Last Saturday a new record label out of Charleston launched via social media and a website featuring ten South Carolina artists: The Cherry Icees, Gomec, Hybrid Mutants, The Indoor Kids, Reuben Knights, Lewis Turn Out, Mr. Gold, Sex Wax, Silvermane, and Darby Wilcox. The label, Real South Records, comes out ingrained with a political leaning mission statement focused on diversity.
Real South Records is dedicated to supporting South Carolina musicians. We stand for artistic expression and diversity in music. We recognize our roles as spokespersons in our respective communities, and therefore actively stand against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of oppression.
I wonder if Real South Records would exist without the collapse of Hearts & Plugs recently. I would like to say it definitely would, but I don’t know if I truly believe that. Maybe it was the fallout that inspired this creation. For my entire life I’ve fallen in love with bands who’ve embraced their Southern upbringing and challenged the complexities that came along with those roots. In the 80’s and 90’s I grew up surrounded by racism, it was ingrained in my community. In many ways it still is, and like it’s been for the last hundred plus years in South Carolina, I, along with many others, stand against injustice as those in prior generations helped in paving the way so that we could.
I also love where I was raised and think I’m a better person for the challenges in viewpoints and beliefs I’ve faced my entire life. I’ve witnessed both sides first-hand. I’ve celebrated from 50 feet away when the confederate flag came down from the Confederate monument in front of the state house. I rejoiced watching the flag come down off the top of the state house as a teenager. I was so ready for that confederate flag to come down because I heard the message Darius Rucker sang to me in Hootie and the Blowfish song “Drowning” off Cracked Rear View when I was 11 years old. My favorite band (R.E.M.), a band from only 2 hours from where I grew up, never shied away from their political beliefs, led by Michael Stipe who was always bold with his voice. I get how music can help shape and influence a young person’s political beliefs. I also get that people change. People learn from mistakes. People sometimes do and say things that go against their own personal beliefs. I only have forgiveness in my heart for those people, because I am, and have been that person at times in my life.
I grew up on Southern bands like Hootie, R.E.M., and Drive by Truckers who fought the system and Southern stereotypes. These days you can add bands like Shovels and Rope, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Lee Bains and the Glory Fires who openly write and share their views. I have high hopes that the bands on this label will challenge, or continue to challenge, the stereotypes and flaws in our past, and help our generation and future generations continue to progress to a society where people can live freely and where everyone is viewed as equals and to continue to break apart the system that’s held so many people down in the past.
As for musical diversity within a roster of a record label, I could honestly do without that. It’s not to say I’m necessarily always opposed to it, but when I look at my favorite record labels over my lifetime all the ones I’ve loved presented similar sounds overall. Merge Records might be my favorite diverse label, but that diversity is relative. I go to labels to find more bands I like because they probably sound like another band I like on that label or share some commonality. Diversity for diversity’s sake doesn’t do much for me. What brings these 10 artists together isn’t so much their sound, but their political views and of course that they’re from South Carolina. That’s a path to discovery that I’m open to trying out.
I didn’t use to have a broad scope. Now I only have a broad scope. When I look at South Carolina labels and start-ups I try to imagine what they’ll be in 3-5 or even 10-25 years, because I’ve watch so much fizzle over the last 15 years. I want to see a local South Carolina label make it. I want to see a label with a rich history like our neighbors to the North have.