Dayton/Columbus act Smug Brothers transports listeners to faraway places on new record 'Disco Maroon'

In January of 2015, Smug Brothers singer/guitarist Kyle Melton spent a weekend writing more than a dozen songs at his Dayton home.

“I think I was mostly inspired by looming unemployment,” Melton said recently by phone. “A bunch of freelance stuff I had was dwindling, so I was like, shit, I better do something good really quick to keep myself from losing my mind.”

After playing the batch of tunes for Smug Brothers drummer Don Thrasher, the two began demoing songs, hoping to have a record out by that summer. But over time, Melton decided the band should do a “proper” recording of the songs, so they headed to Micah Carli's Popside studio in Troy.

The resulting record, Disco Maroon, is a mix of polished and lo-fi indie rock with hooks aplenty. Smug Brothers will release the album (the band's 10th offering) on March 31, and on Thursday, March 9, Melton and bandmates Thrasher, Brian Baker (guitar) and Larry Evans (bass) will perform songs from the record at the Big Room Bar. (Melton moved to Columbus in November of 2015 and Baker, who fronts Brat Curse, is also local.)

“Lyrically, in my mind, I created a weird sequence [for Disco Maroon] — like a mysterious voyage into some faraway place,” Melton said. “I tend to not set out to conjure a specific emotion. I'm just trying to set up some kind of backdrop where anyone can come to it and get whatever they need from it.”

Smug Brothers is a Dayton-bred band that plays catchy, scrappy indie-rock songs that rarely top three minutes, and many of them are recorded straight to four-track. So naturally, Bob Pollard's legendary Dayton band Guided By Voices is an obvious influence and point of comparison. Drummer Thrasher even played in GBV at one time (those are Thrasher's drum fills on Bee Thousand's “Gold Star for Robot Boy” and “I Am a Scientist”).

But Melton said he was late to the Guided By Voices party. “When I was younger, on TV they kept mentioning ‘the underground.' I'm like, ‘Where the fuck is this underground? Who do I need to meet to find the underground?'” Melton said. “I thought it was like a physical place you had to find the mystical entrance into or something.”

When he eventually found GBV in his mid-20s, Melton was amazed that Pollard was making the type of music he'd been already trying to make in other bands. “It was validation that I'm not insane,” Melton said, adding that any comparison to GBV is a “badge of honor.”

In putting together the artwork for Disco Maroon, Melton stumbled upon some striking images of red-hued water next to white-sand beaches on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. To Melton, the photos perfectly captured the aforementioned mysterious voyage to a distant land.

“In my mind, the whole record now takes place here on this weird, random beach,” he said. “The records I love have the capacity to transport you somewhere. I hope [Disco Maroon] does that for people. That's always my goal.”