Categories
Pop/Indie Pop

The Wonderful World of Walt Disco

The Glaswegian glam pop outfit Walt Disco have been making waves in the European indie scene since their debut EP Young Hard and Handsome was released in September of 2020. Consisting of six members, James (lead singer); Finlay (guitar and keyboards); Lewis (guitarist); David (synth); Charlie (bass); and Jack (drums) the group’s appearance is reminiscent of David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and mid-1970s Brian Eno with a dash of ABBA thrown in for good measure. 

Yet Walt Disco somehow remain totally unlike any other band that has gone before them. They have a distinctly 21stcentury feel, a fervent embrace of unapologetic self-expression and decadence (the intensity of which stems possibly from the increasingly alarming structural malfunctions seizing up our current way of life on Earth.) The band have quickly forged their own signature sound, inviting listeners into a colorful realm of rock n’ roll that Dork Magazine has dubbed, “Walt Discoworld.”

The group recently released a single entitled Selfish Lover, accompanied by a video featuring the band parading around an abandoned mansion decked out in glam rock deshabille and kabuki theatre-meets-Pierrot makeup. The Selfish Lover release coincided with an announcement that the group had signed to Lucky Number Records and were planning a tour of the U.K. to promote the single.

On behalf of Totally Wired, I recently caught up with lead singer James Potter and guitarist Finlay McCarthy for a chat on myriad topics ranging from writing pop songs on computers to raiding Grayson Perry’s closet, to the tour gigs they’re most looking forward to. 

The interview occurs on Zoom, because, well, of course: it’s 2021. James Potter appears on the screen first, their dark curly mullet pushed back over their ears, and shortly after, guitarist Finlay McCarthy pops up, sporting a Mick Jagger-y shag with the tips dyed blue. “I’m in!’ he crows, after exchanging suitably chummy greetings with bandmate James. (“Thank you, it’s a mess,” he says self-deprecatingly when I compliment his hair.) 

We get down to business, starting with the simple stuff: How did the band members originally meet? “Over the space of a couple of years. Me, Dave and Lewis were in the original line-up and then Finlay joined at the start of 2019, then Jack joined during a long tour in autumn 2019, and then Charlie joined in around December 2019,” James explains.

I ask what the main inspiration for starting a band was. “I suppose, personally, it’s just because it’s like the only thing I’m good at,” Finlay says. “Ever since I started playing guitar when I was like, 13, I was just like, ‘Ok. That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna leave school and find people to play with…And I’m gonna take a part-time job until it works.’ And now it has.”

I inquire after who the primary songwriters in the band are. Do they all contribute equally, or do they have a Lennon/McCartney thing going on where some work on melody and some write lyrics?

 “I don’t think it’s ever been six of us in the same room, but all six of us contribute,” James says.

“We kind of had to look at the way we were creating over lockdown. And we found that a lot of it has come from writing through the computer rather than jamming in a room,” Finlay explains.

“I think often I find lyrics from the feeling an instrumental will give me,” James muses. “So it’ll be quite a lush instrumental often before I start writing lyrics. Sometimes the lyrics’ll come early but more often than not, I have to have a real feeling and emotions already from the music and find something from that. Because a lot of people won’t listen to lyrics. So, you don’t always even need lyrics, but melody is the main thing that moves people in music. And you need the right words to fit a melody.”

Walt Disco behind the scenes of their ‘Selfish Lover’ video, photographed by @m_adeleinegrace

We move on to discussing the band’s latest single, a high-energy pop number called Selfish Lover, written during lockdown: “Yeah, it was like, April last year,” James recalls. “Lewis sent a garage band demo. We really liked the energy of the instrumental. We just wanted to make it a wee bit more circusy and interesting, so we gave it the intro bassline and the sort of slightly swingy feel…”

Despite having good bones, the song took a lot of “chipping away,” at before it reached its final state, Finlay says. James grins and admits, “…the guitar riff, the middle eight and the first chorus one, was a guitar riff we stole from another song that didn’t quite make it…”

“You stole a riff from your own song? Self-piracy?” I laugh. 

“Yeah, we stole a riff from our own song because the rest of the song just wasn’t strong enough, but it had a really good riff. So, we were like, fuck it, we’ll just put it in this song…David Bowie plagiarized his own songs all the time,” James says. I mention how much James’ voice reminds me of Station to Station era David Bowie on certain Walt Disco tunes, and the conversation turns to the band’s musical inspirations and influences. 

“Having six of us, there’s quite a mishmash, but we all share very similar interests, like the Associates,” Finlay says. “We got really into electronic music over lockdown, cos all we were trying to do was write pop songs. And sometimes you just wanted to switch off and listen to a beat or a cool sound. That kind of seeped into the pop songs that we were trying to write.”

James delves deeper into dissecting the band’s writing methodology: “We’d often start with these quite complex, experimental electronic tracks and then complete that as its own little thing, and then send it over to a different computer and then view it differently… and then once the bass and guitar are on, give it a pop structure and pop melody. That’s the most successful writing process we’ve had.”

Walt Disco behind the scenes of the ‘Selfish Lover,’ video. Photographer: @m_adeleinegrace

The conversation veers from songwriting to another crucial part of Walt Disco’s collective artistic practice: getting dressed up. Thinking of the flamboyant mix of costumes in the Selfish Lover video (where the band wore everything from thigh-high black leather boots to baby pink satin corsets, housewifely 1950s half-slips, faux fur wraps and leather harnesses,) I ask if they have a favored designer or stylist.

“For the Selfish Lover video we were working with a stylist called Jack Shanks…he’s great,” James says. “He’s kind of the same build and the same height as all of us and that means he’s got lots of great things in his own wardrobe that fit us, and then we’ll always bring lots of our own wardrobes to the shoots. 

“Once everyone’s dressed, I make sure I have a look at everyone, ‘cause I love styling. It’s quite funny when everyone’s ready, and then I go round and am like: ‘I need to have a line-up,’ and then I’ll be like, ‘You’re not done,” and “you’re not done.’” They laugh. “Sometimes they’ll get a wee bit hurt and I’m like, ‘No, it’s for the video.’ It has to be right.”

“It’s always been something that’s been a big part of the band, even before we worked with stylists. Getting ready in the dressing room was always fun,” Finlay reminisces fondly.

I ask if there are any particular designers or fashion icons whose closets they’d like to raid.

“I think the one for both of us would be Grayson Perry,” James says, and Finlay oohs in agreement. “Definitely one of the biggest fashion icons of this century.”

I ask which artists first sparked their interest in music as kids, and Finlay looks a bit sheepish. “This may sound totally mad, but I didn’t like music when I was little. I just wasn’t interested in it, at all, until I got to high school. But I remember in my music class, we got a temporary music teacher that showed me ‘My Iron Lung,’ by Radiohead, and I was like ‘That’s cool.’ That kind of sent me down the rabbit hole.” 

James hasn’t heard this story before, and seems vaguely disappointed that Finlay’s “musical awakening,” took the form of Radiohead: “…a shame,” they say. Finlay thinks for a moment and adds, “It’s probably subliminal, but my mum was playing a lot of Kate Bush and stuff in the car, when I was little. I didn’t like it then, but I do now.” 

The soundtrack to James’ growing-up years was very different: “There were a lot of very guitar-y CDs in my house. Also, my parents would put on Queen and Scissor Sisters all the time, but I can’t remember if it was my request or not…it would kind of make sense if it was. I remember the CD player and the sound system were a real centerpiece of the living room when I was six or seven.”

I say that with the music industry stopped in its tracks for so many months, returning to the previous cycles of promo, releases and touring must feel almost alien in its strangeness. 

“You get used to your face not being anywhere, and then it’s everywhere!” James agrees, laughing.

Starting in July, Walt Disco are set to embark on a thirteen-date tour staggered over the course of four months. I ask which gigs they’re most excited to play. “I’m excited to go back to Edinburgh. That’s my home,” Finlay says, face lighting up. “And the gig we played there in October 2019 was the biggest gig we’ve ever played. Can’t wait to go back and play an even bigger venue.”

After so many months of forced stagnation, live music is back in action, and so are Walt Disco. 

Tickets for Walt Disco’s 2021 U.K. tour are on sale at: https://www.songkick.com/artists/9265324-walt-disco/calendar

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Reviews

Review: Chase Cohl – Dear Dear: Volume I

As the sun leans in closer for a warm embrace and Mother Earth takes her first steps towards revitalization, the time has come to celebrate spring’s long-awaited arrival. So, what better way to welcome it than with a brand new release that is so beautiful, it’d make even the most gifted of songbirds envious? 

Chase Cohl’s EP Dear Dear: Volume I is absolute euphoria. Consisting of four tracks, it embodies a similar feeling to surrendering your skin to the divinity of sunshine; it is nothing short of pure comfort and invigoration. This is my first proper introduction to the enormously talented singer-songwriter who, also, explores the worlds of fashion and poetry. Hearing these songs for the first time felt like coming home after a long and tiring journey, intoxicated with the pure joy of being right where you want to be. 

Dear Dear begins with “Special Situation,” a song so blissful and pleasing to the ears, it’s only right to stick around for more. The backing harmonies paired with the flawless intertwinement of Cohl’s voice and the dreamlike, vintage instrumentals make this song an undeniable winner in my book. If you’re in search of a song to dance along to with a glass of wine, look no further.

Track two, “Take It Like A Man,” took on the role as the EP’s single, and it did its job phenomenally. It’s what I had first heard from Cohl while aimlessly scrolling through Instagram just mere days ago, and I knew right off the bat that I needed to write about her. After (very quickly) falling entirely entranced by the song’s colorful, 1960s-inspired sound, I genuinely could not get it out of my head. Watch the music video here!

“Still Crying,” despite bearing somber lyrics about the woes of break-ups, carries such a playful and bright tune. The back-and-forth between Cohl and the backing vocals throughout the chorus is truly satisfying and addictive to listen to. On top of that, its bridge dips into an enchanting pool that lulls you into a brief daydream just before getting right back into the song’s upbeat magic once more.  

The fourth and final track, “I Can’t Live Without You,” just might be my favourite. It paints an image in my head so effortlessly, and I could easily see it as the score to a film’s montage scenes. Despite it being the EP’s shortest song, it possesses so much beauty and airiness that you pay no mind to its duration. It strikes something deep within me that is impossible to shake, and to say I adore every single aspect is an understatement. 

In short, this is one masterpiece of an EP. Elegance and perfection can be heard all throughout, and because I am a newer listener, I will most certainly be taking a dive into more of Chase Cohl’s material (and you should, too!). 


To stay in the loop, be sure to follow Chase Cohl on Instagram and Spotify!

(Cover photo by: KRISTIN GALLEGOS)

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

Review: Pale Waves – Who Am I?

A lot has happened in the time since Pale Waves released their first album. Despite the various trials and tribulations, one of which including a tour bus crash, the Manchester indie-rockers have proven that nothing can get in the way of creating absolute magic. Consisting of 11 tracks, Who Am I? taps into the beloved, nostalgic sounds of the 2000s, and going through each song helped me feel more like the ideal, cool-older-sister trope commonly found in movies of that era (Kat Stratford, anybody?). 

In comparison to 2018’s My Mind Makes Noises, their sophomore album presents a newfound edge that helps listeners unearth a more authentic version of Pale Waves. Now, don’t get me wrong; I absolutely adored their debut record, but it only scratched the surface of what they have to offer. That being said, it’s undeniable that they have begun to grow more into their own, unique sound, and my god, it is completely game-changing. 

I honestly wasn’t expecting this sort of switch-up at all. From the moment they released “Change,” I knew we were about to witness a brand new, monumental chapter in their career unfold. With a blissfully catchy track and a visually stunning music video to match, it makes sense why this is the way Pale Waves decided to kick off this new era.

Who Am I?’s dizzyingly romantic second single, “She’s My Religion,” brings forth some much-needed LGBTQ+ representation, and it sure as hell doesn’t stop there. “Tomorrow” beckons those who are struggling with their sexualities to take a deep breath and remember, as the lyrics emphasize, you cannot choose who you fall in love with. Not only that, but it also encourages fans who are grappling with their mental health to stick around and see that the world won’t always have you feeling trapped. It’s a truly gorgeous song that wields an impactful message we all need to be reminded of every once in a while.

Ben, I know that you love a boy

Sexuality isn’t a choice

Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

Won’t you just keep hanging on?

And Kelsi, I know life drags you down

Growing up in a small town

Always the odd one in the crowd

You know I’ll never count you out

This sort of vulnerability seen throughout the record is perhaps one of its most striking features. There’s been a distinct progression in songwriting that opens up more personal discussions, ranging from the intimacy of sex and queer romance (“Wish U Were Here”) to the ever-looming uncertainty that comes with reaching a mental and emotional low (“Who Am I?”). Seeing this newfangled sense of self from lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie, as well as the unapologetic comfortability that has come along with it, is incredibly refreshing. It introduces something notably special into their music, and the novel openness and sincerity found throughout this record have put them on track towards becoming a force to be reckoned with.

In short, Who Am I? is a wildly impressive sophomore album. Honest and bold, this record uncovers a new side of Pale Waves that marks a significant turning point for the band. Every track offers a different story that listeners can relate to and appreciate, and they all form a wonderfully cohesive collection of songs without sounding samey or repetitive. This could very well become a defining record for Pale Waves, and I’m eager to see how well it treats them.

Listen to Who Am I? on Spotify.

Categories
New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

Review: VIDEOCLUB – Euphories

If you haven’t already been introduced to the playful, 80s-inspired music of French duo VIDEOCLUB, let this be your guide. Adèle Castillon and Matthieu Reynaud are undeniably one of the coolest power couples out there, and after officially releasing music since 2018, their highly-anticipated debut album Euphories was gifted to the world on 29 January. 

Featuring pre-released tracks from over the past few years along with plenty of brand new additions, Euphories serves as the perfect introduction to the young musicians. Throughout the album, you’ll discover wondrous, lively energy that invites you to set your responsibilities aside, just for a moment, and let yourself have some well-deserved fun. 

There’s something incredibly enchanting about this record. I have been a fan of VIDEOCLUB for quite some time now, so hearing the singles I’ve been playing on repeat be finally compiled into a full-length album is something truly special. It was well worth the wait, too, because it’s undeniable that Adèle and Matthieu put their heart and soul into Euphories. Each song seamlessly leads into the next, creating an excitingly hypnotic record that once you start, you’ll want to stick around until the end. 

The first song I had ever heard from VIDEOCLUB was “Amour Plastique,” which now has an impressive 58M views on YouTube. So, seeing that they kicked off their album with this track made me feel an immense amount of pride. It’s what thwarted them onto people’s radars, and because of everyone’s massive love and support for “Amour Plastique,” Adèle and Matthieu have been given a fantastic opportunity to continue sharing their talents with the world. They certainly have not dropped the ball as every release since then has been widely well-received. With these new songs hitting airwaves, I have no doubt in my mind that their fanbase will consistently grow more each and every day. 

One of my absolute favourite new tracks is “Polaroïds.” I adore how they utilize the distinct sounds of a Polaroid camera within the beat; it adds a unique and clever touch that makes the song all the more charming. The lyrics, which reminisce on cherished memories, are really refreshing as well, and they can definitely be relatable in times like these. All of these elements combined create something that feels like pure bliss manifested within a single song (as well as a phenomenal addition to any sort of “Late Night Drives” playlist).

“SMS” is another song I am completely obsessed with. The beginning of the song sounds like an explosion of real, genuine happiness, and I can’t help but smile whenever it comes on. I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, so when I read the translated lyrics (I’m still learning French, leave me be!), I was smiling like such an idiot. It represents love in a fun, wholesome light and emphasizes the excitement behind new love unfolding. Towards the end of the track, you can even hear the synth riffs from “En Nuit,” “Amour Plastique,” “Mai,” “Enfance 80,” “Roi,” and “What Are You So Afraid Of,” which wraps up their debut record flawlessly. 

As a whole, I have fallen completely in love with Euphories. There’s a song that can match whatever mood you may be in—hear me out. In the mood to relax and shut out the world for a bit? “Trois Jours.” Need something to listen to while you’re out-and-about that’ll help you feel like the main character? “Suricate.” Don’t speak a word of French but you still want to sing along? Don’t worry, “What Are You So Afraid Of” and “Petit Monde” have got you covered with some English lyrics.

There’s truly something for everybody throughout this tracklist, and my joy goes far beyond anything words could express. Adèle and Matthieu have absolutely smashed it with Euphories, and I cannot wait to see what else they’ve got up their sleeves. 


To keep up with VIDEOCLUB, follow them on Instagram and Twitter.

Categories
New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Uncategorized

Hidden Gems: Stars – The Five Ghosts

Stars are a pop/rock band from Montreal most notable from their truly unique storytelling ability in their songs.

Masters of creating diverse and imaginative narratives through the use of their lyrics, each of their songs offers a door into a fairytale-like world, one full of wonder, heartbreak and other-worldly characters all soaked in deep-felt nostalgia.

The band’s fifth studio album, released in 2010 and appropriately named ‘The Five Ghosts,’ is just one such example of this group’s powerful ability to conjure up melancholic and mysterious images in the mind.

The first track from the album ‘Dead Hearts’ is perhaps the reason I and many others first fell in love with Stars – a powerful story and a definite tear-jerker of a track. The lyrics in this song describe an abstract or even poetic yearning for things once lost or forgotten.

“They were kids that I once knew… Now they’re all dead hearts to you.”

Followed up immediately by the striking track ‘Wasted Daylight’ the album then twists and turns through emotions quite unlike any other LP. Through optimism, grief, longing and relief, each track pulls more heartstrings than the last.

Putting on this record often feels like running away – moving through life out of your comfort zone and off on some mystic adventure – who knows what characters inhabit this new place.

The thing you remember while listening to this album in full is that old things end and new things begin – It’s always been my go-to album for those difficult transitional periods of life. Nothing else quite like this set of songs describes exactly what those situations feel like – a feeling familiar to everyone but one that no manner of words could ever describe – a feeling of mourning for the past while striving for the future – an album I will keep in my heart forever, cropping up at the most difficult times.

Alongside the album’s release, Stars premiered a six-part documentary about the making of The Five Ghosts, in which we get a peek into the production of each track. The most curious thing for me was their unusual use of synths, a tricky instrument to utilize on anything but upbeat pop songs, but something which really makes this album.

As lifelong childhood friends, all members of the band grew up in Toronto. I think something must be said for how this sort of friendship has shaped so many bands. A bond formed over a lifetime, people who have laughed together, cried together and shared the same sense of belonging. It all sounds very poetic, but you can easily see that this connection often produces some of the greatest and most personal music – take Joy Division, The Smiths, Saint Etienne, you see my point.  Bands with shared experiences often write the music which speaks to us most.

Stars understand the brittleness of the human heart – I do believe their music would warm even the most unfeeling soul – but don’t just take my word for it, I encourage you to do something terrifying; lay back with their record on and simply allow yourself to feel. In this album, Stars have surely captured perhaps the most integral part of being human – that you are alive.