Escort’s Adeline Michèle is trying on a diva moment for size. “I have very specific rider requirements,” the 23-year-old Paris-born singer announces cheekily. “I want three masseuses, and foie gras from Figeac, the region of France my mother is from. Otherwise I will not perform.” At the moment, however, she’s crammed into a distinctly less-than-luxe backstage nook at Brooklyn Bowl with her 16 bandmates, awaiting their midnight show, so she settles for a few bonhomie-filled hugs and a taste of the bowling-alley-cum-concertvenue’s borough-famous fried chicken.
The band earns its eats, rocking the packed dance floor till past 2 a.m. Its show is a flashback to the days of Saturday Night Fever, except when it isn’t. Notwithstanding the huge mirror ball and Michèle’s sharp white jumpsuit, the scrappy orchestra – which includes a string section, horns, percussionists and backing vocalists – is dressed more or less like any other set of stylish city kids, and the music is as much 21st-century magpie dance rock as it is vintage Seventies disco.
You can hear that duality on Escort’s self-released debut. “Part of it was like, ‘Let’s make a record that we’d want to find ourselves when we’re digging in the crates,'” says guitarist Dan Balis. “But we didn’t want it to just be some solipsistic exercise – we wanted to make something that was relevant for now.”
Balis, a political-science major, met co-bandleader Eugene Cho, an art-history major, in an electronic-music class at Vassar College, where they bonded over a love of house music. Their obsessive crate-digging habits led them back to disco classics by Chic and August Darnell (the leader of Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band and Kid Creole and the Coconuts), along with other hits from an era when the thirtysomething duo spent more time in sandboxes, not dance clubs.
“A lot of these acts were pure studio creations,” says Cho. “Producers did way too much cocaine for five years and churned out pseudo-band after pseudo-band.” He and Balis, however, wanted an actual band, so they recruited a disco army, released some singles and connected with Michèle through a college friend. Escort’s boogie-fever revival-meeting style is best displayed on “Cocaine Blues,” a more-or-less mash-up of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” with Dillinger’s “Cocaine in My Brain,” a 1978 reggae-toasting single that relied heavily on the main tune from “Do It Any Way You Wanna” by the People’s Choice.
Any interest in disco culture’s signature drug seems mostly anthropological. “We’re not the kind of a rock band that has parties backstage,” says Michèle, a part-time model who has a skin-care photo shoot on Monday. Balis, who became a father a few days earlier, adds, “Speak for yourself, Adeline!” Cho, who keeps a day job at a commercial-music house, seems more interested in the music’s groove science. “‘Cocaine Blues’ is all about the bass line. It feels like somebody dug it up from the earth,” he says. “It’s like the world is being born.”
This story is from the Big Issue of Rolling Stone.