Discopolis: Into the Rainbow Vein

Having started life as a Bloc Party tribute act a few short years ago, Edinburgh's Discopolis have since morphed into a band that the world can embrace. The Skinny joins them on tour in Malta

Feature by JP Mason | 05 Jan 2012

Just two short years ago, if you’d told the three young lads in Edinburgh band Ryan’s Mothership that they’d go on to play T in the Park, Wickerman, both Reading and Leeds, have an album released in Japan and be playing their penultimate gig of 2011 in Malta – chances are they’d have shrugged nervously and played another Bloc Party cover. Since modifying their more typical bass, drums and guitar setup, confidently concocting their own original material and reinventing themselves as synth embracing wizards Discopolis, the trio – comprised of Fergus Cook, Laurie Corlett-Donald and Dave Lloyd – have become a rare prospect.

And they literally came from nowhere: having piqued the interest of the 2011 T-Break judging panel, the band were short listed among the 16 unsigned bands nominated to play last year’s event. Their ascent since has been nothing short of remarkable. Taking in the well-trodden local gigging circuit that so many bands trudge their way through over a period of years, Discopolis were surely using Sat Nav to find a shortcut as they went from underground hype to one of the most vaunted bands in Scotland in a matter of months. From a sparsely attended gig at Teviot Union in June to a packed out Cabaret Voltaire in October via the well kent venues of Auld Reekie, the band have only released one single in the UK so far – the dazzlingly
infectious Lofty Ambitions – which found mainstream attention on Radio 1 and was duly dubbed “tasty” by veteran DJ Pete Tong.

Their music is a hybrid of electronica and guitar, which at times evokes compatriots Boards of Canada, though there are nostalgic triggers kindred to M83 and moments that recall Deadmau5’s more ambient passages, all of whom the band readily admit are influences. But like any band with staying power, Discopolis are no plagiarists – it’s clear from the get-go that they've worked hard to develop an individual sound, putting them light years ahead of so many contemporaries. Their originality has quite rightly seen them appreciated not only on these shores, but by music enthusiasts paying attention around the globe.

One such individual is Fumi Chikakoshi, who specialises in bringing UK bands to the Japanese market via his Rallye Label (Toro y Moi/Whitest Boy Alive). Having heard of the band by way of a blog, he immediately got in touch with a view to releasing a record. The band realised it was an opportunity they could ill-afford to turn down and duly sent over as many finished tracks as they had. As a subsidiary of a major label, Fergus describes his idea of how Fymi's pitch might have taken place: "I had this idea of him walking into a room on the 30th floor of a building with a long table full of guys, trying to convince them that we were any good and if they didnt like us he'd get thrown out the window."

Fortunately Fumi survived the meeting; an album is now available and selling well in Japan, which has led to a raft of comments they can't understand being left on their Twitter and Facebook pages."Yeah, we have no idea what they mean," says Dave. "Hopefully it's positive, but the reviews we've been sent are good so that must mean somebody likes us out there!"

It may only be a matter of time before they're whisked away to the Far East, but in the meantime other live opportunities have presented themselves – step forward promoter Jean Zammit, who was putting together a bill in his native Malta for a two day festival when he stumbled upon the lads. “We were looking for an up and coming British band,” explains Zammit, “so I started going through music blogs, then I decided to check out the bands playing the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds. I was immediately blown away by Discopolis.”

Which leads us to the present day: Discopolis are here in Malta, playing in front of a healthy crowd hundreds of miles from home. Having acclimatised the night before in the local bars, they take to the stage confidently and despite playing on a bill with bands who rely more heavily on a Fender than a Korg, they easily win over the audience just as they’ve done so many times back home. In fact, they’re called back on for an encore and do so with Timber Merchants – the first song they wrote together as a band – a suitably euphoric climax to an impressive set, leading to a raft of autograph hunters at the side of the stage which the lads duly oblige despite their bewilderment.

Speaking about the gig itself, Laurie from the band was clearly left on a high: “We played to a packed out crowd in a place none of us had ever been,” he beams. “It was two days after my 20th birthday and 20
degrees outside. Afterwards we went swimming in the sea at 4am and I swear we saw a shooting star.”

This excitable snapshot is typical of the band’s fresh-faced enthusiasm, and it’s genuinely uplifting to see so many doors opening for such a talented (and nice) bunch of lads. They’re all good friends outside of the band, as they are with their management team, which hopefully bodes well for navigating the potentially murky waters of the changing industry they’re now enrolled in. Allied to this, they’ve had nothing but deserved support from the music community in Scotland – the fans, DJs and journalists at the grassroots. One thing is for sure, Discolpolis may only be paddling at the moment but you get the feeling that this year they’ll be catching waves to many more exotic destinations.

Discopolis play Sneaky Petes on 16 Apr and Stag & Dagger festival, Glasgow on 19 May. http://www.facebook.com/discopolismusic