Last month we brought to your attention the wonderful ‘Baby Your Lovin” by Australian trio ELECTRIC EMPIRE. Since then the band have wowed the crowds at Glastonbury and seen their debut album acclaimed throughout the soul press and by taste making DJs. The band – DENNIS DOWLUT (guitar), JASON HEERAH (drums) and AARON MENDOZA (keys) are delighted by the response and during their stay in the UK AARON spoke to us @ SJF to tell us more about how the band developed their unique soul style. But first we wanted to know how the group was born and where they got their name from….
It started in London in 2009. DENNIS and I decided to catch up again with each other (we were old friends) and as an exercise we decided to try and write old classic sounding songs….the way they used to be back in the 60s/70s … you know …. strong melody/arrangements etc. We always had JASON in mind to be a part of the project too. Naturally, it all happened once we got back to Australia. We started jammin’ and the 1st song written was ‘Baby Your Lovin’. Our name came about from DENNIS’ brother (DARREN) who sadly died only a year before me and DENNIS hooked up in London. He (DARREN) wrote a song based on heaven called ‘Love Electric’. The word Empire came from the idea of Unity. Together: ELECTRIC EMPIRE.
So, you formed ELECTRIC EMPIRE – what was your aim/plan of campaign and what musical templates did you use as a basis for your sound?
We just wanted to finish the songs for the album. Get it done. We weren’t sure how the album was going to be received. Whether it was going to be just a friends and family CD or whether we were going to get it out there somehow and see if people liked the idea of re-visiting that old sounding/song writing era. In regards to sound, we knew what it had to sound like. We all know that era of soul music. It’s in all of our blood, we’ve all grown up on it. There was a moment where we thought of taking it into that new electronic sound mixed with soul, but we wanted to keep it real. Keep it raw, plus we all play our different instruments so we thought, this is stupid, we should just play it ourselves. Keep the live element to it. Like back in the day.
How did you put your album together? What kind of moods/sounds/atmospheres were you hoping to create?
The album came together bit by bit. Some songs were written in London and demos were done. A lot of those parts made the final mixes. New songs were written, we finished other ones, we added parts to others, until everything eventually came together to form one big piece of music. It is a very mellow sounding album. Bar a few songs, most of them are either mid-tempo or ballads. It’s just the type of songs we were writing around that time. A lot of songs are easy-listening. Some have synth sounds to make the listener feel like they’re in space, feel like they’re travelling. In some cases the lyrics refer to Shooting Stars, Galaxies etc. Another song entitled ‘Life Again’ is about global warming. The synth sounds create that same feeling whilst in the background you can hear the sounds of a forest throughout the whole track. There are many subtle parts/sounds we used in producing the album to give the songs colour and dynamic.
What do you hope to achieve with the album?
I suppose we wanted to make an album that was like putting on an old record. We wanted to make it sounds classic; the songs are real songs. We wanted the album to have depth and sound timeless, like they did back in the day. We thought, if we could pull it off and explore an era of soul that no one has been touching recently (AL GREEN, STEVIE WONDER, MARVIN), then maybe we would get some street cred. We liked the idea of people saying ‘Those Electric Empire boys went there and got it right!’
The lead track from the album…. Baby Your Lovin’ …. has a real feel of AL GREEN about it – was that intentional. I’m guessing he’s a hero of yours… have you any other particular soul heroes/heroines?
The song Baby Your Lovin’ came to us very naturally. We were jammin’ and we picked up on that vibe. We weren’t thinkin’ let’s try and write a song like AL GREEN. Didn’t see it like that until JAY started singing on it and we started producing it. He’s definitely a hero of ours. The others: STEVIE, DONNY H, MARVIN GAYE, JACKSON 5, ISLEY BROTHERS. To name a few.
You played at Glastonbury… what was that like?
It was a crazy experience to say the least. We didn’t know what to expect. Maybe mud. We all bought wellies before we got on the bus. It just feels great to say we’ve done it…especially back home. It’s helped us gain that little bit more respect back home. It’s shown other festivals that we are serious about what we do and just because it’s soul music and not 80s electro pop, we can entertain and pull off a good show. To be amongst so many other talented bands felt like we are on the right path.
What’s the future for ELECTRIC EMPIRE – both short and long term?
To keep pushing our album because it’s being received so well, especially now that it’s finally hitting international territories. UK/Europe are loving it. To keep performing and touring to recruit new fans. Keep on writing, getting in the studio and working up new ideas for album no. 2 Potentially produce/remix other artists. It’s already happening which is good. We just want to get ELECTRIC EMPIRE on the map and prove that real songs and song writing aren’t dead!!