Walt Disco on their new EP and flamboyant live shows
Not just another band riding the new-wave trend, Walt Disco are a five-piece from Glasgow who combine glittering indie-pop melodies, playful aesthetics and thoughtful social commentary to create a sound uniquely their own
Gathered together one afternoon in a busy West End drinking spot, the members of Walt Disco are recounting the chance meeting in Glasgow that led to the band's formation back in September 2016. All five are students at the University of Glasgow; guitarists Lewis Carmichael and Dave Morgan, and drummer Calum Kennedy already knew each other from back home in Perth.
At a freshers party in first year, "my friend was going around saying I was good at singing," cringes frontman and bassist James Potter, "trying to wing-man me or whatever." Kennedy overheard this and "instead of getting off with someone, it ended up being like 'oh cool, do you want to start a band?!'" Meanwhile, long-haired co-frontman and multi-instrumentalist Mashu Harada (from Japan via Slovakia) came on board after spotting the equally long-haired Carmichael outside the student halls. Harada recounts the moment he approached with the line: "Hey man, do you play music?" as the rest of the band bursts into laughter. And with that, Walt Disco was born.
Cribbed from a Thunder Disco Club poster a couple of days before they were due to play a gig at their student union, Kennedy admits the name "was an accident." But the group are decisive about their influences, citing the likes of The Associates, Orange Juice and Echo & the Bunnymen as common links. They each then bring personal tastes to the table from disco and pop, to electronic and post-punk. Joy Division was an early template, but "not as dark" – Potter's nickname in the band's group chat is 'Happy Ian', they divulge gleefully.
Described as a band with "one foot in the 80s and the other in shimmering modern indie-pop,” what appeals to them about a decade that all of them were too young to be born in, let alone remember? "It just sort of does things to me that no other era of music does!" exclaims Potter, met with laughter from his bandmates. "When someone who was very much alive in the 80s and went to see all these bands comes up to us at the end of the gig and says that they enjoyed the set, that's the best compliment."
For a band who've only just started out, Walt Disco have already earned a reputation for their flamboyant live shows and androgynous, tongue-in-cheek attire. At a recent gig at Glasgow's Priory Bar, Potter took to the stage sporting a wedding dress, his bare chest caked in purple glitter. "Things like wearing a wedding dress, it's not going to change the world but maybe it's going to change one person's opinion about a guy wearing a dress, you know?" Potter muses. Morgan agrees: "We're not doing it as a gimmick; we genuinely fucking enjoy [dressing up] onstage." Carmichael adds; "Because we're a group of five boys, we don't want to be considered as 'lads'. We're five guys in a band, getting rid of those [preconceptions]."
The liberal, egalitarian thinking that underscores Walt Disco is apparent in the four tracks that make up their debut EP No Need For a Curtain. "A lot of my lyrics are about sexuality," says Potter – the jangly, riff-driven title track, with its lyrics 'Is this what the empire envisaged / A brothel to escape from and thunderous chorus / Big girls with big attitudes', was inspired by "a documentary about prostitutes in Leeds," he explains. "I just thought it was really interesting, the women were really fabulous, and I wanted to write a song that's a wee bit naughty," he chuckles.
Equally, their sense of humour shines through on Your Echoes Fall, a Harada-penned ode to both lost love and a budget brand of wine. Then there's lead single Dream Girl #2, a retro-tinged, woozy ballad that begs at least one obvious question – what happened to dream girl number one? "It sort of reflects that feeling over the course of a month, or a couple of weeks, where you're just very in the mood to find love," laughs Potter.
Walt Disco are a prime example of the up-and-coming talent the Scottish music scene is renowned for. While making an album is a dream for the band, for now they're focused on making a difference at a grass roots level. "We want to appeal to people who are queer and like, go to vegan restaurants, but also to people who love garage rock and go mental at gigs," Potter states frankly. "We want to challenge that divide."
No Need For a Curtain is released on 16 Mar via Public. Walt Disco play The Cellar, Aberdeen, 25 Mar; Poetry Club, Glasgow 29 Mar