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Friday, June 11, 2010

Ponys' guitarist Brian Case goes back to the basics with Disappears


Disappears plays The Earl. Sat., June 12 with Woven Bones and the N.E.C. $10. 9 p.m. 488 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-522-3950.

"Gone Completely" mp3

When Brian Case, guitarist for Chicago indie rockers the Ponys and 90 Day Men began moonlighting with Disappears, it was no subtle gesture to release two 7-inches, both with cover art paying homage to Kraut rock icons Can. Drawing out fugue-like moments in rhythm, where every grumbling melody swims in reverb and darkness is the group’s calling card, and with their first full-length, Lux (Kranky), Disappears delve deeper into the shadows of Midwestern post-punk.

Chad Radford: You’re still playing guitar with Ponys in addition to Disappears, correct?

Brian Case: Yeah I am, and Ponys just put out an EP, and we did some Disappears shows on the west coast. Ponys met us in Seattle and rode with us down through San Diego. On this trip where we come through Atlanta, Ponies do two New York shows. We’re doing other things here and there, but nothing like a huge tour like we were doing before. We stopped playing for a while because everybody was so burned out

And it’s probably a pain in the ass to pull double duty each night, too.

Yeah the west coast trip was the first time I did it. It’s not really as hard physically or mentally as it is you don’t get to hang out with any of your friends when you get to town. They show up before you play two sets and then they leave. It’s like, oh good to see you for five seconds. But it was fun doing both of them, and it was fun with seven of us in a van.

Have you been playing with the Ponys from the beginning?

No, but I’ve been a member since 2005. I joined 3 or 4 months before their second record came out.

So you didn’t play on the “I Want to Fuck You” 7-inch?

No, sadly, I didn’t.

You have a hit on your hands there… I DJ around town sometimes, and every time I play that record, a minimum of 2 or 3 people rush up and ask about it?

Yeah? That's awesome. It’s probably the oldest song we always still play.

So when did you start doing Disappears?

It all started between Ponys' tours in 2007 — toward the end of the year. I had some songs and my buddy Graeme Gibson had just moved into a place where he could set up a demo studio, and was like ‘hey, come over and we can do some of your songs… work out some of the tweaks…’ So we did three songs. He ended up playing drums on the recording and it turned out pretty cool. I had some more ideas that I wanted to hear recorded, and by the time we were done I thought maybe we should do this together. Then I had more stuff to do with Ponys and he had stuff to do so we ended up meeting a couple days after Christmas and he invited our friend Jonathan van Herik to play with us and we started playing as a three piece. From there we started playing as a four-piece with Damon Carruesco.

I have the two 7-inches that are made to look like the Can records, and Lux. What else have you guys done?

We have a live record that we recorded on tour with Deerhunter. We did that so we could have something to sell.

That’s a cassette tape?

Yeah it was on cassette and initially it was just some CDRs that we had burned ourselves. But these guys in town do a label called Plus Tapes and they put it out on cassette, and these other guys did a vinyl version. Then Lux on Kranky, and we’re finishing recording this week for another record.

I saw the cassette tape at your merch. table the last time Disappears played the Earl. I had to make a decision, do I buy the tape or do I buy two seven inches? So I bought the seven inches, and I figured if I have one I have to have the matching set. Since then, I’ve been drawn back in by the mild cassette mania that’s going on.

I never would have chosen to put that out on cassette, it was like 'that’s funny, whatever. Then once it was out I was really happy with it, and was so surprised by how many people bought it. We played at Pitchfork last year (or maybe it was two years ago), and the label had a table there where they sold like 60 copies of our cassette. I was like 'what!?' 60 people wanted this on cassette?

Crazy, huh?

Yeah... The only place I know people can listen to it is in their car. I don’t know anyone who has a tape player in their house anymore.

That’s the ironic thing for me because I have a CD player in my car but I have a couple of tape decks at my apartment.

I recently dug out my Walkman. It was in a milk crate at my parents’ house that was full of weird mixtapes.

Burger Records recently put out three tapes by this band called Cleaners from Venus, which I’d never heard of before but they were so excited about them that I checked them out. Now it’s my new obsession but I can’t listen to them in my car, which stinks.

That’s funny. Now you gotta burn your tapes onto a CD!

Right... When you guys come through town, you’ll be playing stuff from Lux, but will we hear some new songs as well?

Yeah, mostly stuff from Lux, which is a short LP — 30 minutes. That and the stuff that’s going to be on the next record.

Thirty minutes is the perfect length for an album these days.

Yeah our music is really dense and none of the songs are too dissimilar from the others, so if go any more than 30 minutes we run the risk of people tuning out. I’m really tired of records that are 60 or 70 minutes long — not for me.

I have always said that I would rather listen to a record that leaves me wanting more rather than a record that leaves me sitting there waiting for it to get over.

Exactly. That’s my idea with playing shows and listening to music and all of that. I don’t want anyone to have time to think of something else I want to engage them for the brief time we can and move on.

Tell me about the song “Little Ghosts.”

Graham and I did that one and its like the first song that I wrote for the band. It’s kind of how the whole thing started. That one is special for me because it has gone through a lot of changes. For a while we didn’t play it, then we were like ‘oh, you know, this songs pretty cool, let’s try it again.’

When you recorded that, did you have a mission in mind or were you just hanging out playing music?

We had talked about some things that we agreed on musically and I think we were more interested in exploring the more stripped-down, repetitious side of things. We wanted it to be really simple, really basic. We had aesthetic things that we agreed on, like reverb on everything, but we didn’t have a goal in mind per se.

Is that where the idea behind making the 7-inch covers look like Can’s album, Delay 1968?

We were self-releasing two singles, and Can is an influence, but it was more like how are we going to get people to notice this record? So we thought ‘oh, if we jack this cover, someone will have a reaction to it whether they like Can or not.'

Are you a big Can fan?

The bass and the drums are so fluid, like they’re not really thinking, it’s just happening.

Yeah, it’s all about the rhythm section, and the silent telepathy that’s going on between all of the players. Do you feel that going on with you guys?

I think we’re getting there, and that’s sort of the point. Let it happen and not over analyze it. Trust your first instinct. I think that shows some on Lux, and on the new stuff its more apparent. Things are pretty different with the record we’re recording now, but there's a natural evolution going on, which is nice.

(Photo by Jeremy Bolen)


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