From bush doof to clowncore: your favourite underground music scenes

In the final instalment of our underground music series, readers share the scenes that inspire them – whether it’s radical brass bands, queer punk or doom-metal Mormons in Salt Lake City


At the outset of this series on underground music, we asked you for your suggestions of where to find it today – and nearly 800 of you responded. In this final chapter, we cover some of the most exciting scenes you uncovered across the globe, from Dartmoor to Slovakia, Queens and Luton. Thanks to everyone who took part, and who contributed to the series as a whole.

Dr. Pop: The Wyrd West Country scene: broken electronics and “slurfolk”. A very loose collective of individuals including Ekoplekz, Kemper Norton, IX Tab, REEL (Rapid Eye Electronics Ltd), Swine (featuring ex-Hacker Farm and Coil members), Assembled Minds, The Other Door, Pi-R-Tan – most of them refugees or children from the Psychedelic Duelling bouts of the 80s.

Anon: In Bandung, Indonesia, you can find all kinds of music: pop, hardcore/punk, jazz, folk and extreme metal. It originally started in the 90s when some bands ventured to bring music that is not mainstream, for example Pas Band, Puppen, Pure Saturday and Koil. Burgerkill, a metal/hardcore outfit from Bandung have since crossed over and won a Metal Hammer award in 2015. But since the mid-2000s, underground performances have become increasingly difficult. Corporations are an inevitable scourge; the DIY ethos is getting harder to put forth. It’s hard for young bands to get bigger – they always lose out to their seniors in terms of sharing the stage or getting more exposure from the media. Fortunately, problems can be somewhat overcome with social media and streaming.

Anon: There are at least 40 performances in Lancaster per week, mostly from local musicians who also work for a living. We don’t have an Academy or an arena, and the university does very little in terms of music. As a result, much of what we get here is homegrown, and yet there seems to be a high percentage of hugely talented musicians. Acts come and go, but some leave a mark. Most recently these would be Divide & Conker, The Lumberjack Cowboy Heartbreak Trucking Co, Lowes, Dohnut (formerly known as Eating Disorder), Hiroshima Twinkie, Greenheart, Dead Man’s Hand, Molly Warburton, Philip James Turner and the Crow Mandala, Atomic Brass, The Low Countries, Words About Space, The Lovely Eggs, 3D Tanx – and that’s just to name a few.

Think like an entrepreneur

“Young aspiring artists are also aspiring entrepreneurs,” says Ryan Leslie, suggesting they find at least five key contacts for every part of their career – from lawyers and producers to video directors and graphic designers. “The top five in each category will hopefully be the nucleus that will catapult your career.”

Be a digital polymath

“It’s about making sure you are across as many platforms as possible and utilising all of them,” suggests Luke Hood. “No one wants to rely on one revenue stream.”

Avoid sales tactics

“Don’t try and sell anything to people, even music,” proposes Sephi Shapira. “Just monetise the engagement with the consumer.”

Own everything

“It’s one thing to license copyrights for a while, but it’s entirely another thing to give them up in perpetuity,” says Tim Clark. “It is the same thing with data.”

Be outgoing – even if you don’t feel like it

“You have to be tenacious,” says Brian Message. “If you are a bit of a shoegazer in your bedroom, it will be a lot tougher than being a gregarious personality who is driven.”

Anon: The improvised, experimental, and free music community in the Bay Area in California – there is a site for it here. This is a very rich scene playing adventurous stuff in the midst of one of the most tumultuous times in the area due to rapid gentrification by the tech industry. As more and more artists are forced out of the traditionally very left-leaning, radical Bay Area, there is still a strong community of artists who support each other and sacrifice everything to continue to play this marginalised music. We play music as a way to understand ourselves and the world – we are not products!

Reenz: Candelo, New South Wales, Australia. It’s a tiny town, but the music that comes out of it is amazing: Melanie Horsnell, Heath Cullen, Kate and Ruth, Pete Wild, Daniel Champagne from nearby Bega, David Ross MacDonald. There is a songwriting club and some bands have formed from that, such as the Novellas. There are only 300 people in the town, but it’s more exciting than any city – it’s pure creativity coming out of the bush.

Bobby Bloomfield: The best UK underground music at the moment is from almost glam-style bands. Costumes, and dark lyrics about society, but with a big dose of humour added in; a mixture of alternative rock and electro. Bands like The Working Man, Petrol Bastard, All Hail Hyena, Kringer and the Battle Katz, and the Performance Enhancing Suppositories.

Anon: There’s a local DIY punk scene in Slovakia, with gigs in garages just outside of the city centre. Mostly these are unsigned bands, touring out of their own pocket and getting paid for their show in spaghetti. They play hardcore punk, D-beat, thrash metal, death metal, stoner sludge – and much, much more. Some guy cooks up vegan burgers, too. It’s pretty sweet.

Ozora festival, Hungary.
Ozora festival, Hungary. Photograph:

Jimmy Bricks: The global psychedelic trance/techno/ambient scene – the 1960s scene 50 years on, where the hippies still hang out. In this country it is derided by the mainstream, and sidelined by the death of venues, the officious licensing of the remaining ones (who wants to to risk their licence by putting on parties for hippies to take drugs at?) and the outlawing of squatting. However since its birth in the mid-90s it has continued to grow worldwide. Festivals such as Ozora in Hungary, Boom in Portugal and Antaris Project in Germany all attract 40,000+ people, and it is also huge in places like Brazil and Mexico. There are many British artists who now ply their trade mainly overseas due to the lack of opportunity in this country – check out the Nano Records roster for psytrance; Ott or Ott & the All Seeing-I for psychedelic dub and ambient; and Nanoplex for psychedelic techno.

Nick: New Chicago punk, primarily anything touched by the genius of uber-dweeb Mark Winter. High point is The Coneheads’ album LP 1 Aka 14 Year Old High School PC-Fascist Hype Lords Rip Off Devo For The Sake Of Extorting $$$ From Helpless Impressionable Midwestern Internet Peoplepunks LP.

Coneheads LP cover.
Cover of Coneheads’ LP 1. Photograph: Coneheads

Anon: The undiscovered indie scene in Brighton is phenomenal, whether powerpop dudes like Mum Dad and the Kids, lo-fi self-conscious sadcore like Porridge Radio, political electropop like Dog in the Snow, or alt-folk mega band Sons of Noel and Adrian, or countless others. Check out the Brighton Music Blog or Brighton Noise websites.

Anon: The underground music scene is alive and well in Bristol! The genres that most fit the underground label revolve around the various “teks”, ie hardtek, raggatek, gabbertek and clowncore. There is a regular night in the Black Swan called Bris-tek which normally showcases these styles of music, along with underground drum’n’bass, and also some bassline. Its also worth checking out Ed Cox who makes clowncore – he has a cult following in Bristol. Bassline is also the predominant music at Devon free parties.

Anon: The Dartmoor music scene. It doesn’t have a name, and perhaps it shouldn’t. All the work is unified by the landscape. None of the musicians, projects or creations will ever be picked up or heard – local radio is playlisted, national radio doesn’t know about it, and very little even reaches the internet, and so a great deal gets lost. It crosses ages, and genre borders – there are limited numbers of musicians, unlike big cities, so you’ll find unlikely collaborations. There is deeply original, challenging, sumptuous, stark, detailed, soft, heavy, intense, progressive or tuneful music here, which is so far from the mainstream that if music might be considered a solar system, this non-scene is the Oort cloud at the edges.


Anon: Rhythmic noise – I’ve loved it since I was 18, though it’s not something you’d easily encounter in normal life. Most of it comes out of the industrial scene, or more experimental harsh techno or drum’n’bass, and it’s not got much presence at gigs and clubs in the UK. The best you’ll get is a few tracks at goth/industrial nights usually, and a couple of bands at the annual Infest festival. It can be pretty offputting, seeming like techno turned up until the speakers break, and with what comes across as unbridled aggression. However, with some bands, the sheer volume and distortion creates a great adrenaline-fuelled dancefloor energy, and for other artists it’s an aggression that is used to express messages you might not expect to find in music like this. ESA is one of the best UK rhythmic noise acts, while Winterkälte are rhythmic noise scene legends (and run one of the key labels in the scene). When you realise that they are using their music to convey an angry environmental message, enraged about what we have done to the world and what we could do to save it, the aggression suddenly makes more sense. It’s both medium and message.

Anon: Anglo-Japanese hyper pop! British artists that have a taste for Japanese culture/music and incorporate it into their own music. Best examples: Kero Kero Bonito, SaNTINO, En, Jelly BonBon. There isn’t sustainable income in this niche, though – British audiences aren’t quick to come around to world music unless it’s championed by Justin Bieber!

Kero Kero Bonito.
Kero Kero Bonito. Photograph: PR Company Handout

Angela Owen: A loose affiliation of musicians in Denver, Colorado make incredible music, spanning styles that don’t even exist yet. Bodymeat (arrhythmic pop); Killd By (non-hierarchical eco-dance); French Kettle Station (post-punk for the nonhuman); and Midwife (post-life rock). Also the various projects – from Petit Garcon to Preteen OD – of Ben Donehower. As diverse as it is, it is catchy, resilient, annoyed and oppressed by the market, and isolated in the way cloud forests are isolated.

Matthew Wilson: Queer pop-punk is a huge underground scene that hasn’t yet been discovered by the mainstream. Bands like ACM, which I’m a member of, or Dream Nails, Charm Pit and Militant Girlfriend, are all making music that narrates the queer experience of being outside normative structures through feminist, queer utopian or working-class female lenses. All of these bands rehearse rigorously, and build albums from Kickstarter funding or out of their own pocket. Fronted by female and gender-nonconforming musicians, these bands are commenting on worlds from which they are excluded, through catchy lyrics and brilliant hooks. These messages of queerness and feminism come in the accessible package of pop songs, aiming for inclusivity rather than academia.

Sarah El Miniawy: Scottish hip-hop. With the explosion of idea-sharing and democratising power of the internet, the past few years have seen a new generation of young artists find a platform for their own voice. Great acts to check out include Shogun (a young Dundee grime artist), MOG (a spoken word and hip-hop veteran) and Werd (Edinburgh-based rapper and producer). With Brexit and a second independence referendum being discussed, British identity is once again under the microscope. The latest generation of Scottish acts and the varied scenes that accompany them are a must for anyone looking to bring that identity into focus.

Popical Island’s logo.

Anon: Popical Island in Dublin, Ireland. A collective of artists that make highly uncool, underground pop music – in the K Records/Flying Nun/Sarah Records mould. They put on gigs and even had their own venue for a while. For a crash course, check out Squarehead’s 2025 (whose video was made by Domhnall Gleeson), Skelocrats, So Cow, Paddy Hanna, Oh Boland, Ginnels, and Lie Ins.

Anon: Crowdsourced musical collaboration, facilitated by websites like Kompoz. Places where dads from Dundee can write and record tracks with rappers from Rio, bassists from Belarus and lead guitarists from Latvia. Some of the tracks are excellent, some are dismal. If early indie was more fun to make than listen to, then this is very similar.

Anon: While London, where I live, is overflowing with non-mainstream talent that centres around a bunch of lively and fascinating musical venues (DIY Space for London, Lewisham Art House, Cafe Oto, Rye Wax, Total Refreshment Centre, The Windmill, The Five Bells, to name but a few), the output of the contemporary innovators is pluralistic. The experimenters of today pursue such a range of styles that there is little stylistic overlap to glue them together.

Now that even the most badly-behaved punks and radicals have been accepted under the wing of establishment culture it becomes difficult to see how underground movements can develop in the traditional way. We are too well acclimatised to odd and novel styles, and it is increasingly difficult to see what else can be done that is genuinely new and subversive. Small-scale labels still spring up and die (some favourites include Goaty Tapes, Post-Materialization Music, Zero Qualms and Curl Records), ludicrously small runs of tapes and 45s are still made and swapped extensively at tape fairs and record shops (Tome Records being a stellar example), there are often brilliant riot grrrl, punk and post-punk, indie, art rock, experimental dance and avant-garde bands aplenty (some current London favourites of mine being Merlin Nova, Mollusc, Business Lunch and Primordial Soup) making genuinely original and thought-provoking music and performing in energising ways. But the pluralism, self-awareness and nostalgia of the age, as well perhaps the jadedness and cultural overexposure of the audiences, makes it harder for them to really push the envelope. I mean, in 1976 you could shock the nation just by saying “fuck” on the telly.

Participants lie on the floor during a ‘laughter workshop’ led by experimental musician Laraaji, at Cafe Oto in Dalston, London.
Participants lie on the floor during a laughter workshop led by experimental musician Laraaji, at Cafe Oto in Dalston, London. Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris for The Guardian

I would consider the genuinely underground musicians of today, in my experience, are often simply hidden away in their bedrooms, swapping and making away from any kind of label or crowd – they don’t need them anymore to make and share. Often they don’t even share! This is one reason I think the musical underground of today can seem invisible. It really is buried. There is a brilliant book (I think there are only a couple of hundred risograph-printed copies in existence) about a bunch of underground musicians working in this way called Casual Junk by Zully Adler of Goaty Tapes. In it, he documents a number of dispersed artists who overlap in their practice and sound enough to be considered a scene in some sense, despite the fact that they are separated by oceans and often have never met. The bands are: Breakdance the Dawn, Tracey Trance, Mad Nanna, Son of Salami, Russian Tsarlag, Orphan Fairytale and Sea Urchin. All are brilliant, weird, and unquestionably underground. And it is a movement of sorts, but not in the traditional manner.

Another artist who seems hellbent on wilfully defying the accepted conventions of songwriting, production and distribution while still trying to remain both listenable and relatable are Cool Greenhouse. Their debut EP The Pyramid Scheme is being distributed in a unique fashion. The only way to get a copy of the CD is to promise to reproduce two more copies of it and its accompanying booklet and distribute them to people on a waiting list (a kind of pyramid scheme). Listeners are also encouraged to add to the accompanying artwork. This purposefully laborious distribution method means the record can’t be commodified and is unusually difficult to hear. It also forces audiences to interact directly with the record in a way that obviously goes against the usual passive channels of musical consumption.

Kris Nelson: Microtonal or alternative tuning scenes, aka the xenharmonic community. From the arbitrary tunings of the groundbreaking electronic Radionics Radio project (2016), where tunings contained “thoughts” within them, to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Flying Microtonal Banana (2017) where the octave was subdivided and used on electric instruments. These are just two albums – off the top of my head – that indicate microtonal music becoming more accessible.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard Photograph: PR Company Handout

Bartira: Luton indie, punk and metal at The George II or The Castle most weekends. Hazard, Rogue, the Adenoids, the Kindred, Arnika, Descend, Swank, Kamikaze Avon Ladies, Cerberus, Ribeye, iseefourfingers and many more. Raucous annual festivals Cerberfest, Lutonaid and Castlefest are all put on by local people with no public funding and completely ignored by the local council and Arts Council-funded organisations.

Marrkyd: Here in Australia we have a scene that organically grew from the bush around cities: awesome parties that combined the natural landscape with the lights and pounding music of a nightclub. Events called bush doofs host a varied amount of electronic music, from funky house to dark psytrance. Imbibing whatever psychedelics that can reveal the true self, twirling poi or light sticks while dancers move, and lasers and LEDs create an amazing visual experience as the music pounds. Massive events like Earthcore and Rainbow Serpent hold sway. Yet smaller ones emerge and even private parties for friends where enterprising people fund the whole shebang for a night or two of doofing. It’s about getting away from the mainstream and having a deep, visceral, friendly and alternative experience with friends.

cdog: Minneapolis has a vibrant psychedelic/space-rock/shoegaze scene that is yet to be uncovered. Bands in the scene include Flavor Crystals, Magic Castles, Panther Ray, Another Heaven, Ghostmouth, Brilliant Beast, Chatham Rise, DIIE, The Chambermaids, Good Doom, American Cream, Old Moon, Basement Apartment, Seafarer, Comets Ov Cupid, Dead Gurus, Paris 1919, Transcendental Strangers and many more.

Stack Bundles.
Stack Bundles. Photograph: Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Anon: Far Rockaway, Queens, is perhaps one of the most disconnected communities from the hustle and bustle of New York City, but take the A train to the very last stop, and you’d be hard pressed if you didn’t see someone out front of the station slinging their mixtapes. In its heyday, the community was home to many musicians, including the late Sharon Jones. Unfortunately, the hip-hop community in Far Rock has a history to it as well, one that is scattered with blood and bullet casings. The first artist to make it really big, Stack Bundles, was shot and killed outside of his apartment building by an unknown assailant in 2007. Several years later, an associate of P Diddy and French Montana by the name of Lionel “Chinx” Pickens was shot and killed on his way back to his home in Far Rock. In the years that have followed, his cohorts Cau2g$ and Bynoe, two former members of the Rockaway Riot Squad, have continued to put out music with limited success; Donald Bradley, aka Porche Boxx, is beginning to make a name for himself.

Anon: Radical marching bands, such as those you see at HONK! festival or the TriBattery Pops Tom Goodkind Conductor.

Jan Lamonte: Preston, Lancashire, has always had a disproportionately vibrant local music scene given its size. Two bands have been receiving quite a bit of national attention (Evil Blizzard and Ward XVI) but they’re only the tip of the iceberg, with other acts including Heavy Fluid Addicts, Sometimes The Wolf, Zvilnik, Polypores, Grandfalloon, All That Fall, Massive Wagons and Cat Called Dog.

Manny Faces: Salt Lake City has had an incredible music scene for decades, yet has always been dismissed by outsiders. They hear you’re from Salt Lake and automatically think you’re Mormon (some are, and still kick ass). In the early 00s there were wonderful indie rock and goth scenes, where everyone worked with each other and challenged others to be better. Though many of those bands aren’t around anymore, the mythos and the infrastructure that was built has spawned a new generation that is doing it all over again, but this time it’s doom metal. There are so many amazing metal bands in Salt Lake. A large warehouse turned rehearsal space called Downtown Music is the epicentre – walking in, you will hear a cacophony of various metal hybrids. Any number of these bands could be the next Gojira or Mastodon if anyone knew about them. Salt Lake City has been racked by the scourge of gentrification, which has caused a drought of live music venues. Only the wealthy can live in the city, and they like their music to be in the background while they Instagram their $14 cocktails. Metal demands attention, so we’re pushed to the outskirts and to other cities to find places to play, which is not easy when the next city is an eight-plus hour drive away. Yet the scene flourishes. Maybe it’s a response to the oppressive dominant culture here, but against all odds, these bands are creating something special.

Madonnatron. Photograph: Rowan Allen

Dan: Trashmouth Records are the nearest thing to an underground scene in the UK. Fat White Family are well known; Warmduscher, Bat Bike and Madonnatron are bands who would have survived and thrived on punk/post punk era audiences. None of these bands seemingly give a monkey’s about rock stardom as it is understood in 2017, and most embody thought-through anti-establishment principles. Mainstream media should pretty much leave them alone, although the occasional piece praising them could help regarding food, clothing and shelter.

Neil Crud: The vocaloid scene is such an unconventional, tech-driven way of making music – no human singer required, only virtual “idols”, for whom anyone can make a song.

Bill Russell: The CD-R-driven freak folk scene of the previous decade has been transformed by the increase in bandwidth access, leading to the streaming revolution, with sites like Bandcamp, Free Music Archive and Soundcloud hosting a lot of underground music. Bands like Pinkwench, IX Tab, Rail Yard Ghosts and XAMBUCA on Bandcamp for example. Where I live in Stockholm, the concept of the microvenue is huge. Small shop fronts, people’s lounge rooms and small basement cafes are now venues for underground performances; streaming sites such as Periscope make concerts and performances accessible from wherever anyone is located.

Anon: The scene of musicians recording with mobile devices is a small vibrant place. Fiercely creative and, compared with most other groups of artists, very prolific. Notable artists include PantsOfDeath, Frozen Lonesome, Jesper Jones, Supersonic Tartan Death Machine, JinxPadlock, Carbonates on Mars, Bad Satellites.

Don Romeo: You will never find it, you aren’t meant to find it, nor are you meant talk or write about it. Nobody wants you to write about it, nor do we want to be found.

Some entries have been edited for brevity and clarity


Compiled by Ben Beaumont-Thomas with Guardian readers

The GuardianTramp

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