How does an up-and-coming rock trio with a name based on a bizarre anti-disco protest in the 1970s get taken seriously? By cramming their songs with powerhouse guitar, rock-solid rhythms, and a genuine sense of grit.
Originally called Sons of Cain, the Disco Demolition Knights formed last fall. Singer/guitarist Brian "BG" Graham (ex-Live Oak), bassist/singer Bob Hylton (ex-Sourwood Honey), and drummer Brooks DuBose (ex-Gaslight Street) played several local shows before settling in with the permanent moniker. They had a heavy-duty style in mind.
"It was a Clutch-inspired, dirty, Sabbath-y kind of rock," says Graham. "We were just making noise and playing out at first. Bob and I had played together for quite a while, and I've played with Brooks off and on for years, too, so we're all familiar with each other. We developed a rapport and nailed it down."
They borrowed the band name idea from the legendary Disco Demolition Night event in 1979, when rowdy rock fans crowded Comiskey Park in Chicago to watch a crate filled with disco records explode in the outfield.
"Finding images from that White Sox game where they lit those disco records on fire really inspired the name," Graham says. "We had a chuckle and went with Disco Demolition Knights. We tend to abbreviate it as DDK. It has a little bit of humor, which balances out when we're aggro and serious. The Tony Clifton image in the band logo helps add to the weird humor.'
This summer, Graham and his bandmates recorded a handful of originals at Ocean Industries Studios on James Island with engineers Jeff Leonard and Eric Rickert. The songs rock with a groove and heaviness that might surprise those who are familiar with their previous projects. The tracks sound radio-ready. The soulful "Mystery" swaggers with a beefy rhythm, a nasty blues riff, and a Steppenwolf-style rave-up. There's plenty of muscular drum fills, pulsating bass lines, and slide guitar in "California." With extra wah-wah effects, "Skeletons" is the funkiest tune of the bunch. The waltzy "Ain't Comin' Home" swings with a heavy beat, a bit of acoustic rhythm guitar, and Graham's most expressive vocal performance of the session.
"We wanted to go in, cut a couple of tracks, and be done with it for now," says Graham. "We know we want to do more soon. We loved what we did with 'Ain't Comin' Home.' Erik and Jeff really drove that one. We spent a lot of time arranging it. That's the kind of formula we want to follow when we do a full-length album."
There's plenty of Southern flavor to the new recordings, thanks in large part to the big hooks and Graham's slide guitar work. While elements of classic Allman Brothers and Skynyrd are obvious, the trio plays with an emphasized grind and grunginess. Imagine the Black Keys fellas jamming with Tom Petty's Heartbreakers after last call, and you get the idea.
"We toyed around with songs, jamming and getting things together, but it really started taking shape. Some of the tunes are older pieces that I'd started while I was in Live Oak, and some were acoustic songs I had. Musically, I think it's heading back to the riff-oriented rock in the classic sense. There are definitely a lot of blues and Zeppelin influences. We're trying to avoid getting too complicated, and we try to keep it stripped down. All in all, we're all pretty steeped in the harder spectrum of things. That's part of our attitude as well."