The Disco Lizards, a rock and roll fusion group, emerged from the Hackney Desert. They released their debut album RIDE RIDE RIDE on silky vinyl in November 2020 after a series of singles.
Because of the pandemic, some solitary writing was possible, and as a result, the new EP Roll Over Red Rover will be released over the course of several weeks beginning on April 8, 2022. The first teaser from this collection of songs based on actual events is the anthemic, psychedelic song SLOW, which is the album’s first single.
The EP’s second single is out now. During the first few weeks of the first lockdown, they wrote Anything Other Than Love in just over 30 minutes. Based on actual events, this song takes a very different direction from the Lizards’. They haven’t previously released a song that is so openly sincere. They had never used a violin before, and the composition was thrilling because of its individualized sound. Check out ‘Anything Other Than Love’ and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you all come from and how it all got started?
DISCO LIZARDS: The idea of Disco Lizards came about whilst I was on a bit of a musical hiatus following the end of my previous 10-year project (EditSelect). I wanted to go back to basics and essentially write some solid rock n roll tunes.
I spent a few months writing a collection of songs (most of which would make up the debut record) and recorded demos with my friend and producer Ian ‘Werkhouse’ Flynn. My other friend and Amsterdam based artist Hugo De Jong created some awesome Disco Lizard visuals. This allowed me the freedom to advertise and recruit for musicians for the project; with a strong emphasis that the group had to have strong personalities. Following a strong run of shows and recording sessions, a drummer switch (Felipe to Mike Oram) the world came to a sudden halt. Our bassist (Lala) returned to Brazil and lead guitarist Daniele decided music was not for him anymore. With no end in sight of the lockdown I decided to release our debut record Ride Ride Ride abruptly in late 2020.
I then called upon some old friends and my lockdown housemate to help me get the live element of the band up and running again once live music was allowed (introducing Mike Whiting, Stephen Lake & Helena Bisby).
2. Did you guys have any formal training or are you self-taught?
DISCO LIZARDS: I am completely self-taught; never had a single musical lesson in my life outside of learning to play the recorder at school. Helena was brought up in a musical household and plays several instruments including piano, synths, violin, accordion and theremin. I remember during secondary school Steve taking bass lessons and generally just playing bass at every given moment. I’d like to think Mike W was born with a guitar in hand because he is just that naturally great. I want to say that Mike O took lessons in his early years also, but he may correct me on that.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘DISCO LIZARDS’?
DISCO LIZARDS: For me there have always been consistent influences when I approached this project – The Beatles for me, are just the best of all time. Their work ethic, song writing, harmonies, lyrics, style, artwork are just consistently significant. More modernly Kevin Parker (Tame Impala), James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) and Arctic Monkeys are my ride or dies. I do just have a general romance with music and love all different kind of genres, most notably motown, soul, rock n roll and hip hop.
The name Disco Lizards was actually pulled from the Arctic Monkeys song Science Fiction from Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. The lyric “I feel rougher than a disco lizard tongue along your cheek,” it immediately pricked my ears up and thought it sounded super cool whilst inspiring a really cool visual art campaign.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
DISCO LIZARDS: When writing the debut record it was all about being as hooky with the riffs and vocals as I possibly could. I wanted listeners to immediately be able to sing along to the riffs and melodies at a show and if I couldn’t picture a song with 100,000 people singing it back, it generally didn’t make the cut. I also approached my lyrics and song topics in a style that listeners would hopefully recognize from their own experiences. Everything I write is usually based on real experiences except for one song ‘Slow’ which is on the new EP, I decided to write a fictionalized story for that one.
I once described our sound as balls out rock n roll…but I think it has matured like a fine wine in the last year.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
If an artist feels strongly enough about something that they can convey well in the form of music, then I am all for it. Sadly, most of the time I do not think it works because it can feel un-natural and forced. I love George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’ – he talks about his spiritual journey, and I think that really does come across with feeling.
Most of my song writing comes from personal experience; and I hope that it feels genuine because it honestly is. The newest EP ‘Roll Over Red Rover,’ I really expose some very intimate and personal moments because I had an overwhelming need to. Sharing my darkness, I was able to turn it into something which feels lighter to me. I just hope listeners can find some common ground that they can relate to.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfilment as the amount of work you are putting into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
I used to have crazy expectations for myself to release music regularly, to play shows all the time and tour in Europe a minimum of twice a year.
But now I take a far more relaxed approach to it. It takes the pressure off slightly and I won’t rush to release music until I am fully happy with it and only take gigs that I believe are worth the effort.
It is super rewarding when you release something and play a show and you receive positive feedback. That is what is always about for me. I’ll apply the same effort and care but take off the pressure.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
DISCO LIZARDS: It varies – I have a whole bank of voice notes on my phone with ideas as simple as a melody or full-blown rough demos. This process allows any idea that may present itself to be captured. My favored method of late is to usually put some chords down first and build up from there, or alternatively throw a riff into the universe. I write the bulk of the tunes on my own before sending rough demos to my producer for feedback, then I take it into the rehearsal room to share with the gang and finish it off.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
DISCO LIZARDS: Pre-Lizards I came super close to signing a deal with Universal but the deal really split the band in two, ultimately and sadly was the root cause of the end of that project. For the record, I wanted to sign the deal. During the Lizards I think the knock-on effects of Covid was incredibly difficult. We had been on a great run of shows and festivals and excited about releasing our debut album. Lockdown hits and it really shafted us. Members priorities changed, I also went through a personal tragedy and ended up writing Roll Over Red Rover EP, which was no mentally easy feat. Everything happens for a reason though.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
DISCO LIZARDS: Pre-Lizards I booked all of the shows for my band and managed to secure some incredible bookings supporting Catfish & The Bottleman and a performance at Hamburg’s famous Molotow Club for the Reeperbahn Festival. It was an absolute career highlight to play these shows. I was very lucky.
During the Disco Lizards my proudest moment was writing and releasing the debut record Ride Ride Ride on vinyl. It had always been a dream of mine to achieve something like that and I worked so hard to make it a reality.
I hope there are many more moments that I can be proud of.
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Photo credits: Bella Keery