If there’s been one good outcome to this whole TWENTYNINESCENE debacle, it’s been that an aesthetic that would have been previously written off as goofy is now taken somewhat seriously, and thus the artists who play within that sandbox are now given more than a shrug or ironic mocking. That, and that it’s finally okay to admit that Attack Attack’s Someday Came Suddenly is kind of fucking awesome.
Although I’m hesitant to include Sophie and Erin of Pattern Recognition within the “scenecore revival” pantheon (if anything, they’ve never given up on the aesthetic and are just stoked that it’s no longer the reserve of rural kids who never got the memo that scene died), I will say that they are pumping out some of the coolest scene/whitebelt/whatever-you-want-to-call-it releases in recent memory, and they are doing it with love, passion, and care.
When you look at Pattern Recognition's releases, you are struck at the amount of detail that went into the art and packaging. The kicker is that the label primarily deals in the lost art of the cassette tape. Don’t get it twisted, though; beyond being a signifier of cool, retro cachet or a symbol of post-ironic, faux-nostalgic enthusiasm, the obsession with cassettes comes from an undeniably genuine place.
Full disclosure, I’ve known these cats for a while, and while we’ve always been friends, it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to write up something that does Pattern Recognition justice. Many thanks to Erin and Sophie for the in-depth and insightful answers that came out of this interview. And to set the tone, it should be known that all parties involved were listening to Emmure’s Goodbye to the Gallows while this interview was being conducted. Belts are white, pants are tight: let’s rock and roll.
Alright, so let's start with the big obvious stuff—who are y'all, and how did Pattern Recognition come to be?
Erin: I’m Erin Ixtab, was born and raised in Texas. I moved to Illinois last year, and have worked with Pattern Recognition since early 2018. I’ve had a love for mathcore and screamo since late junior high and it never really ended.
Sophie: I'm Sophie Katet, I grew up in Texas, and moved to Illinois a few years ago. I've been doing work with booking and promotion work for about half a decade and have been a cassette hobbyist for about twice as long, and that really reached it logical conclusion with starting a label. I originally founded Pattern Recognition as a DIY booking/distribution collective under a different name back in 2016. However, it really took on the form it has now in late 2017 when I was talking to Jonah from secondgradeknifefight about releasing some of the material from that band.
I was asked if I wanted to do tapes for the SeeYouSpaceCowboy/secondgradeknifefight split. However, there was a different label on that release with a very similar name and at the time I was already thinking of changing things around a bit, so that's about when Pattern Recognition really began I guess.
I'm glad you brought up the cassette hobbyist aspect, because this is the big question I've always wanted to ask cassette labels: why cassettes?
Sophie: Okay, so a lot of people ask me this because there's a huge stigma that cassettes are the worst sounding format and are more of a collector’s item than anything, which in a lot of ways isn't necessarily wrong, but I don’t believe it's inherently true either. If time and effort is taken into recording, they can honestly sound amazing and at times nearly up to par with CD quality (but with a more analog sound), to the point where there are some genres and artists I'd rather listen to on cassette than other formats. Maybe that's just me. Also, they're highly durable as long as they're cared for properly.
However, what's definitely my favorite part about cassettes is the customizability and the fact that anyone with a tape deck can be recording and making their own mixes, releases, etc. Plus, you can do a lot of really interesting and intricate artwork on the actual medium.
I agree with all of this so much, and I'd also like to add that they're also really really accessible and easy to make, which makes them hella suited to DIY artists who want a cheap and fast way to make a good-looking product.
Erin: Oh yeah, that is definitely a huge plus. I believe it’s something that anyone can get into without a huge investment and gives bands an opportunity to put their music on physical, analog media without having to drop up to thousands of dollars on a vinyl release. Anyone with a tape deck can get started and I highly recommend it as something for anyone to get into.
Another thing I also think is interesting about Pattern Recognition is that you've really carved out a "house sound." Aside from outliers like the Watabou (breakcore/IDM) reissue or Warm Darn (wonky art pop), most artists who have put out releases on PR are oriented towards a whitebelt/false grind type of sound. Obviously there's variations: Callous Daoboys have riffs and licks; secondgradeknifefight is the closest I've ever heard a screamo band come to harsh noise; TheCheeseburgerPicnic is literally just MySpace nightmare music; Plasticbag Facemask is dizzyingly technical deathcore, and so on.
But they all have a similar aesthetic and are drawing from similar influences. How did y'all get involved in that world? Do you subscribe to the "scenecore revival"/twentyninescene narrative that's being pushed?
Erin: Well, our sound just came from a love of the genre that we've both had since we were kids. We try to seek out things that we love, and it isn’t necessarily just because it’s that sound. As for them seeming to have the same influences, I’d say it’s probably because we grew up surrounded by it. Everything from MySpace to movies seemed to be permeated by it, and now we've grown up. It’s kinda just what we know. As for scenecore revival/twentyninescene, we support it wholeheartedly but i think calling it "twentyninescene" is disingenuous because it still isn’t a phase, mom! It comes from a genuine love that we have for the music, that, at least for me, has existed since I was a kid.
Sophie: I can remember jamming Chiodos and Job for a Cowboy with my brother as far back as elementary school when he was going to shows in the early 2000s as a teenager, but I really got heavily involved in the DIY screamo/grind scene around the age of 14 when I moved to New Jersey, and then that continued to become an even greater part of my life when I moved to Austin a few years later. While I always continued listening to scenecore, it really became more of a central focus in my life a few years ago after befriending some of the good folx in Gas Up Yr Hearse!. This ended up with me filling in with them on vocals once or twice and starting my own whitebelt band WorldsBiggestBassProShop, which is currently in the process of recording an EP.
Erin: As for how I got into the scene, I'd say the same way any 12-year-old did: MySpace and YouTube. This led me to forums searching for new bands and eventually finding screamo when I was 14, which led me to just grow from there.
In a lot of ways, I think the Internet kind of has taken the place of the "cool older sibling" role. I discovered this shit the same way Erin did, through forums and YouTube (although YouTube was a bit less of a thing then). What jumps out to me the most when I listen to those older bands as well as the newer bands who take influence from them is that, for me personally, the music kind of mirrors the internal chaos of dysphoria.
The aesthetic of scenecore was pretty integral to my earliest experiences of feeling genderfucked and a lot of the younger kids I see into this shit have reclaimed the aesthetic as a way of championing their queerness. What are your thoughts on this intersection of LGBT youth and scenecore? Obviously it's always been around, but it seems much more pronounced than it used to be.
Erin: Well, I think a lot of queer people were and are drawn to it because of the androgynous and feminine look that typically comes with being scene. It allowed people to express themselves without "outing" themselves as queer/LGBT, because it was attached to a music scene and not a lifestyle. You weren’t the "gay" or "queer" kid, you were the emo kid. Your identity was separate and safe.
Sophie: As for the general chaos, it probably has a lot to do with the rage and discomfort that comes with being oppressed. Also, on a separate note, as someone who suffers from mental illness, whitebelt and scenecore in general is some of the most cathartic and visceral music for me personally and has become a huge coping mechanism. Also the outward androgyny and feminity is something that, nowadays, can be used as a form of self-expression and being proud and open about queer identity.
Thank you both so much for those responses. They're really insightful and I hope someone reads them and feels an echo of themselves in it the same way that I do. So what's next for Pattern Recognition?
Sophie: Okay, so we've got a lot really sick things lined up and a lot of them are still under wraps, but I think as of right now, something that I'm personally very excited for that I think I can talk about is that The Dead Sleep Like Us for a Reason by Destroyer Destroyer is getting a 13th anniversary repress by us, due out 6/6/19. As someone who's personally been influenced by their music, it's been an honor to be able to put this out. We'd also like to announce that we're gonna be releasing a really fucking rad EP from Central Illinois up-and-coming Southern mathcore/scenegrind band Karat's Gold. If you are into the Callous Daoboys or early He Is Legend, I think you’re really gonna like this one.
Also, last thing: a personal project I've recently been undertaking, that I've been wanting to do for a long time, is a VHS compilation that includes music videos and short art films by artists across the screamo and whitebelt scenes. It's still very much in the works and we'd be very happy to look at any submissions readers might have.
All of that sounds rad as fuck! I'm genuinely stoked for that VHS project, and as someone who's also been personally influenced by Destroyer Destroyer, what you're doing there is really cool. Thank you both so much for your time and your in-depth answers! As a friend and fan, it means a lot that you'd sit down with me and discuss this stuff. Are there any parting words y'all have for anyone reading? Any bands or people you'd like to shout out? Any questions for me? The floor is yours.
Erin: For both of us: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. We would like to shout Jackie Buckalew from the Callous Daoboys for helping with art design and general support. Matthew Klein of Dontstress//flowerpress has been one of our best friends and supporters of the label and we are excited to work with him in the future, but we can’t really talk about that yet [laughs]. Shawn Decker has been a huge influence as well as a wonderful friend and supporter. There are tons of people we would like to shout out and we would name everyone if we could, but there’s not enough time in the world for that.
Sophie: Fuck elitists, listen to whatever makes you happy or whatever you wanna be feeling at that time. Don't let preconceived notions of what's "cool" dictate your taste.
Word. I love y’all.