In last week’s music column I shared Darby Wilcox’s picks for her favorite local artists and had so much fun doing it that we are going to keep that love going until we can get out to see some shows in person. It feels like a good way to illustrate just how deeply talented and eclectic our local music scene is and, perhaps most importantly, how supportive the artists themselves are of their fellow musicians. With that in mind, let us carry the spirit forward with one of my favorite local bands, The Excons.
Somehow I knew Excons drummer and singer John Byce well before I knew he was a drummer and singer. I believe I met him as one of the other dads that walked his kids to Stone Academy every morning before I saw him holding down the drum kit for the band some parents had put together for the school’s annual Arts Alive event. It was pretty clear from the get go that Byce was a serious musical talent performing on the most unexpected of stages and I admit to being a little more than intrigued.
Later discussions with Byce revealed that he was a former drummer of The Fruit Bats, a Chicago rock band that made a name for themselves on the Sub Pop label in the early 2000’s and has seen a resurgence in recent years. He also told me about his new band, The Excons, which was going to be a fun side project for four neighborhood music lovers who had no intentions of ever going on big tours or becoming full time musicians. What unexpectedly came out of that was one of my favorite indie rock bands, local or otherwise. I also came to learn that Byce is a walking encyclopedia of music knowledge which, I felt, made him a perfect choice for week two of our new “Artists Picking Artists” music series.
Without further ado, here are John Byce’s recommendations for your listening pleasure…
Byce says… “When he’s not roasting beans at Junto Coffee (which is fabulous by the way!), Connor Fagen is leading the rock group Either/Or. They put out a single in 2018 and an EP last year so there’s not a bunch of recorded material but these five songs are fully formed creative statements. Most of us guys making DIY music around here essentially do the best we can with what we’ve got; realizing that we don’t have all the time, money (and maybe talent!) to really dial in the sounds, arrangements and performances into a flawless product. Either/Or is making us all look bad.”
Here’s a review of their album we did a while back.
The Parlor Pinks
Byce says… “The Parlor Pinks are a band (electronic duo actually) that is super active and cranking out lots of fantastic jams (2018’s MetaDada and 2019’s Dead Channels are full length albums definitely worth checking out!) but in addition to that Ash Foster-Lee and TPP Productions are booking more shows in town than anybody; festivals and series at 8th State Brewing, Yee-Haw, and recently Velo Fellow. They focus on highlighting local creative artists regardless of style.”
Glass / Aaron Burke
Byce says… “Glass are a post-punk trio (think like an updated Joy Division) from Greenville that are justifiably getting attention from national labels and press for their impressive catalog. I dig it, but also worth noting is the solo work of Aaron Burke. It’s a huge stylistic shift from Glass and is acoustic, dark and experimental. I’m going to argue that Corvine: Columns & Verses, the full length Aaron released earlier this year is the most artistically significant album to come out of Greenville. PERIOD. If that sounded like a big claim, well it was meant to.”
Aaron Burke on Bandcamp | Glass on Facebook
Spry Old Men
Byce says… “Most people around here know Logan Galloway as the sound guy at The Radio Room, but every blue moon he plays a show with his band Spry Old Men. They’re like a hidden gem in Greenville! Check out the album, Ashes or Salt? on Bandcamp and catch a show if you can for some killer songs; blending the sounds of 90s indie rock with anthemic melodies into something totally epic.” Visit Spry Old Men on Bandcamp
Byce says… “I saw that Darby chose Mourning Dove so you might want to skip this due to redundancy, but at least between us and for the record I’m a huge fan. In a past life, I played in a rock band with Neil so I have known of his talent for some time. And Lisa’s voice is that perfect blend of technique and personality. Together they really are something special and for those of us paying attention to local music, Mourning Dove’s brilliance is no secret.”
Learn more at mourningdovemusic.com
Brett’s Bonus Pick: The Excons
Byce says… nothing. He would never talk about his own band for this list but I can because it is my column. Start with their first album, 2016’s A New Life and then immerse yourself in 2019’s Sea Shanties. Both albums blend stripped down indie rock with a touch of pop-catchiness which takes you down a musical rabbit hole as the songs effortlessly change directions time and time again, keeping the listener on their toes from beginning to end. The Upstate is lucky to have this kind of talent in our own backyard and I offer John Byce many thanks for putting together such a great list of music to revel in while we wait out this storm.
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