Disco Curtis: Report from San Diego

Disco Curtis is a terrific up and coming band whose infectious songs and online presence secured them a coveted space on the second half of this year’s Warped Tour.  Based out of Colleyville, Texas, some of the members have known each other since elementary school days.  In 2009, their debut EP entitled Play With Fire Get Burned was released on Myspace / Interscope Records, featuring their hit single Ashley.  Two new songs (Ammunition and This Gravity) are also available on Itunes, and they do a jamming cover of the Lady Gaga tune Just Dance.

We caught up with front man Tanner Howe at Warped Tour in San Diego for an interview.  Discussed were their days and nights on Warped, the truth about “Ashley,” the story behind the two new songs, and a bit of Twitter drama thrown in as well for good measure…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Disco Curtis, and tell me what your favorite disco song is of all time.
My name is Tanner – I sing and play guitar in Disco Curtis. And I really don’t know that many disco songs. (Much laughter) How about Staying Alive by the Bee Gees?

Sounds good. So how has Warped Tour been going so far for you and what have been some of the highlights?
It’s been going very well. The highlights – every single day I get to play a show and hang out with kids so it’s been really fun. Definitely exciting – it’s our first time out on a full national tour. I would say that’s the highlight – just being out here for the first time.

When you guys played The Roxy a few months ago, was that your first time out here?
That was our first show we ever played in California. It went very well. We played with our friends After Midnight Project and it was definitely a cool show. We were very thankful that people came out and saw us. It’s always exciting when we go to a new place, and there’s a lot of people there that know the songs and sing along. It’s very exciting!

What were your impressions of Hollywood, and did you see any stars?
Uh, yeah. We actually lived out here for the first six weeks of this year – just writing and recording stuff. And funny enough, we ran into a new person almost every day. We saw Darryl from The Office and Adam Levine from Maroon 5 – we met Stevo from Jackass – that was cool. And Jamie Lee Curtis was walking down the street – we saw her. And Mark from Boys Like Girls was actually at a dinner that we were to – that was funny – we just played some shows together a couple of months before, and just happened to run into each other in LA. So it’s cool.

Have you played in any bad weather conditions on Warped?
Yeah, actually we have. There was like a monsoon in St Pete, Florida – and it pretty much rained the whole day. Every day we walk around and talk to people and invite them to the show and what not. So we’re walking around just completely soaked. I actually ended up finding an umbrella, but it didn’t really matter because at that point I was already soaked. So I was walking around completely soaked, still holding an umbrella like a fool. It was still fun – people still stuck around. And we played last that day – so it was dark and raining and people still hung out – which was really cool. Besides that, it was either blistering hot or raining. But we’re ready for whatever comes…

So you guys have all known each other since the fourth grade?
AJ and I have – we go way back. Garrett and I started playing together when we were about 11 years old.

What was Disco Curtis like in the fourth grade?
It wasn’t called Disco Curtis. AJ wanted to call the band The Black Weasels, which was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard. We were basically a jam band, because we didn’t have the money to buy a P.A. system. We couldn’t sing – we would just play guitar and drums and jam out – and we’d play like jazzy or experimental jams. We actually didn’t make Disco Curtis until our senior year of high school. And that’s when we brought in Brendan. But Garrett and I basically started Disco Curtis the summer before our senior year.

How close are you guys to having a full-length album coming out, and is there any working title?
There’s not a title yet. We’re actually taking time off of touring to make a record or possibly another EP. But it will be our first release under a label – which is very exciting. We’re going to do that in the fall. We already have time booked in LA to write and record for September / October.

Do you know who you will be working with?
It’s still up in the air. All I could say so far is I know I’m going to write a couple songs with some other people – some friends of ours and do some collabs and see what we get out of that. As far as producers and such, it’s still up in the air. We’re still deciding on kind of which direction we want to take the music.

Tell me about the video for Ashley, and could you relate to your character at all?
Yeah, a little bit. I mean not exactly. It’s a true story – obviously there’s quite a bit of hyperbole. It was written about my ex-girlfriend – and my ex-girlfriend didn’t necessarily sleep with my teacher – where she does in the video. But it’s kind of just the idea that I did date this girl who was the wrong girl for me. Basically at the time, I thought she was great – but she wasn’t. So I could kind of relate in that way, but we definitely exaggerated quite a bit in the video on who Ashley is.

Did you change her name for the song or is her name really Ashley?
Oh no, the girl’s name is not Ashley. I changed her name. It’s her “character” name.

Well that was nice of you to not use her real name.
Yeah! (Much laughter)

So what made you decide to cover Just Dance by Lady Gaga? And do you know if she’s even heard it?
I don’t know if she’s heard it. It’s good thinking though – we should let her know to check it out.

And say, “Let us tour with you!”
That would be great! Our friends in The White Tie Affair actually did a tour with Lady Gaga. As far as I know she hasn’t heard it. She hasn’t said anything to us if she has heard it. Garrett actually had that idea. We were looking to do a cover, and he was listening to what’s on the radio. And this was when it first came out – Garrett came to me and was like, “We should do this song Just Dance – it’s a really big song right now and it’s really cool!” We started jamming it at practice and it was totally fun.

It looked fun when you guys were performing it up onstage.
We love playing that song live!

You have two new songs that just came out – Ammunition and This Gravity. Could you tell me what inspired you to write the lyrics for each song?
This Gravity was about this true story moment last summer. It was kind of like this surreal moment where I was actually at a show – and that whole song describes like, “The night burned as the noise hit the sky” was all about the sound of the music that night – of being at this outdoor show – and this moment that I had with this person. The whole song is about the idea of Gravity pulling that person into another person. And it was that person pulling me into them – and so that’s where we got the whole idea for that song.

And then Ammunition on the contrary was more of a negative song about a time where – it was a weird time – I was actually diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes – but didn’t know it yet – so a pre-diagnosis with that. My blood sugar was really high and I was going through these really hard times – and I was literally sleeping an hour a night. So I wrote the line, “Tired, but I’m not sleeping.” And it was my junior year in high school, so that’s how old that song is. I had written that part and then I had written, “Tonight I’ll take what I can get.” It’s like this metaphor and then, “I’m tired, but I’m not sleeping, Wake me up I’m bleeding,” – the whole thing was that I’m awake but I’m not really alive. I’m not really living life the way that life needs to be lived – and I really couldn’t figure out why. And I was dating the wrong girl – this was pre-Ashley – different wrong girl. I was like in this rut of a place in my life where I was sleeping an hour a night and dating the wrong girl. I’m living but I’m not really there. It was basically like, “Tonight I’m so desperate. I’ll take whatever I can get to find happiness.” And that’s where the whole idea for that song came from. The idea was my heart is being loaded with ammunition and I’ll take what I can get. It was basically whatever was going to make me happy; I need to get a wakeup call soon. So that’s probably the longest I’ve ever explained it in an interview – but that’s exactly where it came from in April of 2008 – when I was about to be diagnosed with diabetes.

How is that going now?
It’s going well. It’s kind of a struggle on Warped Tour. It’s a struggle on any tour – but something as simple as a sunburn will make your blood sugar go up. Or stress on the body makes your blood sugar go up. You’re eating and getting shots of insulin to balance it out, but all in all, I’m fairly careful about what I eat. I say “fairly,” just because I still eat a lot of what I want to eat. But I have a very sharp understanding of what carbs are in what foods – so I can do that. But I definitely try to take care of myself as much as possible. I eat smart and give shots. I’m limited, but I can still eat a lot of what I want to eat, so it’s cool and I’m okay with it. You get used to it. You roll with the punches. It’s part of life. It’s something I’ve adapted to, and it’s totally cool now. Same with Ammunition – that song, even though we just now released it – I just had to put it out there eventually.

Who is the real Disco Curtis and what does he think of your band?
Disco Curtis is actually a guy who was a disco master back in the 1970’s. And he likes the band – he knows about the band. And he’s a very cool guy. We named it in honor of him. He used to actually drum at our church and he played a disco beat to every song. We got a kick out of it – started calling him “Disco Curtis,” and the name kind of stuck. And the summer when we were choosing our band name, we spent a lot of time around him – so we kind of did it making fun of him/honoring him, so that’s how it came about.

Does anyone ever mistakenly call you Disco Curtis?
Yeah, sometimes, but its’ not me.

What’s the first thing you plan to do when you get back home from Warped Tour?
Um, sleep. Sleep for a few days straight. I don’t know – there’s not a whole lot of time off. We’re going to do some shows in Texas and then back out to writing and recording and getting ready to tour all over again.

Any strange or unusual Myspace or online stories you could share?
On Twitter yesterday – I changed my Twitter name. Originally it was @dctannerho – and I changed it to @dtannerhowe – and upon doing so, somebody took the old name and was saying that my new name was fake – that I was a fraud. That was kind of weird. I was worried about that – but I think most people know that I changed it now.

Do you have any messages for Disco Curtis fans here in Southern California?
We love Southern California – it’s great! This is our first time in San Diego. We definitely love being here – it’s always fun. The Roxy – our first show in California was a blast. Just we love Southern California and we want to keep coming out here and playing shows. Hopefully if we’re on Warped next year or Bamboozle – come and hang out…

(Interview and Warped Tour photos by Kenneth Morton)

Disco Curtis on Myspace

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