Disco Dynamics: Walt Disco interview

We speak to Glasgow's Walt Disco about their new EP and how the coronavirus outbreak has affected them as a band

Feature by Madeleine Dunne | 02 Apr 2020
  • Walt Disco

Harken, if you will, back to the era of neon, mullets, and synths. If you plucked Glasgow six-piece Walt Disco out of 2020 and dropped them in the 1980s, they’d fit right in. From their theatrical performances on stage, to their personal aesthetic of ruffled shirts, plaid skirts and shoulder pads, they aren’t even embodying the style and sound of the 80s, they’ve adopted it effortlessly and made it their own.

We sit down for a coffee and a chat with the band's frontman James Power, who, smiling over the brim of his cup, tells us that “probably Queen and glam rock compilations,” were his first encounter with the golden decade. “The good stuff that my parents put on.”

Walt Disco are vibrant figures in the Glasgow music scene. Feet firmly planted in the nostalgia of Scottish post-punk, sure, but as the old adage goes, it’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to. From incorporating aspects of drag performance into their shows, to peppering their songs with addictive pop hooks and powerfully direct lyricism, they’re taking the whole thing to stellar heights.

“The references in terms of sound on our upcoming EP were Christine and the Queens, St. Vincent, Grimes, FKA twigs, because, let’s face it, they’re the best artists in the world right now,” enthuses Power. “So many people say that we’d have been huge in the 80s, but I’m so glad we formed because of those bands but are around to be inspired by the amazing queer and female pop that’s thriving now.”

The result is their new Young, Hard and Handsome EP, a diverse, genre-bending collection addressing some of the most complex issues of our decade, from sexuality to employment. More than anything, it’s four very good, very addictive songs about being young.

It’s also the first endeavour with the band as a six-piece. It’s been an organic change, Power says, one that's helped the band come into its own. “Walt Disco has been around for a while, but as a six-piece the dynamic feels amazing,” he says. “It’s just six people who really believe in the music we’re making.”

Power tackles delicate topics in his lyrics, from facing bigotry, to exploring sexuality and gender. But they ring out confidently, vague enough to be broadly prescriptive, but specific enough to cut your teeth on the issues behind them. It’s a near perfect balance. “This band has helped me figure myself out, it’s helped all of us in a way. It’s easier to believe in your lyrics if they’re about you. Everyone has a feeling about their sexuality or gender, I just use my own experience to talk about it,” he explains.

“We always have a strong core of young queer people at our gigs," he continues. "But we want to have a broad appeal, and I want to bring in the kind of people who might not embrace what I sing about, so they can come and change their mind." Tentatively, he suggests it's "like delivering the message of a new generation with the sound of an old generation.”

When we initially met with Power, back at the beginning of March, we had a notebook full of questions on Walt Disco’s year ahead. It looked to be their biggest yet with a new EP set for release in April, a place at SXSW on the British Music Embassy stage, and a string of April and May UK tour dates which included a slot at The Great Escape. Within a couple of weeks, the reality of all of those things had crumbled.

The coronavirus pandemic has shaken the very core of the Scottish music industry. For Walt Disco, this has lead to postponing the EP and their most extensive tour to date, and the biggest festivals they’d ever been booked to play have been cancelled. “It’s been quite devastating, to be honest,” Power says via email.

“We’ve lost a lot of our personal money and band funds. We’ve had to completely change our plan for releasing music this spring – everything that goes into releasing songs like press shots, artworks, videos have had to be postponed due to health concerns within the band.”

They’ve been extremely fortunate, he says, to be supported by management, booking agents, promoters, and press working tirelessly to minimise the impact this will have on the band’s future. 

“The support artists are giving each other in this dour time is heartwarming, and we can’t thank our fans enough for continuing to listen to us and buy our merchandise – our only source of income at the moment," he says. "It’s still early days, everyone is feeling a bit confused on how best to deal with it. It felt like 2020 was planned as a breakout year for us – we’ll see if that still seems to be the case!" On the strength of their latest EP alone, we reckon it still will be.

Walt Disco play Tunnels, Aberdeen, 15 Sep; Hunter S Thompson, Dundee, 16 Sep; PJ Molloys, Dunfermline, 17 Sep; Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, 18 Sep