Ahead of the release of their new album, MY DISCO found time to chat with Grok about recording in Berlin, using unconventional instruments and keeping their music fresh after being a band for over fifteen years.
So, your latest LP is being released on the 1st of March. You must be eager about the release of ENVIRONMENT.
Yeah, we’re just sort of getting our mindset together at the moment. We have rehearsals and have been kind of been running through the new material all week. And sort of developing, I suppose, a live version of what we recorded, but not exactly like the album. It’s sort of relatively improvised music these days. So, we’ve been working out what works out for live, and throwing in some old stuff as well.
Before recording ENVIRONMENT, did the band have a key vision for how the LP was going to sound?
We live in separate countries, me and Rohan live in Melbourne and Liam lives in London, so we did kind of have an idea about what we wanted to do. We’d sort of trade songs and trade ideas and styles, and what we might be listening to at the time. But I think all that kind of really goes out the window once we start.
Once we started writing in Berlin, it all came together really quickly. I think it took us 12 days to come up with like 20 to 25 ideas, so it kind of progressed naturally. Sometimes we’d surprise ourselves. We’ve been a band for a while now, so we can kind of get stuck in a rut, but in our groove with each other, things happen quite quickly.
Berlin has a very well-known underground, industrial music scene. To what extent did Berlin play in refining your minimalist sound?
I think it took quite an important role. We’d deliberately chosen Berlin in Winter time over there so that we didn’t have any distractions. It would kind of match the cold and minimal nature of our music, and working with Boris at his studio, where it’s okay with that more experimental, industrial sound. He’s no stranger to doing a lot of live experimentation whilst recording and live tracking. He had some really good ideas for us to use. We were in such an old building, with so many little bits and pieces, that we wanted to record with, outside in the cold and in the metal stairways. Everything really lent itself to the album.
Tell me about the band’s experimentation with alternative and unconventional instruments and recording techniques. How did that come to play?
We’d come in and out of this cold environment, for lack of a better word. And then we’d walk up these metal stairs, and then we were really in tune with what we were recording. Every sound is potentially a musical sound. Listening to the trams go by and walking up these metal staircases. For one song, we wanted the whole recording console outside, but we eventually found an easier way to navigate the process and record it in the studio. I think it’s kind of exciting to have nothing off the table.
After forming in 2003, MY DISCO’s sound has transformed over the years. With ENVIRONMENT to be darker and more intense than your previous work. What pushed the band into this direction?
I think it’s kind of an extension of some of our last album Severe; it’s more of a departure, I suppose, if you’ve heard that record. It’s kind of on another wavelength and a little bit more out there. Also, as we’ve used some different instruments; we used gongs, we used more percussion, we used the non-standardised drum kit, and we’ve set up the guitars and bass differently. We kind of as we were rehearsing it, we kind of realised, this isn’t just an easy guitar, bass, drums set up anymore—there are a lot more bits and pieces that go with the process.
We tried stuff that we’ve never tried before, which is always what’s been the goal of the band since we started; we will write a record, tour, and then do something that we haven’t done before, or try really hard to progress. Because music otherwise, if you’re playing the same sound for albums on albums, I don’t know about other bands, but we can get pretty bored, you know.
Is the band excited to be touring again?
Yeah, the practices are coming along really well, and it’s kind of fun to do an Australian tour in the Summer, and then going to Europe in their Summer. So, it’ll be good to skip a bit of Winter, we had enough of that recording. So yeah, things seem to be shaping up really well for the shows.
Catch MY DISCO on their ENVIRONMENT album tour at Rock Rover, Fremantle on Saturday, March 9.