The Discordian Society Returns Home to Roanoke

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Calvin James Pynn

cpynn@radford.edu

The Discordian Society is a band of unusual proportions. Making a return to the area for the first time in several years this past summer, they blew the audience out of the water at Martin’s Downtown, a small bar venue deep within the urban makeup of Roanoke, Virginia.

In truth, The Discordian Society is a band that merits no single label in regards to their sound or goal as musicians. Funky, technical and otherworldly in general, the band covers these descriptions and many more. Their music incorporates elements of jazz, funk and progressive, combined to cumulatively form a sound that breaks the barriers of any general “rock” band.

The Discordian Society is not your average band, but as a musical force, they prove themselves to be a “well oiled machine” with an orchestral sound that one would never expect to be produced by a quintet such as them.

The origins of The Discordian Society began in Roanoke roughly 10 years ago, around 2000-2001. Led by a quirky bassist/vocalist known only as Davz “Not Here” Annarelli, the band ventured into their odd sound intending to avoid an agenda. It is that quality of the band that seems to drive them, as well as the unique result of their collaboration.

“We wanted to avoid playing anything everyone else has ever done,” said Annarelli. Such a goal seemed to be fluid with their progressive, jam band style, which, in a sense, can never be played the same way.

The other members include guitarist Alfonso Graceffo, drummer Scott Poe, tenor and alto saxophonist Paul “the Great White Sax” Juhl and keyboardist Max Melner. Incidentally, the band has seen numerous lineup changes during their decade long existence and Annarelli has been the only consistent member. The current incarnation of the band was formed upon Annarelli’s move to Asheville, North Carolina, to be closer to his son.

While Dave leads them, all members share vocal duties, and seem to play together as a collective. With the incorporation of the horn arrangements juxtaposed against the organ effects of the keyboard, The Discordian Society produces an overall bass-heavy sound that rivals the decibel levels of most jazz ensembles.

As there never seems to be a dull moment with The Discordian Society, the background behind their name is even more interesting. The idea is linked to the chaos-based religious text, Principia Discordia, which was written as a supplement to the chaotic ideas of confusion and literal contradiction. The band’s manifestation of such ideas also incorporates the studies of philosopher Robert Anton Wilson. As complex as the ideas are behind the doctrine that inspired The Discordian Society, it only makes perfect sense that they would correspond with their bizarre sound.

Musically, the band is influenced by classic prog innovators and experimenters such as Frank Zappa, Les Claypool, King Crimson, The Mars Volta, Pink Floyd and Mr. Bungle. At this point, The Discordian Society has released three albums, titled “Figments,” “Rise of the Molecule,” and most recently, “Primordial Soup” which was released in 2010. Currently, the band is preparing to release their fourth studio album, “Awkward Dance of the Flatworm,” later this year, after recording sessions at SW Studios in Asheville.

Seeing The Discordian Society play live is truly a sight to behold. While their music encompasses both melody and chaos, they manage to incorporate numerous other aspects as well. Their lengthy songs see multiple time signature changes, individual solos by the band members and transitions between mind-bending polyrhythms and soothing, ambient passages, accented in an atmospheric, shoegaze style.

Each member of The Discordian Society displays an impressive range of vocal talent, with a number of strangely placed hooks throughout their music. Their sound is explosive and bass-heavy, and as they incorporate styles such as spoken word, their improvisations come off as a clear sign of the band’s talent.

Their set list included songs such as “S.A.M.,” “Ideas,” the two-part “Figments,” and an amusing cover of the Frank Zappa classic “Cosmik Debris.” Their show started late and ended around 2 a.m. Toward the end of their set, the band was joined by a former Discordian Society guitarist, who played in one of the earlier Roanoke incarnations of the band.

While The Discordian Society is based five hours Southwest of Radford University, the band enjoys coming back to their former hometown area whenever the opportunity presents itself, most often to Floyd, Virginia. To keep up with The Discordian Society, updates are provided through myspace.com/discordiansociety, as well as their Reverbnation profile. They currently have big plans for the future, and aren’t going away any time soon.