produced all on her own on a laptop in her bedroom, and she culminates a raw feeling in her music with deeply emotional lyricism and soft vocals: “I’m a sensitive girl, a lot of my songs are just about a feeling I had,” she says. Wilson handles her creative work with much care and heaviness.

One Trick Pony
The one-man musical project of Nate Garcia, who is also a greatly known Philadelphia cartoonist with a unique voice for each craft he approaches, One Trick Pony’s sound is jagged and natural, with heavy lyricism by Garcia. His voice is sweet and intoxicating– it’s airy and imperfect. He has a natural twang that is set apart from anything else in the field of noise. Each song off his 2023 debut album Pretend Picture was written and recorded in his West Philadelphia home using a singular acoustic guitar. The project hits the listener right on the nose with its playfully avoidant verses.

Prill is one of the most unique Philadelphia bands I’ve ever seen. Their live set at Porchfest absolutely entranced me, with a collection of wispy vocals and touching melodies overlaid with strings. The whole crowd gathered in West Philadelphia became entranced that day, as Prill played us a thirty-minute cohesive lullaby. The band plays folky music that comes straight from the soul. They are a six-piece, consisting of songwriters Oli Gardea and Prim Pettine, along with MC Miskuly, Asa Smith, Hana Rusi and Adrian Eschenwald. When writing the songs, everyone just jumps in on their own: “It’s really special because nobody is telling anyone what to do. We’re all sort of feeling it out in the moment, playing what feels right,” Gardea says. The band’s body of work is created through pure intuition and warmth, and their official tracks are set to arrive sometime this year.

Strange Weekend
The post-punk band Strange Weekend has been playing in Philly for as long as I’ve been involved in the music scene. In fact, they were my gateway into the city’s unique alternative music community that exists now. The upbeat, impassioned works of Simon Ogilvie—who also produces a good deal of DIY music—along with Oliver Turiano, can be found in various singles like “Alexandra” and “Something Topical.” Both tracks are quick, energetic crowd pleasers that pull influence from Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party. The group has grown up together, and are working on evolving into an even more intense sound.

Wallace Tonight!
Wallace Tonight! is a Philadelphia essential, with electric songwriting capabilities and a devout audience that shows up to every set. They are a five-piece, bursting of impressionable taste and influence from each member—Paul Mangan, Graham Moritz, Grace Allen, John Duesler, and James Duesler make up the whole, each gradually becoming a part of the expansive sound. Their live performance is a journey that creates a wave of energy within the sweaty crowds, each of whommemorize the Wallace Tonight! sets like the back of their hand. The band recently released a long-awaited EP of their usual tracks called Who’s Wallace? and is in the process of recording more eclectic alt-rock tunes for a future project. Moritz talks of his love for the dedicated scene: “We have been playing shows in the Philadelphia DIY scene for two years and have made so many friends, connections, and memories.”

A fusion of folk and indie rock, country, dream pop and jazz, Wescansin is captivating. The five-piece met at Temple University during their freshman year of college through randomized housing assignments and immediately clicked into place as a creative hodgepodge. Daniel Galarraga, Lea Wesolowski, Dylan Itkin, Will Harding and Oli Duffey complement each other in not just friendship but in musical harmony, too. They’ve got playful riffs, gentle vocals and hazy drum fills, and the band began playing house shows at The Mansion in February 2022—running their own venue to help elevate the scene and create opportunities for others, and themselves, to showcase their work. Wesolowski acts as the bandleader, writing songs for the others to hop onto and turn into something loving. They are in the process of finishing a debut EP, with a release date set for the late summer.

An introspective soundscape of deeply personal, hypnotic cries and yearning, Yova redefines beauty and reality in her music. The solo project of Mason McAvoy is unlike anything else, and, quite frankly, inhuman, as her latest single “Reprogramming” would suggest. Throughout, she chants and weaves her words through one another to create a lyrical cat’s cradle. She explores humanity through abstract stanzas and earthy sounds, floating around in a world of her own. McAvoy released album Being On the Planet in 2021, and is in the process of piecing together a new project that “dig[s] deeper into the core of the Earth and thus, herself.” Her music plays like a siren call, drawing in the listener to a vivid dream as she navigates the complexity of love, friendship and alienation. It is hypnotic in a way never heard before, and Yova plays genuinely with noise unlike anyone else.

Check out our playlist featuring these rising acts below.

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