At its best, music is one of the most affecting, electrifying forms of creative expression—especially when performed live. For the past 50 years, Vans has proudly stood out in the realm of popular culture as a champion of creative expression. Vans has stayed faithful to its history as a bastion of pop culture and creative freedom through the launch of the Share the Stage competition, in which 10 rising artists were selected from the United States and Canada to vie for a slot as ScHoolboy Q’s personally-chosen opening at House of Vans Chicago on September 14.
The artists competing in Share the Stage were chosen from the United States and Canada submissions to the Sessions program, an initiative from House of Vans to showcase emerging local talent via performances held at assorted Vans locations throughout the year. They include: Alfred Banks, Insecure Alex, Armstrong Ransome, Monarchy Over Monday, Black Dave, Tillie, Girl Friday, Bambi Bandz, Willsteezalot and Port Juvee. All 10 artists are included on the Share the Stage playlist, which is available on Spotify, but this is an opportunity to learn more about each of them ahead of the winner being selected.
Armstrong Ransome, previously known as BLAX, first received a behind-the-scenes look at music the industry in 2010 when he moved to New York City to learn about its business side. That added perspective and exposure to artists aided him greatly upon his foray into the creative side. Consistently thoughtful and reflective lyrics have gotten him this far; he hopes Share the Stage will get him to the next plateau.
The New Orleans rapper’s most recent album, The Beautiful, was inspired by his brother’s struggle with mental illness and suicide and carefully addresses the relationship between schizophrenia and identity. The Beautiful has garnered national attention for addressing mental health, showing Banks’ reach extends well beyond the music community.
Hailing from Queens, New York, Bambi Bandz’s path to hip-hop began when she picked up a pen at the age of three. She entered kindergarten as the lone student in her class who knew how to read and write, and her strong, early grasp of prose soon blossomed into a love of poetry. That eventually developed into a passion for music, ultimately leading to her to pursuing hip-hop. After working her way through the local club and lounge scene, Bambi Bandz aims to use her lyrical precision to rise above all hardships and setbacks and shine on her biggest stage yet.
It’s pretty much impossible to discuss New York City rapper Black Dave’s art without mentioning skateboarding. The videos for songs like “On Da Map” and “To Da Grave” are heavy with skate footage, capturing the essence of New York City skate culture. That same edge and verve flow throughout Black Dave’s music.
Born into a musical climate with rapidly-disappearing genre lines, the Los Angeles-based Girl Friday proudly exists as a band that is not easy to label. All four members provide vocals, with Vera Allen on lead guitar, Sierra Scott on guitar, Libby Hsieh on bass and Virginia Pettis on drums. Girl Friday takes pride in being difficult to categorize, drawing inspiration from ‘70s surf rock to witchcraft and everything in between.
Don’t be fooled by Insecure Alex’s name—they have much to be proud of. The Pomona, California band, which includes lead vocalist Mark Vasquez, guitarist Alex Endonino, drummer Francis Galluppi, Casey Guldberg on the bass and Brett Woods on the keys, mixes rich 1960s soul with the semi-traditional indie rock heard throughout their debut EP, Changes. If nothing else, Insecure Alex is self-aware in its bridging the past with the present.
Monarchy Over Monday
Chicago’s own Monarchy Over Monday is a four-piece pop punk outfit that packs a rousing burst of youth. The band was founded in 2016 by drummer Jose Ceniceros and guitarist Jacob Padilla Caldero, with vocalist and guitarist Ryan Wilder and bassist Daniel Jablo completing the group in 2017 and 2018, respectively. As evidence by the ripe edge of their debut album, I’ll Talk To You, Monarchy Over Monday is eager for the chance to show their hometown crowd that adolescence shouldn’t be underestimated.
The five-piece band from Calgary, Canada blends listless punk with a rainy day post-punk feel, plus a jam band aesthetic despite their obvious appreciation for details. Their next album, Motion Control, is due out next year and performing at Share the Stage would be the perfect precursor.
Atlanta singer/songwriter doesn’t aspire to wear the normal pop star crown. Whether it’s a cover or carving out her own niche in pop through singles like “pink + blue” and “Save Yourself,” the multi-talented Tillie is determined to win the spotlight on her terms—even when putting her own spin on the classics.
willsteezalot began making music in 7th grade, but didn’t get comfortable with sharing it with the public until high school. Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, the rapper originally dreamed of being a novelist, but the creative freedom he found in music led to him exploring hip-hop, finding his niche and buckling down. His smile like you mean it EP is an entrancing blend of downtempo hip-hop with the pensive lyrics willsteezalot hopes will earn him the audience that no novel could.