It’s safe to assume that you hadn’t heard of Electric Guest before this year. For many, the duo came out of nowhere when their debut album, Mondo,dropped in April; but for Asa Taccone and Mathew Compton, the early success that they’ve achieved has been long in the making.
Inevitably the name that’s almost become synonymous with every mention of Electric Guest is their producer Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse (The Black Keys, Broken Bells, Gnarls Barkley). The other name that also comes up from time to time, is The Lonely Island. Before Mondo could even be thought of, Asa Taccone’s older brother, Jormaine, of the comedy troupe, had his younger sibling playing music through the phone to Burton.
Multi instrumentalist Mathew Compton entered into the musical partnership some time later, moving into a large house with Taccone and several other musicians. Talking down the line from California, having just returned home from a successful tour of Europe, Compton confesses that hitting the road had its pitfalls. “You’re sleeping on the floor of an airport or sleeping on the floor of a van. It can be extremely exhausting.”
Not that he’s complaining, the duo have been itching to play their music live for a while now, “I think at the same time, ‘OMG we’re in France and these people came to our shows, they’re totally into this music’ and we’re so into playing, its a great feeling,” admits Compton.
While Electric Guest’s rise in 2012 for many has been unaccounted for, the musician explained the long evolution that was crafting their debut album, “for us, this whole process hasn’t come really fast cause we’ve been working on it for so long,” explained Compton, “to us it feels very gradual.”
The duo were in no rush to burst onto the scene with their debut though, as the multi-instrumentalist details the “mish-mash of years compiling” Mondo. “We probably worked on it for five years, some of that wasn’t full on working with Brian,”he said. “Some of it was just us the two of us working on it, writing and tweaking.”
As Compton continues, the one downside of working with one of the most sought after producers is revealed. “We actually got in the studio with Brian and even that was a long process cause of the fact that Brian’s really busy,” said Compton.
Although without Danger Mouse on-board, he admits that Mondo may not even be out yet, “Brian was really good at helping us end the project,” explained Compton, “You’ve gotta sit there and tweak songs for days, he’s good at being like; ‘no, we’re done’.”
Musically speaking, who are Electric Guest, though? Their style is not an easy one to pin down. From the soul-funk of lead single ‘This Head I Hold’ to the almost nine-minute dream journey that is ‘Troubleman’, Mondo displays a diverse array of influences and sounds.
In talking about why their sound is hard to define, Compton divulges that the first point was the duo’s early music tastes. Lead singer Taccone grew up with a lot of hip-hop, while Compton had his fair share of indie rock. He explained that the way they forged their sound was in no way deliberate.“It’s just an amalgamation of all the things that we feel that we are influenced by,” Compton reveals, adding that, “it wasn’t like that we were trying, everything was very natural.” Compton admits that the finger prints of Danger Mouse are obvious for many people, but he reasons, “that’s because we played a lot of his instruments and because we loved the sound.”
How else do the duo define themselves stylistically? Instead of providing a detailed explanation of sub-genres, Compton details that essentially, it’s about simple pop songs. “The only reason I say that about us, is because when we’re writing, we’re just trying to make them very simple and trying to make it so people can play one of our songs.” He adds that the band’s style of pop can’t be taken as the sort that a Katy Perry or Lady Gaga might make, but there are many indie-rock bands around today that are fundamentally making pop songs.
Compton, who had previously toured as a drummer across America for other bands, is relishing the chance to play live in Electric Guest, who fill out as a four-piece on stage. He remarks on the success of their shows in Denver earlier this year, shows that Compton describes as “amazing… people were so excited. It’s crazy when you work on something and you’re in your bubble for so long, when you put your work out into the world, you don’t know how people are going to respond to it.”
Electric Guest also feature on this years Splendour in the Grass bill and are playing sideshows in Melbourne and Sydney. Compton says that the audience should expect their live show to be a different experience from their album. “We spent like a year breaking down the album and picking things to translate for a live setting. We kind of reinvented the songs a little bit,” said Compton. But for the musician, this will only enhance the dynamic of their live show. “I think it’s good, I actually hate when you go see a band live and it’s like they’re literally playing the album, there is no life to it.”
When Electric Guest do finally reach our shores in July, expect them to be one of the new acts that will have many pundits raving at this year’s Splendour in the Grass.
Mondo is out now through Dew Process and Electric Guest play Splendour in the Grass on July 27, then Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory on July 31 then Melbourne’s Northcote Social Club on the 1st of August.Write a Letter to the Editor