AN INTERVIEW WITH ELECTRIC GUEST
MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2012 | POSTED BY: DON SAAS
The term "post-internet" has been thrown around a lot this year to describe the increasingly fractured musical landscape that surrounds us. Think about the most discussed "rising" stars of the year and you'll find nary a thread to tie them together. Grimes is futuristic bubble gum/space-pop. Cloud Nothings seemingly appeared out of thin air with Attack on Memory, but Dylan Baldi's skittering yet (somehow) simultaneously aggressive neo-grunge rang in the near year in the best way imaginable. The Alabama Shakes looked further back than anyone else with their Janis Joplin-esque blues, but they're set to have an enormous summer festival season. Of Monsters and Men are Icelandic communal folk, but how many of us still can't get "Little Talks" out of our head? L.A. duo Electric Guest seem like another perfect example of the dispirate and diffuse inspirations at the core of so many modern bands, and after chatting with Asa Taccone and Matthew Compton, we've got a better idea of what inspired their infectious Motown/electro-pop.
Electric Guest's debut album, Mondo, came out 4/24 on Downtown Records. The band has only just started to release music but Taccone and Compton have known each other for about six years. As Compton told us, "We met when I was coming over to the house that Asa was living in and recording with one of his roommates." The house was to home a collection of different artists (including Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton at one point). "I was was going to the recording studio in the basement and I'd always hear Asa play a couple of songs. I'd play some songs with him on the drums and bass. I really liked just coming over more and more as time came on, and we were a band after a while."
Electric Guest always struck us as an intriguing band name (sounding like it could be the long-lost sequel to the Tom Wolfe novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) and Asa Taccone had an equally eccentric story to explain the origin of the name. "I was in like this boarding school on the east coast and it was kind of a strict school. We had a day off and we went to a Dunkin Donuts on the campus." At this point the audio of the recording went out considerably, but the gist of the story was that he met a hippie-ish/New Age-y woman at the donut shop who said "And Always remember that you're an Electric guest of the universe." Despite the very "Timothy Leary" nature of the quote, it always stuck with Taccone and it ended up being the group's name.
Not only did Danger Mouse live in the same house that Asa Taccone lived in, he also produced Electric Guest's first album. Danger Mouse is one of the premier producers in the country and getting him to produce a first album is an admirable start. Asa Taccone's brother Jorma is one of the three members of The Lonely Island comedy musical group ("Dick In a Box," "I'm On a Boat," "Like a Boss," etc.). "When I was in college, I would call my brother who lives in Los Angeles and I would play him little songs over the phone. And one day he went 'I want you to play it for my friend who makes music,' and he ended up putting Brian [Danger Mouse] on the phone. This was like eight years ago or so. And he was like 'Oh cool, I like that. You should send me more stuff'. And I sent him more stuff. When I was done with school, we just kept up." This friendship ultimately led to Danger Mouse's involvement with the album with Danger Mouse originally being Taccone's mentor and eventually asking to produce Electric Guest's record.
When we did the actual interview, Mondo hadn't been released yet and there was very little of Electric Guest's music actually floating around the internet (four actual songs). It wasn't exactly easy to describe the band's sound when there were four very different songs out there. Even the band themselves had difficulty summing up their sound. As Compton attempted to place it, "I don't know. We always get asked this. I don't know the answer. I think fundamentally they are pop songs. Asa and I, we pull from a lot of different places from music. We definitely come from two different backgrounds musically, but I think ultimately the songs are just pretty simple pop music that are produced to sound more indie." That last response was one of the most surprisingly honest and candid things from the whole interview.
Taccone and Compton discussed their vastly different musical upbringings. Taccone grew up with a lot of hip-hop though he began to listen to much less as he got older. There's certainly a funkiness to their music along with a rapid-fire vocal delivery that speaks to these roots. Taccone went on to say that as he grew older he began to listen to more of the singer-songwriters from the 1960s. Compton, on the other hand, felt very influenced as a youth as coming of age in Virginia right in the middle of the Merge Records scene. Indie rock was a big part of his life, specifically Blonde Redhead, though he says that he now spends more time listening to film scores than other genres of music.
The video for the song "American Daydream" has Asa Taccone going H.A.M. on a bunch of L.A. hipsters at a party. Ironically enough, despite Taccone acknowledging that being the way most viewers interpret the video, it wasn't his actual intention. "It's funny on the internet. I only see the comments that it is about hipsters. People are like 'Wow i get it. F-ck hipsters.' But uh, yeah, I,don't think it's so much pointed to a certain demographic but more culturally where we're at. More bullshit that we don't need." Regardless of what the video may actually mean, it's pretty awesome/hilarious stuff even though there's a certain mournfulness to the song itself.
The recording process for Mondo was very long and it took a heavy emotional and physical toll on Asa Taccone. Both band members said they probably cared about their music a little too much, and at one point during the recording of Mondo, the stress caused Taccone to suffer from the shingles (which I wasn't even aware could be stress-induced). "I think the transition from messing around in my own little world to being in his [Danger Mouse] own studio and all of a sudden it being realized in this different way just kind of blew my mind apart for a bit. I just got to where I wanted it so bad. I always needed it to be amazing. Me and Matt cared literally too much. I think just the minute we got into the studio and it was all real, I was like oh my god! Other human beings are going to hear this. I really wanted it to be good if I was going to put it out in the world. And so I just got crazy stressed out. There was literally a period where I couldn't listen to music on the radio or in my house for six months or so. It was too much pressure." That's commitment to your craft.
Mondo is out right now, and if an album could be called a labor of love (emphasis on labor), this is it. With their pedigree of successful family in show business as well as a high-profile producer on their first album, Electric Guest are set to make big splashes in pop music The band spoke about how they already have ideas floating around for their next album so we know that we'll be talking about this duo for a long time. Hopefully, the world is ready to catch on to their Motown-fused funky electro-pop. Stranger combos have caught on this year, and Electric Guest are definitely ready to step up to the bat.
Article By: Don Saas