Madison band Disq works on new album in lieu of fall tour
Songs on debut, pre-pandemic album includes themes familiar to those in quarantine.
It was Friday, March 6, and Disq — a five-person Madison band — was on the brink of a breakthrough. The group had just released their debut album, “Collector,” was about to play South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and embark on an international tour this fall.
But on that day in last March, South by Southwest — a technology, music and film festival — was cancelled.
“It was a little bit weird,” Disq cofounder, singer and guitarist Isaac deBroux-Slone recalls.
Weirder still is the way the band’s debut album naturally describes life during quarantine. With a nostalgic ’90s sound, “Collector” includes songs such as “Daily Routine” which lyrically deal with feeling isolated and trapped in a monotonous cycle. The album jumps from techno influences to indie-alternative — all while creating a distinctly youthful and anxious album oddly prescient for our current moment.
This new interpretation was exciting to deBroux-Slone — though he said he hasn’t been thinking as much about the songs after Disq stopped touring. After rescheduled gigs were canceled altogether, deBroux-Slone says the band returned to Wisconsin to wait out the pandemic and work on on another album. Now living in Madison with Logan Severson (who plays guitar and provides backing vocals in the band), deBroux–Slone said Disq may set up a Patreon account to bring the band some much-needed income.
“We’ve never actually been on a full, long tour,” says deBroux-Slone. “But I’m not too beat up about it, because obviously there’s a lot more important things than going on tour right now. ... I feel like you’ve got to be a good sport about it, because it’s not really about whatever your personal priorities are.”
Disq’s fall European tour has been rescheduled, deBroux-Slone says, although he isn’t sure when those shows will occur. “Once we can play the shows, we definitely will be playing them,” he says.
Despite uttering the words “this sucks” more than once, deBroux-Slone was optimistic, seeming more or less at ease with his new daily routine in an apartment with Severson and working virtually with the other band members on Disq’s second album. DeBroux-Slone says the album could be released as early as next year and will likely not include songs about the pandemic.
He does expect some country influence to seep in. (One of his quarantine projects was watching a 16-hour Ken Burns country music documentary.)
While deBroux-Slone says his quarantine experience “has not been an ultra-productive couple of months,” the band still released new music — a cover of Wilco singer Jeff Tweedy’s song “I Know What It’s Like.” The cover is a more filled-out version of Tweedy’s bare bones track. Disq also raised a few hundred dollars — equivalent to about a week’s worth of the band’s merchandise sales — for Reclaim the Block, a Minneapolis organization advocating for the redistribution of money from the police department to other social programs in the city.
The band might not be touring, but Disq is certainly staying busy. The group got together in July at a mutual friend’s barn in Viroqua to practice and record a few songs.
The songs on “Collector” were written and recorded in Madison and the album cover photo is from a trip Disq took to a deer park in the Wisconsin Dells. DeBroux-Slone says that growing up in Wisconsin and more specifically Madison also impacted both his sound and politics.
He recalled attending the 2011 Act 10 protests — a three-week occupation of the state capitol building against then-Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to diminish the power of public sector unions. “I think kids in Madison are definitely set-up to do that pretty easily and have it in their instincts to go protest,” he says.
The guitarist grew up on the east side of Madison, graduating from Malcolm Shabazz City High School, playing in bands with his parent’s friends and even playing with popular Madison dance band VO5. At that time, Madison’s lack of a defined music scene was actually a help, not a hindrance, deBroux-Slone says.
“I feel like different cities, like bigger cities, will have some sort of sound in a scene that’s going on and I feel like it’s easy to fall into doing that if that’s the case,” he explains. “But I don’t think Madison really had that ... so it was definitely pretty freeing to be able to kind of do whatever you wanted.”
Madison was where deBroux-Slone met Raina Bock (bass and backing vocals) at a battle of the bands competition. The two started Disq in 2016 while they both were still in high school. Severson, Brendan Manley (drums) and Shannon Connor (guitar and keyboards) — also native Wisconsinites — joined later and helped to fill-out the band’s sound.
While the coronavirus may have put a stop to Disq’s fall 2020 tour, the band of 20-somethings has seen an internationally positive response to “Collector,” and Disq’s next album is sure to be a step ahead.
Celia Young is an editorial intern for Madison Magazine.