5 Desert Rock Bands You Need to Know

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

The desert has always been a hotbed of rock music, and these five bands are leading the pack. If you’re into hard-hitting riffs and catchy melodies, you need to check them out.


Kyuss was an American rock band, formed in Palm Desert, California, in 1987 by Josh Homme (guitar), John Garcia (vocals), Brant Bjork (drums) and Chris Cockrell (bass). The band’s heavy, distorted sound has been influential to many genres of rock music. Kyuss’ prominence preceded the rise of the desert rock movement; after the band’s demise in 1995, various new bands were influenced by Kyuss, including Queens of the Stone Age and Fu Manchu.

Palm Desert scene
In 1986, Josh Homme founded a punk rock band called Katzenjammer with Nick Oliveri. In 1987, they recruited Brant Bjork to play drums and Alan McMahon to play bass. In 1988, Homme traded Oliveri to another local band, Volume 10 for Scott Reeder; soon after, Cockrell join Katzenjammer as bassist.

The group became known as Sons of Kyuss until late 1989 when Bjork suggested the name Kyuss. Kyuss is homonymous with a genus of southern Hemisphere small lizards also known as bluetongue skinks.

Kyuss first attracted attention with their second album Blues for the Red Sun (1992). Radio airplay on college radio station KXLU and MTV exposure from “Welcome to Sky Valley” helped propel Blues for the Red Sun to commercial success. The follow-up album Welcome to Sky Valley sold 70,000 copies in America.

Queens of the Stone Age

Queens of the Stone Age is an American rock band formed in 1996 in Palm Desert, California. The band’s line-up includes founder Josh Homme (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Troy Van Leeuwen (guitar, lap steel, keyboard, percussion, backing vocals), Michael Shuman (bass guitar, backing vocals), Dean Fertita (keyboards, guitar, percussion, backing vocals), and Jon Theodore (drums).

The band’s sound has since been described as a combination of stoner rock, hard rock and heavy metal. They released their self-titled debut album in 1998 followed by “…Like Clockwork” in 2013. Their seventh album “Villains” was released in 2017.

Fu Manchu

Fu Manchu is a Southern California desert rock band that has been around since the early 1990s. The band’s sound is a blend of stoner rock, hard rock, and punk rock, and their songs often deal with themes of sci-fi and B-movies. Fu Manchu has released twelve studio albums, with their most recent, Clone of the Universe, coming out in 2018.


Unida was formed in the California desert in the early 1990s by John Garcia, Arthur Seay, and Brant Bjork. Unida’s sound has been described as “desert rock” or “stoner rock”, characterized by slow tempos, heavy guitars, and a groove-oriented approach to songwriting. The band’s debut album, El Coyote (1999), was recorded with producer Chris Goss and released to critical acclaim. Unida has since released two more studio albums, Coping with the Urban Coyote (2001) and Playa del Rock (2006).

The Dwarves

The Dwarves are an American punk rock band formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1986. The band’s original lineup included Blag Dahlia on vocals, He Who Can Not Be Named on guitar, Nate Haste on bass, and Dirk Thorpe on drums. The Dwarves have released ten studio albums, three live albums, and four compilations.

The Dwarves are known for their provocative lyrics and stage antics, which often include nudity and destruction of property. The band has been accused of promoting fascism and racism, despite their insistence that they are anti-racist and anti-fascist. In 2017, the band was banned from performing in Australia after a series of onstage incidents.

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