Electric Guest has an infectious energy—so much so, that after sitting down with the duo (comprised of Asa Taccone and Matthew Compton) for just half an hour, I left feeling more psyched than ever about their new album.
The band’s second studio album, Plural, is out February 17, and is the follow-up to 2012’s Mondo. After five years out of the spotlight, they released “Dear to Me,” a single featuring Haim, in November as a preview of new music to come. While the duo was in New York last week promoting their upcoming album (which included a performance of “Dear to Me” on Late Night with Seth Meyers), they took some time to talk with Brooklyn Magazine about pop music, their new album, and what they’ve been up to the past five years.
“It took us hella long,” Taccone laughs. “But not because we weren’t writing—we turned in a whole different album a year and a half ago, and kind of bounced it off some labels and a handful of friends, and people were like, ‘It’s alright, but you should keep writing.’ That album was much more somber, because we were in a more difficult place in our lives. So luckily, we happened to be coming out of that phase, into a more joyful time.”
Once they found new inspiration, the next album didn’t take nearly as much time to write and record.
“This album isn’t overthought or anything like that,” Taccone says. “Not that we didn’t put all of our love into it, but its just a different thing. It’s kind of a more intuitive, fast-paced album.”
After five years, the duo agreed that it feels good to be back in the spotlight again, this time, with an album more representative of their personal style.
“I know this is some dumb, angsty, artist shit. Like, ‘no one understands me,’” Taccone laughs, “Because you can’t control how people view you or any of that shit. But for me, this is the first thing where I was like, ‘This is us.’”
The video for “Dear to Me” is a perfect example of the personal touch the duo put on Plural. The video features Taccone’s mom and sister, as well as a tribute to his godfather who passed away recently.
“No one’s going to know who they are, but its more about having people be like, this is real,” Taccone says. “The first time around, we did a bunch of videos, and I was playing a role in videos … “Dear to Me” is a little more vulnerable, and straightforward and it feels really good.”
In order to put a more personal touch on the record, the duo decided not to work with Danger Mouse, who produced their first album. Taccone and Compton said they needed to figure out their sound on their own this time around.
They wrote all the songs themselves, and didn’t try to collaborate with any hit songwriters or producers to give the new album that name recognition.
“No one wrote [the songs] except for us,” Taccone says. “And if it fails, it fails, but our hope is that at least some songs got out to the world that had specific sentiments that aren’t generic. Of course we want success, we want to have great songs that do well, but at the end of the day our success will be because of us, it wont be because we got so-and-so to write a song.”
Since there was so much talk about having this newly honest, straightforward image, I had to ask: who is Electric Guest?
“I think we’re a pop band,” Taccone says. “And we want to be a tasteful pop band, which you know, is a difficult thing.”
“I think also indie music (using air quotes) has changed so much,” he continues, “and you have a lot of people that are kind of like, guitar-based records and they try to go more pop. And I think pop is a pretty exposed thing—its not hiding behind production, and it’s vocal heavy, and for some bands it works and some it doesn’t. But like, I love a timeless pop song, and that’s what we tried to do.”
Having this artistic freedom was refreshing, especially after the duo spent the last five years working on so many projects for different artists. Compton produced the soundtrack for last year’s Lonely Island music mockumentary Popstar:Never Stop Never Stopping, starring Andy Samberg and Taccone’s brother Jorma, and played drums on the new Cold War Kids album. Taccone spent some time producing and helping to write the music for some Lonely Island digital shorts alongside Jorma, Samberg, and Akiva Schaffer for Saturday Night Live, and wrote some songs for Portugal. The Man.
“I enjoy making music for me, but I do enjoy making music for other people,” Compton says.” It’s fun, but it’s also separate from what we do with this.”
It’s easy to tell how proud they are of the work they put into their new album—something uniquely their own.
“We just made the music we wanted,” Taccone says. “And in a way, I could see haters being like, ‘Oh its all over the place.’ But, that’s definitely who we are.”
Some highlights include “Oh Devil,” and the lead single “Dear to Me,” but the whole album is worth a listen (or five.)
Electric Guest’s new album, Plural is available this Friday, February 17. The band will return to New York next month, playing Bowery Ballroom on March 5 and Music Hall of Williamsburg on March 6.