Let the music play on
COLORADO BEST MUSIC BAND
Even though Colorado doesn't have any globally renowned music cities like New York or Austin, it has produced many internationally renowned musicians over the years. The Centennial State has helped start the careers of many well-known bands over the years, including chart-topping pop icons, beloved bluegrass and jam bands, and an electronic producer who fuses various genres. The most well-known musical groups to originate from the state are these big bands.
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Pop-rock band OneRepublic was founded in Colorado Springs in 2002. With global hits like "Apologize," "Stop and Stare," and "Counting Stars," the band has sold close to 16 million records. They first recorded and attracted a sizable following in California before reaching listeners in Colorado. In 2005, OneRepublic released its debut album. After Timbaland remixed its lead song, "Apologies," it achieved worldwide success. They received a Grammy Award nod for the song, which peaked at number one in 16 nations.
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YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND
Yonder Mountain String Band is undoubtedly already well-known to bluegrass enthusiasts. The fact that the original members of this Colorado band were in a group named The Bluegrass Holes, however, might surprise some people. In the 1990s, Dave Johnston and Jeff Austin met in Urbana, Illinois, and they collaborated until The Bluegrass Holes formed in 1998. The formation of Yonder Mountain String Band, a worldwide bluegrass mainstay over the past 20 years, was sparked by Johnston's decision to relocate to the mountain town of Nederland, Colorado, to develop his musical abilities. The band gained a devoted following among fans of jam bands and bluegrass after their debut appearance at the Fox Theatre in 1998.
Some notable YMSB performances include a set at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver, countless appearances at Red Rocks, and a show at the band's own Yonder Mountain Harvest Festival. On the US Grass music list, three of the group's albums peaked at number one. Austin left the band in 2014, citing artistic differences, and sadly passed away in 2019 at the age of 45.
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The Fray was arguably the largest band in the world, not just in Colorado, in the middle of the 2000s. The soft rock band, which was founded in 2002, became well-known abroad after their debut record reached platinum status in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK in addition to double platinum in the US. The band was placed 84th on Billboard's list of "Artists of the Decade" after their debut song, "Over My Head (Cable Car)," reached the top ten in the US. The sound of The Fray has been compared by critics to piano-heavy English bands like Coldplay and Keane.
The Fray was founded by guitarist Joe King and songwriter Isaac Slade, who met while playing in worship bands in churches in the Denver region. Caleb, the younger brother of Slade, temporarily performed with the group before being asked to leave. The tense circumstances led to the band's first hit song, "Over My Head (Cable Car)," which also harmed the brothers' relationship. Eight of the band's tracks were rejected by a local Denver radio station before "Over My Head (Cable Car)" was played and immediately popular with listeners. After reading about the band in an article published by Westword, Epic Records A&R rep Daniel Davis signed the band shortly after.
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Tennis' made-for-TV origin story was a key component of its early success when it was first established in 2010. Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore first connected in 2008 while taking a philosophy course at the University of Colorado, Denver. After an eight-month sailing trip that crossed the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard, the two eventually got married and began playing tennis. Songs from Tennis' debut EP, Baltimore, describe the duo's nautical excursions. Bloggers picked up on the band's special tale and retro pop aesthetic right away, and Fat Possum Records soon took note and released the band's debut album, Cape Dory.
Tennis is currently one of the biggest alternative acts in America, having played numerous late-night television appearances, garnering positive Pitchfork reviews, and playing Coachella in 2017. The band's success has demonstrated that their music is much more than just a platform for a sweet sailing husband-and-wife tale. In February 2020, they plan to release their fifth album, Swimmer.
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Pretty Lights, a project by music producer Derek Vincent Smith, isn't as well-known as other Colorado acts like The Fray, but it's an important one for fans of electronic music. Pretty Lights has been referred to as "the face and voice of the new American electronic music scene" by renowned music producer and co-president of Columbia Records, Rick Rubin. Smith, a Fort Collins native, began his musical career while still in high school by performing bass guitar in the Colorado band The Freeze. The rock and hip-hop music that inspired the band would go on to inform Pretty Lights' genre-spanning musical aesthetic. Smith briefly attended the University of Colorado at Boulder before leaving his first year to concentrate on singing.
In 2004, Smith and the album's composer, Michal Menert, started writing the music for Pretty Lights. By 2007, the Pretty Lights group was opening for big-name acts like STS9, The Disco Biscuits, and Widespread Panic, and a few years later they were playing Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival, and Bonnaroo. The music of Pretty Lights incorporates hip-hop beats, gritty synths, and samples from the funk and soul styles. Smith hasn't performed since 2018 and isn't presently active.
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The Denver-based alternative hip-hop group Flobots may not be well-known to you right now, but in the late 2000s, their sound was everywhere. The band's single "Handlebars," in particular, topped charts all over the globe and made them one of Colorado's most unexpected musical success stories. Onomatopoeia, an EP by Jamie "Jonny 5" Laurie and producer Farhad Ebrahimi, a.k.a. Yahktoe, was released in 2000. On the album's lead song, a bassist, cellist, and pianist played. The rock-hip-hop-orchestral fusion the song explored would eventually come to be known as Flobots' distinctive sound. The lineup of Flobots, which debuted in 2005, expanded the aspects of orchestral rock that Johnny 5 had previously investigated. After some early success, the group issued Fight With Tools, their debut record, in 2007. "Handlebars" gained so much momentum following its entry into the KTCL station's Hometown for the Holidays competition that it was added to the station's rotation. Soon after, Universal Republic signed the group to a major label contract for two albums.
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Russian for "girl," DeVotchKa is also the name of one of Colorado's most popular and well-known musical groups. DeVotchKa combines traditional rock elements with sentimental strings, horns, flutes, and accordions, similar to other orchestral rock bands like San Fermin and The National. Their sound has been referred to by critics as everything from gypsy punk to indie folk. The single "How It Ends," which is most commonly associated with DeVotchKa, was included in the dramatic comedy Little Miss Sunshine, whose soundtrack the band also contributed to. The band, which was formed in 1997, spent a decade playing shows and releasing music on their own to grow a following. Before the band was chosen to create the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, "How It Ends," a tune that was featured in TV shows and movie trailers, gave them their big break. DeVotchKa is no longer a band that can fill stadiums ten years after their peak of success, but they are still one of the state's most beloved eclectic bands.
Although the band The Lumineers is presently based in Colorado, Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites first started writing and performing together in 2005 on the east coast. Under the names Free Beer, 6Cheek, and Wesley Jeremiah, they played hard rock, electronic, and singer-songwriter music before The Lumineers rose to prominence as one of the most well-known contemporary folk bands in the world. Schultz and Fraites moved to Denver and immediately started performing at open-mic evenings at places like the Meadowlark after struggling to find success in New York City and make rent.
Neyla Pekarek, a cellist with classical training, was brought on board by the band, after which time "Ho Hey," the group's debut single, was released. Soon after, the band received licensing placements, Grammy nominations, and broad international renown. The Lumineers are recognized for reviving the folk-influenced musical aesthetic that helped define the sound of popular music in the early 2010s, along with Mumford and Sons. 2019 saw the band's third album, III, which was appropriately named.