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Self-described purveyors of Seaside Punk, Dischord first formed to play on the closing night of the old Tache. They went on to write a debut album, The Wakes, inspired by the wakes weeks, in homage to the annual pilgrimages from cotton mill towns that Blackpool was built on. Over the decade that followed the band pushed their sound and experimented but today the band come full circle, releasing their fifth album, Cotton Famine Road, which is in many ways a sister album to The Wakes. Chris, Zowie and Dave from the band (that has counted Jake among its members since 2015), that to us about Blackpool’s punk spirit and why the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 were a formative influence on this album.

Tell us about Dischord – who you are and how you came together as a band.
Chris: We actually formed for the final night of the old Tache. The first 50 people through the door that night got a copy of our debut EP, Your Father’s Moustache! Then we locked ourselves away to record our debut album, The Wakes, which we launched at our debut gig at West Coast Rock café way back in 2012. We haven’t really stopped since then, so it feels like yesterday. So that’s two beginnings. But the third, and best, beginning was when Jake joined us in 2015 and then wrote and recorded the third album with us.

You describe yourselves as seaside punk – what does that sound like?
Zowie: Someone else actually once described our sound as Seaside Punk, and we loved it and ran with it. It really does sum up the grimy yet playful punk sound that screams out of us. Mostly because the British seaside just does not produce the same emotions as the glittering coast of Orange County. US Surf Punk has its own sound because of its environment, and so does British Seaside Punk. I think we can all agree that Blackpool is not California, although just like Hollywood, it is not usually somewhere that you are from, but somewhere that you end up. Blackpool has its own flavour of weirdness, however. That faded Victorian elegance, the ghosts of Empire haunting every corner, fun-seekers packed in like sardines, cheek by jowl with the corruption, the poverty, and the desperation that seethes in the back streets. This is all wrapped up in a strange hedonistic gift box of fairground rides, neon lights, and boiled sugar. Blackpool is a fallen town, but it has a carnival spirit and that spirit created Dischord.

You just played Manchester Punk Festival – how was it?
Zowie: MPF has truly been a highlight for us as a band. Not only is the festival beloved by its faithful punters, but it also knows how to treat its musicians like human beings. Something other festivals and events might want to learn from. The organisers have created something really special with MPF and I would urge anyone who has been thinking about it to buy that ticket and go and experience it for themselves.

Blackpool has its own flavour of weirdness. That faded Victorian elegance, the ghosts of Empire haunting every corner, fun-seekers packed in like sardines, cheek by jowl with the corruption, the poverty, and the desperation that seethes in the back streets.

Blackpool has a strong punk reputation as the home of Rebellion, and the Waterloo and Bootleg are making sure audiences can access it year round. Do you think the town has a punk spirit?
Dave: Yeah, definitely a lot of venues who are bringing live music forward to the people of Blackpool who want it. It’s great to see so many bands coming to Blackpool who are up and coming, who then go on to do huge festivals and even break into the independent charts too. It’s also great to see so many amazing bands in the scene. I think Blackpool’s music scene is one of the best in the country and we have a little something for everyone, all done to a high standard.

I think Blackpool’s ‘punk’ ethic comes from the fact that it is now one of the number one places for homelessness, suicide and sexually transmitted diseases in the whole of Britain, hell, maybe even the world, and this is causing the people who live here to step up and make their voices heard. If you are musical and live in depravation, you are more likely to head towards punk or metal than to lean towards the happy go lucky drivel that spills from the radio every day.

So yeah, Blackpool is punk but in the truest sense of it.

Tell us about the new album, Cotton Famine Road.
Chris: Like many, I went to a Black Lives Matter demonstration on the 3rd of June 2020. We were all wearing masks and socially distanced, but we gathered at Dalton Square in Lancaster and held a vigil for George Floyd following his murder at the hands of American police. When I came home, I wrote the song White Silence.

Shortly after, there was a social media blackout. On the 7th of June that year, we posted a statement urging folk to keep on fighting and keep on confronting uncomfortable truths. It was important to me that we followed our own advice, and that this statement had to be far more than just lip service. I knew I wanted to write a new Dischord album about systemic racism and Britain’s colonial past.

It’s taken three years for that album to finally materialise. Partially because it was mostly written in Lockdown, and consisted of many months of sending voice notes back and forth, and Jake teaching the rest of us how to record stuff at home so we could piece demos together. Then there was the sudden, panicked, rush to re-learn all the old songs when gigs were happening again and we’d been out of practice of playing live for a year! Next, in 2022, there was the matter of the celebration of our 10th anniversary as a band which paused progress on the album. But main real reason was that this one needed time to simmer.

We wanted our album, and its overall message, to be a celebration of that Northern working sense of fairness and solidarity – a defiant faith in the fact that people are fundamentally decent

We’re not usually shy of shouting our opinions, whether about animal rights, or war, or the UK government, but this was different. There was a lot of thinking and a lot of re-evaluating to be done. I spent a lot of time simply reading and watching documentaries – trying to better educated myself about Britain’s role in the Atlantic slave trade and its modern ramifications. One of those documentaries was Black and British: A Forgotten History, which gave us the album’s title.

Rooley More Rd, more commonly known as the Cotton Famine Road is a Victorian cobblestone highway across the Pennies, which was paved by unemployed Lancashire mill workers in the 1800s. The American Civil war resulted in a blockade, meaning that slave produced cotton from the Southern States was no longer getting to Lancashire. Without cotton, there was no work, and people were starving in what became known as the Lancashire Cotton Famine. Many Lancashire folk hung Confederate flags in their windows in support of the Southern States, but some workers took a stand in solidarity, using their spare time and labour to create public works including sewers and roads. A plaque at the entrance to the Cotton Famine Road is dedicated to: “The Rochdale Mill workers who supported the struggle against slavery during the American civil war.”

We wanted our album, and its overall message, to be a celebration of that Northern working sense of fairness and solidarity – a defiant faith in the fact that people are fundamentally decent, and understand that just because something is happening thousands of miles away, or happening to people who are different to them, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t care.

Blackpool’s wealth historically came from those cotton mills. It is a town famously “built on cotton”. The name of our first album was a reference to the Wakes Weeks seaside holidays for the mill workers when their factories were closed for maintenance. Zowie and I were both born in Blackpool, and our grandparents were mill workers from those industrial towns of greater Manchester. It seemed very important to acknowledge that connection.

This isn’t really an album that’s wagging a finger at anyone, it’s more about collectively asking: “Where do we go from here? How can we be better?” That’s why I love the simplicity of the album cover: the possibility of a road stretching out ahead. It was important that we took that photo ourselves. It felt like a pilgrimage.

Who are your musical influences?
Chris: This is quite a difficult one to answer because there are so many. Subhumans are a big one, as the band that introduced me to ‘proper’ punk as a teenager. We supported them at Blackpool’s own wonderful horror bar, Scream & Shake, in September which was a huge honour. Also Crass for their whole ethos. Collectively our favourite punk bands are probably The Offspring, Anti-Flag, Alkaline Trio and AFI, which probably come across in our sound, but between us we listen to absolutely everything from Édith Piaf to Slipknot.

For me personally the album I’ve had on repeat recently is Autofiction by Suede. They were one of my first musical loves since I discovered Dog Man Star when I was about 12. That record had a huge influence on me – and therefore on Dischord – about how an album, as a piece of art, should look and flow. Most bands from that ’90s scene who are still going are on a bit of a ‘greatest hits lap of honour’, whereas Suede have somehow managed to come back in their 50s with a new album that’s every bit as good and as relevant as the stuff they were making in their 20s. They might be an ‘indie’ band, but they’ve described Autofiction as their punk album, which you can hear in its raw immediacy. It’s a studio album with a live feel, which was exactly what we wanted to achieve on Cotton Famine Road. They made me fall in love not just with music again, but sparked a desire in me to just get on stage and sing again after lockdown – specifically the track That Boy on the Stage, which I actually leant my voice to in the backing chants! I’m currently listening to the new Lana Del Rey album and a lot of Emily Breeze. I’ve just checked my ‘most played’ tracks on Spotify and the top two songs are Sitting in the Social by The Levellers and Try Better Next Time by Placebo. I could go on all day!

What are your ambitions as a band?
Chris: We’ve been around for a fair while now, and we’ve managed to tick quite a few things off the list! Playing Rebellion and Manchester Punk Festival were up there. We were also lucky enough to play Morecambe’s Nice ‘n’ Sleazy and 3 Chords Festival in Cornwall when they were still going. As I mentioned, supporting Subhumans was a big thing for us. I don’t know if I can speak for the others here, but my ambitions are always creative. It’s just about making music, and my ambition has just been to make great albums. If you’d asked me last week, I’d have said “to release our fifth album!” but that record has literally just come out at time of writing, so I’m in that rare window of feeling more proud than ambitious. I’m still very proud of our first album, The Wakes, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. We played the album live in its entirety for the first time, and released a covers album called The Fakes, where many of our musical friends (most of them from Blackpool!) contributed new versions of the old songs. Surviving long enough to play a 10th anniversary gig was definitely an ambition for a long time!

Cotton Famine Road feels like a sister album to The Wakes in many ways. Our first two albums were very punk, then we started pushing our sound with our third album, War or Peace. The fourth, Convent Crescent, was a ridiculously elaborate concept album which was basically a genre-defying soundtrack to a novel that came with the CD. Musically, it feels like we’ve come full circle with a slightly less elaborate album that’s more raw and in your face. I suppose my ultimate ambition is to keep pushing ourselves creatively without repeating ourselves. You could say that, with Cotton Famine Road, we were back in our musical comfort zone, but we felt able to do that because of how challenging the subject matter and overall theme of the record was. I think it all comes down to how important it is to have something to say.

But ask me again next week, and we’ll probably be planning something weird, new, and overly ambitious by then!

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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    Antonia Charlesworth Stack is a journalist and editor from Blackpool. She was deputy editor of Big Issue North magazine and is editor of Blackpool Social Club. Antonia is also the founder of Reclaim Blackpool, a women's safety campaign that began life as an article she wrote for Blackpool Social Club. She's a contributing author to the Lancashire Stories anthology with her story about a Blackpool performer, The Call of The Sea. The book is available for free in libraries across the county.

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