Give Me Sound: Charleston Underground Music Scene

By Bethany Fincher and Phillip Greene

Photos by Imani Warnex and Margie Hussey

In our interviews with local artists, we noticed a common thread of restlessness – dissatisfaction with the status quo of music in Charleston and a pioneering desire to push the envelope. As audience members, it’s up to us to clamor for the music we want to hear and demand space for the innovative artists we want to see. So go find (or become) your favorite local music pioneer (this brief sample is by no means exhaustive). Buy, share and support their music and build the music scene you want to be a part of.

To Forget

In post-metal band To Forget, Joe Suthers, Nate McKinley and Austin Parson meld their eclectic tastes using precise instrumentation and remarkable compositional prowess. The trio, an outgrowth of the post-rock band Cepheus, released their self-titled EP on Bandcamp last February. Like their live performances, the EP is a finely tuned machine. As lead vocalist and drummer Austin Parson attests, “It is very important to be good at what you are doing … If you get off by a hair, it will sound like trash. All of our duties are so important … ”

The band showcases their musicianship and individuality as they genre hop from emo to black metal in a virtuosic exercise of instinctual experimentation and technical precision. To Forget offers a refreshing and much needed addition to the Charleston music scene: a music project unconcerned with genre delineation or audience expectations.

Although they cite Big Gun and the Purple Buffalo as supportive venues, To Forget still feels the exclusivity of the Charleston music scene. “I don’t think there is a whole lot of diversity,” says Parson. “I think us and three or four other bands try to be different… We try to be something else. We don’t classify ourselves with anyone or anything. It makes it easier on us to not be a part of some ‘scene.’”

As opposed to the current trend in some facets of our music community – nepotistic booking habits and a preeminence for “doing drugs and drinking and partying” – To Forget hopes for a more inclusive community. “If you want to boost the morale of the local scene,” says Parson, “it should include everybody, not a select group of people.”

Dakota O

In November 2017, Dakota O finally released what turned out to be a yearlong solo experiment in lo-fi mixing and mastering. The result was the “Recluse” EP, a 45 minute long psychedelic sojourn into the realms of surf rock, chillwave and pop. “Recluse,” despite its thematic suggestion of loneliness, is permeated by delightful sonic oddities and the friendly influences of Charleston’s music community. Dakota’s backing band consists of what he describes as “an array of lovely boys and some of my best friends,” including Ross Teder, Sam Jaeger and Austin Ramirez of Camel Blues Band acclaim, Michael Ewans and Ian Russell of Orange Doors and Joseph Synnett of Townhouse and John Bias’s band.


On his experience in the Charleston music scene, Dakota says, “I’ve learned that Charleston is a pretty special place for new artists. There’s a small, yet welcoming community that has been extremely nice to me so far.” He does, however, recognize the bubble of the Charleston music scene, a bubble comprised mostly of “artists not trying to push the envelope” and “audiences not willing to step outside of their comfort zones.” Dakota is still hopeful for Charleston. “[A]rtists like Secret Guest, Dumb Doctors and Contour [are finally getting] a lot of recognition which they’ve deserved for way too long,” he says.

Keep tabs on Dakota O’s Bandcamp page; he says we can brace ourselves for a new release by early March and expect this one to be “faster and louder.”

B. Fraser

B. Fraser consists of some of CisternYard Media’s own: Jake Keim, Will Dukes, Marty Adkins and Jackson Kinsey.

The accurately classified indie emo bunch began performing together just a few months ago and already have a self-titled EP set to be released in April. With 6 or 7 songs (when asked they couldn’t exactly remember) and vocals recorded in their bathroom, this release is as lo-fi as you’re going to get.

On gaining steam as a diehard, cry-hard emo band in Charleston, guitarist Will Dukes says, “The indie emo scene is almost non-existent in Charleston. You kind of have to go to Columbia to get traction. . . Stress Fracture, Social Outcast and Alarm Drum are the big ones in Columbia. So I guess here there’s nothing – we are just fumbling around right now.”

You can listen to B. Fraser on Bandcamp and catch them at the Tin Roof on March 11th and at Corey’s Grilled Cheese on April 14th.


Ronassia Pinkney, a.k.a Poppynative, is Charleston’s up-and-coming experimental pop queen. With a tendency towards a minimalist style, Poppynative has collaborated with friends and local producers to make sparkling and energetic beats on top of dreamlike vocals. In 2017 she released “Samoa,” a dreamy and dazed EP produced by Cody Dixon, founder of Soul Power Productions, and Savannah-based producer Fritz!. The title track was recorded entirely freestyle during a jam session with friends, Ronassia recalls: “The sun was rising, the sky was illuminated, and I just went with what I was feeling in that moment.”

The name itself, “Poppynative,” was inspired in part by Ronassia’s love of all things vibrate, especially poppies. “‘Native’ is derived from the concept of being at home anywhere I go,” she says, in addition to her desire for listeners to “feel a sense of home and comfort” in her music. “Poppy” is also a nod to one of her favorite poets, Alysia Harris (@poppyinthewheat on twitter). Known for her inspiring words on race, gender and difference, Harris is a must read according to Ronassia.

Fittingly, Poppynative is putting the finishing touches on a work to be released by the beginning of spring, and you can find her current releases on Soundcloud.

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