Disq have assembled a razor-sharp, teetering-on-the-edge-of-chaos melange of sounds, experiences, memories, and influences. Due out March 6 on Saddle Creek, Collector ought to be taken literally—it is a place to explore and catalogue the Madison, Wisconsin band’s relationships to themselves, their pasts, and the world beyond the American Midwest as they careen from their teens into their 20s. This turbulence is backdropped by gnarled power pop, anxious post-punk, warm psych-folk, and hectic, formless, tongue-in-cheek indie rock.
Collector, like the band itself, is defined and tightly-contoured by the ties between the five members. Raina Bock (bass/vocals) and Isaac deBroux-Slone (guitar/vocals) have known each other from infancy, growing up and into music together. They started jamming in middle school (Bock vividly recalls being floored by deBroux-Slone covering “Jesus of Suburbia” on the drums), and by high school they were playing in bands together. Through gigging around Madison, they met and befriended Shannon Connor (guitar/keys/vocals), Logan Severson (guitar/vocals), and Brendan Manley (drums)—three equally dedicated and adventurous musicians committed to coaxing genre boundaries.
The fact of Disq’s origin in a mid-size Midwestern city is an inextricable thread in their story and sound. It’s a locale memorialized on the sixth installment of Saddle Creek’s Document Series, for which the label tapped Disq to record two tracks. “I love feeling like an underdog,” says Bock. “I’m super proud to have grown up in flyover country.”
The insular nature and isolated geography of Wisconsin allowed for what Bock and deBroux-Slone describe as an incubator effect: unhindered by competition and explicitly capitalist practices that more populous music communities tend to foster and necessitate, Madison has allowed the group a supportive, pretenseless groundwork. In a larger city, Bock and deBroux-Slone might not have met Connor, Severson, and Manley. Neither might they have been able to experiment with pop structures and songwriting as they have.
It’s these environmental framings—cohesive, committed interpersonal musical relationships and a space to chase the outcroppings of those partnerships—paired with Millennial malaise that combined to produce Collector, which the band recorded with producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliot Smith, Kurt Vile). It’s a set of songs largely pulled from each of the five members’ demo piles over the years. They’re organic representations of each moment in time, gathered together to tell a mixtape-story of growing up in 21st century America.
Opener, “Daily Routine,” encapsulates a fatigued modern nausea: “This is my daily routine/Spend my hours on a computer screen,” deBroux-Slone declares in an apathetic, tuneful groan to open the record. He’s backed by woozy guitars before the whole band crashes in like a panic attack, with tempo darting up and down throughout the track. deBroux-Slone describes the tone as “tongue-in-cheek nihilism.”
It’s a vibe that his bandmates identify with. “Even though Isaac wrote the lyrics for most of the songs, I feel like it just happened to line up as shit all of us are going through in our lives,” says Bock. “It’s such a weird time for young people all over right now.” It’s characterized not just by introspection, but urgency. “It feels sometimes like that’s the only thing to write about,” says deBroux-Slone.
The droning, macabre acoustic intro of “Loneliness” gives way to a Spoon-meets-Neil Young strummer, while “Gentle” is a warped, grungy guitar pop romp penned by Severson which describes the correlative nature of mental and physical health. Severson says its about “discovering that connection, and trying to uncover how I fell into these tendencies that cause me harm.”
Throughout Collector, the group displays a shrewd understanding of pop and rock structures and their corollaries, as well as a keen desire to dialogue with and upset them. These tendencies aren’t intentional; they just are. For Disq, these are unconscious pursuits, which makes Collector all the more remarkable: it is the sound of a group of young musicians learning who they are, excavating where they’re from, and wondering where to go next. As a decade and chapters in their lives end, Disq are just beginning.
The Dome, Tufnell Park