Perfect Sound Forever


Photo courtesy of Eletrelane website

Sensitive Rock from the UK
by Jose Marmeleira (January 2003)

It's said that since the post-punk days, Great Britain has lost its interest in unapologetic, aggressive, experimental rock music. Pop and the electronic genres have taken over the ears and the creative practices of musicians and a slogan has emerged: rock is dead. Well, fortunately all slogans are ephemeral and this is not an exception. The visceral dimension and the dynamics of the so-called defunct rock is being renewed by several British bands within different sub-genres. Sand, Vibracathedral Orchestra, Sunroof, Volcano The Bear, V-Twin are some of the actors of that little narrative and one of the most versatile of this recent crop is the Brighton based feminine quartet called Electrelane. Formed in 1998, his sensitive combo makes sinuous music that has the ability to rock, behind a will to change people's perception of everyday life. Add to that the buzz about Brighton bands and an upcoming session with Steve Albini and you have a band that you'll want to watch.

Perfect Sound Forever exchanged some words with Verity Susman, the keyboard player as her band has come to know a nice definition of avant-rock.

PSF: What first got you (Electrelane) involved in music?

As a band, we started by writing some songs, rehearsing and then making some recordings which we gave out to people in Brighton. From there we got gigs and people started to hear of us. Individually, I think we've all listened to and/or played music since we can remember. Emma and I started it in 1998. We had started playing together a couple of years before when we were at school.

PSF: What were your first music inspirations?

I think we all listened to quite a variety of styles when we were growing up, so I guess I could talk best about what we were inspired by, collectively, when we started the band and how that has changed. Initially we were listening to a lot of Neu and Stereolab as well as the Stooges and the Velvet Underground. Then we started listening to bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Suicide. Recently we've been listening to Cat Power and Peaches, and they are both definitely an inspiration right now.

PSF: The Wire magazine considered Electrelane an avant rock band. What do you think of this category?

I think there are a few bands around doing experimental rock music - music that rocks out but doesn't necessarily conform to traditional rock and roll song structures, and I suppose this is as good a label as any to cover these bands. I'm thinking of people like And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead and Mogwai. I suppose that with our last album, we came into this category.

PSF: What are the dynamics of the band? Are there fluid roles?

I think we all have different areas of expertise, and now (since) we have been together a while, we are learning and exploiting what we each do well. So, in a way, the roles are becoming less and less fluid as we get on with working at what we each do best. But there are no set roles, and I think we have a pretty healthy dynamic as a band.

PSF: Can we consider Electrelane a 'feminist' band?

Well, it depends what you mean (by that). Our main aim is to make music that moves people, but of course there are a lot of politics tied up with any art form and we are aware that we are women in a male dominated genre. On our album, we wanted to celebrate some of our heroines - some of the people who have inspired us to make music and to be strong and creative women - and this is why we dedicated it as we did. We are feminists.

PSF: What's for you the meaning of feminism?

For me, it is a political word - I think it refers to a very loose movement of people who believe that women deserve respect and esteem, equal to that afforded to men in public and private life, and that society needs to be changed in many different ways in order to achieve this. I think, in a more romantic sense, it means believing that women are powerful.

PSF: Don't you think that the role of women in music has known some improvements?

Well, it feels like two steps forward, two steps back. There are a quite lot of bands around now, with women playing instruments, but I think women are still expected to be sexually attractive to men in order to deserve to be on stage, regardless of whether they are good musicians or not. Furthermore, the idea that women are not competent when it comes to playing rock music is very much entrenched in the psyche of people who work in guitar shops and as sound engineers in gig venues. In other words, all the people that you come into contact with when you first start out in a band, and this is hard to break through: there is still surprise when women get up on stage and play exciting rock music, and especially when they do it well. It would be good for there just to be interest in the music, regardless of one's sex, but of course we do not live in this world yet.

PSF: Electrelane are from from Brighton. How would you describe the music scene there?

Right now, there is a bit of a buzz in the UK music press about Brighton, as there are several bands here who have recently started releasing records (eighties matchbox bee-line disaster, british sea power, electric soft parade). Of course, some people are trying to call it a scene, but we are all pretty different musically. The music scene here in Brighton is good - there are lots of bands and clubs, and we get a lot of touring bands coming here. But there aren't that many good venues to play at anymore.

PSF: Electrelane's music, in my opinion, has a darker side and lighter side. It seems to be at the same time melancholic, mournful, energetic and happy. Rock It To The Moon for example is little more gloomy and I Want To Be The President is more sunnier. Do you agree?

Yes - we are up and down in our moods. I think the way you describe it "melancholic, mournful, energetic and happy" is perfect: I want to create these extremes of mood in our music.

PSF: On these two records you used concrete sounds and tapes, besides guitar, bass and drums. But vocals rarely appeared. Why?

We wanted to concentrate on the music made by playing our instruments and whenever we added vocals, we found that the instrumental music did not develop or become interesting in any way - it would become just a support for the vocals, and we didn't want this. Also, we were not interested in adding words to the majority of the tracks - we were not trying to convey a precise sentiment or idea. (We're) more trying to create a mood that could be interpreted according to the listener's own experiences. However, on the new album, there is going to be a lot more singing. We are excited about it because we feel liberated by the singing, whereas in the past we felt the singing constrained us. I think we needed to find our feet together musically, before we attempted to bring vocals and words in.

PSF: How do you come up with songs?

Bringing ideas to rehearsals and improvising together, then building a song from there. We all write our own parts, and I do the arranging or the structure-making.

PSF: I read that you are not going to use the Farfisa organ is your next album. Why?

Because we used it enough on the last album! I want to experiment with some other sounds - it is a bit one-dimensional to always use the same keyboard. But I think it will be there somewhere on the album…

PSF: You are recording it with Steve Albini I hear. Is this record going to be more raw the last ones?

We are going to record with Steve Albini early next year. I hope that it will allow us to capture a really live sound on record, which is not something we have successfully achieved in the past.

PSF: How are Electrelane live?

Right now, I think we are a lot better live than we are on record - but I hope that this will change with the next album, so that the record is as heavy and rocking as the live show.

PSF: You have your own label (Let's Rock! Records). Please talk about this and your plans for it.

Right now we don't have any funding for our label, so it is going to be quiet for a while until we can earn enough money to start releasing records by other artists. Hopefully in a couple of years this will happen.

PSF: Electrelane has done some shows with Le Tigre. What do you think of Le Tigre?

They are brilliant live and they have made some great records. I like them a lot. JD is so cute!

See the official Electrelane website

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