Brittany Howard High Road Touring.jpg

Brittany Howard is the lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter of Alabama Shakes.

For years, white artists and bands have dominated indie music. Within the industry, there’s a debate about why alt-indie music lacks diversity. 

As part of that debate, a petition started circling to remove Kayne West as a headliner in the 2015 Glastonbury Festival because fans thought it was catered toward rock music and didn’t see West fitting into the genre. Historically, rock music is occupied by white artists, despite there being iconic black rock artists such as Jimmy Hendrix. 

Another facet that allows non-white alternative artists to be left out of the scene is their genre or style being mislabeled because of their race. Artists like Childish Gambino or Frank Ocean, who have R&B influences, could also fall under the umbrella of “alternative.” 

As Black Lives Matter protests continue around the world, many people are supporting the movement. Here are some notable black artists within the alt-indie scene to listen to in solidarity with BLM. 

Brittany Howard, Alabama Shakes 

Howard recently released a solo album title “Jaime,” named after her sister who died of cancer as a teenager. In addition to her new solo career, she’s most known for being the lead guitarist and vocalist of the rock-soul group, “Alabama Shakes.” The band has won four Grammy Awards and has also topped the Billboard 200 with its first album, “Sound and Color.”  Howard and Alabama Shakes are both represented by ATO Records, founded by Dave Matthews and Coran Capshaw.  

Thundercat 

Stephen Lee Bruner, singer and bassist with the stage name “Thundercat,” won a Grammy in 2016 for his vocalization in the song “These Walls” on Kendrick Lamar’s album “To Pimp a Butterfly.” Thundercat displays genre fluidity, ranging from jazz to soul. Thundercat has released five studio albums and one EP since 2011. He’s represented by the L.A.-based label Brainfeeder

Toro y Moi 

Chaz Bear’s personal project, “Toro y Moi,” was signed by Carpark Records in 2009. Prior to signing with a label, Toro y Moi self-released 10 albums. His early music includes R&B influences, and his first album under Carpark Records, “Causers of This,” features a more chill-wave summer vibe. 

Young Fathers 

Based in Edinburgh, Young Fathers is composed of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham 'G' Hastings. The group started performing as teenagers in nightclubs. Young Fathers was represented by Ninja Tune, Big Dada and Anticon. In 2014, it won the Mercury prize for its album “Dead,” reaching 35th in U.K. albums charts and topped the independent U.K. albums chart.  

Amid global protests pertaining to the BLM movement, many are taking time to recognize black excellence; this includes black alternative artists who may be overlooked in the alt-indie music industry, which is historically composed of many white artists. 

Contact Audrey Nakagawa at nakagaas@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.