An Insider’s Introduction: Brandon Kellum

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All photos courtesy of Brandon Kellum

by Mark Anderson
Senior Editor

Brandon Kellum is a pretty funny guy.

You don’t have to know him personally either. Just follow him or his band, American Standards, on social media and you’ll see what I mean. His band’s music however, is no laughing matter.

Nope, no Flight of the Conchords folk or The Lonely Island hiphop here. American Standards is as raw and brutal as it gets. And you know what? If you don’t like it, you can simply move along. They’re not here to make nice and maybe that’s why they’ve amassed such a following.

I’ve been following the band long enough to know that something was a-brewing in the Standards’ camp so I reached out to lead vocalist, Brandon Kellum, with some questions and he graciously took the time to answer them. Read below to find out about the new American Standards album, what’s coming up for the band, and of course, some handy-dandy beard grooming tips.

brandon kellum 02YabYum: How long have you lived in Arizona?

Brandon Kellum: 271,000 hours. Give or take a few hundred depending on when you post this.

When and how did you first get involved with the Arizona music scene? Do you play any instruments as well? I thought I saw an old pic of you playing guitar…

In 2001 my father bought me a Fender starter kit for Christmas. I wanted nothing to do with the thing- I wanted the spotlight that went along with being the singer of a rock band. Although I had a passion for writing lyrics, I soon found out my vocal abilities at the time were lacking, to say the least.

I picked the guitar back up around 2002 and started my first band playing a mix of originals and Deftones covers at places like the Mason Jar. I was immediately hooked and dove deeper into recording, touring and booking bands – cutting my teeth at places like The Trunk Space, Modified Arts and The Phix. It’s almost ironic that over 15 years later I’m answering this as the vocalist of a band.

When it comes to American Standards’ songs is there a principle songwriter or do you guys all collaborate to form new songs? Maybe some of both?

We mostly pray to the gods of post-hardcore’s past then sit around drinking beers till they answer. It’s been quiet for a couple years.

I swear I saw something about a new AS album coming out… I’m just gonna assume something’s coming out because it’s been a few years since Hungry Hands dropped. Where and when did you record the new record or are you still recording it?

It’s been a few too many years since we’ve released new songs, if you ask me. American Standards recorded our new album around June of 2016. It’ll be called Anti-Melody and it’s being released April 15th with a release show at Pub Rock Live. Eight tracks with a run time around 25 minutes. Builds a lot on the media satire, materialism, and other sociopolitical themes that I think American Standards have become known for but it also has a much more personal story than possibly past releases. With the passing of our founding guitarist Cody Conrad, my grandparents, and father all in close proximity- what was once about the growing divide in our society became more intimate and now includes themes of loss and separation at an individual level.

General thought is that a melody is a sequence of notes that come together to make a satisfying sound. Going back to the theme of the album, the content is heavily influence by what pulls us apart.

We tracked everything at Kingsize Soundlabs in Los Angeles (The Mars Volta, Bad Religion, Letlive) with Andy Marshall. There was a bit of a hang up in the mixing and mastering, but I’m real excited to say that it will be out in April. We’ll also have a couple singles with videos released prior to that.

Is the personnel the same as your previous albums?

At this point I think it’s safe to say that American Standards has become a collective of artists with similar passions contributing their talents for a couple years at a time… or until they find out we aren’t going to be playing the next Super Bowl Half Time Show (SPOILER ALERT).

Both Corey (guitar) and I have been here since the beginning but we’ve had quite a few drummers and bassists rotate out. The line up we’ve had for the past year is The Monstars of hardcore. If I know anything about Space Jam… The Monstars always win.

brandon kellum 03I know you guys have toured – is there a favorite venue or even a specific show that stands out as one of your favs?

The ones that feed us and/or give us an open bar tab. Locally, places like: the Rebel Lounge, Crescent Ballroom, Joe’s Grotto, The Hive, The Rock and any of the Mantooth-run venues have always been great to us.

On the road, we can’t say enough good things about Metro Music Hall (UT), 7th Circle Collective (CO), The Flux Capacitor (CO) and anywhere that Mike Steezy will have us in New Mexico.

As for specific shows, the smaller ones always exceed our expectations. We much rather play to a room of 50 people that are there to have a good time then 500 that only care for the headliner.

What is your take on the greater Phoenix music scene? The good and the bad from the your perspective.

There’s no doubt that Phoenix has an abundance of talented musicians, great venues and passionate people to support them. I think like any music hub though, that same volume creates a fair amount of over-saturation. Any given night we have 10 shows going and fans have to decide which one to go to. It’s a good problem to have but feels much different then playing in a smaller town that may get a show or two a month that everyone comes out to.

It also creates a bit of unhealthy competition that serves to feed some egos. I think we can take a bit of a step back and find out how we can use this wealth of “musical resource” to our advantage. Support each other and lift everyone up together rather then create all these sub divisions of genres and cliques within them.

What should change, if anything?

We need to stop saying what we don’t like and start focusing on what we do. Too often people bash other bands that aren’t their preferred taste, or venues that don’t host the shows they want to see. If you don’t like it, you have the power to ignore it and move on. Keep an open mind, search out new music and share what you find.

brandon kellum 05What’s upcoming for American Standards? Any touring? I see you’re playing Bisbee in a couple weeks and that show looks pretty frickin’ awesome…

Next on the radar is the album release April 15 at Pub Rock with Eclipses For Eyes and some additional support bands TBA. Soon after, we’ll be doing some touring through the Midwest and East Coast to support it. Definitely sprinkling in a couple local shows- one of which is a pretty awesome reunion tour of a band I know our fans will know and love. Keep an eye on our social media for those announcements.

Bisbee is also coming up February 25th at The Quarry. We love to play new places, especially in smaller towns. Makes for a great day trip or overnight for anyone looking to travel.

Is there anything I forgot to ask that you feel we should know about you or the band?

Nothing that comes to mind. People that know us, know that despite some of the more serious lyrical content we try to stay pretty tongue in cheek at our shows and online. That being said, I can’t say enough how much I appreciate everyone’s support over the years. Especially sites like YabYum that give us a platform to get our music out to a larger audience.

We had a particularly tough couple years with the passing of Cody then soon after both my grandparents and father to cancer. The band really helped us get through these experiences and the fact that anyone gives a shit about something we’re doing is the greatest gift we could ever ask for.

Your beard is totes rad too btw, I could never achieve something like that. Any grooming tips for all those looking to live the bearded lifestyle?

Thanks! Just use sandpaper (extra coarse) and apply directly to the area where you’d like to see hair growth. It’s an effective exfoliate and available at any local hardware store.

~

Check out American Standards on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and at The Anti-Melody Release Show April 15 at Pub Rock Live.

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Photo by Jacob Reynolds

3 Rad New Releases

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by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

Gorky

The Gork​.​.​.​And How To Get It!

This four-piece out of Northern Arizona has been playing together a whopping 15 years and to celebrate their years of blissful band union, Gorky released, The Gork… And How To Get It!, in January.

This monster collection of tracks was recorded over the better part of a decade (2009-2016) and packs a retro-indie punch… You know, back in the days when Indie Rock still sounded like garage rock because it was still being made by kids in garages. Now, it feels like all that indie is coming straight from the bedroom with its stripped down sound and sedate energy. Gorky turns the energy back up and adds some Pavement bounce to the musicality for The Gork.

The album opens with “Roll with Me” which was recorded live at Last Exit Live right here in sunny Phoenix along with “AM Radio” and “The Cosmonaut” (which you’ll hear in about 19 more songs). What I love most about Gorky is that bright, summertime sound that glazes over every song on this album. There’s something mirthful about their brand of rocknroll that comes through every time, not just on the obvious tracks like “Super Drunk” or “#Datass”. Get into The Gork below…

Devil Grass

Dog + Cross

Devil Grass fuses together alt-country, dark folk, and some good ol’fashioned rocknroll to create their rowdy desert sound.

The Phoenix quartet just unleashed their debut EP, Dog + Cross, earlier this week – just in time for Valentine’s Day. I would definitely say these tracks are more Romantic (big R) than romantic (little r). The songs are brooding and introspective, meandering through fields dusted with prog rock permutations.

The EP opens with “Hundred-Year Woods”; submerging the listener in the rough-edged folk-rock of Devil Grass. “In the Cut” follows. Now, this track was originally released a year ago as Devil Grass’s recording debut and its earthy/edgy sound makes for, in my opinion, a solid introduction to the Devil Grass sound.

The energy gets turned up for “Pioneers” before “St. Joe’s Spitting Image” closes out the EP. The closer just might be my favorite track from the collection. There’s something slinky and also a little lonely about this number; like a hopeless crooner singing in a roadhouse bar for sad sweethearts.

Give Dog + Cross by Devil Grass a perusal below…

The Real FITS

Drown in Gold

The smokey smooth vocals of Raquel Willand adds a noir touch to the alt-rock sound of The Real FITS. The Tempe 4-piece dropped Drown in Gold, a 5-song EP, back on December 30th to close out the year.

The release opens with “Feels Like Mine” and sets a kickback feel that continues through Drown in Gold. “Sideways” – the second track – has the same sultry vibe and retro synths that gives shape to the FITS’ sinuous sound before “Wild Wild West”. The latter track has a measure of listlessness that off-sets the lithe vocals.

“Sundown”, the penultimate track on both the album and amongst my personal favorites, has a bit of an L.A. sound. Listeners can slip into a West Coast vision of driving down a palm-tree lined street in a convertible toward the ocean; top down and sunglasses on as the sun slips down the sky. “Tides” – my personal favorite and the longest track from the release – closes the EP with a dreamy, meandering number. Give Drown in Gold a listen below or head here for your own digi-download.

It’s a Couples’ Thing: Round Two

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Image Source

by Mark Anderson
Senior Editor

“Being in a band is tough. Being in a band with a significant other is even harder – just ask Greg Allman and Cher, Lindsey and Stevie or Liam and Noel (OK, so the Gallagher brothers weren’t really a couple but they sure did act like one). A band, any band, is like a big ol’ dysfunctional family. There’s the creativity. There’s the arguing about what gets written and what gets played. And, musicians are just a handful. Throw in all that and then add the dynamics of a personal relationship and it’s amazing anyone stays together.” – Frank Ippolito, original introduction to “It’s a Couple’s Thing”.

Although I’ve never experienced the situation myself, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of being in a band with a significant other. My partner and I do run music publication together so that’s reasonably close, I would say. I’ve also experienced being in a Family Band playing with cousins. Still, not the same thing.

So when Staff Writer Frank Ippolito originally submitted his Couple’s Thing article I was thrilled. Now, here was some insight on the very thought that had oft occupied my mind.

Then, the years drifted by and I came to know my own fair share of couples in bands, bound by the state &/or not-so-casual cohibitants. In honor of Valentine’s Day 2017, I decided it would be fun to revisit Frank’s questionairre of yesteryear with some new participants, including: Ariel and Kalen of Snailmate, Dana and Pete of JJCnV, Stacie and Erick of Citrus Clouds, and Sharon and Frank of both Battered Suitcases and Labor Party.

This Valentine’s I thought it’d be sweet (and a lil’ corny) if we learned a little more about being a couple in a band. And of course, a big thanks to all the bands that participated.

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Sharon and Frank

How long have you two been together?

Battered Suitcases: 32 years, where the hell did all that time go?

Citrus Clouds: We just celebrated 4 years together this February.

JJCnV: We didn’t start living until we were together. So we’ve been together all our lives.

Snailmate: A fucking eternity.

When was the first time you two got together and jammed?

Battered Suitcases:  I first joined Frank on stage at a Halloween show in 1984 performing The Small Faces’ “Get Yourself Together”.

Citrus Clouds: The first time we jammed was at the first Citrus Clouds practice in 2014. We decided to start a band as a fun little project after I bought her a bass for our first anniversary.

JJCnV: Before we said ‘I Do’.

Snailmate: Kalen sat in with Ariel’s old band 4 years ago.

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Stacie and Erick

Were you a couple before that?

Battered Suitcases: Yes, since July of that same year.

Citrus Clouds: Yes we were.

JJCnV: A couple of what?

Snailmate: A couple of weirdos.

When you did decide to be a couple, was jamming together the same or a little weird?

Battered Suitcases: We were already a couple…

Citrus Clouds: Since we were previously a couple, it really wasn’t weird. It was frustrating at first because Stacie was learning the bass but she picked it up extremely quickly. She’s musically gifted!

JJCnV: Once Jeff [the drummer] got over it, it was fine.

Snailmate: Our band started like any other relationship: we had just gone through a bad breakup and we were desperate and lonely.

Does the music ever become bigger than the relationship?

Battered Suitcases: No, we always matter more.

Citrus Clouds: Music is bigger than almost anything. With the Clouds it’s so intertwined that it is never an issue.

JJCnV: Every aspect of us is larger than life.

Snailmate: Music is our whole world. The relationship is a suburb.

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Pete and Dana of JJCnV

When it comes to your music, who is responsible for writing? Pretty sure it’s both of you…

Battered Suitcases: You’re correct, it’s both of us 🙂

Citrus Clouds: Erick usually writes songs on his own then we get together and play them. Some songs like “Imagination” were written really naturally from a jam. Those are special and are celestial gifts.

JJCnV: Both of us.

Snailmate: We each write our own parts and then shit on whatever the other person wrote.

Say someone writes a song about a “relationship” do either you ever go, “Uh, is that about us?”

Battered Suitcases:  Of course now and then… used to happen more in earlier days.

Citrus Clouds: Not really, because it is vague enough that other people can relate to it as well.

JJCnV: It’s best for our partnership if there aren’t a lot of questions…

Snailmate: Kalen writes about the meaningless of existence in a cold, uncaring universe. Ariel writes songs about girls.

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Ariel and Kalen. Photo by Paul HIckey

What advice would you give other couples in a band?

Battered Suitcases: Don’t take any advice 😛

Citrus Clouds: First, enjoy the fact that you get to create sounds with the person that you love. Use music as a way to share and enjoy the unique experiences that playing music offers. Carry her gear!

JJCnV: Eat at the tastiest restaurants you can, always try to out-do each other in the song writing department, and never take yourselves too seriously (unless you’re writing about death).

Snailmate: Put the music first.

~

Make sure to check out Frank Ippolito’s original It’s a Couples’ Thing article and check out the Artist links below –

Battered Suitcases

Citrus Clouds

JJCnV

Snailmate

Songs From the Reading Room: I.Am.Hologram

reading room 00I.Am.Hologram joined us down at YabYum HQ to kick off Season 2 of the Reading Room! Coffee was consumed, doughnuts devoured, and Eleanor the office dog made a special cameo appearance.

Check out both “All The Lonely People” and “The Sun and Cellar Door” below and then head over to our Reading Room Archives for more Arizona artists performing in Songs From the Reading Room.

“All The Lonely People”

“The Sun and Cellar Door”

For more I.Am.Hologram, visit his Bandcamp page.

Radio Phoenix Podcast: Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra

afrobeat orchestra 01PAO! PAO! PAO! The Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra (well, 5/16ths of the band) joined us down at the Radio Phoenix Studios and now you can hear the podcast. The complete playlist can be found below.

Complete Playlist:

Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra “Come With Us”

Flower Festival “I’m a Waste of Time”

Nanami Ozone “Wet Mouth”

PRO TEENS “Goodnight Moon’d”

Dungeon Destroyah “Fried Tofu”

Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra “Go In Get Out”

Gospel Claws “Walk Me Down”

Jerusafunk “Gateway Movement”

House of Stairs “Silence Won’t You Come Back”

Yojimbo Billions “(Hold On to Your) Passport”

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Recorded live on January 4, 2017

An Insider’s Introduction: Aaron Ponzo

aaron ponzo 03by Mark Anderson
Senior Editor

When I think about it, I must have first met Aaron Ponzo when he was 14 years old.

It was during the heydays of Parliament back in 2013 so heck, he could’ve been 13. Jeez. It just makes his accomplishments all the more grand.

Now, producing music as The Expos, Aaron has six, self-released, self-recorded albums on Bandcamp (including the B-sides and “best ‘other’ stuff” album Songs for You: The Other Songs​!​!​!​!); a working relationship with Warped Your Records which not only released The Expos latest album Joy, but re-released previous albums as well; and scores of shows notched on his fur-lined, Herculean leather belt. It’s like the man is rock-god and he’s still just a teenager!

I had a chance to catch up with Aaron and find out more about Joy, what he thinks of our music community, and what’s upcoming for The Expos.

YabYum: How long have you lived in Arizona? Are you a native? It seems like it. When and how did you first get involved with the Phoenix music scene?

Aaron Ponzo: I’ve lived in Arizona my whole life, born and raised in the Grand Canyon State. I’m 17 now. I started getting involved when I was like 14 years old; me and Micah (current live bassist of the Expos) started a punk band called Saba-Oats. My brother playing in local bands helped me get into local bands too. Saba-Oats got a show at Trunk Space a lil’ bit after forming and now, here I am.

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All photos courtesy of Aaron Ponzo

How long have you been playing music in general?

I have been playing the bass since I was in like 3rd grade. Starting playing in a cover band with my brother and my friend Alex, that lasted to 7th grade with fluctuating line ups. At that point after that band I decided to pick up the guitar and just have kept practicing ’til right this second.

How about recording… Have you simply always wanted to record your own songs and are The Expos’ albums the result of that? What’s your setup like and what programs (if any) do you use?

The Expos basically started when I had just got kicked out of my old band and wasn’t really doing a lot with playing music for a few months after that and then I just forced myself to write a song and that song was “Thirstbuster” (off the self-titled album). Then I spent like a week after writing and recording the other songs. I just kept going ’til right now.

My set up on my first 3 albums were just an input, my laptop, and a mic recording into Audacity. Most of the bass is line-in guitar that’s pitch shifted down an octave on those albums. The last 2 albums (Happy & Joy) were just made in my bedroom or my Dad’s office on a Mac with Garageband. I used a lot of midi on those.

aaron ponzo joyLet’s talk Joy for a minute. Why squeeze all your material into 9 minutes? Besides it being a test, I guess, is there any other philosophy behind it? Many times, as soon as I get into the song >poof!< it’s done.. always leave ’em wanting more maybe?

Basically, I wrote the song “South Mountain” with no real plans for it and then after the success of Warped Your Fest, Colin (Bauer of Warped Your Records) asked if Warped Your could put out the 1st Expos album onto a lathe cut.  I declined and countered that offer with a WHOLE NEW ALBUM of only 30 second or less songs. I guess it was testing my songwriting ability to see if i could make a lot of songs that can stand there and not feel weird and be actual songs. There is no really reason for it though, to be honest, just cause WHO THE HECK HAS EVER DONE THAT!!?!?! And also I really like shorter songs.

Who’s in your current line-up of the band when the Expos play live?

The most common live line up is me on Guitar, my brother Seth on drums (Draa, Pent Up), Micah Wiggins on bass (Sun Hex, Pent Up), and Colin Bauer on second guitar (Closet Goth, Warped Your Records). But the Expos also have had Tyler Broderick on Bass, Matthew Hainlen on Bass, Alexis Molina on Keyboard, Alex Brown on Drums, Tim Bomberg-Roth on Saxophone, Zach Nelson on Drums, and Garret Baugmarte on Drums as well.

What’s your take on the music scene we have here? Anything you’d like to see change?

I think Phoenix music is at one of the best points I’ve seen it in awhile. So many good spaces, plus my favorite bands to ever exist here exist like Diners, Amateur Hour, Doomed to Bloom, Sun Hex, and Captain Samurai. I guess, just start more bands. Write more music. Don’t settle, make the best possible music you can. Drink more water. Look at the desert. Listen to more music. Never stop. Drink more seltzer too. Have more fun. Music. Book more weird shows at unconventional spaces (in the process of booking a show on top of South Mountain… shhhhhhhhh). Love the desert. Understand the importance of cacti. Go to the Botanical Gardens. Look around. Drink More Water. Hike more. Take time to stop and smell the creosote. Make Weirder Bands. Not all bands gotta be two guitars, drums, and bass (even tho the Expos are, for now). And gosh darnit, STOP TEARING DOWN PLACES AND MAKING THEM APARTMENTS, I’M LOOKING AT YOU, PHOENIX. That’s the change I want to see in Phoenix. This probably didn’t answer the question but I’ll just move on…

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What are your plans for 2017? Any outta town shows? More releases?

Well, get weirder, release a new album sometime, tour the west in the summer time, play in Yuma, drink water, write more music (that probably won’t be on that said album but on the 7th Expos album), listen to more music, eat healthier, book more shows for bands, and travel to wherever I can. That’s pretty much it.

Obvi your hair is super awesome. Are you like Samson and is it the source of your god-like guitar shredding powers as long as it doesn’t get cut??

🏀✌️️🐸 Lemme answer that with another question: what’s your favorite Thin Lizzy album?

~

Check out Joy by The Expos below. You can also follow them on Facebook.

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(My answer is Black Rose btw…)

YabYum 2016 Awards Recap

2016 awardsAlrighty gang, this wraps up our 2016 Awards portion of the year. A big thanks to everyone who came out to the Awards Show at the Trunk Space last night. We will now continue to cover all the new shit. More local, national, and international music coverage is on the way. Stay tuned…

steph 000 acoustic 00 things that hologram 00 sugar skull explosion no volcano reformatting snakes 00 foster family band breaking up ohioan 00 soundtrack 00 saddles 000 red tank impossible animals 00 huckleberry 000 bear ghost featured snake river blues 000 phoenix afrobeat 000 karima 000 fairy 00 happy plaza 000 best indie pop lando chill 000 top 20 singles 2016 00 best live band top 20 music videos 000 nanami 000

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Previous YabYum Awards Recaps:

2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009

Album of the Year: Desire by Nanami Ozone

nanami 000When Nanami Ozone released Desire, their debut full length album, in May, they pretty much set the soundtrack to our summer. And, by the time autumn rolled around, we were still jamming out to the indie rock collection. We sent out links to this album and played singles from this release more than any other release of 2016.

Nanami Ozone crafts aloof indie rock with just enough garage grit to keep things cool. Perhaps what I like most about this album is the way the band confronts the disaffection of a generation head on with an almost painful vulnerability.

Desire is smart, entrenched in contemporary modes of music-making, and  totally fresh. If you haven’t already heard Desire by Nanami Ozone, make sure you give it a spin immediately. Like now. You should also check them out at our 2016 Awards Show happening at the Trunk Space, this evening at 6 PM!

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Original review of Desire by Nanami Ozone

Previous Album of the Year Award Winners:

2015: Sweetbleeders
2014: Playboy Manbaby
2013: decker.
2012: Good Friends Great Enemies
2011: Sun Ghost
2010: What Laura Says

 

Top 20 Music Videos 2016

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Sundressed
“Autopilot”

Directed by Cory Davis

19
Sugar Skull Explosion
“I Don’t Want To”

Directed by Plastic Monsters

18
Confetti Club
“Clutches of Emotion”

Directed by Justin Humbert

17
Dadadoh
“Do It”

Directed by Bryan Preston

16
The Brothers Comatose
“Black Light Moon”

Directed by Colin Blackshear

15
Injury Reserve
“All This Money”

Directed by Parker Corey

14
Draa
“Losing My Charm”

Directed by Freddie Paull

13
Willetta
“Rosario”

Directed by Michael J. Buckius

12
Fairy Bones
“Notes from Wonderland”

Directed by Brandon McGill and Chelsey Louise

11
Genre
“Speak Now”

Directed by Genre

10
decker.
“Holy Ghost”

Directed by Matty Steinkamp

9
Wyves
“Spoils of War”

Directed by Cory Davis

8
Mega Ran
“Mackerel Sky”

Directed by Luis “ElJayBeats” Perez

7
Playboy Manbaby
“I’d Like to Meet Your Parents”

Directed by Ryan Riggs & Jordan Pillar

6
Captain Squeegee
“Dually Noted”

Directed by Freddie Paull

5
Aesthetically Sound
“In My Feelings”

Directed by Rachael Smith

4
No Volcano
“Blackout”

Directed by Jason Willis

3
The Haymarket Squares
“Heaven”

Directed by Cory Davis

2
Lando Chill
“Save Me”

Directed by Malcolm Critcher

1
The Thin Bloods
“Talk Talk Talk”

Directed by Ryan Lee Caldwell

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Previous Best Music Video Award Winners:

2015
2014
2013