Spinning New Stars - 405 Magazine

Spinning New Stars

The music scene in Oklahoma City is galvanizing, interconnected and buzzing with life.

Photo by Charlie Neuenschwander

The music scene in Oklahoma City is galvanizing, interconnected and buzzing with life. After the pandemic dealt heavy blows, local musicians sprung back with arresting new releases and absorbing live performances. Beer City Music Hall opened its doors, and Norman Music Festival made a rejuvenating return. Both lauded indie acts and international stars are making stops in the 405. Music is in the air, and it’s never sounded better.

To capture this exciting era, 405 Magazine spoke to six emerging acts across several genres to hear their artistic journeys and how the city fueled them. We’ve also asked four established local legends to share their favorites in the metro. OKC is bursting with so much promising talent that it’s impossible to cover it all, but this guide is a good place to start digging.

Jason Scott & The High Heat
United on Stage

Courtesy of It’s Mads Photo

For Jason Scott & The High Heat, live music is unifying, electrifying and transcendent — a chance for people to get together, forget their troubles and let loose.

Performing at weddings and playing bar gigs is how many of the band members make a living. The pandemic’s arrival in March 2020 halted those jobs, not to mention the planned release of their adventurous, motley debut album, Castle Rock. Instead of sending the album into the unknown, the band held onto it. “It would have just disappeared,” said guitarist and lead singer Scott.

The band launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance road expenses and a promotional team, and they returned to the stage in April 2021. By the time they released Castle Rock in March 2022, Jason Scott & The High Heat developed a sharp, unrestrained and refreshing brand of Oklahoman country rock.

Like an offroad vehicle, Castle Rock bumps and jolts into different styles that make the journey thrilling, but it never gets lost. The opening jaunty blues rhythm of “In the Offing” speeds up and rattles into a loud, riveting dive bar showstopper. Beyond genre, the album deftly switches up tone and emotions. “Quittin’ Time” decries the draining feeling of relentless labor with sly humor amid clanging hammers. The heart of the record lies in songs like “Cleveland County Line,” in which Scott longs for his true home in the namesake Oklahoma county.

Scott wrote much of Castle Rock’s songs as full-band detours from the acoustic country of his EP Living Rooms, and as he accumulated band members, the sound got amplified. “I think the eclectic musical tastes of the six of us rub off a little bit, where it’s never going to be just one (sound),” said bassist Ryan Magnani.

Guitarist, keyboardist and producer Taylor Johnson brought in new twists and tricks, such as the plate-smashing in “Quittin’ Time.” “He has a good way of putting something quirky, different and untraditional to each production on each song,” Magnani said. Johnson would introduce classic bands to Scott as a reference point, as Scott’s upbringing had restricted what he could listen to as a kid.

Scott grew up Pentecostal, singing at a young age in church. His parents divorced when he was 12 years old, and he moved to Castle Rock, Colorado, which he called “eye-opening.” When he moved back to Oklahoma, he became a pastor and met his wife. But after four years in the role and a “crisis of faith,” he decided to leave the church.

“A lot of my feel, and if I can say soul without sounding too cheesy, came from church — that exposure — and the rock-’n’-roll side,” Scott said. He noted the similar spirit that both worship and live music conjure. “When people are united, in secular, Christian or whatever religious thing they’re doing, there’s a power to that. When you have that connection with the crowd, it’s very palpable.”

Invoking an lively, communal response from a crowd has been the goal for the band’s newest songs. September’s “If We Make It ’Til the Mornin’” is a raucous, riff-heavy rager with anthemic lyrics about partying hard and leaving a mark. “We’ve got a pretty energetic live thing anyway, and these newer (songs) are definitely catering to that,” Scott said.

With fresh songs in the works, the band is more focused, tightening their show setlist to maximize momentum. Magnani stressed that the audience won’t feel engaged if the band looks “lifeless,” so they try to exude excitement. Some of it is the band jumping around, but it’s also Scott’s commanding stage presence.

“He’s definitely got an authority in his voice that’s kind of like a preacher on the mic,” keyboardist Garrison Brown said of Scott. “When it’s time to say something, you hear the voice. It’s there.” And the voice, and the rip-roaring band behind it, aren’t leaving the stage.

Josh Fudge
Written in the Stars

Courtesy of Joshua Hanford

If Josh Fudge’s climb to bedroom pop stardom were a direct-to-video movie, someone must’ve pressed the fast-forward button.

After a pandemic-altered high school graduation, Fudge took a gap year to work full-time at a computer warehouse while chiseling away at his 2021 debut album, Fun Times. The slick, groovy and nostalgia-hued project resonated with a young generation that felt reflected in its intimate, sentimental look back at a world disrupted and lost.

“I put myself in that record in a pretty vulnerable way,” Fudge said. “That record is like the end of my childhood in the time of the pandemic.” Fun Times garnered millions of views on YouTube, which made Fudge pause to think over his path forward.

Fudge intended to attend the songwriting program at Belmont University in fall 2021, but increased attention from record labels made him reconsider.

An inquiring manager spoke candidly. “You’d be an idiot if you went to Belmont right now,” Fudge recalled the industry representative saying. “You’re going to take 16 hours of distraction every semester, and you’re going for something you already have. You just need to work.” With that advice and a gut feeling, Fudge signed a record deal and decided to pursue his music full time.

One colorful, whirlwind year later, he embarked on a nationwide tour, opening for pop rock bastions Bastille and The Head and the Heart, and released his second album, Technicolor, which he called his “magnum opus.”

“I kind of lost my mind creating Technicolor,” Fudge said. “I put in an unbelievable amount of time into designing that record from a sonic standpoint.” Using his advance, he doubled down on his bedroom pop label by investing in a heap of new gear to build a home studio.

Fudge and his longtime friend, producer and keyboardist Logan Bruhn, tinkered with tantalizing new sounds, channeling emotions into euphoric synths, unabashed beats and dazzling vocal effects. “Fun Times feels like an old photograph, and Technicolor feels more like an HD poster,” he said.

The album strides into retro-futurism sonically and thematically; while electro-pop stunners like “Technicolor” and “What If We Fall In Love?” ecstatically embrace the possibilities of the present, other songs tread solemnly on past regrets. The juxtaposition is clear on “’98 Nissan,” where sputtering digital hi-hats and calm, cycling guitar meet Fudge ruminating on a lingering failed relationship. “Will I always feel this way?/Wonder if I’ll see the day that we just go back,” he sings.

As Fudge recorded Technicolor, his family moved to Germany while he stayed behind in Oklahoma City. He reassessed personal relationships and his own identity as an artist. “I was just going through so much change,” he said. “I was experiencing a dawn of a new day.”

Part of this dawn was bringing his homemade music to the stage for the first time, although Fudge didn’t find it a tough transition. “I’ve been street performing in the Plaza District since I was 8,” he said. “It wasn’t alien to me.” All the members of his live band, including Bruhn and childhood campmate and guitarist Tyler Sexton, have played with Fudge for years.

When Fudge had the chance to perform at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, he was buzzing. “I know how to sling down on some instruments, and I just get to go out and have fun,” he said. But the show was also an emotional culmination of his artistic growth.

In addition to signing his name among those of musical legends on the walls of the amphitheater’s tunnel, he got to perform his first concert for his parents, who flew from Germany to attend. “I had a moment of, ‘Everyone I love is here,’” he said. “My whole management team was there, my bandmates were people I’ve known (for years) … it felt like it was written in the stars a little bit.” Or written for a music biopic — except instead of nearing the end, Fudge has only just pressed play.

Eryn LeCroy
Giving Regards to Broadway

Courtesy of Kent Meister

Broadway singer Eryn LeCroy knew she wanted to be a performer when she saw Beauty and the Beast from the nosebleeds at the Texas State Fair as a young kid. “I kept the binoculars the whole time,” she said. “I wouldn’t share them with anyone in my family because I was fascinated and mesmerized by what was happening on stage.”

Her family moved to New Jersey, where she took private vocal lessons during middle and high school and participated in operas and community theater. It was her desire to practice both arts that led her back to the South Central states.

When LeCroy asked a vocal teacher about where she could participate in operas, musicals and plays, the teacher recommended her alma mater: Oklahoma City University. There, LeCroy found many friendships, esteemed teachers and countless opportunities to perform what she loves — she found a second home in Oklahoma City.

“I could just tell the community at the university and the community in OKC were strong, growing and thriving,” she said. “I was interested in being part of that.” LeCroy even sang the national anthem at three Thunder games.

Still, her dream beckoned her to New York. Following graduation, LeCroy joined a national tour of Jekyll & Hyde and realized her future was in musical theater. “After the first week of rehearsal, we had a day off, and I wasn’t ready for a day off because I was enjoying my time in the rehearsal rooms so much,” she said. She moved to the Big Apple with Broadway dreams, which she eventually attained.

In 2018, LeCroy landed a replacement role as Christine in The Phantom of the Opera — after a three-year audition process.“That was a dream of mine for a long time,” she said. She flourished in that dream until March 2020, when the pandemic abruptly ended it. “It was right before I went on to sing “Think of Me,” she recalled. “There was a stagehand standing next to me, and he said he got a notification on his phone. He said, ‘Eryn, Broadway’s shutting down today at 5 p.m.’”

Suddenly, LeCroy found herself with few avenues to share her passion. “This industry can be so hard, so challenging — I mean, you’re not guaranteed anything,” she said. “Faith has given me hope, in the midst of so much uncertainty, because I really believe God has called me to this … and I trust that he’s going to open the right doors for me when they’re supposed to be opened.”

After spending time with her family, LeCroy came back to Oklahoma City and sang in the choir at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, eventually deciding to stage a concert there. Four of her friends from New York traveled to perform sold-out three shows of Broadway tunes at the church, closing each concert with “Oklahoma!” from the musical of the same name. The troupe raised $36,000 for the church’s soup kitchen and El Sistema Oklahoma, an after-school music program.

Since then, LeCroy returned to the Broadway stage as Martha Jefferson in the 1776 revival, which closed in January. But she’s still drawn to Oklahoma — she continues holding concerts at St. Luke’s; she mentors a student from OCU each year and occasionally speaks at the school; and she sang “God Bless America” for the OKC Philharmonic’s Fourth of July concert with her powerful, operatic voice.

“Something that really excites me about Oklahoma City is all of the growth in the city,” LeCroy said. “I’m seeing growth in the arts; I’m seeing growth in the food scene — just all over the place.” As OKC blooms into a vibrant arts hub, LeCroy’s theatrical success represents the city’s expanding cultural footprint. Besides wanting to give back for what the city offered her, she just wants to continue being a part of the community.

“It feels like a second family to me,” LeCroy said. “Whenever I go back to Oklahoma City, I feel like I’m going home.”

Finite Galaxy
Pure Cosmic Connection

Courtesy of Qazi Islam

When two galaxies collide in space, it’s less planetary destruction and more the seamless merging of two astronomical forces — like two flocks of birds becoming one. The rappers who make up Finite Galaxy, Sun Deep and Flo St8, were at different points in their musical journeys when they met. But their similar wavelengths have produced hefty, poetic bilingual rap blended with expansive sample-based beats that display a relentless quest for refinement and enlightenment.

Sun Deep didn’t even listen to hip-hop until 2018. Born in India and living in Oklahoma City since 2013, he was more interested in prog rock until his then-girlfriend, now-wife, took him to see The Roots. He was hooked. His first attempts at crafting beats were less than stellar, but he kept producing and sending instrumentals to rappers and other producers.

In late 2020, Flo St8 met Sun Deep during a weekly studio session with Oklahoman rapper Thomas Who?, where they realized they shared tastes in beats and aspirations in music. Flo St8 had been rapping for close to a decade; he sharpened his skills as part of a rap collective, where they all lived and recorded together. “It’s a really powerful thing when you’re around a lot of rappers because you pick up different things from different rappers that actually help you become better,” Flo St8 said.

He had just returned from a musical hiatus when Sun Deep pulled him back in. They both desired to dig into deeper ideas with their music, and the universe resonated with them both in terms of scope and significance.

For Flo St8, it represents the grand, uncontrollable and sometimes dangerous beauty that life is. Sun Deep partly attributes his love of space to his day job as a physicist, but he also finds connection in its utter vastness. “It can be very daunting to look at the universe and how big it is, and we’re just wanting to shrink it,” he said. “What’s truly your universe is the people around you.”

This idea inspired their name Finite Galaxy, which came from the title of the first track they created. It was one of Sun Deep’s first times rapping on a song; he decided to rap in Hindi as it felt more natural and spoke to his experience as a third culture kid having lived in both India and the United States.

He hopes his reflections on his past personal struggles help listeners with their own. “I want to shine a light on that dark place in my life and show people, ‘Hey, you’re not alone,’” he said.

Finite Galaxy deals in many shades of hip-hop to achieve the same emotional weight as its lyrics. Hard-hitting songs like “Awake” growl confidence with booming 808 bass and snapping drums. The group’s latest single, “You Are the One,” fuses a lulling plucked bassline and reverbed sitar into a lo-fi slow jam celebrating the celestial power of love.

As the two play more shows, they’ve found other ways to switch up their sound, like rapping with only a keyboard as accompaniment for a Sofar Sounds show in March. An NPR Tiny Desk submission had them bring out an eight-piece band, including strings, drums, French horn and harp. Finite Galaxy plans to add an Indian percussionist to the ensemble for its headlining set at Norman Music Festival.

“It makes you kind of humble that someone who raps in Hindi is given so much love in a place like Oklahoma,” Sun Deep said. “Even though nobody understands what I’m talking about most of the time, except when they check out my lyrics, they just knew the energy was good and we’re talking about some real stuff.”

As Finite Galaxy experiments with its sonic palette — their next songs will give the group’s own spin on lo-fi trap — their altruistic aims, and their philosophical way of attaining them, will keep their star system spinning.

Nia Moné
Rings and Feelings

Courtesy of KeepItMoving Pictures

Nia Moné always felt aligned with Saturn, even before she knew it was her sign’s ruling planet. Beyond loving the celestial body’s beauty, she said she sometimes relates to its coldness, which is tied to Saturn’s goal-oriented, ambitious nature. Moné has ambitions, but instead of being distant, the singer radiates a positive energy that invites collaborators, friends, veterans and newcomers within Oklahoma City’s music scene.

Her 2022 debut EP, Dysphoria, dawned from a point in Moné’s life when she didn’t have solid support. “I was in a kind of toxic relationship at the time, unfortunately, and they didn’t want me doing music,” she said. Although she would occasionally post covers on Soundcloud, Moné put music on the back burner.

A serious car accident involving her and her partner — both were unharmed — provided clarity and an impetus for Moné to pursue her passion. “That was the universe telling me, ‘The path you’re on is not right,’” she said. She left the relationship and started writing songs about heartbreak and the forming and dissolving of connections, which became the basis of Dysphoria.

The EP pulls together musing R&B, assured rap cadences and cosmic textures into a smooth, swirling galaxy of sound. The spellbinding “Saturn” depicts Moné falling out with her partner, her silky voice coupled to an intoxicating groove, sparkling electric piano and a riveting guest verse from Original Flow. “Late At Night” woozily swims through a nocturnal fog of doubt and allure, with Spunk Adam’s weaving saxophone echoing Moné’s floating, confessional vocals.

“I feel like there’s always a beautiful way to put something, even when you’re saying bad news,” she said. “I don’t ever want to talk about something I don’t actually feel. Keeping that genuineness and vulnerability in music is what draws people to it.”

Moné also keeps that authenticity by creating her own otherworldly visuals. She directed the hypnotic, moody music video for “Late At Night,” and she’s staged her own idea of a Saturnian landscape for her live shows, including giant pink roses she built from sturdy construction paper to honor her grandmother.

Although she’s self-reliant, Moné hasn’t been alone in her artistic journey. She went to every show she could when she started making music. “I’d get there early, while the artists are setting up, and ask them if they need any help,” she said. “It was a chance for me to get the artist’s insight and make my face known in a place I’m not familiar (with).”

Moné met many Oklahoma City music stalwarts this way, such as DezzGotSteeze, Stefani Heller and Original Flow, who booked Moné for her first show. She worked on the staff at Tower Theatre, who then surprised her with the chance to be the first performer at Beer City Music Hall’s opening show. “That was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever gotten to do,” Moné said.

Moné appreciates the space the OKC music scene gave her, and she returns the favor to other emerging artists by organizing Nights of NeoSoul, a monthly showcase at Ponyboy. The concerts give newcomers a stage to perform, and Moné teaches them what to expect professionally when booking and playing a gig, such as accommodations and signing paperwork.

“It just seemed right to share what I’ve been able to experience with other people that I think are just as talented as I am, but they just didn’t have the connection to get there,” she said.

Considering the support she’s given and received, Moné has gravitated toward positivity, which has coincided with her writing upbeat dance music. “I was sick of being sad, yo!” she said. “I’m not hurt anymore; it’s time for us to get up and be happy and move around.” Moné’s set to headline this year’s Norman Music Festival, and she plans to hire dancers and turn the show into a party. With this new energy, expect more people to be pulled into Moné’s orbit.

Hazy Shades of Memory

Courtesy of Lauren Smith

Stepmom inhabits a hypnagogic and warily delusive world — a mirage of a childhood bedroom. Fuzzy TVs and string lights glimmer next to floral tablecloths and doll heads. The walls, lamps, nightstand, guitar, drums and the band members’ jumpsuits are shades of pink. For all the visual consistency of the band, Stepmom’s sound is invariably varied, splintering into sonic realms on each song with their own emotional centers.

For example, “Scary Stuff,” the opener to the band’s self-titled 2020 album, rumbles with uptempo fuzzy guitar and bouncy synth, then scatters into a slow-moving sea of bubbles backdropped with harp. Lead singer Lindsey Cox’s assured voice turns from mostly monotone to soaring, rendering the joys and troubles that come with finding love.

“I just love playing with contrasts in general,” Cox said. “I love when a song has a really, really intimate quiet part and then it just slams you in the face with a wall of fuzz. I like keeping people on their toes.”

Cox is the mind behind Stepmom; she’s the band’s lead singer, lead guitarist, main songwriter and manager. When her band The So Help Me’s broke up, Cox wanted to head her own project. “I was very dead-set on finding female performers and just having that representation in the music scene,” she said. Cox met keyboardist and violinist Danielle Szabo while performing together for a Factory Obscura immersive play. From there, the band gradually coalesced into its current lineup by adding bassist and cellist Cheyenne McCoy, then drummer Amie Cotter two years later.

The ability of Cox’s bandmates to play string instruments pushed Stepmom’s initial sound orchestral. Three-part harmonies also add an ethereal edge to the static-y soundscape, which is then reinforced by their surreal bedroom stage props.

“I almost feel like I started Stepmom to put out this visual world that has been in my brain,” Cox said. The haziness present in the band’s aesthetics and music stems from Cox’s perception of memories being imperfect and unstable. “In a way, that’s recreating my preteen bedroom where a lot of the trauma in my childhood took place, and so I’m trying to recall that memory.”

Much of Stepmom’s songs contend with social issues, such as the harmful beauty standards imposed on women at a young age. The poisonous effects of patriarchy permeate the band’s lyrical imagery via spiders, vampires and carbon monoxide, but the pain is made more concrete through personal stories of frustration and resistance.

“Anytime you’re talking about something you’re going through individually, it ends up being something universal — because someone out there is also experiencing the same thing,” Cox said.

Stepmom’s latest single, “Nikki,” narrates a dystopian future marred by pervasive social media and an inescapable digital domain. The song explodes into a frantic, garage-rock fervor, traced with distorted vocal harmonies and brash drums that rebound and crash again.

“Weird pedal effects are always something I’m striving for,” Cox said. “Just trying to be different and always pushing myself to come up with a new sound.”

Keyboardist and violinist Szabo recently left the band to focus on other life goals, and Cox is taking the lineup change to switch up Stepmom’s sound to heavier garage rock. She’s also considering handing off a few managerial duties to a local company so she can focus on the creative side.

“Everything is against you to be creative,” Cox said. “It’s just a constant fight to reclaim my creative energy.” But she channels that feeling into a vibrant, mythical room with an open door.