Ian Maleney talks to Ben Andrews of Australian post-hardcore band My Disco, ahead of their appearance at this weekend’s Supersonic Festival in Birmingham.
Through almost ten years and three albums of intense minimal post-hardcore, My Disco have developed into something close to a force of nature. Coming together in Melbourne, Australia sometime in 2003, the trio of Rohan Rebeiro, Liam Andrews and Ben Andrews played their first show in the suitably named The Good Morning Captain cafe. Now, as then, they channel the dark dynamics of bands like Slint and combine them with the rhythmic groove of Shellac taken to a trance-like extreme. Their last album, A Little Joy, was a little lighter in tone than the previous effort, Paradise, but it was no less engaging. Rather, it showed the band more comfortable than ever in their own skin, refining their unique formula into ever more abstract and prolonged songs, bending that form out of all recognition in the process.
After a brief break from their seemingly endless touring schedule, the trio are back in Europe for a few shows this October, starting with the Supersonic festival in Birmingham.
First of all, I wanted to ask what your 2012 has been like. I know 2011 was pretty hectic with touring and stuff but what have you been up to this year so far? Did you feel like taking a rest after the Little Joy touring schedule wrapped up? Ben Andrews: We definitely needed a rest after an intense year in 2011 for sure. We finished that year in Europe last October, then we took a few months break before meeting up in Australia again for a brief tour out here, that also included a short South East Asian stint. We love it there, always good to get back, especially for the food! During that time we also recorded for our latest LP that comes out next week, it was a busy period.
Looking back on Little Joy and the way it was received, as well as signing with Temp Res, are there any kind of things you’ve learned from that release that you are planning on taking into the next one? Any experiences that really stick in your mind, or turning points, creatively or professionally? I think we mainly enjoyed the freer nature of the way we recorded that record, and we are definitely going to draw on that for this next LP. Looser song structures that are more just key ideas than anything, that way when we go to record them, it is fresh and sometimes a surprise to hear back the sounds and kind of structure them in the mix rather than having them set in stone the way a generic rock record is created.
You’ve toured quite extensively throughout your career, was that difficult to initiate? Is it tough for Australian bands in general to get heard outside of the continent? It has been difficult to tour with the expense of being largely based in Australia. It is relatively expensive to get out of this continent (although that has been made easier in recent years with more flight carrier sales and the like.) Although having said that, we have never let our finances (or lack thereof) stop us doing anything regarding touring, which is why we have been able to just get out there so much i guess. Plus, we love it so when you love something, you always find a way to make it happen.
How sustainable is it to just be a band in Australia? Is there a supportive community at home, for you and for other bands? Touring Australia is hard and expensive, unless you are getting national airplay and or national commercial music festival slots. There is a very good supportive music community out here, especially in Melbourne, but that is not always enough to make a living from being an independent band in Australia. We all work other jobs to make ends meet, which puts less strain on the band to “make it” I guess.
I’ve found that repetitive, trance-like music in the rock or punk sphere can tend toward the psychedelic, which yours doesn’t seem to. Rather it probably links up more with dance music, specifically techno or industrial music, being quite physical rather than mental. Is that kind of music of much interest to you as a band? Yes, very much so. We all listen to techno and electronic music, and our sounds are gearing towards that direction more and more each time we write. Lately we are working on a complete drum machine/processing album for another release next year! So no drum kit! Pretty fun I must say.
How much room do you leave for improvisation or heat-of-the-moment inspiration during your live shows? Has that changed over time and how do you think it reflects your confidence as musicians and as a group? We have been playing together for over ten years now, so our knowledge of each other as musicians and people is quite involved. Also, our interest in improvisation is at its peak right now, with more and more jammier parts of our songs coming out when we perform live. It keeps things interesting for us, especially whilst on the road, and i think makes every show somewhat unique for the audience as well.
A Little Joy was (maybe as the name implies) also a little softer than its predecessors and I’ve often wondered if it takes a certain confidence or courage to scale back aggression or in-your-face volume/harshness when you’re working in the post-hardcore kind of area, where being direct and aggressive is often considered a virtue in itself. Do you ever feel external pressure to sound a certain way, to conform with tradition, or are you past all that? We have never really cared or given much thought to any external pressures regarding our music or sound whatsoever. I think this dates back to our essence as a DIY band who control everything ourselves and we have never had any label pressures to sound or put out anything we aren’t 100% into. I pity any musician who has to face these kind of challenges.
What kind of set can people expect at Supersonic? Will there be new material to be tested out? We have a bunch of new material that is in our new set for this tour, which is dark and post-drums. Supersonic will be the first show of the tour and we are very much looking forward to it!