Walking the Arduous Path
Regional scenes make up the often tight-knit networks that music, especially hardcore, rely on to channel their artistic movements. Historical accounts of great scenes like New York City or DC can be traced back to a specific sound, a select few musicians, an attentive zine, or a basement label to corral all the relevant artists. South Florida is prime for such legendary status as of late, with a cadre of like-minded musicians coming together to create among the most vicious and earnest hardcore, metalcore, and metallic hardcore to be released this decade. With a palette of shared artists, bands like xELEGYx, Sandman, and A Needle Under the Nail churn out masterful demos reminiscent of older bands like Morning Again, Congress, and Martyr A.D.
Several of these bands have released said demos under Arduous Path Recordings, a Floridian label dedicated to pressing the best of its scene into cassette form, and then some. With more than a few personal favorites being among Arduous Path’s 2016 and 2017 releases, discussing the label with its founders Anthony Burke and Kyle Morris was a welcome opportunity.
How did Arduous Path Recordings come into being?
We have known each other for a few years and have played in local bands and made music with each other for quite some time. It started out as us just wanting a “label” to release our own demos through but then we had the idea of distributing music from other bands in South Florida and giving people a different medium to consume. The idea of branching out and working with bands outside of Florida and outside of the U.S. and even distributing in Japan came much later.
Where does the label name come from and how does it play into how you conduct the label?
Burke: Kyle came up with the name.
Morris: I got the name from a quote from Dante’s Inferno. It doesn’t really have any profound meaning behind it; I just thought it sounded cool.
Several of the bands you’re released share members, care to shed light on that?
South Florida has a pretty tightly knit scene as far as bands go. If you see one band at a show, chances are some of the members are playing in other bands. There’s just a lot of creative people down here that have linked up and created some amazing music and lasting friendships that are truly remarkable. The fact that some of our releases share the same members as others can probably be attributed to that. But there’s always new faces that show up and add something to the mix.
As musicians what bands or regional scenes have inspired you the most and how has that translated into Arduous Path Recordings?
We have always been influenced by legendary scenes from the time periods that really expressed their creative output. Like 80’s NYHC, 90’s HC from Orange County and right here in South Florida, and the North Carolina scene that was really prosperous in the late 90’s/early 00’s. Generally speaking both of us are into all types of hardcore but metallic hardcore is what really has drawn us to doing this. And of course the current South Florida, North Carolina, and Philadelphia scene’s have put out some amazing acts in the present that have influenced us both immensely.
The label’s releases come from an eclectic array of genres, from black metal to screamo. What about their music has inspired you release them?
Well the first release from the label was a demo from our black metal project “OLM”; we originally planned on being a metal label. We then released a demo from a black metal band Cultus Profano hailing from Southern California. Right around when the xELEGYx demo came out, we shifted our focus on hardcore releases with metal influence. At this point we are solely interested in Hardcore and Hardcore affiliated releases, more or less.
Of the label’s eight releases, which was your favorite to bring into the world?
Burke: My favorite was the A Needle Under The Nail Tape. That thing just hits so hard and sounds desperate.
Morris: I’ll definitely have to agree with Burke and say the A Needle Under The Nail demo. I cannot overstate how much of a perfect release it is from start to finish and no other band right now comes close to what Needle pulls off. The xELEGYx demo is a close second favorite.
South Florida keeps pumping out incredible bands, with several including xELEGYx, castyoudown, Sandman and A Needle Under the Nail, releasing under the label. What do you have to say about the local zeitgeist motivating these and other bands sounds?
Honestly South Florida has such a diverse scene, releases through us only show a small part of a big picture. While Metallic Hardcore is really popular down here there are plenty of other bands that emulate and innovate different types of Hardcore like The Turn, Day by Day, Ecostrike, Deflect, Field Agent, Put it Aside, and Altered State. There’s just a lot of creativity and a lot of people who are dedicated to their craft. Put the two together and all that can be created are the amazing artists we have now
The Plead Your Case zine and label has also played a huge part in releasing music from your area, I understand your label has a close relationship with that name?
Yeah we are good friends with everyone involved in Plead Your Case and love all the bands they have put out over the past few years. LONG LIVE PYC CREW!
There is an active vegan and straight edge scene in your area, how has that came into play on an ideological level?
The cool thing about South Florida is the amount of vegan straight edge heads who live down here. If you’re not both chances are you are one of them. We are both vegan straight edge and most of our friends are either vegan, straight edge, or both, which leads to a lot of like minded people coming together to make bands, make zines, and set the general theme for what South Florida hardcore is in 2017.
Arduous Path isn’t committed to solely Floridian bands, having released a split from Titan and Witness the Fall, from Belgium and The Netherlands respectively, and Wristmeetrazor, who hail from across the United States.
Burke: This is true!
Morris: Releasing music from South Florida is typically easier, however if we really like a release from somewhere else, we will make the effort to put it out on cassette.
What bands and their respective release are you currently listening to? What bands in your local area and abroad would you recommend?
Burke: Magnitude Demo, Year of the Knife - Ultimate Disease, Detain - Capital Punishment, Forced Order - One Last Prayer, Bind - True Colors, Day of Suffering - The Eternal Jihad, Altered State - Demo, The Swarm - Parasitic Skies, xChorusx - Firm Standing Law. I’d have to recommend Day by Day, Magnitude, Detain, and Invoke!
Morris: Forced Order – One Last Prayer, Day By Day – From Now On, Detain – Capital Punishment, Invoke – Undying Agony, and as always, the greatest album of all time, Slaughter of the Soul by At The Gates. To keep things things concise, some bands from SFL I recommend checking out are Field Agent, Altered State, Secondsight, Charred, Deflect, and The Turn
As audiophiles, it can be imagined you have a considerable collection. Which releases in your collection are your most prized or personal?
Burke: The most prized in my collection would probably be the first press of the xELEGYx demo. It’s somewhat hard to come by and the fact that I went through a very difficult period writing that demo with some great friends makes it mean a lot to me.
Morris: Sadly I had to sell almost all of my collection to pay off some debts, but I’ll never get rid of my South Florida collection. My most prized possession is either my record release version of Drawing Last Breath’s Hymns of Suffering 7” out of 30 or my OLM demo tape. It was the first tape I’ve ever made and I’m really happy with how it came out.
As your sole release format, how do you feel about the importance of cassette as a recording medium in comparison to vinyl?
Cassette is great and vinyl is great but both have their tradeoffs. We chose to do tapes as our sole medium because it is really affordable for people to buy and for us to produce. We put all the music on the tapes ourselves and that gives us a sense of accomplishment that going through a vinyl pressing plant might not give us. Also doing it ourselves lets us monitor any mistakes that might happen as well as have complete control over the layout and quality of the product. The sound of tape compared to vinyl might not be as clear as the later, but the warmth you get from listening to a cassette is like no other. We hope to do vinyl one day, but for right now, getting out music quickly and at an affordable cost is our goal!
Are there any details you can reveal on future releases under the label?
Look out for the FORGE demo coming out in the next couple weeks! As well as a possible metal release from South Florida.