Meet Disq: Wisconsin natives Isaac deBroux-Slone (on guitar and vocals) and Raina Bock (on bass). Isaac and Raina are 19 and 18 years old, respectively, and for several years they have been putting out dreamy, psychedelic power-pop jams (I’ve had their first album, Disq I, on repeat for several weeks). Their recent single “Communication” was put out by Saddle Creek Records and named one of Fader’s “20 Best Rock Songs Right Now.” A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Isaac and Raina over the phone during one of their band practices.
So, I have to ask, where did the name come from?
Isaac: Well, it came from this poster that was on Raina’s wall.
Raina: But essentially there’s no deeper meaning.
I: But – wait, wait – I actually have been thinking about a deeper meaning! Just that “disk” is a format of music, you know, as well as the name of our band, so it’s kinda like – a pun? I don’t know.
How did you guys meet?
I: Our parents were friends when Raina was born. I’m a year older than Raina, so we’ve known each other since Raina was born.
And how did you decide to start a band together?
I: I guess it must have been, like –
R: So I was in eighth grade, and Isaac was a freshman.
I: Maybe a little before that, even.
R: Yeah, like during middle school.
Did you start out playing the instruments that you play in the band now? Or did you play other instruments?
I: Well, I’ve always just played a lot of different instruments, and I play most of the instruments on the recordings as well, so I play the drums usually and some keyboards and stuff, but we both have played the guitar and bass as our primary instruments.
Have you both been pretty musical since you were little?
I: I would say so.
R: Yeah, I started playing bass when I was probably five. Isaac started playing in, like, live bands when he was five, so he had a head start on me.
Are your parents musicians? How did you get into music so early?
R: We both have one parent that is musical, so that helped.
I: Yeah, and I just always really liked to make noise with stuff or try to make cool sounds and play music when I was little. Then somebody got me a guitar, and that was kind of all I wanted to do from there.
What are some musical influences and inspirations?
I: Well… I don’t know… Raina, you wanna start for this one?
R: Sure. Well, my parents, they exposed me to a lot of different music when I was young. My dad’s like a classic seventies rock dude, you know – Beach Boys, Todd Rundgren, Beatles-type stuff. And my mom is really into funk and old-school hip-hop. So that’s kind of a lot of what I listen to. For current bands, I love St. Vincent, I’m a really big Brian Wilson/Beach Boys fan, and Isaac and I are both really digging on Andy Shauf right now.
I: Raina’s dad also got me into the Beatles when I was a little kid. So that was a really big thing for me for a really long time. I like a lot of other kinds of music too – a lot of rock and pop from the seventies, but then I also like a lot of bands from now. Love Andy Shauf… I’m blanking on any other bands I love right now.
I: Oh yeah, Brainiac! That’s a cool nineties band that we are both really into and influenced by.
Which bands are direct influences on your music? Or do you feel like you don’t have many direct influences?
I: Well, we’ve kinda tried to draw influences from as many different things as possible, because then it doesn’t sound derivative. But some big ones are – I’m always gonna be really heavily influenced by the Beatles, I love Todd Rundgren, there are a few more that we’re pretty influenced by… we like Big Star a lot.
I: Oh yeah, Weezer is definitely a big influence. Oh, and Green Day. I realized that a lot of the songs that I write are the way that they are because I used to like Green Day a lot when I was – well, I still like Green Day, but I used to be a major fanboy in middle school. So, they’ve been a big influence on me especially.
As far as lyrics go, are there any influences from… literature, poetry, other lyricists?
I: We’re definitely a lot less conscious with that. They probably come from the same people we mentioned before, but lyrics come from a bit more of an abstract place, so it’s harder to say.
What’s your songwriting process like? Do both of you write songs?
I: Usually, I write most of the songs. Sometimes Raina will write chord progressions and stuff like that. We’re trying to be more equally collaborative these days.
R: And we’re currently in the process of phasing in the other members of our live band to more full-time writing and recording.
I: That’s Brendan Manley [drums], Logan Severson [guitar and vocals], and Shannon Connor [guitar and keys].
When is the second full album coming out?
I: We’re working on material for a second album right now. Kinda hoping to get some other label to put it out or something like that. We’re trying to mostly finish it or get close to done in the next three or four months, maybe. So we can have music get out maybe fall or early next year.
Isaac, you did the recording for your first album – are you planning to keep recording the band’s music yourself?
I: I love recording music a lot, so I will definitely continue doing most if not all of it. And I recorded the single as well. It’s a pretty big part of the songwriting and song-crafting process in general, and I think it’s especially important to me – the recording and production process.
R: It’s a really fun way to do it, too, because you have some leisure, rather than being in a studio where you’re paying for recording time.
Do you record at home? Do you have a studio set up?
I: Yeah, I have a pretty good home studio set up at my house. I record some other bands as well, so I’ve been sinking a lot of money into that over the past several years. It’s kind of a big hobby of mine, as well as doing the band. So yeah, mostly in my mom’s basement. But we’re recording some things now at Raina’s house – kind of wherever we need to be. It’s a pretty mobile setup.
Jumping off of that – is there anything that you like to do outside of music? Any hobbies or interests?
R: Well, this isn’t a hobby, but I go to school. So that’s a big time-suck. And, I don’t know, I do boxing.
I: Yeah, I just like to do a lot of recording for other bands in my spare time. And, uh, I have plants and I like to go on my computer a lot.
Has living in Madison or the Midwest influenced your sound or band identity at all?
I: I think it’s influenced probably our identity as a band more than our sound. Madison especially has a pretty unique scene, you can’t find something like that in a lot of other cities. It’s pretty nice and supportive of us. It was really easy for us to establish our identity in Madison, which was nice… because, you know, playing in bigger cities, or even in places where there are fewer people, might not have a good draw for shows or not have people that are very interested in what you’re doing.
R: And it makes it so there can be a more cohesive scene, whereas in places like LA or New York there’s just so much – so many people and so many different scenes happening at one time – so there’s no cohesion.
So what’s the scene like in Madison?
I: There’s kind of a few different groups of bands. There are a lot of bands that play more heavy, punk-y stuff, like loud guitar and harsh drum music. And then there are a lot of other bands that play like, nineties-influenced alt-rocky stuff, and some more modern – what would you call Slow Pulp’s genre?
R: Sort of like dream-pop, contemporary. And also the clubs are really great at booking local bands, and there’s a pretty good house show circuit.
When you guys were first starting out, did that scene help a lot?
I: Yeah definitely, I think we got our first show at The Frequency [a small Madison music venue that just closed down], and off of that we would get show offers just because people kinda knew that we were around. People at places where we had shows before would help show other people our music, stuff like that. I think that’s what it’s like for a lot of bands – people are excited to share music with each other, so stuff spreads really fast.
So, one of my favorite songs by you guys is Neglect (Wondering), and I think the choice of addressing someone in the second person, but speaking on behalf of a “she,” is very interesting — could you talk about that choice a little?
I: Well, actually, I wrote that song while I was in class. I had the guitar part for a song written already, and while I was trying to write lyrics, I thought, “Well, I usually write songs talking from the first person, so maybe this time I should write it from not first person.” So that was kind of the idea behind it. There’s deeper sentiment behind the song, obviously, but that was kind of my concept behind it.
Do you guys tend to write from personal experience when writing lyrics?
I: I personally just take lyrics from wherever I can get them. I’ll just think of an idea and then try to expand on it. A lot of my themes lately have been about struggles in my relationships with various people or frustrations with the modern world, like that. But we’re trying to branch out a bit more, and we definitely have songs that are about all different things – I try not to focus on one theme too much.
Where do you hope to go with Disq? What are the longer-term plans?
I: I mean, I think we’d really just like to have a career where we can have some longevity and have people like us and make enough money to keep making music for people that keep liking it and buying it so we can keep making music.
Ok, last question. Since you guys are called “Disq” – what are your desert island CDs? Like the three, or five, or whatever limited number of CDs that you would bring with you to a desert island.
R: Can we think about it today and then send you an email tomorrow with those? That would probably be much truer than if we told you right now.
The Beatles – Revolver
Beck – Sea Change
Kraftwerk – Autobahn
Enon – High Society
St. Vincent – Actor
Joni Mitchell – Court and Spark
Disq’s next single, “Parallel,” and the accompanying vinyl 7” come out on January 25th – you can listen here — and they are planning to perform on the east coast in the spring. Keep an eye out for their second album, and keep your eyes on Disq. They’re here to stay.