Walt Disco on looking forwards and embracing vulnerability on second album 'The Warping'

Interview Walt Disco: “We wanted to write songs that showed off, and showed people a new side to us”

We spoke to Walt Disco’s Jocelyn Si about how, with second album ‘The Warping’, the band have evolved from their debut to find strength in vulnerability.

There was nothing particularly homogenous about the first record from Walt Disco; it was a glorious, highly theatrical mish-mash of pop, dance and glam-rock that aesthetically nodded to everything from musicals to opera to drag art. That they’ve titled their follow-up to it ’The Warping’, then, suggests a further loosening of an already fluid artistic approach, one anchored this time around a beautiful thematic vulnerability as they navigate gender dysphoria, painful childhood memories, the unstable nature of life as a touring musician, and the insidious nature of toxic masculinity, all with wit, warmth and wisdom. Written and recorded on both sides of the Atlantic and embracing a broader, stranger sonic palette than ever before, ’The Warping’ might be 2024’s outstanding art-rock record. Just ahead of its arrival, vocalist Jocelyn Si talked us through it.

Did you approach 'The Warping' differently to 'Unlearning'?
I think so. Because there's an obsession with being the newest, buzziest band, when you have to enter the next stage, it's really nerve-wracking. We're sill young, but we knew people would have certain expectations of us now that we're not totally unknown, and we were writing a wee bit with a nervousness about us. I think 'Gnomes' is slightly in reference to that. So, I think some of the record is a reaction to 'Unlearning', and some of it is us wanting to prove to people that we're a band who can actually sound like a band. I really believed in how good the rest of the group are as instrumentalists, and we've shown that on the record. Finlay's on everything from xylophone to guitar, and Jack's such a tight drummer, but an amazing lyricist, too. We wanted to write songs that showed that off, and showed people a new side to us.

You recorded this album in a bunch of different places, after 'Unlearning' had largely come together in your home studios. Was that a deliberate reaction?
I think so, and it was also a case of wanting to take these opportunities while we had them. We’d made an album in a bedroom, so now we wanted to get into studios. So we went to a few places - we started out demoing in Surrey, at a studio owned by Phil Manzanera from Roxy Music. We’d done some demoing in East London, too, at this place where you could use it for free if you worked through the night until six in the morning. And that got us used to being in a studio environment again. We did most of the actual recording at a place called The Vale in Worcestershire, which is like a live-in mansion. That was a wild week, but it was nice to be all together in that kind of situation. A lot of the first album was made in isolation from each other.

“Because there’s an obsession with being the newest, buzziest band, when you have to enter the next stage, it’s really nerve-wracking. ” - Jocelyn Si

Do you think the songs benefited from having that closeness between you in the band; not just when you were recording, but in terms of how much time you’ve spent together generally since 'Unlearning'?
Yeah, and you go through all sorts together. That week we were at The Vale, I only ended up spending two or three days there, because of a family emergency. The day after that happened, we’d always planned to be in Paris for a day, to play this show for Louboutin. The band went ahead and did it without me, with my voice on tracks, because we were contracted to do it. Twenty minutes before they went on stage, our guitarist had an allergic reaction to peanuts. He managed to power through! But then ended up in hospital until five in the morning, and then went straight back to Worcestershire to carry on recording. It was just [a case of] endless tragedies befalling us, but we really looked after each other, and we felt like we came out of it a much stronger group than before, because we proved we could get through all this crazy stuff whilst recording what we think is a great record.

That seems to have translated into a real synergy between the members of the band on this album - you wrote songs individually, but the same themes keep cropping up.
Definitely. A song like 'Gnomes' - that's ostensibly about a fictional character who's found fame and they find it hard to balance that with their home life, and it causes relationship problems. That was partly about other members of the band, and it was partly about my own life when I'd struggled with that balance. Then songs by Jack like 'Pearl' and 'You Make Me Feel So Dumb' are about being away from home a lot, or being at networking events and feeling out of place. And they were coming from his perspective, but the lyrics related the way the rest of us felt about those things as well. So, I think the sheer amount of time we've spent together over the last few years has influenced this record.

How important was it to explore themes of gender dysphoria on songs like ‘The Warping’?
Very. The title track was one of the first songs written for the album, and it was a hard one to get right. I’m really proud of the lyrics - they very accurately convey how I feel, and they’re about gender dysphoria, but they relate to other themes on the album, because dysphoria’s made more difficult by other problems that I have. Like, I find myself feeling jealous of other bands writing songs I wish I’d written, and I think I wouldn’t feel like that to the same extent if I was feeling more comfortable with myself and my gender. And ‘The Captain’ is a meta song - it’s a fictional story - but there’s some serious undertones about toxic masculinity and the climate crisis, and the links in between. I feel like I’ve said these things in a way that’s true to me, in the way that I should be saying them.

'The Warping' is out now via Lucky Number. 

Tags: Walt Disco, Features, Interviews

As featured in the June 2024 issue of DIY, out now.

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