Disco Days: De Lux are Bringing Back the '70s Sound
Photo by Nick Walker
[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, "Bizarre Ride," appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
Disco can't die. The genre once crucified at a baseball game's Disco Demolition Night has achieved immortality usually reserved for Styrofoam cups and Carpathian sorcerer-kings.
After rock critics gleefully wrote its obituary in the early 1980s, disco went underground, splintering and fusing into new wave, house, techno and funk. By the fin de siècle, it had seeped back into the contemporary bloodstream, thanks to the ascent of Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem and the bands on the latter's DFA imprint.
The resurrection spun full circle last year when Daft Punk debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts with Random Access Memories, which featured guest spots from disco progenitors Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers, and an aesthetic that was (polyester) suited for strobe-light reveries at a 1978 law school prom.
But the renaissance hasn't been limited to French automatons and Brooklyn exhumers. Over the last two years, L.A. has unshackled some of the finest disco outfits since those halcyon Donna Summer days. The latest: De Lux, a Glendale-based duo, whose debut LP, last month's Voyage, allows them to slide under the velvet rope alongside L.A. post-disco peers Poolside, Goldroom and their Innovative Leisure labelmates Classixx.
"We're trying to tap into that moment [in the early 1980s] when post-disco merged into boogie-funk," Sean Guerin explains from the placid suburban backyard of his parents' place in Glendale.
The group's rise occurred so rapidly that both members, who are in their early 20s, still live at home. Since late last year, De Lux has ascended from anonymity to being hailed by The Fader, Billboard and the DJs on KCRW. They notched a spot in the Weekly's top 10 list of "Bands Who Will Blow Up in 2014" and signed with Chicago's Windish Agency, arguably the premier booking agency in independent music.
It's particularly impressive for a pair of ex - skate rats from Hoover High in Glendale, a city whose sole contribution to the musical fabric of L.A. usually starts and stops with System of a Down. De Lux admittedly lacks a gripping narrative, so much that one of their initial ideas for the band involved concocting a mysterious viral campaign.
"We initially wanted to make one dope disco track and a bunch of mysterious posters, and put them up around the city," says the bespectacled Guerin, who sings, drums, plays guitar and keyboards on the record. (De Lux performs live as a five-piece.)
"We wanted to do it how a graffiti artist would do, and just randomly spam places with posters, and a link to where people could download it," adds De Lux's bassist, Isaac Franco.
But the music nullified the need for a gimmick. After splintering off from a previous quartet, the De Lux pair wrote one song, which became four, which became an entire album. They took cues from Chic, Cerrone, The Talking Heads and obscure boogie-funk musicians culled from the deep crates of Franco's older brother, DJ Brother Dan.
Within months, early demos made their way to Scotty Coats, the sales and marketing director at Innovative Leisure, who signed on to become their manager. Once finished, the album drew immediate interest from suitors including Modular Records, the vaunted Australian label behind Cut Copy and Tame Impala.
After signing with nascent local powerhouse Innovative Leisure, De Lux have proven themselves valuable apostles for the 4/4 gospel. Voyage brims with opalescent six-minute disco grooves and David Byrne - like vocals; they're nostalgic enough for your uncle and propulsive enough for your little brother. The lyrics lambently take aim at fake friends, the perils of communication, and a lack of proper spacing on the dance floor.
In the process, De Lux remind you that the wheel didn't need reinvention, but you can always use more fuel.
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