Kian Stevens-Winston of my new favorite band, Sugar Pit.

I Finally Found a ‘TikTok Band’ I Actually Like!

"I'm working at my job, yeah that's right, I'm working at my job..."

When I was younger, my music snobbery was more or less the product of being an angry young woman with pretentious sensibilities. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve actually tried having a more tempered perspective regarding new music, and I gotta say … my patience is wearing thin in this new age of immediacy and quantity over quality. A lot of new music is being specifically designed for a “TikTok mindset,” prioritizing how easily it can be used on the app, or capitalizing on popular social discussions of the moment. The result is a slew of songs and artists that are—and forgive me if I sound mean—utterly toothless.

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This is why I’ve been so utterly delighted to have found Sugar Pit: a band with so much bite to them, they make me feel like I’m a kid again, ready to go nuts in a pit. I discovered them when one of their latest releases started to make waves on Instagram, having seemingly blown up overnight because of a public stunt they did for a music video:

While many took issue with the overall disruption of these workers’ workflow in this video, others found it to be a pretty ballsy examination of how robotic our day-to-day lives can be. Where I stand is that this is certainly a way to get peoples’ attention, and ultimately, I’m glad it did, because I can’t get enough of Sugar Pit’s music these days.

The band began as a one-man project under Kian Stevens-Winston, a musician from Illinois who eventually matriculated to the West Coast. Now, Sugar Pit is a full band playing shows in LA, and like other musicians trying to “make it” via the social media format, they’ve been releasing a handful of singles over the last few months and advertising them constantly. With the traction they’ve been getting, this will likely culminate in a full album pretty soon.

But unlike other “TikTok bands,” which tend to be the same iteration of the same sort of sound (lots of folk, post-punk, and country-adjacent groups out there that largely sound the same and only talk about the same sorts of things), Sugar Pit is impressing me so much because they sound like bands I grew up listening to. In other words, they sound like a band that’s less concerned with gaining as many followers as possible, and more like a band that wants to constantly evolve and experiment with their sound.

And that sound is already so tight, clever, and fun, it just makes me want to dance every time I put them on. If I had to describe it, it’d be like 90s Beck mixed with other great artists. For instance, this song sounds like Beck mixed with Parquet Courts, and a little bit of Pavement:

Kian’s musical sensibilities are just wild to me. He’s got a real ear for production, and the lyrics he writes are incredibly fun and clever. Even some of his earlier songs, when Sugar Pit was just him doing everything, reflect this, including one of my recent favorites, “Idle Time”:

It gives me a lot of joy and hope for the state of music that there are still artists out there who are holding their own, and not sacrificing authenticity for clout. That said, Sugar Pit certainly isn’t the only group doing this—for instance, folk artist Odie Leigh has been making waves on social media, and I love their sound immensely.

But I find Sugar Pit to be especially exciting because they label themselves as a punk/grunge/garage-rock sort of band, and honestly, most of the TikTokky artists I’ve seen who try to similarly label themselves lack any sort of bite whatsoever. They fall into what I used to call the “Mac Demarco effect”: when a bunch of aspiring musicians rely too hard on a specific sound without putting any of their own original touches or spins on it (I called it this because, when Mac blew up when I was a teenager, it felt like everyone and their mother tried to recreate his whole “vibe,” which resulted in an onslaught of boring, uninspired music).

Sugar Pit, though? They’re fun as hell. And I’m excited to see what they do next.

(Featured Image: Sugar Pit)

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Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).