• Maddi Fearn

French Martinis and Wagner: Walt Disco in Lockdown

Getting to hole up with your friends for two months without interruption sounds like every seven-year old’s dream, but I can’t imagine many of us would have envisioned a future where it would actually become a post-childhood reality. Yet for two thirds of Walt Disco and their equally musical housemates (Ali of Lucy and the Best Boys and Anna of the Medicine Cabinet), it’s the unexpected reality they’ve found themselves in over the last eight weeks. With synth player Dave’s bedroom sacrificed up as the performing space and frontman James sharing a bed with bass player Finlay, it’s safe to say that in true ‘bandmates sharing a flat’ style, things are a little cramped. Via the power of telephone, I caught up with Walt Disco from their Glasgow apartment to discuss what lockdown has held so far for the band.

Photo credit to Marliena

Described as a band with “one foot in the 80s and the other in shimmering modern indie-pop,” the six piece from Glasgow have managed to effortlessly embody the theatrics and aesthetic of the 80s, whilst taking its sound to stellar new heights. The coming months were set to be the crowning glory in the bands ruffled-shirt-infused rise to popularity, built on a culmination of hard work, talent and support slots. So, what happens when all of that grinds to a halt? "Our plan for spring and summer was a lot of gigs and festivals and obviously they’re not happening any more, so we thought we might as well move album writing along," concedes James, who's been busy penning tracks with the help of his flatmates, red wine and French martinis. "We were thinking that maybe September was gonna be when things went back to normal, but I think that was pretty hopeful."

The ambiguity around when live music will be given the green light to make its dazzling return is in itself another question mark for the band, who, like many others, have already rescheduled their tour to mid September. Despite this, Dave and James have been managing to remain admirably positive given the circumstances, even managing to see a few glimpses of colour in what has become a rather monochrome state of affairs. “I supposed we’re at the best time in music for this to happen, when everyone has so many ways to interact with fans and record music from their bedrooms at a high quality, or at least try to. Pop music has been ready for this for a while I reckon.”

From sharing live streams to hosting pub quizzes, bands across the UK have risen with an unwavering sense of spirit to meet some of the barriers that Covid-19 has presented, and Walt Disco have been no different. Ever modest, James alludes to having learnt how to "use more Adobe stuff" during lockdown, by which he means filming and editing the entirety of their latest music video ‘Cut Your Hair’ from the confines of the flat. The self-love anthem was originally penned as a jibe at ‘people passing judgement to those who are just being themselves’, but with lockdown leading to a worrying rise in buzz cuts, it seems to have accidentally become a double-entendre.

In a transition from stage to screen, the video features the band’s now infamous ‘running dance’, which became a fan favourite after its introduction at support gigs - “you kind of have no shame because you’re playing to thirty people there, so you’re like let’s try it and it went down well. Then we did it in front of six hundred people and it still went down well… there was one gig where the only video anyone posted was the same 20 second clip of us all doing the running dance so we were like right, that’s totally got to stay.” Coincidentally, it transpires that the support gig that sparked the dance’s rise to stardom is closer to home than expected. As I mention at the end of the interview that I first saw the band when they supported HMLTD at Headrow House, James exclaims “That was the first time we did the dance!!” Classic Leeds, always trendsetting.

With one third of Walt Disco absent from the flat ‘probably having quite a nice time’ staying with family and girlfriends, I’m curious as to who Dave and James would be keen to have live with them during lockdown as a substitution. Having read in a previous interview that James would have chosen German countertenor Klaus Nomi (known for his otherworldly stage persona and visionary theatrical live performances) as his number one dinner date, I was expecting something in a similar vain. Yet the answer I’m met with, without a moments hesitation, is Wagner… but probably not the first Wagner that springs to mind. “We had a zoom call last night and he joined” explains James as he unravelled the band’s affinity with the Brazilian X Factor contestant “someone had paid for him to come on and chat with us. It was fucking lit he was so wholesome. Back in 2013 I remember everyone used to pay him to do things for your mates and I think he still does that, its just that no one gets him to do it any more so I think he’s probably cheaper now, he was only £50!”

Whilst on the topic of supporting musicians during lockdown, how best can Walt Disco fans support the band without being able to turn up to a gig in person? “The easiest and cheapest thing to do, because not everyone’s got the money at the moment, is when you listen to music and you like it, share it and tell a couple of people about it. Add it to a playlist, save it,” says James. During lockdown, digital streaming playlists have become more important to bands than ever, through their ability to connect listeners with new music in the absence of gigs, Walt Disco included. ‘Cut Your Hair’ has not only only managed to find its way onto Spotify’s New Music Friday, but Deezer and Apple Music compilations as well- "we kind of realised that Spotify is the biggest in the UK, but in America Apple’s bigger and in France Deezer is bigger, so we thought about them.”

And who can blame them? Despite Covid-19 doing its best to throw them off their shiny trajectory, the band seem to have just as many fans clamouring for their music online as they do at gigs. As soon as the lockdown on international travel is lifted, prepare for Walt Disco world domination.

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BABYSTEP MAGAZINE Est. 2017