5 Neo Soul Artists From Australia That You Need to Get to Know
The soul scene on the west coast of Australia has been on the rise in recent years, and five-piece band Demon Days has been turning heads far away from Perth’s isolated shores, as well as being backed by an impressive local following.
Their latest EP ‘Taking It Slow This Time’, self-released on October 2nd, is a groove-filled journey layered with introspective vocals, bumping basslines, and jazzy synth lines dotted with tight trumpet melodies. The band took production into their own hands on this sophomore release, and to great effect, even featuring a luscious string arrangement on final track ‘Plum’. Their 2018 debut EP ‘Magic Eye’ was produced and engineered by Nick Herrera, who’s worked with Hiatus Kaiyote in the past, and fans of the Melbourne nu jazz giants will surely have a lot to like about Demon Days.
Having toured around Australia as well as trips to Canada and Singapore this year, more and more ears are experiencing the group’s flavour of crisp, jazz-influenced neo-soul. Vocalist Bella Nicholls brings reflective, poignant lyricism to her intricate melodies, and the chemistry between keys player Joshua Chan and bassist Marley Donnan-Cook bubbles into energetic funk-fuelled fire, highlighted on tracks like ‘Hands Free’ and ‘Taking It Slow’.
Brisbane’s First Beige have erupted onto the Australian scene in 2019 with a pulsating and energetic splash of soul with shades of funk and house influenced groove that has many fans moving. Originally forming in 2016, the six-piece have released a handful of singles and an EP, drawing comparisons and influence from acts like Flying Lotus, Parcels, and fellow Australians Mildlife.
This year has seen the band release ‘Details’ and ‘Desire’, two singles ripe with infectious rhythmic grooves driven by disco-esque drums and funky basslines, accompanied by the vibrant vocals of singer and band-leader David Versace. Versace originally began the project by himself, and he still writes most of the material as well as managing production and art direction, but the expansion to a six-piece has brought a collaborative energy that has seen the group reach bold new heights.
With big things on the radar in terms of releases, and a stack of upcoming dates that include playing alongside acts like Matt Corby and Allah-Las, the First Beige wave is rising fast, and bound to hit more shores soon.
Another act hailing from Brisbane, four-piece band Pink Matter bring forward-thinking R&B colours to a rich, vibrant palette of neo soul. Smoky, lush vocals are immersed in creamy harmonies, tight beats, and tasteful electronic production. Fans of Ravyn Lenae, Kali Uchis, or some of Jorja Smith’s more soulful cuts should definitely lend an ear to Pink Matter, who undoubtedly have big things coming their way.
2018 saw Pink Matter release their debut EP ‘Human Error’, introducing the band’s silky sound to much acclaim, landing them festival and support slots for The Internet, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Harvey Sutherland. Sutherland also co-produced their first single of 2019, ‘Wonder’, lending more cosmic sounds to the band’s jazz-influenced core.
Their latest single ‘Soul Fruit’, premiered by Clash Magazine, adds yet more astral elements to dreamy vocals and a punchy, grooving bassline that shifts to a club-inspired twist.
Perhaps the most diverse artist on this list, Kuzich blends raw neo soul elements with sprinklings of jazz, hip hop, and psychedelia into a beautiful sonic juice that more of the world need to taste.
Part of the Mandarin Dreams collective out of Melbourne, Kuzich is originally from Perth before he shifted eastward, bumping shoulders and rhythms with acts like Silentjay and Mndsgn amongst a burgeoning, eclectic music scene. The richness and diversity of which grabbed the attention of renowned tastemaker and DJ Gilles Peterson, leading to 2019’s ‘Sunny Side Up’ compilation on Brownswood Recordings, which features Kuzich’s excellent track ‘There Is No Time’.
But 2019 has also seen Kuzich release his sophomore EP ‘Fruit Soup’, the follow-up to his 2018 debut ‘Dawn Chorus’. ‘Fruit Soup’ spans soulful beatmaker joints, flowing passages of jazzy grooves with rich instrumentation, and reflective notions of self and nature in quasi-verse vocals to craft a truly unique, brilliant sound.
Tiana Khasi, also out of Brisbane, has been captivating listeners recently with her velvety smooth, sweet sounds led by her entrancing voice and lush, yet powerful instrumental interplay.
She released her defiant debut EP ‘Meghalaya’ this year, named after the Indian state meaning ‘home of the clouds’, which was a significant inspiration for the project. Tiana soars to an ethereal plane with elements of future jazz weaving amongst at times more laid-back drums and colourful harmonies. But there are also moments of heightened intensity, with traces of rhythmic electronic production coming into play with more up-front lyricism and layered vocals sections.
Her track ‘Nuketown’ was featured on the 13th installment of the highly acclaimed Brownswood Bubblers compilation, drawing her deserved global attention that is only going to increase as her music and career continue to grow.