Excons: The Real Dads of Indie Rock
If You Only Have 60 Seconds…
- The Excons released their self-produced debut album New Life last July and are already working on tracks for its follow up.
- Their music is Indie Rock at its finest with an innovative sound that keeps you on your toes.
- If the track “Jimmy” does not have you laughing, singing along, and asking “What the heck is going on here?” all at the same time, you’re probably not really listening.
For the most part, there are two types of bands in the world. The first are those that have their nose to the grind, writing music, touring, building a fan-base, and hoping against hope that they can turn this whole music thing into a living. The latter has no such delusions and they simply play for the fun of it, always with a guitar at hand, ready to answer the call for “Wagon Wheel,” “Freebird,” or something of that ilk. Their reward is nothing more than feeling like a rock star for a few moments and bringing a little bit of joy to their friends’ lives.
The Excons, however, most definitely do not fall into either of these two categories. The Greenville quartet is doing indie rock and roll completely on their own terms without pretense, and the result is one of the most intriguing and refreshing bands on the scene.
The Communist Approach
Drummer and vocalist John Byce will be the first to tell you that the band is not trying to become professional touring musicians. “I’m not sure what our endgame is, but I know we are not quitting our day jobs,” he says with a laugh. Once he starts talking about the music itself though, he speaks with all the conviction of a band that is totally committed to putting out the highest quality product imaginable.
“I’m not sure what our endgame is, but I know we are not quitting our day jobs.”
Byce explains the band’s “communist approach” to songwriting where they all assume the role of equals, regardless of who brought what idea to the table. He quickly adds that this does not prevent them from having a healthy competitive attitude as every member’s contribution pushes each other to be just a little better as they contribute to the sum of the parts. Together they hone and fine tune each new song until it is something they can all be proud of, and only after they have 12 to 14 new tracks ready to go will they consider returning to the studio to record a follow-up to last year’s debut album, New Life. The process seems to be working because they have a healthy handful of songs that they are already performing live at venues like Quest Brewing Company and Greenville’s Downtown Alive.
One listen to last year’s New Life solidifies the assertion that the Ex-cons are not approaching anything at less than 100%. Thoughtful and reflective songwriting is a by-product of who the Excons are – a bunch of dads who are telling their stories without any interest in quitting their day jobs. These stories are told over an instrumentation that ranges from haunting to upbeat to downright poppy at times. If there is any one constant in all of it, it is the decidedly indie rock, do-it-yourself attitude which, in some band’s cases, means “cheap and underproduced,” but for the Excons, rather, it comes off more as honest defiance.
The most notable thing you will experience in listening to every single Excons song, live or via recording, is the unpredictable nature of things. Byce explains that they like to take a song down a particular path and then, once you think you know where things are going, they take things in a different direction entirely. This works on both a musical and lyrical level for an experience that keeps you on your toes every time you hear a song, no matter how many times you have listened to it. The tempos turn on a dime without warning, and the lyrics feature plenty of “wait, what the hell did he say right there?” that will have you wearing out the rewind button on your CD player or laptop.
The result of all of this is some truly original and, perhaps more intriguing, really intelligent music. On one level, the Excons are upbeat and captivating enough to hold the audience for an entire evening at Downtown Alive which, let’s be honest, is hardly your typical indie rock demographic. At the same time, it is music that you can dissect, try to figure out, and discover something new every time you sit down to listen to it. It is hardly music that you will listen to a couple times, say, “yeah, I get it,” and throw it back in the pile as you seek out the next cool thing. Instead, this is a band that you will be thrilled to rediscover every time they take an Upstate stage, even if it might be a little less frequent than we would like (because they are dads, ya know?).
Give Them A Listen
You can download your copy of New Life (and their Handshake EP) over on their Bandcamp page, but you can also see them for yourself as the Excons are offering up a handful of live shows this fall. First up is at Future Chord Fest on August 12, which will feature roughly a dozen local and regional talent over the course of a full day of music at The Spinning Jenny in Greer. Next up, you can find them at Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard on September 23, and then at Fall For Greenville in October. Each one of these shows will offer completely different listening experiences so, just to be safe, you will probably want to see the Excons at every one of them. That is what we are going to try to do, anyway.