5 Rising Inland Empire-Based Bands to Watch

The local music scene has something for everyone, whether you’re a fan of metal, surf or something in between

Besides being the unofficial warehouse capital of the country, the Inland Empire is also known for its underground band-driven music scene that has spawned famous acts such as Queens of the Stone Age and The Mountain Goats. These two artists reflect the diverse musical landscape that the IE has to offer, from folk to garage rock, and every nitty-gritty sub genre in between. Here are five up-and-coming local bands to watch before their inevitable boom into the mainstream.

Foolish Johns

Is garage blues a genre? If it wasn’t before, then Foolish Johns have invented and perfected its formula. Based in Corona, Foolish Johns have mastered a professional yet raw studio sound that they describe as “true blue Americana.” While their releases are available on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, Foolish Johns are best known within the local music scene for their whimsical stage presence during live shows. The band members have even created their own stage personas for themselves, taking on the names Little John, Big John and Long John.

Lux Montes, 25, journalism major, is one of the many regulars that you’ll find at a Foolish Johns backyard show.

“The shows are amazing. They’re electric. They really know how to get the audience out of their comfort zone … It ends up being a culmination of everything a backyard show is about, just that sense of community,” Montes said. Equal amounts jam band and Jack White, Foolish Johns is the quintessential act to watch live if you’re in the area.


QUITAPENAS is a San Bernardino-based Latin band that makes groovy psychedelic cumbia tunes that you could dance along to all night. The band has grown traction within the IE’s music scene, and performed at Pomona’s Tropicalia festival last weekend on day one, alongside Chicano music scene mainstays Los Tigres del Norte and Natalia Lafourcade. Their feel-good sound is inspired by the music of Latin America in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, while still incorporating their own SoCal sound. With nearly 40,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, QUITAPENAS is already making its way into earbuds all around, with fanbases of regular listeners in Los Angeles, New York City and Santiago, Chile. Check them out now to claim your membership as a card-carrying OG fan!

Birote the Musical

Hailing from San Dimas, Birote the Musical is just as theatrical and eclectic as their name suggests. They take the angsty rap style popularized by Sacramento-based artist Hobo Johnson, but execute it about a thousand times better. Their sound ranges from folk rock in “Graduation Day” to straight-up avant-grade in “Loser” – it’s all over the place in the best way possible. Each of their songs is like a patchwork quilt – thrown together with a little bit of everything and a whole lot of love – essentially, what you want to go home to after an exhausting day. If you’re tired of listening to the same top 40 hits or even a one-note playlist, Birote the Musical is the perfect cure for the common case of boredom.


I remember in my sophomore year French class, there was a cool guy with long hair who, every Friday without doubt, would wear his little uniform of high-waisted jeans, Converse hi-tops and his worn-out Hexed band tee. One day, I finally asked him what Hexed was, and he sent me a link to the Pomona-based band’s Bandcamp, where I discovered their unique psych punk music.

On the surface, Hexed reminded me of classic “skate boy” music, but I’ve since come to appreciate the complex guitar riffs, manic drumming and baselines that sounds like they are coming to chase me. On their latest single, “Ivory,” which was released on Halloween, Hexed tapped into their screamo roots, incorporating haunting imagery in lines such as “bodies all around” and “the underlying sentiment is that we’re all going down.” For fans of thrasher groups like Suicidal Tendencies, yet can still get down to a melodic surf rock riff, Hexed is the local band for you.

Daydream Time Machine

Daydream Time Machine takes elements from surf rock, psychedelic rock and dream pop, yet combines them in a way that is anything but generic. Their lazy ’60s-esque drumming and twangy, distorted guitar make the dream soundtrack to a slow and sunny day, the perfect accompaniment to this strange November heat we’re experiencing.

With lyrics like “Everytime we sway too far away from all the things we’d like to be / Time will find us wandering down a lonely street between you and me” from their most popular hit to date, “Hidden Love,” Daydream Time Machine echoes the universal feelings of first love, both uncomplicated and bittersweet. Through their retro style that emulates California’s sunshine surf culture, the band speaks to those who reminisce about a time they never lived through.