by Daniel Colussi | Rarely does a band’s name so rightly capture their aural aesthetic, but Disappears is the perfect name for what these guys do. They craft hazy visions of half forgotten memories. They’re dream house-livers. They’re ghost riders, patrolmen of lost highways. But as people, they’re much more straight forward. Frontman Brian Case is a longtime indie-rocker, and in the following conversation he sheds light on playing tunes, being a bartender, and everything else that maketh a Chicago psych rocker tick.
What I’ve heard so far from Pre Language, the new album, sounds a little more reined in than the last two. The overall sound seems a bit less gauzy, less hazy, and more focused. What was the plan going into this recording? What kind of album did you want to record? And what did having Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth drummer) on board bring to recording proceedings? Well, we definitely didn’t want to make a record like we had before. We move pretty fast in terms of writing, and in the past the recording process mirrored that. This time we had a few more resources available to us (Steve’s studio) and a little more time to work. We really just wanted to do what was best for the songs, which is always the goal, but this time we were a little more considered than we have been in the past. Lux and Guider were each recorded in 2 days and mixed in 2 days by a member of the band in the same studio. This time we had someone to engineer, someone to mix and two separate studios – gives you a little more breathing time and helps keep your head clear.
I was a fan of 90 Day Men, and thinking back to when that band was around, it feels like a different era from today. It feels like there’s just so much more music/labels/bands/etc than ever before. Do you have any thoughts or reflections on how “indie rock” music/culture has evolved in the last 10-15 years? Oh my god, I think about this all the time. Yes, things are so completely different. I mean, when 90 Day Men was around, people were worried about promo’s being sold before release date, not your record being available to anyone who felt like googling your band name. The internet was such a small, tiny part of independent music culture then – it’s so hard to illustrate how it has become a major force in creating, marketing, selling, hyping, and ultimately destroying bands today. Great question that we could talk about for hours.
Something I like about Disappears is how your music balances the spaciness of psych/kraut music with a sort of tight punk rock vibe. Am I way off on this? How does that dynamic come about? How much is that by design? I think it’s just a matter of taste really. Ultimately that’s what makes a band good or bad in my opinion. Yes, skill plays a part, but if you can get a group of people together with a good combination of chemistry and influences, then you’ve got it. That’s how it’s been in all the bands I’ve played in at least. You’re right on with how you describe us; we try and balance the visceral-ness of punk with the experimental side of things. Usually we just slap the two right on top of each other, haha.
What’s the best Hawkwind album? What’s the best Fall album? Honestly I know nothing about Hawkwind, aside from Lemmy being the original bass player and that people think they are an influence on us. I really do need to check them out. The best Fall record is impossible to pick. Right now I’m actually listening to ‘Bend Sinister’ and I can’t imagine anything sounding better, so let’s go with that.
Am I correct in thinking that all of Disappears, minus Steve, are bartenders? That means a lot of time spent in bars. What’s it like to work in a bar and then go on tour and spend all your time in bars? Two of us are bartenders. Ummm…it can be a little like “Groundhog Day” but that’s more about being on tour and being at the same clubs all the time. The bar I work at is in a really nice restaurant so it’s not dark with loud music and people getting wasted so that helps keep it in a different place for me. Jonathan works at a great bar called Rainbo, it’s been around since the 1930’s or something and doesn’t have bands (well, very rarely), so it’s more of a place to hang out vs. being assaulted with a band 7 days a week.
I imagine that Disappears live is a different beast than Disappears in the studio. What makes for a good Disappears live show? What kind of places do you prefer to play? How do you feel your songs translate in larger setting like the Pitchfork or Lollapalooza shows vs. a 300 person capacity bar? I think we prefer to play places where we can control the environment some, a good mid-size club that’s packed with people who want to hear music is the best – everyone can see, there are few distractions and you can really pull off the energy of the audience. With the festivals it’s totally different – you have to fight to make people care, which has it’s own advantages as well. Live is different for us – we really try and link things together, similar to a DJ set. We try our best to keep the momentum going and try and pace things so they build into something versus just playing 12 songs and talking about how rad everyone is between them. Hopefully there’s a little mystery there.
Finally, I imagine that everyone in the band is a total music head. So what gets played in the van when you’re on tour? We all take turns with the music but a lot of times the van is quite tame. We like to talk and use that time to make plans about what’s coming up – what we’d like to happen. Steve and Jonathan end up DJing a lot – lots of old soul stuff, weird new wave, obscure french music…hahaha…just a bunch of music snobs driving around in a van somewhere.
Disappears and The Fresh And Onlys play the Biltmore Saturday Feb 18th. Tickets at Zulu and Red Cat and the Biltmore.
Zulu Records veteran and tunage aficionado Daniel Colussi is the Music Editor of Scout Magazine.