Local Area Boasts Flourishing Musical Talent

by John Downey '23 on April 15, 2021
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

A Look at Providence’s Budding Indie Rock Scene  

by Jack Downey ’23 A&E Staff

Rather Nice. From left: Nick Reagan, Oliver Littlefield, Joe Johnson, and Mike Teneiro.

Upon my first excursions into Providence, RI, I could not find a lot of original acts. Most of the venues seemed to just play cover bands or gimmick acts. However, after repeatedly flipping stones throughout the city and beyond, I discovered a shocking amount of local bands making incredible music. “Finally,” I thought to myself, “these are my people.”

Among the many genres that are showcased in Rhode Island is indie rock: upbeat, simple, and overall fun to listen to. Whether it leans towards punk or it angles more towards funk, there are many varieties of indie rock within the state alone, with some bands even combining the two. 

One such band is the always entertaining Rather Nice. This group is a four-piece out of Johnston, RI, featuring Joe Johnson on rhythm guitar and vocals, Mike Teneiro on lead guitar, Nick Reagan on bass, and Oliver Littlefield on drums. Forming and releasing their first EP Quadratic just before the pandemic began, Rather Nice has refused to idle, instead creating one of the most engaging social media presences that I have ever seen from a band. 

Whether it is having followers help them write chord progressions, constantly live streaming even something as basic as practice, or displaying a video of them playing in (and subsequently getting kicked out of) a mall, they have always let their fans be part of the fun. Since the pandemic started, the band has released two more EPs, Simp Cycle in October 2020, and Winter Vibes in December 2020. Their newest EP Fast is coming soon and has a total runtime of four minutes.

Another musician who dominates the indie rock scene is Harrison Reed Dolan. Aside from being the drummer of grizzlies., a band mentioned in the March 17 issue of The Cowl, Dolan is always making music on his own. The range of styles that he covers is astounding: his music vaults from hip hop to indie pop to jazz and more. Combining an honest and mellow vocal delivery with his extensive musical knowledge, Dolan never comes across as a poser or a phony. No matter the genre, he always sounds genuine, which is something that even big time artists fail to do.

 Like Rather Nice, Dolan also streams on social media, whether it be on Instagram or Twitch. On these streams, he showcases his impressive usage of the loop pedal and several instruments. As a treat, occasionally his father plays the flute. When it comes to releases, Dolan has numerous EPs and singles out on Bandcamp, but on all streaming services, there is the peaceful and jazzy hip hop song “Dogma,” as well as the three-song EP Forget Me.

The band FINE. also stands out amongst the indie rock crowd. Formed over four years ago, FINE. is a duo consisting of Iz Dungan on guitar and vocals and Ly Barber on drums. The band self-defines as “enby grunge-pop for the queers,” and the two members have embraced this definition fully in their music, with stormy sounds that contain a melodic sensibility. It is almost like a butterfly in a hurricane. Sometimes the songs are more butterfly than hurricane, but regardless, each one is consistently engaging and hypnotizing, with Dungun’s vocals vibrating right below the surface, menacing but also soothing in a strange way. The band has been to multiple states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Their most recent single “Yellow and Pink” was released in 2020.

There are many amazing indie rock bands in Providence and the rest of Rhode Island, though if I wrote them all down here, it would take up the entire issue. I would encourage you to check out the bands I mentioned, as well as to do some digging on Instagram and to check out some other local acts. They always appreciate the support, and you will almost certainly be pleasantly surprised.