Interview by Tony Cannella
Electric Citizen hails from Cincinnati, Ohio. Having just released their sophomore effort “Higher Time” via RidingEasy Records the band has been tirelessly promoting the record through relentless touring and it is starting to pay off. “Higher Time” has a definitive 70’s heavy rock influence, but with a decidedly current flavor. Recently vocalist Laura Dolan was kind enough to speak to Femme Metal about where Electric Citizen has been and what they’re plans are coming up.
How are you, Laura?
Good. I am really happy to be home.
Were you just on tour?
Yeah. We were in Europe for six weeks.
How did that go?
It was great; it’s just a long time to be out.
Who were you on tour with?
Wolfmother. They’re really nice guys, we toured with them two summers ago.
How did the audiences respond to Electric Citizen?
Really well. It’s much more of a mainstream crowd then what we’re used to. I’m sure we didn’t win everybody over but the grand majority was pretty much into it. We were happy about that. It’s a lot of college kids and things like that, who maybe don’t understand where we’re coming from. It was a nice surprise to be able to fit in with them as well.
Do you like the challenge of trying to win over an audience that might not be exposed to your music otherwise?
Oh yeah, for sure. It kind of gives you incentive to work extra hard up on stage. With the Wolfmother tour that we did, we were not put on that bill until – I don’t know, it was like a month and a couple of weeks before that tour actually happened. A lot of the posters and things had already been created, so our name wasn’t really anywhere on this tour, and the audience just kind of got us on stage. Some people knew we were on the bill, and some people came for us, but the grand majority had no idea, and we knew that every night that we played. It gives you extra incentive to work all that much harder at winning them over. It was such a big deal for us anyway being over there for the first time, I think all of us were trying to bring our best every single night.
Your new album, “Higher Time” has recently been released. What can fans expect when they hear it?
Our first album “Sateen” was written and recorded for fun, for ourselves. We had no idea that anyone would take interest in our music when we were creating that first one – it was kind of a surprise for us that people did. With the second one, we made it a point to evolve and put a lot of effort into the second one, because we knew people cared at some level, and that drove us to spend more time on things. The songwriting was tricky because we were touring so much and that always throws a wrench into writing an album and getting it out. I think the second one kind of takes us more in a rock and roll direction. I think the first one is pretty heavy 70s rock, the second one is too but it has more of a Detroit 70s vibe interwoven into what we’ve already been established as. I hope it’s approachable for a wide variety of different people. The kind of music that we like is all over the map and I think that shows up in the music that we write.
Who would you say are your main influences?
That’s always a hard question, because I can give you a really long list. Some of mine personally are MC5, The Stooges, T Rex, of course Black Sabbath and Pentagram, Deep Purple. There is a lot of cool, obscure female fronted bands that I am super inspired by as well like Frumpy, which is a prog rock band from Germany. I love PP Arnold who played with The Faces back in the 60s, she’s an incredible singer – she sounds nothing like our band but I really love her singing. I love bands like Fanny and The Runaways. It’s hard for me to define a certain genre that was one single influence. A lot of it came from the 60s and 70s.
Can you talk a little about the writing and recording process for “Higher Time”?
The recording studio was the same as the first album, which is basically a basement studio right down the street from where we live. Brian Olive is an impressive artist and producer. He has worked with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, Dr. John and all of these great artists. He happens to live down the street from us and is a really good friend of ours. We were lucky enough to stumble into a situation where we could work with him. His studio is really small, but he’s got a lot of cool vintage equipment; tape machines and old boards and things that we can have access to achieve that vintage sound that we like on our recordings. With this album, we didn’t want to change the formula too much because we like what happened on the first one, but we wanted to see where we could push things. Brian having access to Dan Auerbach and his studio in Nashville, he called up his engineer Collin Dupuis and said, “Can we come down and mix this album that I am working on?”. Dan agreed to let us do that and Colin had time that we could come down there, it happened to be between two things that he was working on. We went down for a week and mixed. Brian and Colin did a couple of songs each day. To be honest, Ross and I were there but we were pretty hands off, because everything that they were doing we liked, so we just really got to hangout in Nashville for a week.
Can you talk a little about what the band was inspired by lyrically when you were writing the “Higher Time” record?
What I’ll usually do when I write the lyrics – and even the melodies; the band will get the song so far and then I’ll just take it away and work on it on my own just by listening to it over and over again. Usually something just starts to take shape, whether it’s a political issue that’s moving me at the moment, something that I saw and was inspired by, some situation that someone I know is in the midst of or some situation that I’m in the midst of. It really just depends on the time and place that song is written. There is not really necessarily a cohesive message in the album. I do often run into similar themes about trying to live your life with purpose, and things like that.
For this record, did you find the recording process easier or more difficult than your first?
It wasn’t more difficult necessarily but it was more time consuming, just because we intentionally wanted to pour a lot more time into it. The first album was like, “we have no money, we have these songs, and we want to put them on some kind of format.” I want to say we recording that whole album in like four days or something. When you don’t have any money you literally just can’t put that much time into the recording process, so everything is just a down and dirty quick process. With the second one, we still didn’t have that much money, but we definitely put more time into things. We added more layers to the songs.
Can you talk a little about how Electric Citizen first got together?
The band was started for fun. Ross had been playing in some heavy projects, and I had just kind of dabbled in some projects before Electric Citizen – nothing that ever recorded anything, or took itself seriously. At one point, what he was doing and what I was doing wasn’t really going anywhere and we decided to start something together. I don’t know if you knew but we’re married, and we’ve been together since high school, so it’s kind of cool for us to finally decide to do something together. Ross had known our bass player and drummer who had originally joined the band, and asked them to come over, and I think it was just Ross and the drummer the first couple of times just getting things tightened up before the whole band joined in. We got together and it just started clicking and working really well. At that point, we were just focused on writing really good songs that we are proud to play and see what happens. Everything else has been this surprise ever since, the cool stuff that’s happened to us with getting signed to a label, and getting to tour with all of these bands that we look up to. It’s just been one cool surprise after the next. For me I feel like I don’t want to have any greater expectations than that, because it’s been really fun to see where this is all going.
You mentioned earlier that were recently on tour Europe. Do you have any more touring plans coming up on the horizon?
We do. We are trying to put a tour together. We’re playing a festival called Psycho Las Vegas. It’s a really good festival, Arthur Brown is playing, Blue Oyster Cult is playing, it’s like a bunch of renowned doom rock bands, Alice Cooper is headlining – which is one of my all-time favorites. It’s an enormous four-day festival in Las Vegas, so we are going to try to put a U.S. tour around that but we’re still trying to figure out exactly how that is all going to work. Then we are going back to Europe this fall around October, and we’re touring with Orange Goblin. We’ll be doing a handful of dates and playing a couple of festivals – including Desert Fest in Antwerp, and then we’re going to try to tour around a similar route that we just did, just because we picked up some fans over there and we want to get back before they forget us.
With the new album coming out, will you continue to work on new material for your next album?
Absolutely! We love spending a lot of time on songs, we love really chipping away at something until it’s absolutely everything that it can be. We don’t like to be rushed. For us, every free moment is writing time, because when you tour as much as we have been there is not a great amount of time in between those tours to write. We’re already working on the third album as we speak. We know how long the whole process takes, otherwise we are going to have years between each album, and we really don’t want that.
So it’s almost like when you’re working on a song, it’s not really done until it’s done. You might keep adding things here and there. Is that correct?
Oh, absolutely. We’re not strangers to just throwing a song away. We might write something and decide, “well we don’t like that”. We always want to be putting our best foot forward. I think one of the most important things you can be as a good artist is a critic to yourself. If you’re able to stand back and listen to what you’re creating with a critical ear and not fall in love with everything that you create, it will evolve into a better product ultimately.
We’ve come to the end of the interview Laura. Thank you for taking the time out to do this interview. In closing, is there anything you would like to say to the fans to wrap this up?
Just thank you. Thank you for supporting us and finding something in our music that you connect with. As an artist, that’s really the most important thing for us and that’s what keeps us going.
Photos by Gregory Bojorquez