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Home / Articles / Music / Music Features /  Native Dance
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Ashley and Charles came from outer space to save the Native race.
Robin Walker

Native Dance

Indie electronic act Discotays brings killer jams and awareness

August 20, 2014, 12:00 am

Let’s look at every time acts like Santa Fe ex-pat Pictureplane have come to town or any of the recent Mesa Recordings events—Santa Fe goes nuts for dance parties. As such, it’s fitting that one of the many musical offerings affiliated with the upcoming Native art markets comes in the form of Discotays, a two-piece Native act reminiscent of bands like Crystal Castles.

With a varied and energetic style, members Brad Charles and Hansen Ashley cull from countless areas of electronic, indie, rock music and beyond. And though they live a state apart (Charles calls Sanostee, NM, home while Ashley lives in Montezuma Creek, Utah), this hasn’t stopped them from creating a highly danceable repertoire and fighting to bring visibility to homosexuality in Native communities. Take the song “For Liz,” a smooth club jam dedicated to Elizabeth Taylor that starts with the hooks and keeps ’em going alongside layered samples and beats mixed with live guitar and vocals. It’s the kind of underground anthem for electronic music lovers sick of the mainstream and yet is completely listenable for just about anyone. Ashley and Charles also delve into hip-hop, like on the song “Struthio Camelus.” Though it retains its experimental edge, there’s a gritty, ’90s-rap backbone to the song accompanied by a minimalist beat that’s perfect for head bobbing. And since it’s always cool when musicians bring any amount of social awareness into the mix (and because IFAM seems pretty neat), I caught up with the dudes just in time for their upcoming IFAM-affiliated performance at the Santa Fe Skate School alongside Them Savages, Lo Cash Ninjas and more.

Go for the skateboard action; stay for the dance jams.

SFR: What’s the name Discotays all about?

Hansen Ashley: It’s a reference to [disco singer] Sylvester. In the era of outlawed homosexuality, ethnic gay groups held house parties and get-togethers called Disqotays.

Brad Charles: They were predominately African-American, gay outlaw parties in South Central LA…we just changed the name a bit.

Are there any specific challenges to being gay in Native communities?

HA: As a band, we find some sort of acceptance within the art/music community. As individuals, it seems to vary.

Did you always sound like you do now and, if not, what drove you to be what you are?

HA: The music started in a bedroom with a guitar and keyboard, and it pretty much progressed from there and evolved and adapted. Our music has always been about providing queer/indigenous visibility and to create diversity in the Navajo Nation’s music community.

BC: Yeah, we started with the guitar and some cheap thrift-store keyboard, [but] I think we are always evolving and learning new things about music and providing some sort of visibility—queer, indigenous, social awareness—that we never had growing up on the Navajo Nation.

How do you go about writing and recording when you live in different states?

HA: We usually do it via phone, email, smoke signals and/or stay at the other’s hogan for a couple days.

You’re both from pretty small towns. Is there anything else like what you’re doing nearby either of you?

HA: Yes and no. There are numerous musicians doing music, but we feel there are so many diverse perspectives and outputs that it’s hard to pigeonhole anyone, including ourselves.

I keep hearing that part of the IFAM mission is to show that Native culture isn’t stuck in the past. How does your culture fit in with your music?

HA: Native culture is still growing and affected by the traumas and changes that have occurred and are still occurring. It’s definitely about our history, but also acknowledging where we are now as an effect and cause. We think resourcefulness and adaptation are a few of the main parts of our culture and heritage that we use often.

What can be expected of a Discotays show? HA: The shows are as diverse and varied as we are. They could be full of energy or could be atmospheric and moody. Sometimes it can veer into harsh instrumentation and spoken work.

BC: We can be dance party punk or ambient noise; you just have to be there to experience it.


Sundance Institute Native American Program 20th Anniversary Celebration
5-7 pm Friday, Aug. 22. Free
MoCNA, 108 Cathedral Place
983-8900

IFAMily Affair
5-9 pm Saturday, Aug. 23. $5
Apache Skateboiards, 325 Early St.
474-0074

 

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