You may not have heard of Electric Guest before now but chances are you’ve laughed at some of the skits lead singer Asa Taccone has produced – namely Saturday Night Live’s Justin Timberlake ditty ‘Dick In A Box’. And while Asa’s Lonely Island older brother (Jorma Taccone) may have been the one that introduced the band to producer and long term collaborator Brian Burton – better known to us as Danger Mouse – the rest of the merit all lies with Electric Guest – Asa and fellow musician Matt Compton. Their blend of soulful, psychedelic pop harks back to sound of the 60s and 70s and has been winning them fans and industry acclaim since their debut album ‘Mondo’ was released last year. We catch up with the pair on their UK tour to get to know them a little better.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FIRST MEMORIES OF LOVING MUSIC?
Matt: I remember when I was a kid I used to love Guns N ‘Roses, it was right when ‘Appetite for Destruction’ had just come out and I listened to it on repeat so many times. I remember being in class taking a test and I couldn’t concentrate because all I had going around in my head was the music. I thought to myself that the album had taken over my life. I didn’t listen to it for a year after that because I thought my life was going to be ruined.
Asa: I have so many! I remember when I was in high school this girl let me listen to Tupac when I was a freshman. I was like ‘wow, what is happening’, I thought it was amazing. I remember my dad saying the clichéd parent phrase – ‘if you studied your work like you studied those lyrics you’d be doing well in school’. But I got kicked out of high school so that didn’t work out too well.
HOW DID YOU TWO FIRST MEET, AND WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF EACH OTHER?
Asa: When I first met Matt I thought he was extremely good looking and – haha, no I’m joking. My first impressions of Matt were actually all on a musical level. I lived in this big communal house in LA that had almost a revolving door of kids in bands because we had a studio there. I would occasionally hear people recording there and one day I heard Matt recording drums and he was killing it. So I introduced myself to him and asked if he’d play drums on some of my work. And we did that for a few years and luckily got on very well too.
Matt: I thought Asa was hilarious. Whenever we worked together it would be half music and half dicking around and cracking jokes and it was one of those things where we were both new to LA and also wanted to make friends. Musically I’d been playing on rock tracks so I valued the different genre too.
AND WHEN DID YOU GO FROM DICKING AROUND TO BEING A SERIOUS BAND?
Asa: It was late in the process. We were in the mixing house after we’d recorded most of our songs when we actually realised ‘oh shit, we might actually have to play these live’, which is something that we hadn’t thought about before. Prior to that it had all been very casual.
DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN AS SUCCESSFUL WERE IT NOT FOR DANGER MOUSE?
Asa: Oh absolutely – nah I’m just kidding. I don’t think so, he’s so talented and I think he is what helped make it work. Throughout the whole recording process he was the one that said ‘we don’t even have to release this, let’s just see what happens’. This is my first band ever, so I was nervous and he knew that but we’re actually very alike in that aspect – both semi petrified of what might happen next. That casual attitude helped us to sound freer, but definitely his influence, name and reputation helped us hugely.
YOU SAY YOU WERE TERRIFIED OF PERFORMING LIVE – WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST GIG LIKE?
MATT: Do you know what a 420 night is in California? The 420 bill was passed to allow people to carry medicinal weed. Our first show was on a 420 night, when the cops go looking for people with weed on them. We didn’t want to play in LA – we wanted to play where nobody knew us so we went down to Long Beach – a friend of a friend got us a show and it was on a 420 night and a hip hop night, so you can imagine the crowd. It was a small ass stage, a lot of high people, and kind of weird – but it was a good first show. I think.
ASA: We have a video of the entire thing that we haven’t yet watched because it’s probably pretty horrible.
YOUR DEBUT ALBUM MONDO WAS RELEASED LAST YEAR AND IT WAS REALLY WELL RECEIVED – WERE YOU EXPECTING THAT?
Asa: No, I had no idea what to expect. We were obviously really happy, we’d been on tour in the States and the Europe for about a year so we were excited about it, and the album doing well just topped it off. Since then we’ve toured with Django Django in Europe over the past six months and we’re enjoying the vibe in Europe – it’s a lot more laid back.
MONDO HAS A SOULFUL, ALMOST 60S SOUND TO IT – WAS THIS THE TYPE OF MUSIC THAT INSPIRED YOU WHILE MAKING THE RECORD?
Asa: Yeah, both of us really likes sounds from that era and most of the album ended up being recorded in my bedroom, or the living room of friend’s houses so when we got with Brian (Danger Mouse) he stacked the production on top so it ended up haivg this warm feeling – sometimes by accident. On certain songs we didn’t have a microphone so I just listened to the song through headphones on a CD player and just sung vocals into a dictaphone and put them back into the recording progrmmae which gave us a much older sound. I think we are definitely fans of the way things were recorded in the late 60s and 70s, it was a much rawer sound.
YOUR MUSIC HAS BEEN CALLED A ‘HIPSTER’S TAKE ON CHEESE’ – WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
Asa: (Laughs) Well we can’t stand that quote, so it’s not something we’re overjoyed about. But the thing is that I like some cheesy sounds – I collect early 80s synthesizers and a lot of them make these weird kitchy sounds that I love.We hadn’t intended on making anything cheesy though!
ASA YOU’VE SAID THAT OU HAVE A SWEET TOOTH FOR BAD MUSIC – LIKE WHAT?
Asa: Mostly Top 40 bullshit – I actually like Chris Brown. I have a soft spot for cheesy RnB and 90s trance, and I like certain pop that’s semi terrible. I can’t help it.
UK BAND FOALS RECENTLY SAID THAT THEY THINK DAVID GUETTA STYLE POP IS AN ABOMINATION – DO YOU AGREE?
Asa: That’s funny, I was in the studio a few months ago and we were listening to reference music and my producer said ‘have you noticed how wide the range of what can be considered pop used to be’ and and he used a word that I thought was good – he said all pop nowadays is trying to be really ‘grand’. It has to be a huge epic production and I think that idea is really hurtful to music because there’s so much bullshit around because of it. It all sounds the same!
SO HOW DO YOU GUYS WORK IN THE STUDIO?
Matt: Asa writes all the lyrics and vocal arrangements and I come in and add a bass line.
Asa: He adds everything that I can’t play which is a lot – bass, drums.
Matt: We comes from different places musically but agree stylistically on how we should sound. Our musical tastes compliment each other.
YOU’RE WORKING ON A SECOND ALBUM – WILL IT HAVE A SIMILAR SOUND?
It will be similar themes, we’re developing our sound but it won’t be radically different. We’ll work with Danger Mouse again but with a band that’s so small like us we have to still prove ourselves. Even Brian (Danger Mouse) asked whether we wanted him to be credited or not because he felt like maybe his name would overshadow us. In terms of collaborations we’ll keep it simple. But we wouldn’t say no to Lenny Kravitz…
WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR?
Asa: I’m hungry to find a balance in my life. We’ve been touring for so long and I have a manic life style of high highs and low lows so I need to find a middle ground. The last year has been crazy and regardless of needing to make music I need a balance.
Matt: I need new inspiration – I’ve exhausted all the music that I’ve been listening to so I need new sounds. I spent three hours in the hotel last night searching the net for new music but when you do find it’s it’s like finding gold.
Mondo is out now