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Shoegaze in a New Decade: Interview with The Electric Mainline

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Originally forming in 2004 and consisting of countless line-ups since then, English psych act The Electric Mainline are a band with experience and versatility. Now a London-based quartet, The Electric Mainline are embracing a new era of stability and the concept of tackling aspirations “one step at a time”. Scott, Rob and Adam spoke to Britpop News about gigging, recording, being banned from venues, Alan Sugar and jazz mags.

“We formed the band with the express intention on getting our songs out there both live and recorded. From the off we started writing and demo-ing new songs,” Scott Causer, The Electric Mainline’s once-reluctant vocalist and rhythm guitarist explains.

The band’s first release was We Are Now in March 2006 on the Northern Star compilation Psychedelica Vol: 1 [also the first release from The Black Angels, The Vandelles, Stevenson Ranch Davidians, and The Dolly Rocker Movement]. All Too Much EP, a solo effort by Causer, followed in September 2007 and since then there have been several compilation appearances on releases across America, Australia, Asia and Russia featuring various tracks Causer has recorded (“These are too numerous to mention and I can’t remember all of them!” he explains). Most recently – last month – the band released the single Don’t You Know, and have more on the horizon.

Causer founded the band in October 2004 after placing an ad on a local music website and getting in contact with Kris, the band’s original guitarist. Though the pair shared influences – The Stone Roses, Ride, The Verve – and soon after hooked up with a drummer, Elliot, the trio’s desire to put together a live set was consistently hindered.

“For a million and one reasons [playing live] never happened at that time with that line-up. The main reason being neither of us wanted to sing. We auditioned several singers and we just couldn’t get the right person so we developed this rule that if you wrote the words, you sang it which resulted in us sharing vocal duties.”

Though the band’s original drummer rejoined the group for the band’s first shows and tour, travel and the band’s individual country-wide basing caused difficulties, leaving Causer the only original member. Causer continued recording under the name The Electric Mainline but putting together a live act proved impossible given subsequent line-up changes and the distraction caused by the success of Northern Star Records (the record label Causer co-founded). Finally, the band picked up momentum when Causer met Rob Smith through a mutual friend. Keen to play lead guitar, Smith has since played every Electric Mainline show with Causer.

“We played our first ever shows with Elliott, Ian from Kontakte and Shaun who was a mate of mine from work. Then we went on tour in Germany and were supplemented with members of Kontakte and The Lost Rivers. We met Phil from the Lost Rivers five minutes before our first ever German show, and he wrote the chords down on the back of his guitar before going on stage. The whole night was really ramshackle but very rock ‘n’ roll and resulted in three members of The Electric Mainline getting banned from the venue.”

The band have fond memories of the tour, Smith adding the band’s best show was on the last night of the tour. “Sleep deprived and quite spectacularly drunk,” Smith names the survival of the tour his proudest moment. (“Either that or my 50 metres swimming badge.”)

Though Causer still stands center stage, the current Electric Mainline line-up is “unrecognisable” from the trio who set the wheels in motion. He and Smith were this year joined by Mark Parsons on bass and Adam Jacobs on drums. Though only joining the band in February, Parsons and Jacobs brought the band a sense of homogeneity, having played together in a London-based krautrock style band called Eat Lights; Become Lights.

“They’ve really bolstered our sound and I can’t wait to record with this line-up,” Causer adds. Despite the complexity and hurdles resulting from constant line-up changes, Causer is adamant there’s never been conflict of interest in terms of the band’s sound. Explaining the power of similar music taste and the creative room the band’s reborn infancy has sparked, Causer says he is keen to take advantage of the band’s new stable line up by writing new songs with the band.

“People have been coming into rehearsals with ideas so during the summer we’re gonna start working on these and I guess we’ll see where that takes us. There’s a load of different influences circulating in The Electric Mainline right now so I think it will be interesting.”

Influences like who?

Scott Causer: I used to write all the songs on bass as I’m essentially a bass player. If you hear the early recordings you can hear The Stone Roses, Primal Scream, Jesus & Mary Chain, The Smiths, Verve, Joy Division, The Telescopes, The Cure… to this day I can’t write a bass line without it sounding like Hooky or Simon Gallup. I wear my influences pretty much on my sleeve, so all of the aforementioned I guess… oh yeah and The Sugababes.
Rob Smith: I think, as a band, there are a few common influences – Stones Roses, Smiths, Joy Division, Primal Scream, JAMC, etc. I’m a big fan of 60s psych/nuggets/freak beat, Motown, Northern Soul. There are no genres from which I don’t like at least some stuff and there is poor stuff in every genre. There is no ‘bad genre’. Except jazz. Jazz is wank.
Scott Causer: Really surprised to hear that Rob’s not into jazz, as he’s widely known for the big collection of jazz mags under his bed.
Adam Jacobs: Mo Wax as a label- DJ Shadow, the drum breaks and sampling, UNKLE also. Noisy, epic sounding bands such as Mogwai, Sigur Ros & MBV. More recently bands like LCD Soundsystem who blend electronics and live instruments plus Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label.

As for The Electric Mainline’s own music, are the band chasing a pre-determined sound based on a culmination of influences?

“No,” Causer asserts. “I did initially have a sound I wanted to pursue but you can go crazy with it as it’s never gonna sound like it does in your head. I gave up doing that a long time ago. Having different people coming into the band and interpreting the songs in a different way always changes the sound and that’s great because now we sound like The Electric Mainline – we now sound unique. I don’t think there’s any other band that sounds quite like us at the moment.”

Having existed in their current state since only February, the band are yet to record together and have only played a handful of shows, but they are now blessed with something they haven’t yet experience – stability.

“Right now this band is the best it’s ever been and the nearest thing we’ve had to becoming a solid regular band,” Causer says. “Before this it was a loose collective of musicians. The recordings have generally just been me with one or 2 others on occasion and the live shows were whoever was able and willing to help out at the time. I’m really keen to get this line-up in the studio and let the live shows develop. We’re receiving lots of offers for shows so people want to see us. Personally speaking, although I think I can speak on behalf of the others too, I just wanna get out there, play, record, have some fun and make people happy.”

He admits there’s no blueprint though, and that aspiration hunting is now something the band are taking in steps. The Electric Mainline are all technically tied down by the dreaded day job, but are jovial and lighthearted about the issue.
Rob Smith: I work as an astronaut, Scott is an entrepreneur. A bit like Alan Sugar but without the beard. Adam is a model, he is the ‘page 7 fella’ in the Essex Times.
Adam Jacobs: Deciding what programmes go on the Discovery Channel across Europe.

When not busy swimming among the stars and flicking channels for a living, the boys of The Electric Mainline pursue the band’s ambitions. Writing more songs and playing more gigs are the obvious goals, but the specifics aren’t so clear. In The Electric Mainline, ideas flow and exciting opportunities present themselves:

“Adam is well into his electronics,” Causer considers, “And I’ve made electronic recordings under the name Perfect Blue so we have discussed bringing electronics into the sound.”

Smith, meanwhile, has his mind on the road: “Making good music, playing good shows alongside bands we respect… Where it takes us, it takes us. It’s more about the journey than the destination. Another tour of Germany would be good. I love Germany.”

“Play live as much as possible,” Jacobs adds, “Some festivals would be good, plus Europe and maybe the US…. Would love to do an album towards the end of the year.”

Contemplation of the band’s past and proudest moments bears golden memories of Germany and recent gigs, and even so Causer is positive:

“I think our proudest moment is yet to come.”

22-year-old ethical vegan and music fan. Tell her about that cool new band you discovered.

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