Meet the finalists of Vans Musicians Wanted 2021 competition

The acts will perform in a global livestream later this month 

Vans has announced the finalists for the 2021 edition of its Musicians Wanted competition, which will see one winner support Yungblud next year.

More than 30,000 submissions were received for the contest, with only 15 rising acts able to advance from each region.

Those artists will now take part in a global livestream concert on September 22, where judges including rapper Denzel Curry, pop star and Grammy-nominated songwriter Julia Michaels, 88rising founder Sean Miyashiro and Yungblud himself will select one ultimate winner. The victor will receive Vans product, Kramer gear, global music distribution, and Spotify and Apple Music playlisting, as well as a slot supporting Yungblud.

NME caught up with the five European finalists to learn more about them ahead of the livestream.

Kenya Grace (England)

Kenya Grace
Kenya Grace CREDIT: Kenya Grace

How would you sum up the ethos behind your music? 

“The ethos behind my music is DIY, female empowerment, confidence and a little bit of attitude. I would describe my music as that part of the night when you’re at an ‘afters’ and the party is fading and everyone’s coming down but the beats still going and even though everything’s hazy it’s still a vibe.”

Why should people spend time with your music? 

“I think people should spend time with my music so they can romanticise their lives and connect with something. Hopefully my music inspires people to DIY and start producing & creating songs!”

What are your goals as a musician? 

“My goals as a musician is to keep creating and work with as many talented people as possible, which I have missed so much during lockdown and of course: go on tour – how amazing would that be!”

What are the key messages you want people to take from your songs? 

“I want people to feel empowered when they listen to my songs. I think feeling empowered doesn’t just come from shouting loudly but also showing vulnerability & emotion. Not only this but I also want people to feel inspired to create music and art as that really is the most important thing.”

What would it mean to you to win Vans Musicians Wanted? 

“It would be absolutely incredible to win! Even just being a part of the Top Five has been such a crazy experience and I’m so grateful. It’s mind-blowing that such amazing judges are going to hear my songs.”

Altered Myths (Wales)

Altered Myths
Altered Myths CREDIT: Altered Myths

How would you sum up the ethos behind your music? 

“Our ethos is about alteration, expression and songs that make you feel alive. We believe in music that brings out the big emotions: anger, joy, unity, rage, rebellion. We’ve played in bands for 20 years – seen the sublime and the desolate. Now we play as a two-piece with one pulse, pushing each other to fill the music scene with what we think is missing: manic live shows, crowd participation and devotion, and huge tracks that rewire your brain.”

Why should people spend time with your music? 

“To be ALTERED. When you come to an Altered Myths ‘Sighting’ you don’t just watch. You are part of the band when you stomp, scream, dress in our colours or play the drums we leave in the crowd. Everyone who supports us is part of Altered Myths. Even those who hate us are part of our mythology – it inspires us to achieve more.”

What are your goals as a musician? 

“We want to alter the way people experience music. Bring riffs and singalongs back to the mainstream. Let crowds feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Produce, collaborate and create spaces where anything goes.”

What are the key messages you want people to take from your songs? 

“Enjoy yourself. Express yourself. Alter yourself. Don’t let anybody stop you.”

What would it mean to you to win Vans Musicians Wanted? 

“It would be recognition of the work we have done to carve out an image, space and sound that is truly our own. To know that we condensed everything we stand for into two tracks and the judges felt our belief, passion and determination – that would launch us to our next level.”

Lemonade Shoelace (Northern Ireland)

Lemonade Shoelace
Lemonade Shoelace CREDIT: Lemonade Shoelace

How would you sum up the ethos behind your music? 

“‘Space, time, rhythm, rhyme & whatever’s on my mind’ is a pretty good way of summing it up! I think of my writing process as waking up from an overslept dream and not knowing where you are or what happened, but somehow you’re back in your own mind again in a much more confused state. A lot of my lyrics arrive in a daydream, usually because I have a recurring melody stuck in my head all day that I can’t get rid of. There’s a lot of introspection in there and I try to use my imagination to explore my thoughts and feelings.”

Why should people spend time with your music? 

“If my music makes you happy, makes you wanna dance or forms some sort of a connection then that’s more of an excuse to spend time with it! I spend a good amount of time making it so hopefully people find a minute to have a listen to what I’ve been cooking up for the past few years.”

What are your goals as a musician? 

“My goal as a musician is to make groovy tunes that connect with people. I like to put positive messages into the lyrics and find the best melodies to accompany them, and create the coolest sounds with a psychedelic spin on everything I make. I want to work with other producers and musicians in varying genres, and I’d love to have a big studio of my own someday.”

What are the key messages you want people to take from your songs? 

“Be kind to your mind, your thoughts create your reality so use them to create the best life for yourself. A positive mental attitude will make any bad situation a good one. Also, look at the stars more. Sometimes we focus too much on what’s in front of us and forget to look at the bigger picture. We are tiny ants flying around space on a crusty ball constantly arguing with each other. We gotta chill, connect with one another and realise we are on this journey together.”

What would it mean to you to win Vans Musicians Wanted? 

“To win Vans Musicians Wanted would mean the absolute world to me! I’ve been a skateboarder for over 10 years, with my first skate shoes being Vans. I feel like I’ve won already by just being selected as a finalist, which I never thought would happen. It’s great to see recognition for my hard work; I produce everything myself and I’m so happy people are enjoying my output. The grand prize of playing live at House of Vans would be a dream! I skated the park in London years ago and it’s safe to say I never thought I would see an opportunity like this come my way. It would be amazing to share the stage with Yungblud too, he’s a super cool dude!”

p-i (France)

p-i
p-i CREDIT: p-i

How would you sum up the ethos behind your music? 

“Borderless and instinctive. Always try to connect to new vibrations.”

Why should people spend time with your music? 

“One can never have enough new music. Or maybe just because they haven’t listened to them yet.”

What are your goals as a musician? 

“Make sounds that could inspire certain people. The enjoyment of creation.”

What are the key messages you want people to take from your songs? 

“Words could be sceptical in a cioranian way but the music itself is always sincere and transcendental. Never too late to step out of the spectacle built with fragmentary information.”

What would it mean to you to win Vans Musicians Wanted? 

“TOP-TIER EXPERIENCE OF THE YEAR!!”

KY’ORION (England)

KY’ORION
KY’ORION CREDIT: KY’ORION

How would you sum up the ethos behind your music? 

“My music ethos is to be as authentic as I can in all ways, telling my story so others can relate and feel a deeper connection with it. Speaking to each other about our most vulnerable moments and how we overcame them can be the thing that helps people out of any dark times that they might be experiencing or helps people embrace and enjoy their good times even more. That’s what my music does.”

Why should people spend time with your music? 

“Spending time with my music will either turn you up or keep you calm… depending what song you pick haha.  My music gives you a look at and deeper understanding of yourself, the people around you in the world, and of course, me. As well as setting the party vibe when needed, or giving you something to listen to while on your journeys. I’m able to speak with you in whatever setting you choose, whenever you choose to listen.”

What are your goals as a musician? 

“My main goals as a musician are to, 1. make it into the Human History Books, like, Michael Jackson, Prince, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder,  Tupac, Nipsey Hussle,  Mohammad Ali,  Malcolm X, and other great legendary people that have lived throughout time, where my music outlasts my lifetime. Legacy.

“2. Use my music platform to create something monumental that outlast my lifetime and looks after the generations after me, as well as it being a step in human history towards uniting my people around the world.

“3. Have fun doin’ it, stay lit & stay drippin’ on ‘em, you get me?  It’s about staying healthy, travelling the world and spreading the blessings.”

What are the key messages you want people to take from your songs? 

“If there’s one thing people should take from my songs, it’s be 100 per cent yourself, and anything that you like that isn’t classed as ‘cool’…make it cool! That’s real drip. Do what you want but keep yourself in check, don’t slip. That’s some game for you haha.”

What would it mean to you to win Vans Musicians Wanted? 

“Winning Vans Musicians Wanted is the opportunity I’ve been hoping for to be able to get my music and face onto the world stage. With 11 years of disciplined independent grinding in the music industry, I don’t take opportunities lightly…at all! This kickstart to my music career will let me shine and show the world who I am, changing my life and trajectory forever. I’ve been putting on my own shows, performing and building my core fanbase from day one. This is my chance to prove myself to the judges and the world that I’m next up and the one to look out for, not just in Birmingham or UK, but in the game!

“Me winning this means more than me winning, it means my team of supporters that have been with me for years win, it means my city wins, it means all underground artists that’ve been working hard for years that see me winning will be revitalised and know that quitting isn’t an option… that’s a win! Winning means I can now shed light on the people around me who also do great things and spread the blessing even more. I’m grateful to have made it to the finals, however winning is why I entered, because I know what I will do with the opportunity.  Music is my life. That’s how much I want this.”

The finalists from the Americas include the US’ PYT and TheBe$tJR, Brazil’s Joy Sales, Mexico’s Mare Advertencia and Canada’s Diamond Café. The top five from the Asia-Pacific region are Korea’s Q The Trumpet, Malaysia’s Nathanie, Singapore’s Yishun Panik, Australia’s Squid The Kid and Indonesia’s Kinder Bloomen.

Tune into the global livestream concert on September 22 and learn more about each finalist via the Vans Musicians Wanted website.

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