"We meet up once every six months and do some stuff. And when music flows out of that, you're really excited and it sort of snowballs."
"Usually our whole idea is to do something really as different as we can from previous stuff," says My Disco guitarist Ben Andrews. And if their recently released fourth album Severe is anything, it's different. While Little Joy maintained the off-kilter discomfort of the band's prior records, it was also bursting with a sun-soaked warmth driven by the endless groove of Andrews' guitar strums.
Severe feels like a massive departure. My Disco's music was always jarring and demanding, but never this dark. Andrews' guitar takes a step back, whirring in the background like a piece of machinery in the distance. The groove is still there, but it's cold and more dissonant than before. Bassist/vocalist Liam Andrews and drummer Rohan Rebeiro wield their instruments like power tools, pummelling harsh and urgent rhythms like something out of a tech-noir dystopia. Any of these tracks would fit perfectly on the first Terminator soundtrack.
"It sounded cool but it wasn't really My Disco at all. It was something else."
"We wanted to make a cold, harsh and bleak-sounding record, something that sounded really alien," says Andrews. "Even though we're essentially a rock band, that term doesn't really describe our music much."
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Indeed, My Disco have been classed as punk, minimalist, noise-rock, dance music. Severe incorporates all of those things and more, but it's not the record My Disco thought they were going to make when they started writing the follow-up to Little Joy. "We tried to record a bunch of really different stuff: really wild sort of ambient stuff, electronic drums, a lot of digitally processed vocals stuff that we were thinking was going to be a bit of a cool direction," says Andrews. "It sounded cool but it wasn't really My Disco at all. It was something else."
One song did emerge from those sessions in the form of Guided, an ethereal and beat-driven track that appeared on a compilation LP put out through Sub Pop. Part of the directional change is thanks to Cornel Wilczek, a film composer, producer and engineer who worked with the band on their 2012 single Wrapped Coast, the scrapped sessions and Severe. "I think with the way that we write these days, [the songs are] very loose structures. We no longer have a song with a beginning, middle and end when we record it; we just have an idea. Cornel's so good at nurturing that idea - coming up with post-production, structural ideas, looping, and gadget and wizardry - that it kind of made sense for him. It's like he was the only person that could record it the way that we'd sort of half-assedly written it, if you will. So he's as much to credit for the overall structure and ideas as we are."
The other factor driving My Disco's creativity is separation. With the three members spread across the world - between Melbourne, Europe and Southeast Asia - the band now operate in concentrated bursts, making their time together all the more urgent and productive. "It's kind of exciting that because we've been living apart, we're not just rehearsing once a week in Melbourne, which gets pretty boring. We meet up once every six months and do some stuff. And when music flows out of that, you're really excited and it sort of snowballs. I find we've become quite creative quite quickly. I think that's better for us - to try and write in a quick period, record in a quick period. Because otherwise we'll get bored and want to move on and do other stuff."