7 Killer Rock Bands from Seattle that Have Nothing to Do with Grunge

When you live in Seattle, it’s impossible to escape the ever-looming shadow of grunge music. And it makes sense. The city started a musical movement in the late 1980s and 1990s thanks to bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and many more.

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But that doesn’t mean the city is defined by the genre entirely. No, there were earlier bands like the proto-rockers the Sonics, guitar icons like Jimi Hendrix and big-name rappers like Sir Mix a Lot and Macklemore. So, for those looking for rock music outside of the sludgy grunge genre, the list below is perfect for you.

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Heart

This rock band featuring the sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson recently reunited after years apart for live concerts, including one on New Year’s Eve at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena. Indeed, Heart is one of the most important rock bands even before grunge, thanks to their groundbreaking debut LP Dreamboat Annie, released in 1975. With songs like “Magic Man,” “Barracuda,” and “Crazy On You,” Heart helped set the tone for rock in the Pacific Northwest.

Presidents of the United States of America

This 1990s group made peaches fun again. With the hit single, “Peaches” from their debut 1995 LP, along with other memorable songs like “Lump” and “Kitty,” PUSA brought a fun, almost cartoonish sensibility to the rock music world. Later, frontman Chris Ballew went on to start a children’s music project called Caspar Babypants, continuing his knack for interesting characters and instrumentation.

Death Cab for Cutie

Perhaps the most important Seattle band post-grunge, Death Cab for Cutie, fronted by Ben Gibbard, showed the city it was OK to make music again on a big scale after so many of Seattle’s musical heroes had died after becoming famous (Kurt Cobain, Andrew Wood, Layne Staley). With his poetic lyricism and falsetto voice, Gibbard made waves with this project beginning in 1998 with the band’s debut LP, Something About Airplanes, as well as his electronic music outfit The Postal Service.

Modest Mouse

The band Gibbard credits with opening up the musical floodgates post-grunge is Modest Mouse, known for hit songs like “Float On.” It was this band, Gibbard has said, that brought back the weirdness that the Pacific Northwest is known for, musically (read: songs about butts and peaches). Modest Mouse, which released its debut LP, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, in 1996, continues to rock today thanks to tracks like “Lampshades on Fire.”

The Head and the Heart

The band that blends Americana with glorious harmonies released its self-titled debut album in 2011 on the Seattle label Sub Pop. The Head and the Heart just a few years ago played to thousands of locals atop the famed Seattle Pike Place Market—that’s how synonymous they are with the Emerald City. In between, they’ve released hit songs like “Rivers and Roads,” which you can check out here below as the band performs it at the picturesque Doe Bay resort.

Thunderpussy

Fronted by flexible lead singer Molly Sides and including stalwart electric guitarist Whitney Petty, Thunderpussy has won cases in the Supreme Court over their name and won over audiences galore with their heavy rock music and stage performances. Rumor has it the band, which released its self-titled debut LP in 2018, has some new music coming later this year. For a taste of their epic live show, check out the video here below.

Ayron Jones

Ayron Jones is the latest Seattle rocker to earn No. 1 Billboard hits on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. In fact, he’s done it twice with “Mercy” and “Blood in The Water.” The artist is also a relentless touring musician known for his prowess on the electric guitar and his gravelly, bluesy singing voice. Jones, who is sure to keep rising up the ranks, may even be in line for a Grammy Award before it’s all said and done. Check out “Blood in The Water” here below.

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

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