DATE OF INTERVIEW:
31st July 2014
METAL DISCOVERY: ‘The Faith & Patience’ has been out there for a few weeks now, so how has it generally been received by fans and critics?
WILL: It seems to have gone down well with both parties. We’ve had a lot of listeners show their appreciation towards what we’re doing and we’re truly amazed at how consistently good our reviews have been. Naturally people in music press (much like yourself) come from different musical backgrounds and represent different values, so we were expecting to take a few reviews with a pinch of salt; especially being a band that has a sound caught right in the middle of rock, punk, soul and pop.
(Will Whisson on Electric River's wide appeal)
"We’re not exactly a ‘scene band.’ We’re too heavy to be commercial pop, and too light to be hard rock. Also, I think the art of writing meaningful melodic songs can transcend genre preference so that might explain a few things."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official Electric River Website:
ELECTRIC RIVER DISCOGRAPHY
In Your Name (2012)
Hard gigging rockers Electric River seem to have created all kinds of buzz across various scenes since their inception a few years ago. And earning prestigious support slots with the likes of Lit and New Model Army, as well as appearances at reputable festivals such as the Levellers' very own Beautiful Days shindig and Blackpool's premier punk party, Rebellion, their escalating popularity has primed the South East clan for the timely release of their sophomore album, 'The Faith & Patience'. Guitarist Will Whisson explained the band's cross-genre appeal to Metal Discovery as well as revealing his most memorable show in recent memory was one that involved a horse costume, ginger-bearded farmer, gaffer-taped gangsters and food hurling. Intrigued? Baffled? Read on...
Electric River - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2013 Uncredited
Official Electric River Facebook:
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
The Faith & Patience (2014)
MD: It’s such a strong record as there’s literally no filler whatsoever, just a constant stream of addictively catchy hooks/refrains. Did you have a pool of songs to choose from where the cream of the crop ended up on the album, or were the 12 tracks pretty much all you’d written?
WILL: We had an ocean of songs to choose from! We knew we weren’t going to hide behind any swanky production techniques and were looking to create a record that sounded raw and integral. That said, there’s a fine line between making something sound raw and integral and making something sound cheap or tacky, so getting the songs and, subsequently, the song selection right was paramount. We demoed a good 70 potential songs, then whittled them down to half of that, then whittled them down further to 20 well produced home demos, then decided on taking 16 tracks to take to the final studio. And finally, when all was complete, we ruthlessly tested different flows in different environments to find a selection and order that was most complimentary to the whole project. I’d imagine picking a football team for a world cup would take a similar process, not that we in any way want to compare our album to this year’s flop of a national team.
MD: There’s a genuinely infectious energy running throughout the album too. How did you ensure you managed to capture that sort of vitality with the material in its recorded form?
WILL: It all boils down to recording the majority of it live. Also, as we were knocking out 4 songs a day in the studio; we were pretty cautious about which songs needed to be recorded with full blown caffeine enhanced energy (between 11am - 6pm) and which songs could afford to be a bit looser (8pm - 3am).
MD: I’ve read you state this new one is the culmination of everything you’ve been working towards since the band’s inception, so what exactly clicked this time around that resulted in your finest work to date?
WILL: Committing to recording an album (in one of your favourite studios) isn’t something logistically very practical to a lot of unsigned bands for obvious financial reasons. We knew it was something we couldn’t pussy foot around with and had no choice but to make it happen by whatever means necessary. We also realised how lucky we were to even be in such a position and felt that whatever we recorded had to be something we’d be proud of for the rest of our lives (you just never know when or if you’ll get the chance to work on something of this scale again).
MD: You wrote a song about Wilko Johnson for the album, ‘Keep the Engine Burning’, whose prognosis now, very fortunately, seems to be very positive. Has he been an inspiration to you, both musically and through his perpetual optimism?
So, with that in mind and encouragement from our manager, we essentially started writing for ourselves, realising our strengths, which in turn helped result in a psychological and creative shift. It was fitting for the time.
WILL: We’re not Wilko Johnson or Dr Feelgood’s biggest fans by a long shot. Obviously we’ve done our homework (as we have with countless other great musicians) and completely respect his work, but we’d be lying if we said he’s had a direct musical influence on us. We love him as a person.
The bigger picture is that Wilko’s story was a catalyst to a theme that resonates deeply within us all. His story was refreshingly positive, uplifting and ultimately inspiring. It’s amazing how he’s turned something as dark and powerful as death into something more of a celebration of life.
MD: You were handpicked to perform on the main stage at the Levellers’ Beautiful Days fest last year. Did you feel very honoured to be part of such a unique, non-corporate, sponsorship-free fest?
WILL: It’s a great festival and we’d heard all about it before we played. To experience it, however, was a real treat. The whole point of festivals, in my eyes, is to disconnect from the world for a bit, so the last thing you wanna see is a big fat Coca-Cola or Vodafone sign.
MD: Is it fair to say you share the same sort of punk sensibilities as the Levellers, politically speaking and with your general outlook on life, and do you regard ‘The Faith & Patience’ as your ‘Levelling the Land’?
WILL: I’d say there are a few parallels but we don’t get too hooked on trying to emulate others. We get compared to quite a few bands out there whether it’s The Levellers, The Clash or right up to the Kings of Leon. What’s great is they’re nearly always bands with credibility that we look up to… although some nutter mentioned recently Sponge’s voice was great because it reminded him of Gary Barlow. Go figure?! As for our album - we don’t compare our record to anyone else’s… but thanks for the ‘Levelling the Land’ nod.
MD: You’ve set the bar very high now with ‘The Faith & Patience’ so do you anticipate there’ll be a degree of pressure to try and match, or top, its magnificence for the next album?
WILL: Pressure is good for us. We’re our own worst critics at the best of times so if anything gets a green light from us all to be properly recorded, it won’t be on a whim. The process of writing will more or less remain the same, though we may chuck a few more ingredients into the mix next time round. We’ve already started demoing a good chunk of the follow up but we know there’s a long way to go yet.
MD: From what I can gather, your fanbase seems to be quite a diverse one, where people from a few different scenes seem to have got hooked on your music. What do you think it is about Electric River that engenders that kind of varied interest?
WILL: I think it’s probably got to do with the fact we do things ‘our way’ and quite simply appreciate the art of songwriting. We’re not exactly a ‘scene band.’ We’re too heavy to be commercial pop, and too light to be hard rock. Also, I think the art of writing meaningful melodic songs can transcend genre preference so that might explain a few things.
MD: You seem to have built up your popularity the old fashioned way by getting out there in all manner of venues and taking your music to the people, rather than the present-day over-reliance on the internet where so many bands expect people to come to them. But has the internet also been an important tool in Electric River’s growing popularity?
WILL: Without a doubt. It’s not something we particularly wanted to subscribe to when we started being in a band but, nowadays, they go hand in hand. Facebook has allowed us to keep people in the loop really easily although we’re now a little apprehensive about where these platforms are now heading with their ‘pay to promote’ agendas. Suppose it was always coming.
MD: With such a plethora of shit now on the web, it’s obviously become increasingly harder to discover the shining gems amongst the deluge of crap. Do you think a lot of new, younger bands hinder themselves these days through internet complacency?
WILL: What a beautifully worded question. ‘Plethora of Shit’ / ‘Deluge of Crap’ sound like alternative titles to The X Factor. Anyway, to answer: if your question is to do with quality control of how younger bands present themselves on the Internet, then definitely. I know we fell into that trap once upon a time - whereby we’d chuck out videos and demos, just because we could. Preparation and patience is key, but you only truly learn that once you’ve been through the mill a few times.
If you mean - are younger bands overly reliant on online marketing as opposed to traditional ways of promoting themselves, ie gigging, then it’s harder to say, as there are so many factors, now, that affect how and where music is received. That’s a whole other debate about where the industry as a whole is going, that neither of us probably have time for.
MD: Hard gigging bands obviously have their fair share of Spinal Tap moments, so what’s been your most embarrassing incident thus far?
WILL: We’ve had so many. Loads of things have centred around our van breaking down or our drummer saying something really inappropriate to the wrong person…but I’m gonna go with the time the guys set off to a gig and forgot me. That was pretty Spinal Tap.
MD: The converse of that, what’s been the best, most memorable show you’ve played?
WILL: That’s really tough as we enjoy so many of them for so many different reasons. Because it’s fresh in the memory - the final show of the recent Lit tour was pretty cool. We played pretty well and signed the tour off by invading the stage in DIY fancy dress outfits during Lit’s set. I was a horse on which our drummer (dressed as a ginger bearded farmer) was riding, whilst the other guys looked like gaffer taped up villains and we were firing out a selection of backstage food into the crowd. Lit were initially totally confused as to what the fuck was going on but found the whole thing hilarious when they realised it was us. A good way to sign off a great tour.
MD: Finally, if you had to summarise your career to date in just five words, what would they be?
WILL: I’m gonna go creative on your arse and do an acrostic poem...