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Home FEATURES Music Electrelane Interview

Electrelane Interview
Written by Jesse Pollock   
Monday, 05 March 2007 06:01
We really really really love this UK based band who'll be coming state side in the coming months! Read our interview with Emma and Mia from this great four piece.

Since forming as a band in 1998, Brighton’s Electrelane have pulled together quite a large following due in no small part to amazing songwriting and substantial touring. So much touring in fact, that few continents have yet to have the band grace their stages. They were recently asked to tour as support for The Arcade Fire’s 2007 European tour which is sort of a big deal since those two bands have been on constant rotation in the office for a couple of year now.

We caught up with two of the four band members, who were in Los Angeles and Chicago respectively, and asked them some questions that had been rolling around in our heads for a bit. While we had them, we also made them tell us about the new album as well. Fecal Face is proud to bring Electrelane to the site.

myspace.com/electrelane
electrelane.com

electrelane_3.jpg
//Photographed by Tara Darby

You seem to go through different band members more than the average band and most call it quits after losing the initial line up. Is this an issue for you at all?

Emma: Ha, ha.. no. Our first bass player left because she got pregnant after only playing one show. We had a stand-in until we found Rachel and she was in the band for ages until two years ago, when she had had enough of touring. She is older than the rest of us and I think that after a while not making any money as well as being on tour a lot can really affect your life It wasn’t acrimonious, she just wanted to settle down, which is something I think we can all understand. We started out with a different guitarist, but I kind of forget about that because Mia has been in the band for seven years. Verity and I started Electrelane so I think things might be different or weird if either of us left. I think that may stand for Mia too, seeing as she’s been in it for so long. We do seem to go through bass players though… I don’t know why.
Mia: It hasn't really been much of a problem, as most of the line up changes happened quite early on in the band. Since I joined seven years ago, there's only been one line-up change - when Rachel left and Ros joined. It felt like a pretty fluid transition at the time.

The band was started in England, but you all seem to be scattered around now. Are you all still living in England? Where would you love to live (if your not there already).

Emma: We got away from Brighton in the last few years, but I think we are having to re-base ourselves back there for a bit this spring to rehearse before we go back out on tour. Ideally, I would live in Los Angeles which is where my girlfriend lives. I spend half the time in Brighton and half the time in Los Angeles.
Mia: I am currently living in Chicago with my boyfriend. That's where I am happiest right now... but if I wasn't here, I'd love to live in Naples or New York.

Since your tours have taken you all over the world, I guess the obvious question is where the stand out show? How was playing super far away like Japan and Australia?

Emma: There have been loads of really fun shows. We played at this big festival in Spain a few years ago at three in the morning. I think we came on stage as five thousand people came up on ecstasy, or at least that’s what it seemed like. That was so much fun. We also played at a festival in Japan where you could see Mount Fuji from the stage. That was definitely the most beautiful show setting. Australia was really weird and I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, it was a bad time for the band. I think we all felt really removed from everything as well as each other. We had to do four shows in five days, or five shows in six days… something like that. The shows were all around Australia, which is a really huge country, so we were tired and not getting along. Then we went to Perth which is REALLY isolated and I think we all felt even more removed. Anyways, I’m looking forward to going back and having a much more positive experience of it.
Mia: We always have really memorable shows in Greece; we've played there a bunch of times now, and we always have a great time. Playing Asagiri Jam Festival in Japan was an absolutely amazing experience, but Australia was a bit of a let down. Although we really enjoyed playing out there, we had to fly between every show and didn't really get to see anything of the country itself, which is a real shame but that's the way it goes when you're on tour.

It’s pretty impressive to be recording songs in multiple languages (like you have in the past). Are you all pretty linguistic? Has that helped in your traveling adventures?

Emma: Ros speaks French & Spanish, Verity speaks German and I speak Greek, though not fluently. I think the other two are fluent. Sadly, we don’t speak the languages where we need it most, such as when we went to Russia, Japan or Turkey
Mia: I don't speak any other languages, but it's great being in a band with people who do.

Can you think of bands that you would love to tour with someday?

Mia: Nick Cave, Melvins, Fantomas... and Marnie Stern.


electrelane_small_1.jpg

In a lot of our artist interviews, we pose the question of working small versus working big. How do you like playing large crowds versus playing smaller crowds? Do you have a preference to either?

Emma: I don’t really (have a preference). Both can be intimidating, but sometimes when it’s a really crammed tiny place I dread it more because it gets extra boiling hot and I freak out that I’m going to drop a stick or faint. Obviously, you always worry in big venues that it’s going to be a bit soulless. We haven’t really played any huge venues on our own. We're normally thesupport band when we play big places so its not like we have to worry about filling it, but big festivals can be really scary. I guess I like both.
Mia: I prefer playing smaller, more intimate venues as it makes it easier to connect with the crowd, but we've played to some very large crowds at festivals, and it's usually been really great.

How has recording the new album been? Are you happy with the end result?

Emma: Yes, I’m really happy with it. It was the most fun to both write and record. We wrote it last summer in Berlin, which was amazing. It was great to all be out of Brighton and it was really exciting to go to the studio everyday. We had to take trams and trains and it was in the old GDR. I feel like it had a nostalgic feeling to it before it was even over. The recording was also really fun and we took more time.
Mia: Making this new album has been my favorite writing and recording experience while being in Electrelane. I’m very happy with the result.

I’m sort of a recording nerd so you’ll have to indulge for a second and tell me how you recorded the new album. (i.e. tape, digital.. computers? Etc..)

Emma: Our first album was recorded on to tape and then mixed in pro-tools. The other two where (Steve) Albini is involved were obviously full analog (i.e. recorded and mixed on tape). This time we recorded straight into a computer and mixed on the computer. It suited the way we had worked the album and also gave us way more options to just keep playing take after take till we got it 'right'. The Key Club owns Sly Stone’s old Flickinger console and everything went through that. I think when it comes to mixing it can be difficult because there are too many options and it takes forever to make a decision. Luckily, Jessica (Ruffins) was very, very patient. I think she should get a medal.
Mia: We recorded onto computer this time (as opposed to tape, which we did on the last two records). It worked out really well, as there were a lot of things we were able to do in the studio this time that had previously been inhibited when we were just recording onto tape.

Many times bands will have a great recorded album, but when seeing them live you realize they can't match all the layering, editing and fine tuning they did during the recording. Has that ever been an issue in the past, or do you think it will be an issue when touring for the new album?

Mia: There was a lot of layering and overdubs on Rock It to the Moon, so we encountered those problems then. That's partly why we chose to record with Steve Albini for The Power Out. We could basically play all those songs live, the only thing we lacked was the choir. Same goes with Axes. The whole point of that recording is that it is just us playing together, without any studio trickery. With No Shouts, No Calls we wanted to do something different. There is comparatively much more going on in terms of overdubs, use of studio gear etc. but we have had enough experience working on the other records to be aware that we want our live show to be as strong as the album.

It’s pretty exciting that you brought the Farfisa (organ) back and added a ukulele.. Who’s playing the ukulele?

Emma: Yes, we were very excited to bring the Farfisa back. We really only stopped using it because we were nervous to take it on tour (as its very fragile and hard to mend). However recently we got a back up one, so we're all set now.
Mia: That's Ros playing the ukulele...

electrelane_1.jpg

electrelane_4.jpg

What was it like recording in Michigan? How did you pick Michigan of all places and was there really a pirate ship nearby? That sounds pretty awesome.

Emma: We picked the Key Club because we'd met Bill (Skibbe) & Jessica (Ruffins) when they were doing sound for Shellac (we were supporting them). They’ve recorded lots of people; The Fiery Furnaces, The Kills, etc. We thought it would be great to record with two people (which it was) and also it would be good to be far away from any distractions. It turns out that they are super lovely people and there definitely weren’t any distractions in Benton Harbor, except maybe the studio dog Fern. I’m really happy we went there and I think they did a really great job. They live there too, so it had a really nice feeling to it. It felt really comfortable, almost the opposite of intimidating. We went to the beach and yes, there really was a pirate ship. Or at least it looked liked one.

One of our favorite songs is 'The Valleys'. Can you tell me how that song came to be? Where did the choir come from and who wrote the choir sections? (join our Podcast to hear it)

Mia: The choir is called Chicago Acapella. We just found them via the internet before we went to record with Steve Albini in Chicago. Verity wrote the score. Although we had all written the music together before we went in the studio, the rest of us had no idea how the vocal score would actually pan out until it happened. When we went back to record Axes, we asked the male section of Chicago Acapella to come back and sing on 'I keep losing heart' and 'suitcase'.

What type of film could you imagine your music accompanying? Can you describe it?

Mia: I've been watching a lot of Emir Kusturica films recently. In an absolute dream world, I would love for Electrelane to score one of his movies.

What’s the artwork like for the new album? I hear that Emma does a great deal of the album art. Are you (Emma) making visual art a lot these days?

Emma: It’s really bold, simple & primary colored. I got in trouble from the label for the last album. After it had all been printed they said it was “un-sellable” because it was “too dark”. I thought they could have told me that when I had submitted it for approval. Anyway, this one is the opposite. As far as making art, I’m not making something for anything specific, but I am taking photos.

electrelane_2.jpg
//Photographed by Tara Darby

I’ve heard you compared to bands like Stereolab, The Organ and Sleater-Kinney quite often. Do you think contemporary influences seep into your song writing process? Are there obvious influences or inspirations that you pull from all the time?

Emma: Yeah, we're the same because we all have vaginas. Beyond that, there is nothing similar about us. At all.
As far as influences, I’m really into old American folk at the moment. We all like old European folk and gypsy music, so maybe we pull from there but I can’t think of anything really contemporary. Not that I don’t like anything contemporary, just that I wouldn’t cite anyone around right now as a direct musical influence.
Mia: I don't think any of us would consider The Organ or Sleater-Kinney as influences on our music, although I do like both those bands. We never really sit down and discuss groups that we want to sound like. I think we each have a varied range of influences, and that it inadvertently affects the music we end up writing. Personally, some of my biggest (guitar) influences are The Ex, Fugazi, The Gossip, Erase Errata.

I’ve also heard a lot about you (Mia) being a writer and great things that your produced. How did you decide to do music over writing? Or did you? Are you doing both simultaneously? Why do I keep hearing about a novel? Is that in the works?

Mia: I consider writing to be my main creative outlet. I have been writing about music for a range of publications for the last 8 years, but I am mostly interested in writing fiction. I'm not sure why you keep hearing about a novel! There is one in the works, but it's far from developed enough for me to be talking about. I have just compiled and edited a book about touring with Sara Jaffe; it's a collection of artwork and writing that musicians have done while on tour, or about tour.

A while back I heard about the record label that you stared (Lets Rock). Is that still an ongoing project?

Mia: It is something that we have talked about reviving, but our lack of financial support means it is currently laying dormant. Hopefully one day...


No Shouts, No Calls comes out in April. You can get more information on the band and upcoming shows at their website.

Electrelane are touring with The Arcade Fire for their European tour starting in April and they will be coming to the Bay Area in June!

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Mario Wagner (Berkeley) opened his new solo show A Glow that Transfers Creativity last Saturday night at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco.


Serge Gay Jr. @Spoke Art

The paintings in the show are each influenced by a musician, ranging from Freddy Mercury, to Madonna, to A Tribe Called Quest and they are so stylistically consistent with each musician's persona that they read as a cohesive body of work with incredible variation. If you told me they were each painted by a different person, I would not hesitate to believe you and it's really great to see a solo show with so much variety. The show is fun, poppy, very well done, and absolutely worth a look and maybe even a listen.


NYCHOS Mural on Ashbury and Haight

NYCHOS completed this great new mural on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco on Tuesday. Looks Amazing.


Sun Milk in Vienna

With rising rent in SF and knowing mostly other young artists without capitol, I desired a way to live rent free, have a space to do my craft, and get to see more of the world. Inspired by the many historical artists who have longed similar longings I discovered the beauty of artist residencies. Lilo runs Adhoc Collective in Vienna which not only has a fully equipped artists creative studio, but an indoor halfpipe, and private artist quarters. It was like a modern day castle or skate cathedral. It exists in almost a utopic state, totally free to those that apply and come with a real passion for both art and skateboarding


"How To Lose Yourself Completely" by Bryan Schnelle

I just wanted to share with you a piece I recently finished which took me 4 years to complete. Titled "How To Lose Yourself Completely (The September Issue)", it consists of a copy of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine (the issue they made the documentary about) with all faces masked with a sharpie, and everything else entirely whited out. 840 pages of fun. -Bryan Schnelle


Tyler Bewley ~ Recent Works

Some great work from San Francisco based Tyler Bewley.


Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery

While walking our way across San Francisco on Saturday we swung through the opening receptions for Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in the Mission.


Jeremy Fish Solo Show in Los Angeles

Jeremy Fish opens Hunting Trophies tonight, Saturday April 5th, at the Los Angeles based Mark Moore Gallery. The show features new work from Fish inside the "hunting lodge" where viewers climb inside the head of the hunter and explore the history of all the animals he's killed.


The Albatross and the Shipping Container

Beautiful piece entitled "The Albatross and the Shipping Container", Ink on Paper, Mounted to Panel, 47" Diameter, by San Francisco based Martin Machado now on display at FFDG. Stop in Saturday (1-6pm) to view the group show "Salt the Skies" now running through April 19th. 2277 Mission St. at 19th.


The Marsh Barge - Traveling the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to quit my job, move out of my house, leave everything and travel again. So on August 21, 2013 I pushed a canoe packed full of gear into the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, along with four of my best friends. Exactly 100 days later, I arrived at a marina near the Gulf of Mexico in a sailboat.


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