Since its inception in the ’80s, hardcore and straight edge have been inextricable. We would see several different permutations as the genre shifted throughout the decades. As hardcore got metallic, there would be an expansion of straight edge ideology in the ’90s. Shows would devolve into arguments between the fans and bands. It would sometimes result in militant movements like hardline, which took the ideology of straight edge to a logical extreme.

For Tyler Short, the singer of Inclination, taking the path of straight edge didn’t start from the extreme place that the ’90s straight edge culture typified. Like many kids born in the late ’80s, he found his entry into punk through Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, eventually leading him to pick up a skateboard. Things like skate videos and VH1 would introduce him to even more music that would prove formative. It would lead to hearing Fugazi and Minor Threat. While skating, Short had some proximity to drugs, but he never had an interest in it. All his friends who eventually smoked weed became uninterested in skating and focused on chilling.” All beer did was make him sleepy. It’s here that we start to see the philosophy that color Inclination begins to form.

“Part of my idea for Inclination being called Inclination is that idea is that some people are naturally inclined to being drug-free or being straight edge,” said Short. “This band kind of started as a way for me to get those feelings about how I always felt. It wasn’t until finding straight edge that I was able to put my finger on it exactly.”

It wouldn’t be until a few years into skateboarding that Short would eventually find himself in the orbit of live music at a local level. He didn’t know that his favorite bands were something you could experience up close. At that time, skateboarding and the punk scene in Louisville didn’t intermingle much. They were separate entities, so he ran a parallel existence to hardcore for a few years. Then, after a friend dragged him to a show and saw people piling on top of each other, Short became a convert. It would be at a show where his current drummer Chris Mills’ band, Expired Youth, played that would solidify his belief in straight edge. Three of the four bands would cover Judge, a band he had just gotten into. From then on, he would have Xs on his hand. He had already been drug-free for two years and never intended to do drugs, so this was the next logical step.

The following years would have Short fronting bands, starting with a project that he describes as very bad. He was asked to sing because–as is the case in a lot of hardcore stories–he moshed a lot. It was in the vein of Youth of Today. And for over a decade, Short would jump from project to project as a singer. Most of those bands you can’t find online except for Another Mistake, which was reminiscent of the Bridge Nine wave in the 2000s. Fronting a band was a role that he felt comfortable in almost immediately. Skateboarding had primed him for being in the spotlight. But even though he’d play in bands for over a decade, none of them were explicitly straight edge. It would allow his thoughts to fester for years without an outlet to pour his thoughts. All that needed to happen was the right band to unleash his scribe of straight edge onto the public.

With Inclination, Short had finally found the vehicle to deliver all his feelings on straight edge. He would also get a perfect songwriting partner in Isaac Hale, who many know as the guitarist of Knocked Loose. The years of lived experience are why Midwestern Straight Edge is unabashed in talking about the X. It’s clear from the start that Short has a lot to say. The opening track, “No Exit,” would be the mission statement (“Love it or leave it, I know I fucking need it.”). Inclination was going to be the point of view of someone who had been involved in hardcore for a long time and had seen people leave straight edge behind. “An X of My Own” talks about this phenomenon very explicitly, explaining that straight edge isn’t a passing trend but something meant to last forever (“Do not hold onto the X for anyone else but yourself/ If you can’t find your own reasons then this isn’t something you believe in”).

The next release would be an expansion of things for Inclination. The title, When Fear Turns To Confidence, is a bit of a hint of what to expect. It’s a bit more personal, pinning down exactly why Short chose this path in the first place. “Part of me being straight edge when I first started was a fear of what alcohol and drugs would bring into my life. That’s got different layers to it. Fear of the damage it could cause. But also a fear that I might look stupid,” said Short. “I saw a generation of kids being so anti-drug, being so ‘fuck weed.’ Being militant straight edge. All of them sold out. Fear and anger aren’t the way you stay in this. You can’t do it out of fear. Curiosity will creep in. You have to feel a sense of comfortability with being drug-free and not needing it, which means you can be around it.”

Even before the last EP was written, Short had been ruminating on what would become their debut record. He was saving a couple of songs for a bigger project. He even lobbied for the record to have fewer songs as well. But as Unaltered Perspective was written, he had more to say than he originally intended. He found different things to broaden and split these topics into separate songs. It would allow him to create a cohesive story in the hopes someone could connect to it and see themselves in it.

The narrative that Short builds on Unaltered Perspective is all-encompassing. It feels like a story we’ve seen pieces of throughout the short Inclination discography. But where earlier releases were a bit more didactic, this one’s a bit more empathetic. He uses vocalists from other groups to help deliver his message, including Tom Sheehan (Indecision), Ryan Savitzki (One Step Closer), and Russell Bussey (Magnitude). You begin to understand why Short feels like he does about certain topics. You get to see the tale play out through multiple arcs that are all interconnected. The spoken word intro works as a thesis, letting people know what’s to come. Songs like “Epidemic” and “Thoughts and Prayers” look at the for-profit healthcare industry, the opioid epidemic it brings on, and our institutions’ lack of answers to this problem. “Bystander” and “Predetermined ” bring a personal touch, showing how Short’s own life has been affected by addiction. The same person who he first got into skating with would be the one whose life was lost.

“We had diverged, and at a certain point, I resigned myself to the idea that he would die from this. After rehab and relapse, I knew how he would die. I knew it was inevitable. We got those skateboards together. We spent all this time pouring over this subculture of skateboarding that led me into the counterculture of hardcore. This drug and political response has very much affected my life. I’ve lost somebody who I considered family.”

But even as dire as the world may seem in the world of Inclination, there is still one thing you can change: yourself. Inclination uses “Commitment To Self” as a hopeful end against a world that doesn’t care whether you live or die. That change comes in many different forms. It comes from learning, growing, and doing something that brings positive energy to the world. Maybe it comes from being drug-free and not giving in to addiction. It comes from being there for people, especially when they need you the most. In the end, all Short hopes with Unaltered Perspective are that one of these songs can speak to someone’s experience and make them feel like they’re not alone.

Inclination arrives this Friday (10/21) via Pure Noise. Pick up our exclusive half black/half orange crush vinyl variant, limited to 250. Stream the current singles below.