Disco Risqué can’t fake the funk or the punk

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“You know your show’s good when people are out there moving,” says Disco Risqué lead singer and trumpet player Ryan Calonder. “They don’t need to be looking at the stage.” The band promises a high-energy show on Saturday at the Southern. Photo by Amy Jackson “You know your show’s good when people are out there moving,” says Disco Risqué lead singer and trumpet player Ryan Calonder. “They don’t need to be looking at the stage.” The band promises a high-energy show on Saturday at the Southern. Photo by Amy Jackson

Charlie Murchie wrote his first punk song when he was 12 years old. It went something like this: “Satan in my lunchbox drinkin’ all my juice / It’s no coincidence that my mom packed my 666 sandwiches.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s because “Satan in My Lunchbox” is now a crowd favorite in the repertoire of Murchie’s current band, local heavy-funk outfit Disco Risqué, which features Murchie on guitar, Robert Prescott on drums, John Bruner on bass and Ryan Calonder on trumpet and vocals.

The band’s 2015 eponymous debut represented a jumbled journey to a cohesive genre, but now, after years of touring, the group has settled into its identity as a kind of chameleon band—a unit that can switch from head-banging heavy metal to high-energy dance music to complement other bands on the bill.

“When we go for the dance, or we go to the heavy, or we go to the funk—we commit to it,” says Prescott. “We don’t fake the funk.”

In a crowded Charlottesville music scene, Disco Risqué doesn’t have to fight to be unique. The band has a track written entirely by using the titles of Journey songs (“Stone Cold Steve Perry”). Live performances have featured Björk covers, and it sometimes blares the voice of Ron Burgundy from Anchorman in the middle of songs. But the guys stick to the heart-pounding heavy dance music at their core, even while indulging in infectious fun at shows.

Disco Risqué began as the brainchild of longtime friends Prescott and Murchie, the last in a long series of pickup band ventures with constantly evolving names (Cardboard Birdcage, Tripods and Short Straws, to name a few). Why did they finally settle on Disco Risqué? “Because it rolls off the tongue,” says Prescott.

The two got together to work on an album that Murchie, sick of playing covers in party bands, had been brainstorming. On their way to recording, they added Bruner and Calonder.

Calonder wasn’t trained in heavy rock when he was recruited; prior to Disco Risqué, most of his musical experience had come from five years in the University of Virginia’s orchestra. “We were all tentative,” he says, “because I’d never played horn like this before.” Now, Calonder’s brass can be heard on a good 50 percent of the band’s live music. These varied backgrounds—Calonder’s orchestral experience, Murchie’s love for punk and Prescott’s firm belief in the power of dance music—gave rise to their first album, an exploration of funk, heavy metal and everything in between.

Two years later, the foursome is almost ready to start recording a second album.

“The first record is 20 songs, and it really shows the diversity of the band and what it had to offer,” says Murchie. “We want the [new] album to have direction. We don’t want to put out another record that just goes, ‘Hey, here we are, check out all our crazy shit.’”

Calonder describes the next phase as “Disco Risqué plus,” but what direction will it take? Only an album release will tell. Until then, you can experience some of the new material when the band hits the stage at the Southern on July 8. Hardcore outfit Deaf Scene is opening, meaning that Disco Risqué will lean toward the heavier side of its repertoire. You’ll probably hear “Satan in My Lunchbox,” along with some new tunes as well. Or maybe you’ll be too busy dancing to even pay attention.

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