Discourage, from Oakland, are a hardcore band that seeks to confront their listeners. While their music isn’t necessarily breaking any sonic boundaries, they play with a purpose and energy that draws from the socio-political issues of the day- theirs is a socially conscious aggression. Drawing on a combination of contemporary hardcore and the more classic youth crew pedigree, Discourage cultivate a sound that is at once passionate and aggressive. And, agree or disagree with their beliefs, they very much have something to say. Punknews' Mike Musilli sat down with Eric and Matt to talk the band, their self-titled EP, the climate of our country, and their penchant for literary allusions.
Give a brief history of Discourage, and how you all came together as a band. Eric: I moved to the Bay Area from Boston in 2016. I didn’t really know anybody but knew I wanted to start a band as soon as possible. I had recorded a 3-song demo under the band name BARK, and I made a flyer looking for members and started bringing them to shows and just putting it on merch tables. Matt saw one at a Cutting Through show, emailed me, and was interested in playing drums. We jammed a couple times and it clicked right away. Alex (bass) came on board shortly after that. I was talking with a new friend in a bar and just asked him if he happened to play bass and listen to hardcore. He didn’t but said he had a buddy who did and just gave me his number. We played with Alex a couple times and were blown away with how he plays. He has a broad musical pallet and because of that he writes unique bass parts that add a special dynamic to the songs.
Matt: We played a handful of shows with a guy named Nate but his job situation led him out of the band. I was getting my haircut and talking to my barber who plays in a local Bay Area band, Strange Ways, where Richard is the bassist. He mentioned that Richard was interested in possibly doing additional projects so I decided to hit him up. Both of us are originally from San Diego and knew each other before being in this band together so it’s cool to have some of that shared history.
As you’ve said in other interviews, Discourage is a socially conscious band. What do you see in the Bay Area and California that gives rise to your commentary and activism? Eric: Most of the issues Discourage addresses are things that aren’t specific to just the Bay. You don’t have to look very hard to see some glaring issues all over this country. Over all, what I see in the Bay in the hardcore and punk scene is largely positive. Bands and promoters consistently book benefit shows for great causes and participate in programs dedicated to social justice and youth empowerment. It’s inspiring to see and makes me want to participate even more.
Matt: I take a broad view about us being “socially conscious.” Our commentary includes not just political issues, but also moral, emotional, and intellectual issues. While some of our songs deal with specific policy questions (“Thoughts and Prayers”) or pervasive political sentiments (“Two Minutes Hate”), others deal with issues like exhibitionist violence in the scene (“Owl Eyes”) or relational toxicity (“Clarity”). I think above all, the songs we write force you to ask “who is this about” and we put up a mirror and say “take a look.” We’re concerned more with social pathologies than specific issues.
You make some literary allusions in your song titles with “Owl Eyes” as a reference to The Great Gatsby and “Two Minutes Hates” a reference to 1984. What strikes you about those works in particular in terms of making those allusions? Eric: I always like when bands add in those types of references to their songs, and so I try to do it as well to add an extra layer to the lyrics. But in this case, Matt named both these tracks, so I will yield to him to go into specifics.
Matt: I love reading and I could probably make this way, way too long so I’ll just focus on Owl Eyes. Basically, the decision to appeal to literature is because I love the concept of the objective correlative-some reference pointing to a bigger idea. I think it’s more interesting and connects better with the heart. With that in mind, Gatsby is far and away my favorite book. Like many people, I was forced to read it in high school and I thought it was dumb, but then I read it in college and realized, “oh, this is what it means.” Really, the whole book is about Gatsby seeking self-divinization while attaching that pursuit to Daisy, wealth, and opulence, but it’s all a sham. The character, old Owl Eyes, calls him on it. The song “Owl Eyes” is about that sham, using violence to hide from who you really are.
”Thoughts and Prayers” seems like a very reactionary song, especially given that there have been mass shootings in California over the past few years. Reactionary anger aside, what do you think needs to be done not only to prevent mass shootings but also to curb the rise of social-media-inspired rhetorical commentary without action? Eric: Wow, that’s a big question! Hollow commentary without action is certainly a large source of frustration, but I think it is more complicated than people simply wanting to be seen saying something to make themselves feel self-righteous. I think a reason why we see so many people speak but not act is disaster fatigue. It seems that every couple weeks there is another shooting, and it is hard not to feel defeated. It’s overwhelming. It’s disheartening. I would encourage people to write to their local congressman as opposed to make a Facebook post. There are also some great organizations working to make a difference that people can volunteer with or donate to. A great one that was founded in San Francisco is Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. http://lawcenter.giffords.org/
Discourage draws on a youth crew Revelation Records vibe. What influences do you draw on a vocalist, and what influences does the band draw on as a whole? Eric: As a vocalist, I draw inspiration from a number of bands, both classic and current. The biggest influence I draw on is old AFI. Both Matt and I are huge fans of AFI, and Davey’s vocal delivery on their early albums just hits so hard without trying to sound “tough.” His lyrics are also head and shoulders above 90% of other hardcore bands/singers.
Matt: I came into punk and hardcore through the mid/late 90’s skate punk scene so my drumming influences come from Good Riddance, NOFX, Lagwagon, etc., but a lot of that crossed over seamlessly to the hardcore bands I grew up with such as In My Eyes, Carry On, and early American Nightmare. I hear a lot of late 90’s New Jersey hardcore in our sound, especially Ensign as well as some “Fast Times” era Floorpunch.
Who came up with the cover art for the new 7”? What is the connection between that imagery and the songs? Eric: Bill Hauser did the art for the record. Originally, I just said to him, “listen to the record, read the lyrics, and draw something cool using imagery from the songs.” After the first draft there was a specific section that caught my eye, which was the kid crouched next to the candle. That really sparked a new direction for the art. The “Candleboy,” as I call him, became the focal point of the piece, and he is surrounded by these evil entities, each representing some corrupting force – Drugs, violence, nationalism, etc – that is discussed on the record. And on the back of the insert, the candle has gone out, and the corrupting forces now have their hands around the “Candleboy.”
Matt: I think the art fits with the general ethos our band name invokes. I like to joke that we’re called Discourage, not Encourage, and that’s deliberate. Our music doesn’t provide you the ready packed solutions to problems. That would be cheap and easy and I personally don’t feel that’s the role of music. The artwork and lyrics are a diagnosis of our social malaise. Figuring out the cure often involves a personal, introspective crisis taking you to Hell and back. Hopefully our lyrics and music can help people on that journey.
What are your touring plans in support of the new 7”? Eric: We have a Southwest tour booked for the end of May-beginning of June that we are excited for, and a couple really big local shows planned shortly after. Our next big target is the Pacific Northwest and we hope to hit that before the end of the year.
Does the band have plans on writing and recording an LP in the near future? How does the song-writing dynamic work within the band? Eric: Yes! We have already started writing and will be putting together an LP early next year. I personally am very excited to see how the writing dynamic changes in the band. For this 7-inch, I pretty much wrote all the songs other than the main riffs of “Owl Eyes,” which Matt brought. But now that Richard and Alex are in the band and we are all more comfortable playing with each other, I think that our future songs will be much more collaborative, which will be new for me.
Matt: Yeah, the next thing we do will be more collaborative amongst us four. Also, the recording process has a way of shifting things around. You think you have a song that you love, then you hear it played back and go, “what the hell is this?” For this record, what we went into the studio with is not exactly the same as what came out, and we have a stronger record for it.
Oakland Athletics or San Francisco Giants? E: A’s baby!