There's a clear divide in this Americana renaissance we're currently experiencing; there are the Americana acts that wear their inspirations proudly on their sleeves but still make their own art and there are the American acts that are simply lazy commercial retreads. This happens to all genres eventually but Americana seems to be getting the worst of it in our post-Mumford society. And while it's apparent from the moment that the gospel-esque back-up singers arrive that the Modern Electric
owes a spiritual debt to Born to Run
-era Bruce Springsteen, they are also a band with their own expertly realized identity.
Describing themselves as cinematic pop, the Modern Electric pair the rootsy elegance of a more northern/mid-west-tinged Americana (as opposed to the decidedly Southern feel of much of the genre's resurgence) with an element of the anthemic and universal. We had a chance to chat with the Ohio rockers about the epic road-trip video for the song and what this Americana sound means to them.
Am I crazy for imagining hints of Born to Run-era The Boss on "The Summer of Lou Reed?" Once those gospel back-up singers hit, all of my Bruce sensors start going off like mad.
Our guitar player, Holden, is the biggest Springsteen fan I know. The song we plan on releasing in July, "Same Old Haunts," is actually the song we wrote with the Born to Run
album in mind. His influence must have leaked to this track as well. We put those gospel back-up singers on only a few songs on this album and it hit all the right nerves for me. I think you'll see us growing in that direction as we keep writing-- cinematic soul.
What was the inspiration for the epic road-trip feel of the music video?
I hit a rough patch of heartbreak a couple of years back. Luckily, a friend of mine was in the same predicament so we spent the summer raising hell, driving around with our windows down and blasting Lou Reed songs. He provided a soundtrack for our summer. The second that first bass slide in "Walk on the Wild Side" came over the car speakers, all of our troubles seemed to melt away. We imagined the characters in the music video needing to escape from similar problems but having The Modern Electric as their soundtrack. There is no better way to escape the haunts of whatever town you are stuck in than an epic road-trip.
Since Lou Reed is mentioned in the title of the track, he must mean something to you as artists. Was Lou Reed an inspiration to you all as songwriters?
It was actually my love of David Bowie (see our song "David Bowie Save Us All") that led me to Lou Reed. Hearing Bowie's production work on Reed's album Transformer
is what won me over. Lou has such a distinct attitude in his vocal and musical delivery. We were searching for that sort of toughness on our new album. Our producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, ...Trail of Dead) listened to a lot of 70s glam records with us during the recording sessions, and I think it helped bring out that attitude in us.
I've been told you that draw equal inspiration from cinema as you do music and I can hear that in the cinematic sweep of this track. Who are some of your favorite filmmakers?
Great cinema is where the songwriting starts for us. Movies by classic directors like Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, and John Hughes are what inspire us to write. I don't know why it has taken this long, but I am just discovering the magic of Martin Scorsese's early work. It is inevitable that a song will come out of a couple more viewings of "Taxi Driver."