“I don’t want our president to make the rest of the world hate Americans.”
“I don’t want people to hate Americans because of the idiot that other idiots put in the White House. I just have a fear of people fucking us up because of him – no, not a fear, but I can understand why people hate America. We’ve got to stick together and work to get the asshole out of office.”
Matthew Compton spits his words furiously. All he’s be asked is whether Electric Guest have anything they want their Australian fans to know – and Compton certainly does.
Minutes before this impassioned and unexpected outburst, Compton and his musical partner Asa Taccone are sitting contentedly in Taccone’s LA apartment, enjoying vegan chocolate ice cream in between a run of interviews. The majority of our discussion is tentative, punctuated by conflicting emotions from the blasé to the extreme (evidently). And that’s what life has been like for Electric Guest lately: the American electropop duo have been on an up and down journey of doubt and self-deprecation, facing challenges to their careers, their friendship and themselves.
After the breakout success of their 2012 debut Mondo, Taccone found himself at odds with the benefits of fame. He took time out to record a solo album. Once he had finished, he scrapped it. It was a particularly tough time for Taccone, one that found him searching for solidarity and reassurance through music. “I was going through a difficult time in my life,” he says. “It was a dark time, and the record I initially wrote, it was pretty dark, sombre.”
Naturally, Taccone’s reclusive period had an impact on Compton. Though he managed to interrupt Taccone’s stupor with a little collaboration, he kept himself busy elsewhere. “I mean, for me, when we were done off the first record we all took a little time off – I was kind of always around to add stuff, but I did have my own things going on; touring with other artists, worked on a movie,” Compton says. “When we reshaped and got working seriously, well, we couldn’t be more happy with the results.”
Once Taccone reunited with Compton to create Plural, the focus and energy from the dark times were channelled into something wholly new. However, as Compton readily agrees, Plural wouldn’t be what it is without Taccone having experienced that painful stage in his life. “Definitely. It’s not about doing your own thing, but literally, since the last record and this record came out, we’ve not stopped writing – we’ve written 30 songs that aren’t on Plural.
“The learning process was about what only the two of us could do – even when we started recording the album, we were pushed a little more and ended up happier than we thought, and produced the record you have today.”
“Initially it started as something and became something else,” adds Taccone. “There was this thing of plurality of ourselves, the external self you present to the world, but over the course of writing it, I really just wanted to write songs that weren’t shrouded in vague lyrics. For this time in my life I felt it was a little pretentious and I wanted to see if I could write a concise song with heightened lyrics – a lot of them are about love and relationships, but really, it’s about coming back from something different, about seeing the light again within yourself.”
Out of the dark and into the light indeed, Electric Guest happily agree that all aspects of music are fun again. “Fun? Oh yeah, we remember that word,” chuckles Taccone. “Plural as a record was so much fun to write, and we had this last year to write a bunch of new songs – they all feel fresh, nothing feels sterile, so yeah, it was really fun.”
Needless to say, when the music-making process is hurried, it stops being enjoyable. Outside factors are often involved, pushing a musician to release their work before it’s ready. Electric Guest are well aware of the need to retain their creative control.
“In terms of timeframes, definitely [the process is rushed], says Compton. “The label want something out as soon as possible. But for us I wanted to make a good album – we can write great singles and that, but that’s not what we wanna focus on.”
“I agree, writing music is rushed,” adds Taccone. “It’s something that has shifted in the last six years, where a lot of bands or groups now are inviting a lot of writers to co-write stuff. All these bands, they want a hit and are inviting random writers, and I think it makes the music more generic. A lot of bands may have been a smaller band, but at least they had an identity.
“That’s what we wanted to do: this album we had no writers, [but] at least it’ll be more of ourselves.”