First things first: What exactly is an "Electric Guest?" A cyborg visitor? An online travel and lodging guide? A 1950s euphemism for sex toy? Given the retro-future vibe that runs throughout Electric Guest's debut album, Mondo, any of those origins would make sense…
Electric Guest vocalist, writer and co-founder Asa Taccone explains the true life genesis of the band's name: "When I got kicked out of high school in Berkeley, I started hanging out at a donut shop. An older woman who worked there was a weirdo like me, into a lot of new age-y, metaphysical shit and before I left she told me to always remember that I was 'an electric guest of the universe.' For some reason it stuck with me." Like the titular origin, the band and its music is a collection of people and memories Asa has picked up along the way during his long, circuitous journey towards completion of Mondo. This nomadic quality permeates every one of their songs, with their symphonic structures and unpredictable (yet never jarring) twists and turns—not to mention the soulful vocals that guide the listener through dreamy sonic odysseys like the near-9-minute first single "Troubleman."
Electric Guest is comprised of Asa Taccone, from Berkeley, California and Cornbread (legally Matthew Compton), from Danville,Virginia. When they play live, they pick up three friends to fill out the complex instrumentation: Asa plays several instruments, Cornbread nearly a dozen (including, to be fair, triangle and tambourine). Both began making music from a very young age, both initially self-taught. Cornbread began on the drums, recalling life at 13, "I wanted to learn every metal album that I owned: Metallica, Metal Church, Testament. I eventually started taking lessons from this guy that worked in the lumber department of Lowes." He quickly became adept on the drums and toured nationwide with various bands until he tired of the dirty gypsy lifestyle as a tour drummer, settling in Los Angeles to work on music for commercials and movies. Asa's start was even less conventional, buying his first keyboard while still in elementary school for 10 dollars from the kid who lived down the street.
While studying in College Asa's focus was always music. He maintained a strong relationship with his older brother who lived in Los Angeles, playing him his songs over the phone. His brother wanted a friend who worked in 2 music to hear Asa's material and placed him on the phone one day, facilitating Asa's fortuitous first encounter with Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells, Rome and producer of The Black Keys, Gorillaz, U2, Beck and others). Danger Mouse liked what he heard and asked Asa to keep sending him stuff. Asa of course obliged, the two gradually forging a strong working relationship. Then one day – June 10 of 2007 to be exact (Asa remembers "because it was the last episode of the Sopranos" which he thought was just OK), Danger Mouse suggested they make a record together.
Having moved to Los Angeles by then, Asa, as to be expected of an L.A.- based young artist, moved east into a large house with several other musicians (the exact number changing daily… but the guy who slept in the tent out back was a constant), providing him with expansive mental and physical space. He made music nonstop, writing over a hundred songs (like Tupac) in his three-year stay. It was also during this time that he met his musical counterpart, Cornbread. The two instantly hit it off and musical collaboration came naturally. Together, with the help of Danger Mouse, they revisited and revised Asa's many tracks, eventually whittling the number down to a realistic 10 songs that comprise Electric Guest's debut album.
One journalist described their music as "a mutant-albeit somewhat cleaned up and electronic-60's garage thing," likening the sound to The Troggs, The Seeds, and The Zombies. Cornbread admits that those bands were a great influence on him but their inspirations are impossible to nail down as they both appreciate every genre of music, both having worked for years on various projects. With such an eclectic mix of instruments and influences, it's hard to nail down the sound of Electric Guest but Asa insists that it's ultimately pop music, disclosing, "I have a sweet tooth for terrible music so I won't even say what I'm influenced by." (He's most likely referring to the top ten songs on iTunes).
With the band recently signed to Downtown Records and readying Mondo for release in spring 2012, the public will soon be able to take in the album's wealth of different influences, rhythms, moods and textures and draw their own conclusions.
Upon releasing their six-song debut EP Don't Worry, You'll Be Here Forever online for free last fall, Los Angeles' NO had the city abuzz. Now with a slew of much-talked about performances and local acclaim under their belts, NO will be releasing the EP on 12" vinyl on February 14 through Origami Vinyl. Limited to 500 copies, pre-orders are available now through the Origami Vinyl Online Shop. Local tastemaker Buzzbands LA exclaimed: "Judging from the gravitas in NO's first single "Stay With Me"…. redemption is but a life-affirming anthem away." Yvynyl declared: "Bradley Hanan Carter's vocals seem to fill the bowels of Echo Park, Los Angeles. The deep timbre announces the romantic vision of yearning with conviction in the same fashion of baritone voiced Matt Berninger of The National."
Don't Worry, You'll Be Here Forever is currently available as a free download via the band's website and the lead single "Another Life" is available as an MP3 to post and share. NO will be touring the west coast in February in support of the album. In March they will return to their hometown LA for a month-long Monday night residency at The Echo before heading to Austin for the SXSW Music Festival. All shows are listed below.
The romanticism and desolation of Los Angeles breeds restlessness in its people. It's a brooding temperament best captured by Echo Park's NO – a band that feels it in their bones, with the kind of fevered anticipation for something more. Frontman Bradley Hanan Carter's baritone vocals speak to the tension between the wanting and waiting, waiting for love or for some kind of order or sense to how it all works. Their track, "Stay With Me" is a ballad of calculated pleas one of slow, delicate movements. It's being in love with someone, and hoping for some kind of stillness in the unpredictability of love. He asks, "Wasn't there a place for me/inside your heart?" It's all the words you'd ever want your lover to say, the fantastic notion of running away, the return to youth, when everything was uncomplicated and wonderful.
NO began as a response to the limiting idea behind the word – in an effort to reclaim it and reinterpret it as more than just an antithesis to possibility. These are sing-along songs, hymnal and anthematic; born out of a desire to connect with the greater collective of young people seeking their truth, adventure, love. There are remnants of odes to Bill Callahan, The National, and Arcade Fire—epic, atmospheric drums that pulsate, buttered bass tones, melodic choruses.
It's not about naivety; it's about not being calloused by a city of strangeness and strangers. Something the band knows quite well. The band itself is composed of near-veterans, all claiming a vast history with various bands, solo efforts, defunct projects, cities-travelled, loves made and lost. The core of NO first emerged mid 2010 when through a chance meeting at a local breakfast diner, Sean and Bradley started sharing songs they had both been working on. Shortly after Joseph started coming around too, and after many months of creating, and finding Reese and Mike, it seemed there would be no choice not to finish whatever it was they were starting.
NO marvels at the growing pains of a vibrant city, in all of it's aching limbs and veins that run down dead ends. The interplay between hope and despair weaves itself throughout the collection of six songs in their debut EP Don't Worry, You'll Be Here Forever a sentiment that suggests that wherever "here" might be, it's a good place to start.