Music & Nightlife

Charlotte indie label helps give Scowl Brow’s incredible debut second life

Left to right: Tim Sassanian, Justin Driscoll, Robby Hale, Joshua Taddeo, and Joshua Higgins
Left to right: Tim Sassanian, Justin Driscoll, Robby Hale, Joshua Taddeo, and Joshua Higgins Brian Twitty

In 2012 Charlotte trio Scowl Brow released its debut full-length. Despite being tracked, mixed, and mastered in three days, the 2012 self-titled debut was a revelation rich in no-holds-barred lyricism and concise, catchy songwriting.

Four years later Charlotte indie label Refresh Records is giving the album a much-deserved second life, rereleasing a remastered and remixed version digitally and on CD and colored vinyl.

Fans of the band, who show up at club shows in droves spraying PBR, moshing haphazardly and vigorously shouting along with singer/guitarist Robby Hale, have a lot of love for the album. But even with all its lo-fi charm, the band felt the recording wasn’t ideal.

“It sounded like it was in a shoebox,” says Hale, the band’s lyrically outspoken chief songwriter who doesn’t waste words in casual conversation either.

“It was as if it was lo-fi to a purpose,” adds Refresh Records’ owner Josh Higgins, a software developer for Toyota Racing Development by day. “It sounded like Robby with a band in the background. As everyone grew they wanted to fix it. The new LP is more band-focused, thicker, fuller.”

Hale and drummer Joshua Taddeo started Scowl Brow in 2010. Avid fan Justin Driscoll, who wasn’t a member for the full-length’s recording, joined on bass in 2013 after campaigning for the job. Scowl Brow has a release show Saturday at Snug Harbor.

“I don’t get excited about local bands,” says Driscoll, 30, who’d started playing local clubs when he was 13. “I hadn’t played music in two years when I heard those six songs.”

Needless to say he was blown away and found himself climbing over monitors at shows and singing along right in Hale’s face with the rest of the crowd.

“The live energy they draw and create is inspiring,” says Higgins, a record collector and sometime promoter. He was late to the party. “I knew Taddeo, but I honestly didn’t listen to them because I thought with his background it would be more metalcore. I lost interest in that a long time ago.”

Refresh’s A&R guy Tim Sassanian convinced him to give it a listen. “I was kind of blown away. It was kind of like early Alkaline Trio’s sound from late ’90s. More Gritty. I was just hooked on it.”

The revelation continued when he saw it live.

“I haven’t seen something like that in Charlotte in many years,” he says. “It brought me back to old house shows where Hopesfall (who later went national) was playing.”

Higgins has wisely chosen to work with mostly established bands like Scowl Brow, Junior Astronomers (who play Snug Harbor Friday), Ancient Cities, and Hungry Girl – bands who draw crowds, have a built-in following and mounting momentum, but need a push.

The label’s first full-length by Young Mister came out in June. Junior and Scowl Brow are both working on LPs for 2017 and Ancient Cities’ self-released “Supermoon Blackout” was just released on vinyl, with their 2014 debut to follow that same path.

For Scowl Brow, a trio with day jobs that had run out of physical copies of their own debut, pairing with Refresh meant they were able to buy a van and focus on touring instead of pouring money into a repressing. The band’s already built a rabid following in Charleston and hopes to branch out from there.

“We got involved not because they needed it. They’re one of the hardest working bands I know. They pull shows with and pull guarantees on their own,” explains Higgins. “We got involved so they could focus their finances on what they want to do.”

Scowl Brow

When: 10 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St.