18 Apr

Failing to come up with the proper words to describe Disappears is not simply a condition of listening to their recent, third album, “Pre-Language.”

Despite the fact that “Pre-Language” causes natural, wordless expressions of pleasure and joy to escape our mouths after its sounds enter our ears, the main difficulty in conveying the sound of Disappears has little to nothing to do with language.

Rather, the sound of Disappears resonates – and remains equally difficult to describe – because of the bands’ preternatural ability to replicate the sensation of vanishing time. Disappears could come from the future, they could come from the past. Theirs is the sound of memories fading, daydreams rising and the challenge we all face in determining which ones to attempt to grasp as we approach the chimera of the horizon.  

In advance of their appearance at next week’s Austin Psych Fest 2012, we invite you to share in our good fortune of having this opportunity to look directly at Disappears, via this interview with Brian Case. Enjoy.

Can you think of a band or artist for whom you had much admiration when you were young, but have experienced your enthusiasm disappear? What was it about that music that you think first captured your imagination? Conversely, is there an artist or band for whom you had little appreciation but have recently seen your resistance disappear? What do you think accounts for this transformation?

Guns and Roses. I got “Appetite for Destruction” in fifth grade and listened to it everyday for a few years. I would listen to a side, flip it, then listen to that side, then flip that side, etc., all day.  I landscaped the year it came out and listened to it every day when I worked. I still know every note of that record and stand by it as the eye opening musical moment in my youth. It was intense – talking about things I’d never ever heard of (and really didn’t understand) and making them accessible through language I knew but had never spoken. That album is its own world, full of actual characters all told through the blunted P.O.V. of someone who seemed like he knew both sides. Plus, the music was tough – not like Poison or whatever, and the guys looked cool – no make up! It was also the first album I had with a warning label on it, so that made it exciting. But G’n’R was also the first band I ever became disillusioned with. I liked “Lies” fine but I knew it was a stop over. I remember pre-ordering “Use Your Illusion” (both of them) at the mall so I was insured to get them both the day they came out. What a disappointment – I felt cheated, waiting years for a bunch of ballads and joke songs. There were good tunes for sure – “Civil War” and the Izzy Stradlin songs – but most of it was garbage. It was so empty compared to the world that “Appetite …” had built.

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There are lots of bands I wrote off that now I love or understand. I think that comes from just growing musically – understanding how scenes progress from one to another, of being able to look back and understand the more subtle things that made something significant. It’s that kind of thing where I think a lot of people a certain age will hear Tortoise and not understand that when they first came out it was really significant – they’ve been ripped off so badly, so many times that it lessens their initial impact in some way. I mean, I first heard Modern Lovers and Echo and the Bunnymen in seventh grade but didn’t really “get” it until ten or fifteen years later.

Was there any particular directive or – for lack of a better term – “mission statement” that you had in mind upon the initial formation of Disappears? Was there something different musically that you specifically wished to explore, or was the formation more of a function of circumstance than design? What was the most pleasant, unexpected surprise that you noticed in the early days of Disappears?

Disappears started really organically. It wasn’t even going to be a band – just a project. There were some aesthetic things I knew I wanted – lots of reverb, wash/wall of sound, delayed vocals, blurry – but I wouldn’t say there was a mission statement, per se. Really, we were just having fun and things were clicking. I’d say the real “ah-ha” moment, though, was when we wrote “Old Friend” and “Magics” – those two songs were the beginning of what we still focus on – simple, repetitive, direct songwriting. That opened up a lot of doors for us, knowing what parameters to work in.

We were (and remain) very taken with Disappears debut, “Lux,” completely convincing ourselves that the band and album were the product of British youth, before our tireless research indicated otherwise. What other misconceptions about this album were you made aware of following its release? What are your thoughts on the album today, with a few years worth of distance?

The record didn’t get too much attention at all when it came out, only a few reviews, really. It was the end of a confusing period for us – the record was recorded for a label that ended up folding and we were kind of out in the cold for a while trying to figure out what to do. We’d been lucky in that we got a lot of attention very quickly but once that happened the whole industry went into a downward spiral as one of the pillars of their community, the one that we were going to work with, was calling it a day. At that point no one would touch us, everyone was waiting to see how things were going to pan out. We responded by pushing through with more new music and recording our second album a month after “Lux” finally came out. I don’t think there were too many misconceptions as it really was a very underground release. I like it still – there are definitely better songs than others but I think we really captured a moment with it – we were excited and young (as a band, that is) so there’s an energy and optimism there, even though the songs are pretty dark. It will be remembered well – haha!

The clean lines that inform the cover design of both “Lux” and its follow-up, “Guider,” betray a sense of the two albums being sonic siblings (with “Guider” – if we had to choose – being the slightly stronger, slightly more stoic sibling). Do the two albums share anything beyond an art director – anything as formal as a concept? What is the Disappears secret for avoiding a “sophomore slump,” and when will you sell this secret to other bands?

Well, “Lux” is about death and “Guider” is about protection … I’d say they’re two sides of a coin, maybe? “Guider” was fully fueled out of the frustration of sitting on “Lux” for a year before we found a home for it and needing to feel like we were making progress. “Guider” is more stoic for sure – it doesn’t let you in in the same way “Lux” did – even though the ideas surrounding it are more welcoming. How to avoid a sophomore slump? Just keep working, I guess – don’t wait for the right time to start writing, just keep making music and keep your momentum.

How, if at all, does your  third album fit into the above stated sibling rivalry? Aside from a different design (though still clean!), what other differences do you think listeners may pick up on while listening to “Pre-Language”?

It’s produced much differently and we took a lot more time in the development process. Played the songs a lot, spent a lot of time tracking, mixed with someone outside of the band – it’s not “cleaner” but I think that’s how people will perceive it. We’ve been burying our sound for two albums and are getting away from that now – trying to move forward and not repeat ourselves. Not sure what people will hear in it – that’s the nerve-wracking/exciting part about releasing a record: once it’s out, it belongs to everyone else – you can’t protect it anymore.

Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor we are attempting to start right now) that your fourth album will be a children’s album, dedicated to teaching the youth of the English-speaking world about fruits and vegetables, entitled, “Dis-A-Pear, Dis-A-Orange, Dis-A-Carrot”?

Yes, it’s a collaboration with The Residents slated for later this year. They’re still doing the giant eye ball thing, but we’ve gotten a hold of those Fruit of the Loom costumes. The artwork is a real stunner.

What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what’s your favorite Sonic Youth album and why?

Hmmmm … lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Throbbing Gristle and Bowie’s “Scary Monsters” – trying to find a way to link the two. Also lots of Echo and The Bunnymen and Nico. I know, kinda bizzare. My go to Sonic Youth record is always “EVOL” – it has its own mood and personality and is the first record that I think they really hit on what they wanted to do (although I love everything before and since). “Sister” is a real special one, too. Lately I’ve been really into “Experimental, Jet Set, Trash, No Star”. I don’t feel it gets mentioned as much as it should … what a great album – it’s perfect for this time of year.

How did you first hear of Austin Psych Fest? Are there any bands in particular on the bill that you’ve not seen before but hope to while you’re in Texas?

I knew it as a festival the guys in The Black Angels started – we did some shows with them and they mentioned us playing it sometime. Unfortunately, we’re only there one day, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Psychic Ills, Peaking Lights, Moon Duo, the Night Beats. I’d love to see SleepOver but they are the same time as us. Will be good to see Dead Meadow and The Black Angels – haven’t seen them in a while. We’re on tour with Lotus Plaza down there, so that’s going to be great. Would like to be there for the whole festival – Thee Oh See’s are a band favorite.

Headband-wearing psych-maniac Noam Chomsky is quoted as having said the following:

“The core problem of human language … I take to be this: having mastered a language, one is able to understand an indefinite number of expressions that are new to one’s experience. They bare no simple physical resemblance and are in no simple way analogous to the expressions that constitute one’s linguistic experience; and one is able, with greater or less facility, to produce such expressions on an appropriate occasion, despite their novelty, and independently of detecting stimulus configurations, and to be understood by others who share this mysterious ability.”

Your thoughts?

Kind of what “Pre-Language” is all about – the fact that there are some “laws” that have existed for ever, that pre-date language as the natural response, rule or way to process or understand, and how those ideas always exist and run through our lives – independent of culture and words.

What’s next for Disappears?

We have an east coast tour that takes us down to Psych Fest, then a second Europe tour in the summer. We’re doing Japan in October and are filling in the rest of the fall now. Hope to be recording a new album in January – already have some new songs we’re really excited about.



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