As many indie kids (and you, since you’re reading this) do, I derive much of my personality from music, Doc Martens, candles, and possibly most importantly, coffee shops. A good, scathing hot latte with some ridiculous alternative milk (almond, oat, cashew, vanilla soy, you name it) can provide daily serotonin rushes for myself and all those other sad college kids studying every hour of the week. Lucky for us, Nashville is home to a great collection of coffee shops for a quick cup of joe, a long study session, or even a little socially distanced lunch date. Each coffee shop has a distinctly different vibe along with a killer cafe playlist.
I was recently inspired by my many hours spent in coffee shops listening to these curated playlists. I love when the music being played over the stereo perfectly matches the energy of the coffee shop: an upbeat rock tune plays as people bustle around (6 feet apart, of course), or an acoustic folk song comes on as a fedora-wearing barista leans against the counter, waiting for their shift to finally end. So today, I am giving you a list of a bunch of coffee shops in Nashville at which I like to chill, and what indie artists would be the face of that coffee shop based on their music’s sound and their overall vibe!
Barista Parlor Golden Sound — Car Seat Headrest
Barista Parlor, located in the Gulch, is a very aesthetically pleasing joint with ginormous tables and an open garage door that lets in sunlight to brighten up those often gloomy study vibes. A giant selection of records lines the wall by the entryway. Barista Parlor is a haven for all guys who wear monochrome outfits complete with beanies, khakis, and Vans. Maybe that’s why the drinks are criminally expensive.
At any rate, Car Seat Headrest has the edgy, angsty yet pretty vibe that is Barista Parlor. I feel like all of the baristas at Barista Parlor spend their off-time making Car Seat Headrest-esque music in a garage with leather couches and colored lights, so maybe that’s why this band in particular came to mind. Barista Parlor is very much an indie joint that maybe thinks it’s a bit too cool for school—a little bit like Car Seat Headrest, dare I say—but the vibes are still top tier.
Frothy Monkey The Nations — Weyes Blood
Frothy Monkey in The Nations opened just a few years ago and is a beautiful, big space for working. With very long tables, similar to Barista Parlor, as well as some nice high tops and bar tables, Frothy Monkey The Nations has a fresh presence that’s great for hunkering down to get stuff done. Except for during lunch rushes; they’ve got a great food menu, but it can get a bit loud and busy, potentially interrupting your study sesh. Be sure to keep that in mind!
When I was working there recently, “Suddenly” by Drugdealer and Weyes Blood began playing. Weyes Blood’s warm and airy voice over the clean keys in the song’s intro, followed by the boppy chorus featuring some horns, fit the energy of Frothy Monkey perfectly. Like Weyes Blood in “Suddenly”, Frothy Monkey is the place that can be both an energetic fun joint and a mellow focus-spot, depending on what you need. Plus, Frothy Monkey is a relatively new joint, and Weyes Blood is on the rise right now, very much due to their killer 2019 album Titanic Rising.
Osa Roasters — Choker
Osa Roasters is a bit of an anomaly in that there is no actual “coffee shop” in which to study. It’s more like a stand on the corner of Edgehill Avenue. However, I am including it because I live nearby and love to pop over for a nice walk and a quick drink (and this is my list, after all). Osa Roasters is recognizable for its adorable bear logo. Osa is the perfect place to take a quick study break and get some fresh air (and caffeine).
An artist that feels reminiscent of Osa Roasters is up-and-coming R&B musician Choker. Choker is super fresh in his approach to music in terms of song structure. Plus, his vocals are basically the equivalent of a shot of espresso: smooth and strong. Choker also has a very relaxing energy when he sings, which fits the chill and casual atmosphere of Osa Roasters.
Poindexter Coffee – Clairo
Poindexter is located inside the Graduate Hotel on West End. Many of you may know the Graduate from their bajillion couches and the connected rooftop restaurant that’s pretty much completely pink. As in, literally everything is pink. The Graduate is certainly an, uh, extra location, and Poindexter fits the bill. But the simultaneously over-the-top and basic atmosphere is a great place to meet friends to work and grab a tasty iced Cuban.
In the indie world, no one better fits the description of captivating, trendy, and maybe a little basic than Clairo. She, of course, blew up with “Pretty Girl” and that song feels just like the vibe at Poindexter. Clairo has a gift for making catchy-ass songs that tread the line of indie and lo-fi pop, making her appeal to a pretty wide range of people. Similarly, Poindexter draws in a wide range of customers from girls celebrating Christian Girl Autumn with their thigh-high boots to workout girls in full yoga attire to lots of tourists (it is a hotel after all). It’s a great option close to campus and you’ll be sure to run into people you know!
Retrograde Coffee – Sidney Gish
Retrograde Coffee is located on Dickerson Pike in East Nashville. If you’ve ever been to the iconic small venue Drkmttr (rip concerts :/), it’s about half a mile past that in a little strip mall. In contrast to Poindexter, Retrograde is pretty simple in terms of aesthetic with lots of dark wood and simple black chairs. It has great natural lighting, especially at the bar stools near the window. Plus, there’s a cute little outside seating area to the right of the shop.
I sat at Retrograde studying for five hours this past weekend and exclusively listened to Sidney Gish. While I don’t have a good reason for why I didn’t change my listening habits for five hours, I do have a good reason for choosing Sidney Gish. A captivating singer-songwriter, her songs are typically pretty simple musically, featuring some catchy guitar riffs and chill beats. Where Sidney Gish draws you in is her lyrics and vocal delivery. She sings and writes with such incredibly humor and personality that it feels like you’re immediately best friends. Sidney Gish feels personable and comfortable, much like Retrograde Coffee.
Steadfast Coffee – Mellow Fellow
Steadfast Coffee is a small joint located in Germantown. To get to the coffee shop, you must climb a set of rusty steps to find an unassuming grey building next to a little patio covered in turf and lawn chairs. But once you get inside, the environment completely shifts. All the tables are made of light wood, and the tall booths feel like little enclaves that are the perfect cocoons for studying if you’re lucky enough to get one. Steadfast is not a particularly loud or in-your-face type of coffee shop. I wouldn’t necessarily say it is a “cozy” spot, but it definitely has a mellow vibe.
Speaking of mellow vibes, Mellow Fellow is my artist of choice for Steadfast Coffee. Mellow Fellow, otherwise known as Polo Reyes, creates jazzy music with synthesizers, reverb-y guitar, and lo-fi beats. He kind of operates in that sweet spot between happy and sad, with certain songs leaning each way. Mellow Fellow is the type of artist that doesn’t so much make you feel a certain way as reflect how you are already feeling. Similarly, Steadfast is a sort of mirror of a coffee shop; it can be whatever you need on that given day.
Stay caffeinated this midterm season. You’ve got this.