LA-based duo Asa Taccone and Matthew Compton are Electric Guest, whose debut album Mondo was produced by Danger Mouse and is out now. Asa answered some questions for us on the album, the duo’s origins and their influences.
musicOMH: How did you both meet and come to making music together as Electric Guest?
Asa: Well, we were friends and would help one another with music for years before Electric Guest ever came about. We met in LA about seven years ago. I used to live in a house in LA that a lot of kids who did music or some kind of art lived in. There was a studio in the basement and people would come over to record in it. Matthew would come over and record with the guy who built it. I heard him playing drums and asked him to play on some of my songs. I think Waves was the first song he played drums on. I had no idea what I was doing so a lot of the sounds were recorded in my bedroom or in the living room of the house.
OMH: How did the writing and recording process for your debut album Mondo work? You are both multi-instrumentalists so how did you work out who would play what and did the songs come very naturally? There’s a real organic feel to the album.
Asa: I usually write the songs and then ask Matthew to add drums or guitar or anything I can’t play. He’s the best musician I’ve ever met and the only person who never had a set idea about what the music was, meaning if the song had a soulful feel he wouldn’t try to play some generic funk or soul part. He just approached it with whatever he could do and never tried to mimic any style.
OMH: Your sound is very soulful and the soulfulness shines out even amongst some of the more electronic sounds. Is soul music and classic RnB a constant touchstone for you?
Asa: Maybe older stuff. I like a lot of older folk and some hip hop. Matthew likes all kinds of music from Italian soundtracks to indie rock.
OMH: How did you meet up with Danger Mouse (who produced the album), and what did he bring to the record?
Asa: I used to call my brother while I was in school and play him songs over the phone. One day he put Brian on the phone and I played him the song I was working on. I kept sending him stuff and eventually moved into his old house. He mentored me for years before asking to do a record. I thank God I met him. I owe that dude a lot.
OMH: Much of the album is dreamy and blissed out, particularly Amber and Holes. Is it important for you to have that languid, slow burning aspect to contrast with some of the more upbeat pop songs on the album?
Asa: It just came about that way I guess. But yeah, I would’ve been bummed out if it was just faster tempo songs.
OMH: Waves sounds like a wonderfully exuberant long lost Motown single. Are you big fans of Motown? It is a sound that is increasingly rare amidst a lot of futuristic sounding Auto-Tuned dance pop; do you feel like you are attempting to bring back that same kind of classicism to soul pop that is now missing?
Asa: We don’t want to try and reinvent something that was already done brilliantly. I was actually really nervous about putting This Head I Hold and Waves on the album because they ended up sounding a certain way. I think going backwards is never a good idea but was convinced that the had elements that made them different enough.
OMH: Can you tell us more about Troubleman, the album’s eight-minute long centrepiece?
Asa: My mother recently made me explain every word to that song. She fly down to LA to come to a show and when we were driving home in the rental car she said, “look in the glove box”. In the glove box were all the lyrics to every song. On that particular song she had this whole elaborate concept that was totally different than mine. Her’s was better too. That song was initially three separate demos. Brian realized that two of the songs were the exact same chords and one only had two new chords so we combined them.
OMH: Finally, when you bring the album to the UK in May, what can we expect from the Electric Guest live show?
Asa: A lot.
Electric Guest’s album Mondo is out now through Because. They play the London Calling festival in Amsterdam on 19 May 2012. More at electricguest.com.