The Electric Hearts
Article by: Erin Manning | Photos courtesy of The Electric Hearts | Posted: 04/20/2012
Nashville-based blues-rock band, The Electric Hearts, recently sat down with Brite Revolution at the diviest of dives, Santa’s Pub, hoping to gain some insight into the band’s background and musical process. Over PBRs, stifling smoke and thunderous games of pool as background noise, we discussed the five-member group’s new identity after a nearly three year transformation involving four name changes, an alternate lineup, and completely revamped material.
It was hard to believe that the laid-back, constantly-facetious group of individuals sitting around the table would have taken that long to do anything--much less deem something important enough to merit such steady concern and application. But after 20 minutes of (mostly) interviewing and wise-cracking by guitarist and vocalist Sammy Stewart, it became clear that The Electric Hearts consider music--and not just their own music--to be one of few things that warrant their focus and attentiveness. They have not only matured in their sound, but also in their approach as a band.
Now that you have gone from being a backing band for Jessica Breanne Griffith to a band--The Electric Hearts--can you you shed some light on your collaborative process?
Soft-spoken guitarist and keys player, Mike Odmark, explains, “It usually starts with just a melody idea that Jessica will bring-- *We pause at this point to joke about Jessica laying down groovy riffs* --and we’ll all work together to sort of build around that. And it’s literally just Jessica singing because she doesn’t play an instrument, so we guess what chords go underneath it and go from there.” We take a moment to acknowledge that instead of practicing, they are sitting in Santa’s Pub during their rehearsal time, lolling in their own personal smoke box. The room was really smoky.
How is the band different now, compared to a year ago?
“I think the biggest thing is that we’re now officially collaborating together,” begins Odmark. “The last record was just a compilation of songs that had been around for awhile. A few of them we’d written together, but the rest were written with Jessica and a bunch of other people, so at that point, we weren’t too sure of what we were doing. I don’t know that I could really put into words what we’re going for, but I think we’re just hitting a stride as far as learning how to work together to write good songs.”
It is evident that through their collaborating, The Electric Hearts and their sound have grown and coalesced. “I kinda get the feeling that we’re simplifying a lot of things--parts and just, writing better songs,” says Stewart. After a deafening clatter is emitted by some some pool balls tumbling down the under-table chute, lead vocalist Jessica Breanne Griffith continues, “Yeah, I mean and now it’s all of us. We’re all represented in the sound.”
Now that you have more of a unified sound, (musically and in your identity as a band), what would you say sets you apart from other bands, (in Nashville, or of a similar genre)?
“We’re just another run-of-the-mill [band]” says Stewart, in his typical nonplussed manner. “We’re just trying to ride some coat-tails.” After a smirk and a pause, Johansen continues, “I think our live show sets us apart, and Jessica’s energy, and we all try and match it. She’s got a lot of stage presence. We just try and bring it all out and try and push that to the crowd, and I feel like that’s where we have the most fun and that’s where we shine.”
Earnest as always, Stewart adds, “Even if we’re playing a venue as small as The End, she sings like she’s at Madison Square Garden or something.” With a giggle, Griffith quickly interjects, “That’s a quote from when the Nashville Cream creamed us yesterday.” Despite having the blog of Nashville’s alternative-weekly newspaper among their detractors, The Electric Hearts remain high-spirited, finding more amusement in criticism and obstacles than offense.
What are some of your greatest influences, whether they come through in your music, or they are just things you have in mind whenever you’re working on new material?
“Nashville pop-country,” answers Stewart sarcastically. “That’s a big one. Kenny, Tim...” I ask him to specify Kenny Rogers or Kenny Loggins, but he corrects me with, “Chesney.” Griffith cuts in, saying “We definitely listen to a lot of old soul stuff, like some Stax [Records] stuff, and then we love 60’s and 70’s rock like--we listen to a lot of T. Rex.”
“We’re pretty eclectic in our musical tastes,” adds Stewart, before Odmark explains that they primarily listen to “...classics. Paul McCartney, John Lennon.” After listing the rest of The Beatles, Stewart also mentions that they’re “getting into Tupac, now that he’s alive again.” From across the table, drummer Steve Smith grins and pipes up for the first time, “I listen to a metronome.”
The band goes on to discuss their plans for the near future, including releasing a new EP, and more touring throughout the southeast, the east coast, and some other key cities such as Chicago, New York, and Austin.
Do you guys have any tour stories?
Awkward silence ensues, as most of the band members mumble about how they aren’t very exciting and just, “eat a lot of Skittles,” until finally, Matt Johansen begins to chuckle and offers a final, amusing anecdote that seems to summarize the overall attitude of The Electric Hearts.
“We played in Chattanooga, and after an hour and fifteen minutes, we’d played our last song, and were like, ‘That’s everything we’ve got,’ but people wanted an encore and were chanting, so Sammy jumps up there and does maybe a minute of his Conor Oberst impression--which is spot on. (laughs) But everybody loved it. It was a success.”
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” claims Stewart.
Catch The Electric Hearts playing tomorrow at The Groove in Nashville, TN for Record Store Day.
The Electric Hearts - "Be Mine (Live)"