A couple of weeks ago someone asked me why I did annual compilations and I thought about it a second and said because it’s always what I looked for as a young teenager. I was in search of a scene, a music community greater than the tiny one I was surrounded by as a kid in Rock Hill. It was hard enough to find new music I liked, let alone new music I liked that came out locally. So deep down, that’s who this compilation is for. It’s a marker in time of some of what was going on in South Carolina in 2016.
Now in its seventh year, the sampler has grown into one of the trademarks of the website and that’s something I really like. Since putting out our first compilation, we’ve grown and changed with the bands. We’ve watched Wylie grow into Brave Baby, and Sequoyah Prep School morph into Susto, we’ve seen Calculator change into ET Anderson and Small Sanctions, and those are just a few examples. As the bands have grown they’ve continued to treat us well, by offering new and some debuting songs on the sampler, benefiting not only us, but their fellow South Carolina musicians. This year we debut 13 new songs that I couldn’t be more excited about. In addition, we have nine bands who make their appearance on a sampler for the very first time. That’s a balance I’m always in search of, having new bands mixed in with the established bands we’ve built a relationship with over the years. We’ve all grown together and every year as the sampler grows it feels great to take it all in and see how far everyone has come.
This year our amazing Photo Editor, Jess Spence is designing a zine that will serve as the physical component of the sampler, the color zines housing a CD that we’ll have for sell, and black and white zines available for free with a download code. The zine includes pictures we’ve taken of all the bands over the last year, some of which you’ll see below.
Enjoy it, share it with a friend, and tell someone about the South Carolina music family we have here.
Leading off this year’s sampler is Dear Blanca with their song “Temporary Solution” off their latest EP I Don’t Mean to Dwell. The first time I saw Dear Blanca frontman Dylan Dickerson live I knew he had something special, and over the last couple of years he’s only grown as a musician and surrounded himself with excellent players. As he’s improved as a writer, lyrically specifically, the band has grown tighter, and that shines through on their latest EP.
With every tour date played and every new fan made, Susto keeps finding their stride. Years ago we teamed up with Hearts & Plugs for a video series where we filmed Justin Osborne playing “Friends, Lovers, Ex-lovers…whatever”, a video that helped debut Osborne’s new project. We went on to have “Vampiros” and “Black River Gospel” on consecutive samplers before those two songs came out on Susto’s self titled debut album. That’s fam. That’s #AcidBoys. “Cosmic Cowboy” makes its debut here, a song that’s more of an anthem than just another tune. A song that’s stuck with me since the first time I heard it live. I’m sure lots of you will have it on repeat screaming “Fuck the cops”.
What a magical man Johnny Delaware is. From the South Dakota plains to the Holy City, Delaware’s changed the landscape of the music scene here by lending a hand to Susto, and creating some of the best music out there today on his own. I know, that’s a tall statement, but hearing “Truth” last year, and then “Angel 42” this year I’ll stand by that all day long. Delaware’s onto something mythical and magical with his smooth croon and Southwest meets Southeast classic style.
It’s always hard to tell where ET Anderson is going next and their new song “Jazz June” proves that even more. Live they burst with energy with a set that ebbs and flows from soft to loud, songs building with suspense before climaxing. It’s a spectacle that’s helped build the band as much as their recordings. The albums contrast in comparison to the live set, making the band even more unpredictable. I never saw “Jazz June” coming, and I couldn’t stop listening. Tyler Morris is on to something and he’s got us hooked and waiting for his next creative exploration.
Tape Waves make their first appearance on a sampler and all I can say is it’s about time and we’re lucky to have them on this year. We’ve been long-time fans of the band, and their smooth, easy listening, coastal sound. We love vibes, and they give off the best ones. “Look Away” is an addicting song, and a b-side from their upcoming record. Look forward to that.
The only band to be on every sampler, Brave Baby are like the host band. Nearly every year they’ve given us an exclusive, and gone even farther by helping us recruit tons of new music and bands to the sampler. Even more, drummer Wolfgang Zimmerman has recorded so many of the songs we’ve included in his Charleston studio. I wasn’t sure if they were going to have a song on this year’s compilation until a couple of weeks ago, when they decided to go into the studio and record this new song. I was blown away of course when I heard “Thrill of Love”. Those guys are on another level as musicians.
It’s still hard for me to not refer to Beach Tiger as The Tarlatans, but I’m getting used to it I promise. No band we’ve ever covered has changed as much stylistically as Beach Tiger. Their new song “Mind Make” was recorded and produced by Kyle Patrick, who my relationship with goes back to the early 2000’s, old college friends, and Patrick’s former band Hillside Manor. Things seem to have come full circle, with Beach Tiger’s Taylor McCleskey teaming back up with his old high school mate for this grooving new tune. That full length is going to be loaded with pop anthems.
“California” really fits the vibe of this year’s sampler flowing so well with Brave Baby, Beach Tiger, and The Lovely Few specifically. Electronic based with grooving bass releasing into relaxed guitar and synth, the song catches you and pulls you in within the first 30 seconds and keeps your head bobbing for the next 3 and half minutes. What a perfect summer evening song.
I got a text last night that just read “Alarm Drum has stepped it up.” When we filmed them for our Live at Papa Jazz series we were blown away by their obvious talent and knew that they’d only get better. Now they’re really getting out there, getting out-of-town, and continuously developing as musicians. It’s proven more in this song, with its Smiths vibe and dark dissonance.
He came to us first through a forwarded email from a friend. We included him on the sampler two years ago, under his own name, without knowing him and just loving his music. Now Hermit’s Victory is working on their second album set to come out on Hearts & Plugs hopefully this year. “Gameshow” thrives lyrically and with its delicate instrumentation and arrangement. Piano and guitar floating delicately like feathers through the air with the bass and drums serving as the ground. The soft tension of a static shock.
On August 6th, 2014 I got an email from Michael Collier about his project Del Sur. He was in his hometown of Philadelphia at the time, emailing to say that he was moving to Charleston in two weeks to attend College of Charleston and we ended up having a back and forth about the music scene here. We’ve kept in touch since, and he’s been super involved in the music scene not only through his band, but the Makeout Reef collective he’s involved in. When it came time for the sampler this year it lined up with the release of their song “Been So Long” and we were honored to have it included, with that Mac DeMarco feel on guitar, and a strong hook the song gets stuck in your head easily.
Grace Joyner. She makes it look so easy. Writing, singing, playing keys, and putting out song after song that takes us aback. Last year it was “Dreams” this year it’s “Whiskey”, a song she performed for us live at Papa Jazz late last year. With her first full length album coming out this year we’re excited to see where she’ll go.
One night I ended up in the back bedroom of a mill village house sitting in a circle with a handful of friends and musicians. A guitar was being passed around, but we made Hunter keep it most of the time. She played song after song that blew everyone away. It was incredible and I still can’t get over that night, realizing even more what an incredible songwriter she is and is becoming. This year, like last year, Park did something special for us recording a new song that shows her versatility in comparison to her latest album.
I can’t believe Haley Shaw hasn’t been on a sampler before, but it finally worked out timing-wise this year. Since the beginning of SceneSC Haley Shaw’s been one of our favorite artists. After spending some time in Nashville, and now back in Charleston, Shaw is back at it with her song “Burn as Bright” that has her signature all over it, with that easy flowing voice, heartfelt lyrics, and Southeastern feel.
Not long ago we filmed The High Divers playing this song live for us and we messed up the video. :/ So not cool. Little did we know that they would go and record this song for us to release exclusively on the comp. I grabbed brunch with Luke Mitchell of The High Divers earlier this year and we ended up just talking about Tom Petty most of the time. I’d just finished a biography and so had he, and we ended up having a great conversation. It was great being schooled on Petty, I thought I knew a lot, but he knew a lot more. Hearing “Dirty Little Town” I felt like he was channeling his inner Tom a little bit.
No one channels this haunting Charleston late night feel quite like Jordan Igoe, who has spent her life wrapped in the salty breeze of the coast. On her new song heard here her voice shines as it always does, uniquely Southern and sultry. “Good Friends” was finished just in time to be included, and we got really lucky with the timing of it all.
Becca Leigh is one of those sampler finds we’re lucky to track down each year. Becca was tipped off to us by Luke Mitchell of The High Divers who just told us we had to listen. We did, and he was right, and we’re stoked to have her song on this year’s compilation. “Garden Bed” was the first song that caught us off her latest release, but really the whole EP is great. It’s straight forward in so many ways, and performed so well all-around.
The Hadleys, formerly known as Volcanoes in the Kitchen, are looking to make more waves in 2016 with new music including their song here. This brother sister trio’s talent is obvious, but it’s their genuine nature and songwriting that will take them places. Here they have another personal song, one that hits close to home. It’s one that many will be able to relate to, which is something people are looking for in the music they fall for.
For the last couple of years David Adedokun of Muscle Memory emails me right at the last minute seeing if we have room for him on the sampler, and to tell you the truth, I always have the spot saved for him. This year their “Late Bloomers” features Ben Walker and Jessica Skinner and starts off the more rock-oriented section of the sampler. The breakdown reminded me of Mae, the chorus had us singing along, and it’s another gem of a song from the Columbia band.
I decided a Small Sanctions song from the latest and farewell (?) EP would be on the sampler the day I heard it. Little did I know then that Grayson Venters, the frontman of the band, would take off for LA after spending his entire life in South Carolina. That wasn’t going to stop me. “Dog Devotion” is my second favorite song on the EP, go listen for yourself and find your own favorite if you dig this one.
Gláss is now based out of Athens, but state lines don’t concern us too much. It’s mostly a great thing to have them and Art Contest based there now to help spread the SC music gospel. Off their latest, excellent release, the trio meander their way through dark music corners with their guitar driven, steady driving song “You’re Not Real”.
“Tokyo Megaplex” is probably the biggest outlier on this compilation, the spastic song popping up with fury. Live and on the recordings Art Contest build their songs gradually, this one included with loop after loop becoming more intertwined as the song goes along. The duo are so in sync, changing rhythms with ease and flowing together working as one.
The closer to the sampler is always a special one. Last year Michael Flynn’s beautiful “Winsome Lonesome” finished it out, and this year it’s The Lovely Few’s new song “Pear.” This song might fit in better with the middle section of more electronic pop songs, but its steady repetitious nature felt like such a natural closing song after an hour and a half of listening. It serves as a palate cleanser following a series of more rock oriented songs. Interviewing Mike Mewborne earlier this year made me feel good about where he was going musically, following his own natural progression of experimenting with all types of sounds, while staying true to himself lyrically.