Psychedelic rock grew to enormous popularity during the mid and late 1960’s with bands like Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and The Doors. I grew up listening to these 60’s bands and became obsessed with the genre. I loved the sound they created with their long effect-heavy guitar solos, trippy lyrics about mind-altering drugs, perception, the afterlife and mythology, and the overall style and rebellion they brought to the music industry. After many years of solely listening to 60’s psychedelic rock, I decided to branch out and listen to modern indie rock. I quickly discovered a whole new world of modern psychedelic rock with bands like Allah-Las, The Growlers and The Blank Tapes. Below is a list of my favorite psychedelic acts so far.
Buffalo Killers- This heavy psychedelic rock band was formed in Cincinnati, Ohio by the Gabbard brothers. Their style is not typical of psychedelic rock found on the west coast, but has more of a blues, roots rock and swamp rock sound. They have excellent vocal harmonies, tightly composed instrumentals and heavy, rich guitar work making them one of my favorite overall bands.
The Black Angels- This psychedelic rock band began in Austin, Texas. Their style is a combination of shoegaze and psychedelic rock. They like long repetitive songs with layers of effects backed by amazing Jim Morrison-style vocals. A great modern psychedelic sound that is hard to match.
The Blank Tapes- This psychedelic rock project was created by LA-based mastermind Matt Adams. He uses traditional 60’s style sounds with contemporary and witty lyrics. I have been a fan of The Blank Tapes for many years because of their humor, cool surf rock style and how closely they stay true to the 60’s psychedelic rock feeling and sound.
Black Mountain- This psychedelic rock band comes from Vancouver, BC and brings an array of psychedelic rock sounds ranging from 60’s pop and 70’s metal. They have a nice variety of styles but remain true to their psychedelic roots. A very complete sound that combines vocal harmonies and powerful guitar-driven acid rock ballads.
All Them Witches- This rock band comes from Nashville, TN and brings a fiery, electric sound. They are not the typical psychedelic rock band with trippy effects, but instead have a heavy blues influence and a slight southern rock sound. Nevertheless, they create a great powerful sound that is very much psychedelic in nature.
The Bright Light Social Hour- This psychedelic rock band from Austin, TX has a great sound that combines space rock, dream pop and classic rock. They have amazing guitar solos and bring their listeners to new dimensions through heavy use of effect pedals and trippy soundscapes.
The Growlers- This LA-based band mixes psychedelic rock, surf rock and garage rock to create a genre they call beach goth. One of my favorite bands, they have highly catchy songs that use humor and social commentary backed by dark surf rock instrumentals.
Magic Castles- This psychedelic rock band comes from Minneapolis, MN and follows closely to the traditional 60’s sound of The Byrds and Jefferson Airplane. They have a clean, smooth sound that is highly layered and structured and easy to listen to.
Allah-las- One of my favorite bands, this LA-based group mixes all of the best parts of 60’s music. They touch on jangly pop, like The Byrds, surf rock, psychedelic rock and even Latin bossa nova. They stick closely to the sounds and styles of the 60’s and were an instant obsession of mine the first time I heard them.
Levitation Room- Another great LA-based psychedelic rock band (yes, a lot of good bands are from LA) that mixes guitar-driven riffs, vocal harmonies and trippy electric soundscapes. They are a great example of modern psychedelic rock and stay close to the 60’s vibe.
Mystic Braves- This LA band travels through the 60’s and 70’s different styles, from surf style west coast rock to 70’s baroque pop ballads. I’ve always appreciated their vocal harmonies and layers of percussions that are classic west coast psychedelic rock.
The Nude Party- This psychedelic rock band is from North Carolina (finally a non-LA group) and brings a lot of Mick Jagger vocal energy and catchy 60’s rock and roll vibes. They are a large band, consisting of six members which you can really hear with their highly energetic and layered songs.
The Asteroid No. 4- This San Francisco psychedelic rock band has a large expansive library that weaves in and out of the different 60’s genres including folk, psychedelic rock, jangle pop and British pop. A very professional and polished band that stays true to their psychedelic rock identity.
Holy Wave- This psychedelic rock band hails from Austin, TX and is a major force in the local scene, creating a major psychedelic music festival called Levitation. They like to use a combination of organs and crunchy guitars with slow effect-heavy vocals. They give off a very chill and peaceful vibe and are important figures in the neo-psychedelia movement.
Quilt- One of the only bands on this list from the east coast, this psychedelic rock group is from Boston, which gives them a different sound compared to the typical sunny California flower power grooveness. They have some serious talent and many of their members have had good solo careers, including John Andrews who has made some amazing albums. One of the best modern psychedelic rock bands, they use all of the great techniques but with a modern twist.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre- This highly influential and impressive psychedelic rock project was founded by Anton Newcombe in the 90’s. He has been making music for decades and has a vast and delicately crafted library of songs. He really lives and breathes the 60’s and is one of the closest sounds you’ll find to the original psychedelic pioneers.
The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound- This guitar-driven psychedelic San Francisco rock band has some amazing electric guitar solos and riffs full of wah pedals and trippy reverb. They definitely lean more to the acid rock and heavy rock genres which I personally love listening to.
The Vacant Lots- This New York City based duo blends psychedelic rock, shoegaze, post punk revival and synth pop to create a remarkable, unique sound. Their style is a blend of dance, electronica and psychedelic rock, with heavy use of effects and echoing vocals. They have collaborated and toured with The Growlers, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Black Angels and have made their mark on the neo-psychedelic movement.
Aunt Cynthia’s Cabin- This guitar driven psychedelic rock band from San Diego brings to mind the simple and pure sounds of 60’s rock. They have a hint of The Doors and Led Zeppelin. They don’t try to complicate their sound with tons of layers but instead stay true to some amazing guitar riffs and solos.
Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation- This Swedish band blends together psychedelic rock and electro pop to create a truly amazing and unique sound. They are a great example of how to use classic psychedelic rock fundamentals with modern electronic techniques.
Weird Owl- This Brooklyn-based psychedelic rock group draws heavily from folklore and mythology and is a nice mix of 70’s metal, space rock and stoner rock. They bring a heavy fuzz sound full of trippy guitar solos and slow mythical lyrics.
The Sadies- This Toronto-based band began making music in the late 90’s. Not your typical psychedelic rock group, they instead blend together folk, country, jangly pop, western, surf rock and psychedelic rock. They sound a lot like The Band and have often been compared to them. They also have a jangly pop sound similar to The Byrds. Regardless of who they sound like, The Sadies are one of the best Canadian rock groups of all time and belong on this list because of their undeniably unique psychedelic style.
Gold Celeste- This Norwegian psychedelic pop band creates layers of effect-driven guitars and organs to create a chill trippy sound. They also have great vocal harmonies that mix well with their complex soundscapes.
Vinyl Williams- This LA-based psychedelic rock band is led by multi-instrumentalist Lionel Williams. He creates rich and colorful soundscapes that are modern and vintage at the same time. He has a unique psychedelic sound that is full of layers of electronic synths and guitars. He also has really cool abstract album artwork.
Sugar Candy Mountain- This Oakland-based psychedelic pop and rock duo is a great blend of 60’s style psychedelic surf rock and tropical inspired funk. The band is made up of Will Halsey who plays the drums and Ash Reiter who plays guitar and sings. Together they create a groovy 60’s inspired psychedelic pop sound that is very Californian.
Midnight Sister- This LA-based duo is not your typical psychedelic band with guitar heavy riffs and trippy effects, but they are definitely psychedelic in the mood they create. They are a mix of chamber pop and psychedelic pop and have a cinematic style full of strings and orchestral sounds. Juliana Giraffe, the main singer, has a deep sensual singing style that brings to mind dark disco music from the early 70’s. One of my favorite underground psychedelic bands that I hope gets more attention and praise as they continue to make music.
Kikagaku Moyo- This Japanese psychedelic band was formed in Tokyo in 2011. They are a highly influential band in Japan and have played a large role in the Japanese psychedelic music scene. Their music is mostly instrumental but occasionally they sing in Japanese or English. They use a variety of instruments ranging from flutes and sitars to traditional Japanese folk instruments to modern electric guitars. Their music is diverse and varies from long trippy instrumental songs to psychedelic folk to hard psychedelic rock guitar-driven songs. They are definitely a band worth checking out if you are a fan of psychedelic music.
King Buffalo- This heavy psychedelic rock trio is from Rochester, NY. Their style is a combination of psychedelic rock, blues, stoner rock, metal and space rock. Sean McCay is the vocalist and guitarist and is one of the best modern rock guitarists I’ve ever heard. He is fast and very technical and comes up with some really trippy sounds. King Buffalo’s music is complex and full of intricate layers of heavy fuzz guitars, synths and powerful drum work. Definitely an amazing psychedelic rock band that is both modern and pays homage to classic rock.
Written by Adam