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Ten Best Screamo Bands From Florida

Punk always has an identity crisis looming around every corner.

Allegedly, skinheads, anarchist vegans, and street-punk LARPers are all cut from the same cloth, despite the garish differences.

But no matter how confounding you find a genre like Hare Krshna hardcore (and wonder what Sid Vicious would have to say about it), screamo -- more than any other hardcore subset -- will always be fighting for people to take it seriously.

That's because it is hyperbolic, exaggerative, and dramatic to a point of ridiculous.

But hey, we were raised on the stuff. And the adjectives listed above? Well, that's why we like screamo in the first place! Lucky for us, the Sunshine State has produced a comfortably listable amount of truly great screamo bands.

10. Jesse Washington (Melbourne)
The name -- inspired by an African-American teenager infamously lynched in Waco, Texas, in 1916 -- would suggest a similarity to the highly politicized shrieks of emo-anarchists like early-aughts, Food Not Bombs playlist staple 1905. But Jesse Washington had more to do with the flamboyant Jagger Swagger and Technicolor almost-grind spazz attacks of An Albatross.

At the time, you called it "dancey screamo" if you approved. And if you didn't, you sneeringly referred to the stuff as "sassy screamo." Whatever it is, Jesse Washington lived it, complete with hot-pink typewriter-font logo and hair-metal makeup. In retrospect, they were an obvious antecedent -- more in style and dress than sonically -- to the highly primped devotees of spinoffs like crabcore.

9. Kite Flying Society (Orlando)
While sass definitely had a heyday, we ultimately categorize the phenomenon as a niche variation sub-subgenre. If you really want to hear the textbook, scrEaMO (capital "emo") sound, you've gotta listen to O-Town's Kite Flying Society. This band was thorough in its screamo-nicity: It pushed crazy-chaos hardcore right up against twinkly melodic breakdowns. Its lyrics read like a wallflower's diary and/or miserable poetry. It had minor-chord breakdowns with quickly spoken vocal interludes. And its songs were often arranged around giving the audience a moment of building tension with which they could clap along.

P.S. The band name is a reference to some sappy shmoopy love shit in a Wes Anderson movie. Does it get more screamo than that?

 

8. Jiyuna (Fort Myers)
Actually, it does. This West Coast troupe delivered a version of politicized screamo that substituted melodrama for moral urgency. Plus, it took the style's cornball-epic sentimentally provocative instrumentals, and sandblasted them into a driving, ass-kicking form that could be more readily identified as having something to do with hardcore punk rock.

7. Tunes for Bears to Dance To (Miami)
Tunes for Bears to Dance To featured members who would go on to play in Capsule, Shitstorm, Torche, and countless other staples of Florida punk and hardcore. The Miami-based grammar-trashing supergroup boasted two singers and superdynamic songwriting that packed bombastic, chaotically noisy yet highly sentimental metallic-and-melodic opuses packed into three- to four-minute pop-punk-like ditties. It also had a feverish following on the internet.

Its discography consists of a demo released on a handful of home-dubbed cassettes and CD-R's and two highly coveted seven-inches released by Miami 2000s hardcore-and-beyond label Somberlain.

 

6. I Have Dreams (Tallahassee)
I Have Dreams existed for six months in 1999, and its entire output consisted of a mini-CD-R with five tracks. Yet screamo diehards from the state capital and band's hometown of Tallahassee right on down to the Florida Keys all wish this crew could have at least made it to a full 365 days and maybe cut an eight-song EP on a standard-issue CD-R. But I Have Dreams started in the wake of a bandmate's tragic death, and the other members used explicitly emotive hardcore as a way to process their grief. Ending the band may have very well been a part of that process as well.

5. Reversal of Man (Tampa)
Ranking the Gulf Coast's political-ish screamo pride and joy in the middle of our list is definitely going to be a point of contention among the anonymously commenting human herpes who will, no doubt, be drawn to this content like flies to shit.

It was not an easy decision. With the zine-slash-manifesto that accompanies their Revolution Summer record, ROM codified the militant wing of suburban screamo sentimentalism. But while the vibe is right, our ranking comes down to formalism. The style Reversal of Man arguably perfected was chaotic, hypercomposed, and extreme, like if Orchid dropped the sexy philosopher Mod crap and had to live in Tampa. We can't deny the band's mighty legacy of punk feelings, but fifth is the highest we can rank a band playing a screamo microgenre.

 

4. Early Grace (Tampa)
That's right, from here on out, it's all minor chords, handclaps, and rolling around on the ground crying.

Early Grace was the product of the same Tampa hardcore scene as Reversal of Man. Its seven-song ten-inch, And All I Run Into Are Walls You Have Built, is a deep cult classic. But no matter how obscure, this Gulf Coast quintet is on every Florida screamo completist's desert island list. Also note how, compared to Reversal of Man, Early Grace incorporates more of the tears-and-boogers-stained-sweater shrieks of New York City's reigning outfit when it comes to manically emotional hardcore, Saetia.

3. Carlisle (Orlando)
If Lifetime were a screamo band, they'd be Carlisle. OK, the comparison may be a little crude. But there is no counterpoint to the claim that this band had a knack for embedding straight-up hooks -- even more on the pop-punk tip than Tunes for Bears -- into the screamo template. If you Google around, every last blip on this '90s scene-centerpiece boils the equation down to one key descriptor: "Catchy."

 

2. I Hate Myself (Gainesville)
Tallahassee is where Rick Scott's black-as-night citadel is located. But the punk rock capital of Florida is undeniably Gainesville.

Ever since the great Less Than Jake trickle-down of the early '90s, No Idea Records has been an absolute powerhouse of production whose centripetal force has spiraled forth a punk scene mirroring the college town most people associate with the city. But the flagship sound of that enterprise has always been anthemic and driving blends of pop-punk and posthardcore.

Essentially, I Hate Myself played screamo in the town that beard punk built. Oh yeah, and its band name was I Hate Myself! Plus its lyrics were so goddamned maudlin that any mention of the group sparks a debate about whether the whole thing was a joke.

1. Cowboys Became Folk Heroes (Polk County)
What barometer determines greatness? Number of releases? Breadth of the audience that receives your releases, no matter the number of them? iTunes sales? How many times you've played South by Southwest?

One way to gauge a screamo band's success would be to take a quick survey of its fanbase: How reverently do they approach the music of the artists at hand? 'Cause few of Florida's hallowed histrionic hardcore bands command a native Floridian's respect like Cowboys Became Folk Heroes.

The band members out-Florida everyone else on this list right off the bat for being from fucking Lakeland and/or unincorporated Polk County. The crux of their scene was Josh's House, a guy named Josh's parents' house in the suburbs. Cowboys had an on-and-off second phase of the band peppered with out-of-nowhere performances regularly billed as a reunion and the band's last show ever. Like many of the other groups on this list, they barely released any music: just one CD-R. But a group of fans felt so strongly about the band that in 2008, they pulled together their pennies to finally get the jams on wax, like they ought to be.




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