The Madison, Wisconsin rockers write catchy, danceable music about feeling low on their debut album, Collector.
Sometimes the hardest part of my day is getting out of bed. There are moments when I’m consumed by a general unwillingness to do anything but lay in the dark, close my eyes, and avoid dealing with the real world. Wisconsin power-pop band Disq know what it’s like to feel despondent, with the lead single for their upcoming album Collector focusing on this feeling of hopelessness. On “Daily Routine,” guitarist and vocalist Isaac DeBroux-Slone sings “I see the people who spend their lives in a worthwhile shine / I’m laying down spending my life on wasting time.” Oddly enough, “Daily Routine” is a song that might actually convince you to jump out of bed, with the Madison natives matching lyrics about depression to punchy guitars and crashing drums.
While their debut album Collector focuses on extreme lows—like feeling inadequate (“I’m Really Trying”), depressed (“I Wanna Die”), and helpless (“Loneliness”)—the Midwesterners keep it buoyant with the collective force of their three guitarists and a variety of sonic influences. Originally formed by DeBroux-Slone and Raina Bock, the addition of drummer Brendan Manley, guitarist and vocalist Logan Severson, and guitarist and keyboardist Shannon Connor allows the band to explore a more powerful, diverse sound.
Pulling from genres like grunge, post-punk, and more, the band crafts catchy, danceable music about feeling low. But just because life can be hard, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. Album cuts like “D19”— which skewers traditional love songs by making the object of affection a microphone—and “Fun Song 4”—a careening instrumental break that sees the band flex their technical skill—show how the band are equal parts cheeky and angsty.
In honor of their album release DeBroux-Slone and bassist Raina Bock spoke with AdHoc about their band’s biggest regret, bonding over Green Day, and getting away from their computer screens.
Disq’s debut album Collector is out today, March 6 via Saddle Creek. Catch them at the AdHoc Free For All SXSW showcase at Cheer Up Charlie’s in Austin, TX on March 19.
How has the band evolved from Disq I to Collector?
Isaac: The first one [Disq I] was a bit more of a mini album, it only had like six songs. It was pretty much entirely made by us for ourselves and the Madison music community. We didn’t have any major plans with it going anywhere beyond that. This album Collector, so many people worked on it and it’s a big affair coming out on Saddle Creek.
Rana: [Collector]’s profoundly personal but still universal. I won’t speak to any of the facts too specifically, I think it’s generally [about] mental health struggles, the technological age, depression, and just trying to figure it out. It’s been a kind of interesting transition. I want the band image to be more of a full band rather than the two of us.
In “Daily Routine” you sing about spending hours on the computer; Isaac you’ve mentioned before that you are obsessed with social media, even when it might be bad for you. Do you still have this relationship with it?
Isaac: Yeah, I definitely watch a lot of TV. I don’t go to school, and I don’t work that much so I have a lot of free time. Working on the album really helped me get away from that. It’s nice to be away for a week or a month, to be able to take a little break from that cycle.
Raina: If you’re not in a great place, [social media] is an easy way to erase the day. I got rid of [my smartphone] between my junior and senior year of high school. I grew up having one, but I was just unfortunately unable to self-regulate. It would have been awesome if I was able to have a better relationship with it. But it was just not good for my mental health at all.
Why did you choose the name “Collector” for the album?
Isaac: There’s a song on the album called “Trash,” and we were thinking about maybe naming the album “Trash” or “Trash Collector.” Then we just thought Collector sounded cooler, and then we realized that it works really well because it’s sort of a collection of songs from all different points in our lives. They’re all really different but I think they fit together in a nice way.
“Fun Song 4” is the only instrumental track on the album. What was the reason behind including it?
Isaac: I think we all wanted something instrumental on the album. I feel like a lot of the time when there are instrumentals on an album they feel like an afterthought. It was just something I had been working on on my computer, and I thought it was really cool. I was really excited about it. I tried playing drums on it myself, but I didn’t feel like that was cutting it so I got a friend of ours to come in and record the drums. After that we started playing it during practice and that was really fun. Now it’s become a mainstay of our live set.
In “Loneliness,” Isaac you sing “But now you’ve gone some thousand miles away / And I’ve got nothing left to do.” Is this a song about you and Raina’s relationship, with her moving to California for school?
Isaac: It’s not! It’s kind of a funny story. I’d written that song about my girlfriend who moved to California to go to school. Then Raina had a similar situation going on, she was leaving Wisconsin for California.
Raina: So I dropped out [of college] after a semester. We didn’t really put together that we had written a song together and were going through much of the same thing at the same time.
You both have known each other for a long time. Do you remember the first song you wrote or played together?
Isaac: The first song we played together was probably “Holiday” by Green Day or something like that.
Raina: Definitely, Green Day.
Isaac: The first song we wrote together was probably “Overloaded,” which was featured on Disq I. We were just kind of hanging out at Raina’s house and we’d been wanting to make some music and have a band. Raina’s dad was playing Strawberry Jam [by Animal Collective] on her bed, and her dad was like “You should write a strawberry jam,” and then we did that. It was very fun. That was the first really collaborative song.
What song are both of you most proud of on “Collector”?
Isaac: I’m really proud of “Daily Routine,” for sure.
Raina: I would agree with “Daily Routine.” I’m quite into “Trash” on the album because I got to play guitar on that which was really fun. I don’t get to do a lot of that in this band, so that was cool to do.
Isaac: I don’t know, I just really love all the songs on the album a lot. That’s not the best answer, but I feeI there are little things I love about all of them. Probably “Drum In,” because it’s the only one that we haven’t released besides “Trash.” We haven’t played “Drum In” live ever, so we’re gonna have to figure that one out. That’ll be really fun I think, I’m very excited for that one.
Raina: I’m also pretty excited to learn some new fun covers. We were thinking of learning a big batch of covers that we can just choose from every night.
I saw that Wisconsin Cheese tweeted at you while you were playing SXSW about meeting up. Did you ever end up meeting?
Isaac: That’s one of our biggest regrets as a band that we didn’t. We looked at their hours and they weren’t open very much so we didn’t end up being able to make it. But if they’re there this year then we are definitely going to try and make that happen.