Is Electrelane coming back?! An interview with the girls

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Electrelane is a british indie/experimental rock band (previously located in Brighton, UK … now scattered around the world). They’ve been making music starting with 1998, they released their first album in 2001 – “Rock it to the Moon” – and have been touring ever since.

The band was last formed (well, theoretically, it still is) by Emma Gaze, Mia Clarke, Verity Susman and Ros Murray. There have also been other past members, such as Tracey Houdek (1998–1999), Rupert Noble (1999), Debbie Ball (1998–2000) and Rachel Dalley (1999–2004).

After their last album in 2007 – “No Shouts, No Calls” – the band members decided  that it was time to take a little break… We’ve given them two years to do so. Now it’s time to see if they’ve had enough and if they miss playing their music that much, that they’ll come back… ?!

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Electreleane is on your party tracklist for sure. Their unique indie experimental rock has most definitely defined the last 10 years of your musical experience. They’ve been performing for such a long time, that it is impossible not to have heard songs like “Tram 21″, “U.O.R.” or “Bells”. However, as you very well know, they’ve been on a break for two years now and apparently, they still feel the need to postpone their return. I’ve made this quite long and complex interview with three of the girls from the band to see what they’re up to lately, what they plan on doing further ahead, but also, to talk about a couple of their already released tracks, about their musical preferences and past experiences with the band and their live performances. You’ll also find out what their opinions are in regard to their return on the music scene. Will they come back? Let’s see:

ZME: First, let’s get to know you a little better. Please do a description of each of you – What best describes you? What words best represent your characters, your way of life etc. ?

Emma: …small & sleepy …

Mia looks for adventures in little things.

ZME: You’ve released four albums, one EP and various singles and this all happened starting 2001. Yet, after „No Shouts, No Calls” in 2007, which was a great album, you decided – unfortunately – that is was time to take a break. It’s been two years … so the question is obvious: why did you stop? Why did you decide that this break was necessary?

Emma: We had been on tour for what seemed like years- we never really rested in between writing a new album, recording that album & touring that album..this went on for five or six years- it takes a toll on your personal life & your body & mind.. we all just needed a break…it was very important to stop while we all still loved each other & loved electrelane.

Mia: After so many years of touring and making records, I felt it was time for us to stop and concentrate on pursuing other activities that make us happy. I think everyone felt the same way. We were doing the band full-time, and at some point it was inevitable that we would have to stop in order to have time to be with our families, work, go back to school etc.

Verity: We wanted some time to do other things. The band had been going for ten years, including the time before we released our first album, and that’s a long time!

ZME: „Tram 21”, „Berlin” and „At Sea” are my favourite songs from your last album, most definitely. I still remember the first time I heard them 2 years ago, and I still play them as often as I did then. Could you please tell us the gist of how they came together? The story behind them, the lyrics, the use of instruments etc.

Emma: We wrote all the songs in the summer of 2006, in berlin. it was a really fun time for us. we had always wanted to get away to write an album, & that was the first time we were able to. we were really excited to be there. we had a great rehearsal room in this old gdr radio station (i believe the liars actually recorded there..the liars are a great band). i found the room itself really inspiring- it had orange cloth covered walls & had at one time been the sound effects room for the radio plays- it had a trap door in the floor with sand in it & squeaky door latches…i think we were all in a happy place, so although i think some songs on the album are quite sad/melancholy, ultimately, it is a happy feeling album. Verity said once, & i agree that, there is a point where sadness & happiness meet, & we try & get there- i think ‘saturday’ maybe sums up that feeling the best, for me anyway. ‘in berlin’ is also one of my favourite songs on the record- i think verity did a beautiful job with the lyrics & the vocals. ‘tram 21′ is called that as it is the number of the tram we had to take to the studio every day. almost all, if not all, the electrelane songs come together through (i hate this word) ‘jamming’…we just all get together & start playing. sometimes someone will come in with a specific little part & we’ll play around it, but mostly it comes about from feeding off each other- each part plays off another part & leads to more & more ideas. its a very fun way of working as you never know where it will go. sometimes it doesnt work at all & we may ruin a good idea or cant get back to what we liked about it, but mostly, i’d say 9 times out 10, it works out.

ZME: Which song previously released, would you say, is closest to what you wanted to obtain out of your music? Which one includes everything you always wanted to get from „THE” song? Which is your favourite, the closest to perfection, and why? Is there one song you’ve been working the hardest for?

Emma: Hmmm…a good question & a hard one to answer. i think if you ever felt like you had made the “ultimate” song, you would probably never write again…i dont feel like that, i think there is always something to strive for, something to improve upon. for me a song works when you want to listen to it over & over & over again- or when it just seems too short. i suppose at the moment, i think perhaps ‘saturday’ & ‘gone under sea’ sum up this happy/sad feeling for me, but i think it changes all the time, or at least, if someone asked me that question once a week, i would give a different answer every time…of other peoples songs, i could listen to karen dalton’s ‘something on your mind’ & m.ward’s ‘poison cup’, endlessly…i think they are pretty perfect. oh, & new order’s ‘age of consent’, which to me, is the most perfect song ever- its sad but you have to dance…

Mia: That’s an interesting question! I would say the song „Bells” reflects the band very well. Finding ways to effectively build up energy in a song has always been important to us, and I think we manage that well with this track. It also combines a little singing, heavier guitar, manic keyboard riffs and a structure that allows room for improvisation. For me, it has everything that you’ll find in other Electrelane songs. My favourite track changes from time to time…but, today, I would say „The Greater Times” as it is the opening track of an album that was a really positive experience to make. It makes me feel happy when I hear it. The song I’ve worked hardest for? I don’t know! Maybe „Suitcase”, off of the album Axes, simply because it is rather epic and different contains time changes and moods within the one song, so it was always necessary to stay on my toes so I didn’t make too many mistakes!

ZME: Please mention 10 other indie pop/rock bands you like listening to when you’re at home, relaxing, working, doing chores, etc.
Emma:electrelanedrummer_350x250
1. smog
2. joanna newsom
3. vera november
4. new order
5. joy division
6. i know i have no collar
7. m.ward
8. p.j harvey
9. deerhunter
10. neu!

Verity:

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1. Dearhunter
2. Belle and Sebastian
3. Talking Heads
4. Kino
5. Deerhoof
6. Stereolab
7. Sleeping States
8. White magic
9. Quickspace
10. Neutral milk hotel

Mia:

1. Fever Ray— Fever Ray                                                                                                                             mia_clarke_electrelane_13
2. Kurt Vile— Constant Hitmaker
3. PJ Harvey— White Chalk
4. Art Ensemble of Chicago— Les Stances a Sophie
5. Siouxsie & the Banshees— A Kiss in the Dreamhouse
6. Grouper— Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill
7. Townes Van Zandt— Townes Van Zandt
8. Bibio— Ambivalence Avenue
9. Hauschka— Ferndorf
10. The Pastels— Illumination
11. Entrance—Prayer of Death
12. School of Seven Bells— Alpinisms
13. Bob Dylan— Nashville Skyline

ZME: Let’s imagine the perfect party: mention 10 tracks you always want to hear, in order for the party to be a successful one:

Emma:
1. new order- age of consent
2. jonathan richman & the modern lovers- roadrunner
3. the troggs- with a girl like you
4. wire- i am the fly
5. the velvet underground- temptation inside your heart
6. david bowie- modern love
7. bronski beat- smalltown boy
8. bruce springsteen- dancing in the dark
9. joy divsion- love will tear us apart
10. roxy music- virginia plain

Mia:
1. New Order— Ceremony
2. The Go-Betweens— Streets of Your Town
3. Arthur Russell— That’s Us/Wild Combination
4. Spandau Ballet— To Cut a Long Story Short
5. The Marvelettes— I’ll Keep Holding On
6. PIL— This is Not a Love Song
7. ESG- Erase You
8. The Slits— Typical Girls
9. The Tammys— Egyptian Shumba
10. The Clean— Point That Thing Somewhere Else

ZME: Considering that you took the break for two years now, tell our readers what you’ve been up to. What special, funny, interesting or great activities have you undergone?

Emma: I have just moved to los angeles, so i am adjusting to that & getting my driving license, which is quite scary. otherwise, i have mainly been having a good rest, doing some traveling & just hanging out…i wish i could say i did something really good with my time, but i can’t…

Mia: I moved to Chicago permanently to be with my husband. He is a drummer, and we have a band, called Follows, with some friends. I sing and play guitar. We’ve been playing shows recently, which was been so much fun. I also co-edited (with Sara Jaffe, who was in Erase Errata) a book of artwork and writing by touring musicians called „The Art of Touring”. It was published this month, so we’re having some release events in NYC and Portland to celebrate. I also recorded an improvised guitar recording with Andy Moor of the Ex, called „Guitargument”, which was released by File-13/hellosQuare.

Verity: It’s not special, funny or great, but it was very interesting for me – I went back to university to do a masters degree in international politics.

ZME: If you could choose the list for a festival, whom would you love to see performing, next to your name? You can ignore time frames and choose bands that aren’t performing anymore. Let’s say there should be 6-7 names, next to yours. Oh, and Le Tigre is not available anymore  :)

Emma: Patti smith, neil young, wire, the breeders, joy division, otis redding, devendra banhart…that’s a random list, im sure it would change & change & change, but i just anwered quickly…oh, & the velvet underground & nico, of course…

Mia: Patti Smith, Happy Supply, Boris, Entrance, Broadcast, Deerhoof, Deerhunter, Fugazi, the Ex

Verity: My bloody valentine, the velvet underground, joy division, the cocteau twins, sigur ros, gang gang dance.

ZME: Until your break, you toured quite a lot. Considering that you’ve seen so many places, which city has welcomed you the warmest? Where would you say was your most successful gig yet? Include which was was best setting and which place got you the best acclamation.

Emma: This is a very tough question as i feel like we have had a lovely reception in so many places. i guess paris (or france in general) is always very special as the crowd is generally really, really enthused & are so supportive… greece is also very special. i suppose the most beautiful gig to look at from the stage was when we played at asagiri jam in japan; when you looked up you saw mount fuji in the distance, it was really spectacular…also, at route du rock in the summer of 2007, just because there were SO many people, it was kind of mindblowing. i have to say though, i just generally enjoy playing live a lot- if there is a good atmosphere from the crowd, it makes it really fun & its exhilarating. i miss it.

Mia: I think France has always been very receptive to our music, and the fans in Paris are just amazing. We’ve had some really memorable performances there at places like La Cigalle. The shows in Spain, especially Spanish festivals like Primavera and Benicassim, have also been great and lots of fun.

ZME: Your use of instruments is quite impressive, especially the insertion of the farfisa and the ukulele, combined with keyboards, drums and the guitar. Does each member of the band have a clear „job” where instruments are concerned, as stated on your MySpace (Verity – keyb. & vocals, Emma – drums, Mia – guitar and Ros the bass) ? Or do you each mix your talents and see what comes out?

Emma: we are quite specific. i dont play anything other than the drums (i wish i did)…verity & ros play lots of different instruments between them, so they can mix it up.

Mia: I just play guitar, but Ros and Verity are skilled at a range of instruments.

Verity: We used to improvise a lot to write the songs, and then we would pretty much stick to those instruments or „jobs” because it’s where we feel comfortable and can experiment. But afterwards, when we were recording, then we’d sometimes add other instruments in and mess around a bit.

ZME: „Film Music” – is it an allusion to somebody? Would you like to see your music, well, certain tracks, being played throughout a specific movie? If so, name a couple of titles for us to see what type of movies you enjoy, or what type of movies you might think that your music would go really well with. Is there a director, of whom you are particularly fond of?

Emma: I think Fatih Akin is incredible- i’m not saying i think our music would necessarily fit with his films, but i think his work is amazing- ‘the edge of heaven’ & ‘head on’ especially. ‘silent light’ by Carlos Reygadas is really, really beautiful- but again, i dont think our music would fit, i just like that style of directing/cinematography. also, i love Truffaut’s ‘the 400 blows’ & Godard’s ‘pierrot le fou’…but then, i also love ‘ferris buellers day off’ & ‘the breakfast club’…so i’m not completely pretentious …

Mia: I would absolutely love to write the soundtrack for a film—especially one by David Lynch, Agnes Varda, Jonas Mekas, or a Bill Viola piece. In my dreams, ha ha!

ZME: I fiind one particular song – „The Valleys” – quite special. It’s great how you combined an Acapella Group with your vocals and specific instruments. How did that happen? I mean, so rarely do you see an indie rock band doing that. Actually, I think you’re unique in this endeavour. What/Who convinced you, or influenced you to do it? How did you come up with the idea?

Emma: This was verity’s idea, so i can’t take any credit for it or even try to answer for her…

Verity: I’d always wanted to write something for a choir to sing – I suppose that comes from singing in choirs when I was younger, and being interested in vocal harmonies. It seemed like quite a natural thing to do, not strange or unusual. So much classical music combines a choir with an instrumental group, and I think I’d either seen or heard Spiritualized playing with the London Community Gospel Choir and thinking that was pretty powerful. When we started playing the song I thought the choir would just come in at the end, like an extra part. But once I started writing the score, I got into it and ended up writing for them to sing all the way through, and be a central part. I wrote it in memory of someone I liked and admired very much, who had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Thinking of them definitely inspired me.

ZME: I think, however, that the ones who are going to read this article, are very aware of your previous work – previously released albums, past performances etc. So let’s talk more about the future. Are you planing on returning? Is there a new project in discussion?

Emma: We have yet to make any solid plans. i will only say that we all still love electrelane & if there is an opportunity that brings us together again, im sure we will take it if we can. its kind of difficult to co-ordinate as i live in l.a, mia lives in chicago & verity & ros live in london…we will see…i would very much like to make more music, but its a question of time & money & logistics…

Mia: I really don’t know what is going to happen in the future. We don’t have any specific plans, but I think we are all open to considering the possibility of Electrelane coming back together at some point, if the time is right for everyone.

Verity: Not at the moment, but who knows in the future  :)

ZME: If so, what specific intentions do you have with this new album? Are you planing on continuing with the same style and sound? Will there be anything innovative? I’m asking this with a most convincing tone, as I am sure and as it is my strong belief that you’ve had your break, that it was enough, and that you miss doing music and performing and that you’ll pick up where you left off. However, even if it’s a negative answer, that you still aren’t planing of coming back, just humour me. Imagine you’re working on a new album. How would that sound like?

Emma: Ha ha….probably just like electrelane, but made by old people…

Mia: I love your optimism, Alex! That’s impossible to answer though. In the past we never really dicussed how we wanted an album to sound before we started writing it. We would just hole up in our rehearsal space and keep improvising and working out ideas until a general mood started to take shape. Often, the end result was a complete surprise to us! It’s a way that I love to work, and I think it makes the music more honest, natural and ,in the moment’.

Verity: I’d want it to be really psychedelic.

ZME: The band is originally from Brighton, UK. Where are your whereabouts right now? I’ve read different things: LA for some, Chicago for others. Are you that spread out? If you’ll start a new project, where do you think that you’ll record the new material? Any special help? A well-known producer? Some featurings with other bands? Any covers?

Emma: I think i answered this question a bit already…i think if we were going to do anything again, it would be entirely made & recorded by electrelane. completely basic…at least, that is what i would do….i don’t know, it would depend on the time & situation, everything changes all the time…right????

Mia: Yep, I am in Chicago. Emma is in LA, and Ros and Verity are currently in London. So we are very spread out! As we have no idea what we will do in the future, we haven’t talked at all about where we would record IF we did indeed make another record. I do know that; if it happens, I’d love to work the same way we did on „No Shouts, No Calls” and just go away to a different country to write music for a few months (we lived in Berlin for three months while writing that album). Being away in a new, exciting place doing nothing but writing an album made the world of difference to us, and was one of my happiest memories of being in the band.

Verity: I’m living in London now, and Ros is too, so we see each other quite a lot.

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  • zOOm_ER

    Viva, Electrelane!

  • q

    i loved this interview! thanks! hope electelane will come back <3

  • http://www.zmemusic.com Alex

    Thanks! I’ve been on a huge break from writing, but I’m planing on starting it again. I’ll try and reach Electrelane again, it’s been a year, maybe they have some plans and are willing to let us know what they’re up to. keep reading :-)

  • 96dbFreak

    Any luck getting in touch with the band and finding out if they’re thinking of reforming? (Great interview, BTW).

  • http://www.helpinthecity.com/ Asia Berrong

    This post is very informative. As long as commenters’ are leaving quotes I’ll leave this humorous quote. “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” comedian Steven Wright