It can’t be easy to launch—and, more importantly, maintain—a band in a city that has zero interest in your type of music, but Gabriele De Mario and Anita Rufer somehow pulled it off. Around 1997, the guitarists/vocalists (plus a drummer who is no longer part of the project) created Disco Doom in Zurich, Switzerland. At the time, “there was a huge techno scene going on, and everybody didn’t want to hear guitars at all, so we felt kind of alone in this city playing guitars,” De Mario says.
Originating as one of a small handful of Zurich rock acts at the time, Disco Doom’s forte has been indie rock, a style with aesthetic values—a focus on guitars, a willingness to show emotional vulnerability, an overarching sense of earnestness—that are miles removed from electronic dance music. Yet, De Mario isn’t even close to being bitter about the way things shook out back then. “When there is something like a new scene, and you’re not playing that music, you’re just on the side on your own,” he says. “I love that. I love to not be with the mainstream, even with the indie-rock mainstream.”
The band’s moniker stems from the group’s original drummer wanting to include “Disco” in their name, De Mario disagreeing and countering that “Doom” is a better word, and Rufer suggesting they combine both terms.
In the beginning, the group experienced some growing pains, having trouble making contacts to aid with touring and not releasing any records until 2003. Still, they plugged away, doing local shows and eventually finding touring companions in high places by getting friendly with indie-rock stalwarts Built To Spill. (The bands hit the Murray Theater together in 2009.)
On a fundamental level, the sum of Disco Doom’s traits reflect an attachment to indie rock, but they’re more than willing to dive into murkier waters, too. Trux Reverb, their 2010 EP, is all creepy, creaking, vocal-free noise-rock meditations, throwing out one upbeat, overtly melodic tune toward the EP’s end before returning to the squall.
“Somebody said that [Trux Reverb] killed our career. Whatever,” De Mario says with a chuckle. “With that record, it changed everything for us because we were freeing our heads to try and do whatever we want to do. For us, that record was really important.” He emphasizes that he and Rufer have always wanted a band that could play both heavy and soft sounds and “not just stay with the same five chords.”
Numerals, the third full-length from the currently four-piece Disco Doom, landed in early February and takes a pointedly different path, focusing on lithe, brighter, psych-rock-tinged tunes. Numerals also has a small number of tracks that are almost entirely tranquil, minimally embellished piano pieces.
As De Mario explains, the two contrasting sounds came from recording quiet songs with a piano in a New York apartment, and then later making it to Seattle to record conventional rock songs. “In the first place, we wanted to just have [rock] songs on the record, but we loved the other stuff, too, so we tried to put them together and make a good story out of it,” he says.
While Disco Doom is willing to experiment with tools and tinker with sounds, there is one fundamental aspect of the band that De Mario emphasizes above all: an affection for the guitar, no matter what anyone else is doing. That instrument is exactly why Disco Doom didn’t end up with the techno pack.
“I just always loved guitars and we always wanted to make guitar music,” he says. “We didn’t care about what the scene was. We don’t care about what music is hyped now or how to dress yourself or what kind of effects you use to be the real cool shit now. We just try to do our own stuff.”
The Barrel Room
155 W. 200 South
Wednesday, March 19, 9 p.m.