Since before Disappears released its 2010 debut, Lux, critics, bloggers, and fans have often written about the band’s “influences.” Words like “motorik” get thrown around, and any band that could be described as “krautrock” tends to enter the conversation.
The band’s latest album, Guider, doesn’t deter the krautrock-heavy rhetoric. In fact, there’s a 15-minute song, “Revisiting”, that rides one chord for the entire B-side, a la Neu!. Before the band celebrates Guider at the Empty Bottle on Feb. 4, The A.V. Club went through 10 reviews of the new album and talked to frontman Brian Case to see what he thinks of the most frequent “influence” comparisons.
Neu! — referenced in four reviews
Example: “Disappears’ 2010 debut (Lux) didn’t connect with me at all, largely because the band’s more Neu!-influenced elements were often buried beneath busy, heavily distorted guitars: it wasn't bad, but it didn’t conspicuously stand out from a lot of other bands either.” [Brainwashed]
Brian Case: There’s definitely an influence. When we were first doing the band, they were definitely one of the bands that we were looking to. We weren’t trying to be a band that sounds exactly like Neu!, but to take their ideas of simplicity and repetition and apply it to something else that’s simple and repetitious like garage rock. So yeah, I’ll take it. [Laughs.]
The A.V. Club: Do you think any of the Neu! comparisons have anything to do with touring with Michael Rother last year?
BC: Yeah, we toured with Michael Rother, we have a song that’s 15 minutes long—it’s pretty no-brainer to throw out the word “Neu!”.
The Velvet Underground / Lou Reed — referenced three times
Example: “Like Stravinsky said, ‘A good composer does not imitate; he steals,’ and Disappears pilfer from the best with little compunction. Why not blenderize Neu! and Lou Reed?” [Tiny Mixtapes]
BC: The Velvet Underground is easily one of my favorite bands. Again, that was one of the ideas when we started was to mix The Velvet Underground with krautrock and see what happens. I think we’re more boiled-down than them, but those comparisons are right on tune with this new album. It’s a lot like White Light/White Heat, because it’s got one fried-out side and one “Sister Ray” side, too.
AVC: Sure, but it’s not like you guys went into the studio saying, “Guys, we have to sound more like Lou Reed.”
BC: Yeah, no. “Not dark enough! Get out the viola!” [Laughs.]
Spacemen 3 — referenced twice
Example: “[Spacemen 3’s] rumbling bass, reflective guitar, and flattened vocals spring up in the quiet/loud drama of ‘Not Romantic’, the stair-climbing ‘Superstition’, and the shivering riffs of ‘Halo’.” [Pitchfork]
BC: Yeah, they’re a great band. I think a lot of bands get tagged with Spacemen 3 but don’t sound like Spacemen 3. I think it’s just more the attitude, maybe. I don’t think we sound anything like them. I think a lot of times, it doesn’t necessarily sound like a Spacemen 3 tune; it sounds more like a similar idea than the sound. It’s like a go-to reference point when something is slightly psychedelic, but it’s not Austin Powers—it’s dark. That dark psychedelic stuff, everybody’s like, “Oh yeah, Spacemen 3.”
Big Black, Mission of Burma, The Fall, Sonic Youth — all referenced in one sentence
Example: “Brimming with barely suppressed violence, Guider at times recalls the post-punk rush of bands like Big Black and Mission Of Burma; on other occasions there are echoes of The Fall’s oddball humour, whilst the fondness for abrasive textural noise makes explicit the connection with spiritual godfathers Sonic Youth.” [The Quietus]
BC: [Sonic Youth] is one of my favorite bands, ever.
AVC: And you guys are working with Steve Shelley.
BC: Yeah. I’m sure our next record, people are going to be like, “Wow, total Sonic Youth influence.” [Laughs.] It’ll be like, “This is our Sonic Youth record,” just because Steve’s in it, so we’ve changed our tunings or whatever. Yeah, “spiritual godfathers.” It’s cool, because it’d be nice to follow that trajectory of, “Band starts, finds themselves, and continues to grow and continues to change.” They’re the only band that’s stayed true to their goal and made a 25-, 30-year career out of it. If that sort of spiritual godfather-ness rubbed off on us, that’d be great.
AVC: What do you think of the Big Black comparison?
BC: It’s cool. I don’t really get it—I’m thinking it’s more like an attitude or a presence thing. Maybe vocally people are getting that, but I don’t know. I’ve never owned a Big Black record. But it’s better than saying some other bands. [Laughs.] There are some worse bands, for sure.
“Krautrock” and “motorik” — referenced six times
Example: “[‘Revisiting’] takes up a little more than half the album, clocking in over 15 minutes with nothing more than motorik beats, two chords, a newfound vocal growl from Case, and total marching-into-Mordor-via-the-Autobahn gravitas.” [The Decibel Tolls]
BC: I should clarify that it’s only one chord, not two. [Laughs.] I’m okay with [the word “krautrock”]. It does get thrown around. Krautrock was then what indie rock is today. There are so many different bands that fall under that umbrella that it could mean anything. But I think people are referring specifically, again, to Neu! or something where it’s super minimal, stripped back, and repetitious. In that sense, I think it’s great. If it helps people without hearing the music sort of understand where we’re coming from, then that’s one of the first steps toward getting someone to give our music a chance.