One Last Time: An Oral History of Discourse.

As a lifelong North Carolina resident who was born in South Carolina, it’s safe to say I take a great deal of pride in where I come from. I grew up rooting for the Tar Heels, the Hornets, and the Panthers. I developed a love for Cheerwine, Krispy Kreme, and Cookout during my adolescence out of home-state attachment as much as taste. I went to my first punk show at Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte. No matter how many times I’ve traveled around this country, I’ve always enjoyed coming home to the Carolinas.

In the spring of 2012, my Intro to Comm classmate John Ribes asked me one day if I wanted to ride with him later that week to see his brothers hardcore band play in a bookstore in Greensboro. Having just recently transferred to Appalachian State, this was the kind of offer I had been hoping to come my way. When you grow up in a small town where there is no scene, only a handful of kids who have even heard of your favorite bands, and you’re required to drive an hour or two to see any show, music was always a conversation starter for me. It was the first foreign language I knew, and it took a few years post high school until I found individuals who spoke as fluently as I did. To this day, John remains one of my closest friends, and because of his invitation, Discourse remains my favorite modern hardcore band, and a band that I take a great deal of pride in being from the Carolinas.

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Discourse is a straight edge hardcore band from Columbia, South Carolina. They formed in the fall of 2011, released a demo, and toured throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. I was fortunate enough to be a part of their entire career as a band essentially, having seen their initial NC show at that bookstore in Greensboro, and watch them grow from a local buzz band to years later, the best kept secret in hardcore. With the help of Grant and his DIY label Bitter Melody Records, one of the torchbearers for underground music in the Carolinas, they were able to release their demo in a physical format via cassette, and later on that same demo, with the addition of two songs from a split release that never materialized, a 7” vinyl.

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Although never a full-time band, Discourse always toured as much as their various school and work schedules would allow. The band was never meant to be anything more than a vessel for expression, a vent for frustrations, and yet every time they ventured out onto the road, the shows were bigger and better than the previous time. In 2013, Cleveland based label Mayfly released the long-awaited Discourse proper 7”, Curse of Consciousness, which finally started to help circulate their name. A few months of interspersed touring and writing later, fabled hardcore label Closed Casket Activities began working with Discourse in preparation for their debut LP. Certainly a watershed moment for hardcore in the Carolinas, and one that solidified that their brand of self-aware metallic dissonance would be heard far beyond the South.

Video by John Ribes

Support tours followed this news, and despite setbacks in the vinyl pressing process and member changes, the one and only Discourse LP came to fruition in January of 2015. Having been tracked at modern stalwart Bricktop Recordings in Chicago, where the likes of Weekend Nachos and Harms Way have also recorded, the sound and depth of Sanity Decays is one that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. It’s a record that truly encapsulates where the band started, how far they had come since their inception, and promised a bright future.

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Despite the release of the LP, and the backing of a premiere hardcore label, the band slowed down following the member changes, and the graduation and eventual moves of members away from their original stomping grounds of Columbia. Short runs and festival appearances occurred over their last year, but the band announced this past fall they would be laying the band to rest come the new year. The final show was a special night, especially when you consider how many times I saw the guys play in someone’s house or basement over the years. Seeing a sold out crowd turn out for a gig at Columbia’s longest running music venue solidified the impact that they as a band had on their hometown. It was a cornerstone night for members both new and old of the heavy music community in the Carolinas.

Video by John Ribes

Being a staunchly counter-culture band, not only in sound, but in message and vision, is what I think Discourse will be remembered for the most in my mind. They were not the first straight edge hardcore band, and they certainly won’t be the last, but the timing and place in which they rose from a small Southern city in the Palmetto State; the home of James Brown and beach music; the first state to successfully secede from the Union prior to the Civil War; a state unfortunately known for its black eyes of prejudice and profiling; Discourse is proof that in even the most unassuming places, the winds of change can be felt from a few kids with a voice and a belief. And that is something to be proud of.

Photo by Harrison Lubin

As a part of this band re-cap and rundown of their brief but impactful existence, I spoke with my three friends Kyle, Pat, and Issy as they reflected on the band Discourse was, and what this band has meant to them personally.

What was your initial desire for forming/being a part of a band like Discourse?

Kyle: When we started in 2011, there weren’t any (active) hardcore bands in South Carolina. So my roommate Pat and I decided to start a band.

Pat: Kyle and I were roommates in college and he asked me to start a band with him that sounded like Indecision. I said something to the effect of “yeah, sure” because I thought it would be fun, even though I could barely play an instrument. This forced me to learn, which in retrospect, I am really grateful for.

Issy: Well, I joined the band a little over two years after they formed. I’ve always liked Discourse and I liked that it was more than a band with breakdowns and meaningless lyrical content. Plus, hardcore is the sickest thing in the world.

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Photo by Kiabad Meza

What was the biggest sonic influence when it came to the sound/approach of Discourse from you personally?

Kyle: I’d have to say it was Indecision. I wanted to touch on semi-political topics without being a corny “political” band.

Issy: I would say The Process Of  by Turmoil played the biggest roll in my own personal influence as far as how I went about writing riffs and structuring the songs. That record continues to blow my mind. When I started listening to heavy music, bands like Poison The Well and The Hope Conspiracy were some of my favorites, so I guess I’ve always been into the more “metalcore” style of hardcore if that’s what you want to call it.

Pat: We were most influenced by bands that really had their own sound and had an atypical take on what “heavy” means. More than anything I wanted our music to be unique and to have power. We had our obvious influences but hopefully it came across as genuine, if anything. From a lyrical perspective, we just wanted to have substance.

What surprised you the most (good or bad) during your time spent on the road touring in support of your releases over the years?

Issy: It was always surprising when we would play outside of South Carolina and anyone, even one person, would know the songs or lyrics. That was always pretty heartwarming and reassuring that what we’re doing was worth it.

Kyle: I was surprised at how fast it took off. We were able to tour fairly successfully from the very beginning. I don’t know why anyone liked that demo, but they did.

Pat: Realizing how truly close knit of a community hardcore is. Being on the other side of the country and seeing a friend you were connected with through music is the coolest thing in the world. Also, one winter we were in the Midwest and that insane polar vortex stuff was going on and the wind chill was getting down to almost -50 degrees some nights, yet I don’t think any of the shows were flops. Tons of kids still came out and that is so wild to me.

Video by John Ribes

What show(s) stand out to you as the most memorable, or the one(s) you enjoyed the most?

Pat: Southeast Hardcore Fest 2012 at One Unit in Columbia was incredible. Savannah and Cincinnati always felt like second homes to us. The times we played Rain Fest were so much fun too. I figured out at some point that you could have hundreds of people in a room staring at you and it be weird, or you can have ten people in a house and it be the coolest show ever. Really just came down to the vibe.

Kyle: I always enjoyed playing Seattle the most. We played there for the first time in May 2013, and then they asked us to come back and play Rain Fest in 2014 and 2015. I love the city and that festival.

Issy: I’d definitely have to say Rain Fest 2014. It was our first year playing Rain Fest and my first time in Seattle ever. We toured out with Homewrecker and most of the shows were pretty small. We played the first day of Rain Fest, which was sold out and Converge headlined. So, going from shows with about 30-40 kids, to a room full of a few hundred people was exciting and stressful at the same time, haha. Since then, Seattle has become one of my favorite cities to visit and Homewrecker are some of the best guys I’ve met playing music. Oh yeah, and the best Discourse shirt ever came from that show.

Video by Hate5Six

Was there ever an end goal in mind for this band? Or was it simply a matter of feeling things out and going forward from there?

Pat: This band marked a lot of firsts for all of us and I feel like each step of the band seemed like the biggest deal at the time. Whether it was playing in a different part of the country, pressing something on vinyl, writing an LP, etc. Things just evolved naturally and we never thought too far into the future.

Kyle: Not really, because we started when we were still in college and could only tour on breaks from school. Like I said, we were blown away that we could even tour at all.

Issy: I think we definitely just felt things out and took everything as it came. Ultimately, we wanted to write music and tour as much as we could which I feel like we accomplished. I really would have liked to write at least one more release because I felt like we had potential to be better, but I guess the timing was right to lay the band to rest.

If there’s one parting thought or idea you could leave with those who connected with your music and message over the last five years, what would it be?

Issy: I would just say that no matter what people may think or feel sometimes, always do what you want and whatever makes you happy. There’s no point in surrounding yourself with people that don’t support your ambitions and people that aren’t behind you every step of the way.

Kyle: Don’t get jaded on hardcore, that shit is corny. If you see a problem in your scene, fix it. And don’t buy into the reunion bullshit; there’s a reason those losers aren’t around anymore.

Pat: A sincere thank you to anyone who ever cared and to those who stuck with us, especially through our early years when we were figuring out how to be a band and write better music. Crush all fakes.

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Photo by Harrison Lubin

For Glenwood Coffee & Books. For One Unit Art Space. For Wood Circle. For The Odditorium. For Ziggy’s By the Sea. For Neumos. For The Milestone. For Neighborhood Theatre. For New Brookland Tavern. For Discourse.

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