Forget about the album. For the Electric Blankets, the single is the thing.
The local foursome hop from one influence to the next, chasing infectious melodies and mashing together different elements of the bands they love, all in search of one great pop song.
"We don't really have a concept of our band as a whole. We're thinking song by song. We're more of a singles band," says singer Raul Michel. "Most people now appreciate all different kinds of styles of music. It's not really segregated anymore. All of our influences have made us appreciate all different styles of music. None of us have a very specific type of music we listen to. We'd get sick of it."
Set to release their first 7-inch vinyl single this weekend at Plush, the Electric Blankets gathered at their practice space last week to talk about how to excite audiences one song at a time, how they blend influences and cover songs into their own style, and how fortunate (and free) pyrotechnics made for one hell of a music video.
The band began about a year and a half ago, when Michel and guitarist Erick Bornmann met through a mutual friend. A first-time singer, Michel swapped melodies with Bornmann, and the pair wrote a few songs right off the bat. Bassist Tadj Roi was looking for a new project while his band The Provocative Whites went on a bit of a hiatus, and he caught wind of the new project.
Drummer Steven Yanez Romo was playing with Bornmann in The Ghost of 505 and wanted to try the new band on for size. When the first practice involved mostly drinking and later a run of karaoke at IBT's, Romo decided he was in. "They just got me drunk and took me hostage. I thought, 'Fuck yeah, this band is gonna kill.'"
At the outset, Michel and Bornmann envisioned the Electric Blankets as a baroque pop band along the order of Okkervil River. Then they wrote a song that sounded like Spoon. And then they wanted to try something else—and never again bothered to sit still from song to song.
"After Raul and I started writing songs, I wanted to stray from any single style and just play for the song. We just try not to be contained in one genre," Bornmann says.
It's rock 'n' roll as Venn diagram, with the Electric Blankets sitting right in the shape-shifting sliver of an overlap between garage, mod, British invasion, glam, psychedelic, new wave and goth, sliding this way and that every week.
"Instead of striving to be original, we're striving for great songs we can be proud of," Michel says. "We're proud of our influences. We're all music geeks. Instead of being ashamed, we embrace it."
On the A side, the 7-inch single features "Little Boots," which blends jangle-pop melodies and a psychedelic instrumental jam. On the B side is the band's newest song, the hyper, raw, dirty, garage-punk "Matching Jackets." The bouncy, sing-along, indie-rock "Getting Younger" is included as an additional download.
"It feels so good to put so much care into two songs," Bornmann says. "We wanted to make it a unique art object for people."
The 7-inch features artwork from Danny Martin and was recorded with Tom Beach at Loveland Studio. As for releasing it on vinyl, the band says it's a no-brainer.
"There's a big vinyl craze. The only complaint I've gotten is people don't have a record player. But if you're going out to shows, you should have a record player," Romo says. "We care about our songs so much, it's like a baby. You're giving it a birthday party; you're dressing it up."
The first release is cause for celebration for the band, but also a test of how well making music the way they want will work.
"We're definitely in a period of backlash (against) digital music, and people want to appreciate music again. Two songs on vinyl is as pure as possible, and you have to appreciate that for what it is—something that's happening right now," Roi says. "We have a lot of great friends who helped us out, but how much does it cost to do this on your own? Is this sustainable? We want to keep doing it—is two 7-inches and an EP a year possible?"
The band chose to focus on "Little Boots" for the first release after watching audiences react to it.
"We wrote it very spontaneously, all four of us together, and there's no actual chorus, and it's a long song," Bornmann says. "But every time we'd play it, we'd get the feedback that this is a great song. We'd see people dancing and having fun."
Adds Michel, "It's almost become an anchor between the audience and us."
The promotional music video for "Little Boots" was shot, edited and produced by the band's videographer friend Andrew Brown, partly in the band's practice space, and partly during a performance at the Buffet. While in the middle of a song, the band noticed performance artist Holly Danger running down Ninth Street—on fire. Though it was a planned stunt to highlight the bar's 77th birthday, neither the band nor the audience knew ahead of time.
"It was really insane and very surreal. We're playing, and Raul is singing and taps me, and I look over and see a fireball in the street," Bornmann says.
Other top performances for the band include playing glam rock for Powhaus' Glitter Ball 3000 and a set of early songs by The Who for the 2010 Great Cover-Up.
"Covers are cool, because most of our covers are hints at where we've come from. We cover songs we all love," Roi says. "It's an instant connection and a reference point that everybody can have. The rest is what we do with that."
Learning covers gave the band some useful versatility as well as a way to more effectively create their own songs.
"We've gotten better at the writing process," Michel says. "We were so unconventional the way we were writing, and now when we write something, we love it so much that we just can't stop playing it. The more we write, the more we get excited about things. Personally, we feel successful when we write a song we really like. What happens outside of this room doesn't matter so much."