Santa Barbara has its own American sweetheart, and her original folk rock tunes—as well as her genius covers of familiar songs such as “Stairway to Heaven” and “Bad Romance”—have garnered acclaim and a Song of the Year award from iTunes UK for her single “When I’m Alone.” Ojai resident Lissie released her debut EP “Why You Runnin’” in November of 2009, and she hasn’t slowed down since, dropping her latest album BACK TO FOREVER late last year. With a stint on The Tonight Show and a full-fledged international tour on her dance card, Lissie’s star is shining bright, and we can’t get enough of her heartfelt lyrics and captivating voice. Be sure to listen to “Shameless” (lissie.com).
Age doesn’t always bring musical wisdom, as is evident in the extreme talent that Camille Umoff presents to her live audiences (and her YouTube followers!). Her tunes “Bad Song” and “Back Around” have amassed Umoff quite a following. The gifted 13-year-old not only belts out these tunes—she’s also a songwriter and musician, often accompanying her vocals with her own guitar playing in her videos and performances. Umoff’s covers are also worth listening to (her Christmas covers were a favorite during the holiday season). When she isn’t busy working on her next song or music video, Umoff can often be found onstage in local musicals through Santa Barbara Youth Ensemble Theatre. Be sure to listen to (and watch) “Bad Song” (facebook.com/pages/Camille-Umoff/606637396027800).
Breakout band gardens & villa is a hometown story of five college friends who can’t stop making great music together—proven time after time by their always packed shows at SOhO Restaurant and Music Club. Their musical vibe is firmly rooted in the beach culture of Santa Barbara: laid back yet exciting, with an almost transcendent quality that lends itself to the smooth synths and soothing vocals. With their latest record DUNES’s release in February, it’s safe to say that we’ll be fighting with the rest of the world for more local gardens & villa shows, so if you get the opportunity to catch them in town, don’t miss it. Be sure to listen to “Bullet Train” (gardensandvilla.com).
From playing house parties in Isla Vista to LA’s The Echo, indie folk rock quartet Dante Elephante has quickly become a local favorite, especially after their New Noise Block Party performance. The terrific foursome hasn’t known each other for very long, but the little time they’ve spent together has certainly elevated their stars. As band mate Ruben Zarate says, “Two self-booked tours and countless hours in my Nissan Cube driving up and down the coast to play shows definitely take you from strangers you met off Craigslist to good friends really quick.” Dante Elephante may travel around with their music, but Santa Barbra’s “tight community” is one of their favorites to play, says Zarate. Be sure to listen to “German Aquatics” (danteelephante.bandcamp.com).
–Taylor Micaela Davis
Originally published in the Spring 2014 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine.