Interview: Electric Citizen Talks About Their Background, Sound and Creative Process

Interview with vocalist Laura Dolan | By Brandon Ringo

These days, vintage rock ‘n’ roll bands are popping up everywhere, which should be cool. But quite often, these bands lack originality, or genuine intent. They simply dress up old-timey and write semi-occult songs that sound like The Doors. Electric Citizen doesn’t fall prey to these trappings. Formed in Ohio only a year ago, the band has already signed with RidingEasy Records and developed a massive amount of hype thanks to their incredibly genuine rock ‘n’ roll. Vocalist Laura Dolan offers some background on the band, their sound, and her creative process.

How did you guys come together, get signed, and squeeze out a debut album all in a year?

We believe that great music propels itself. When we started this band, we said nothing mattered as much as the music we write, and that’s where our focus remains. We met through our local music scene, but Nick and Nate have known each other since they were teenagers, as have Ross and I. There’s good energy between us, and I think that comes through in our songwriting. The first album has yet to drop, but we’re already halfway through writing the next. As for recording our debut album, we’re very lucky to have a close friend, Brian Olive, who is a talented musician himself, but also produces and records music at his analog studio, The Diamonds. When you record and mix on tape, you don’t have time to overthink, you accept little flaws as charm, and it all happens much quicker than digital recording. And Brian’s studio really does have a life of its own – you can hear a glimpse of what I mean if you find the hidden track at the end of our vinyl. So, how did it all come together in a year? The right circumstances at the right time, I suppose. When we signed to RidingEasy Records, it was a little premature, but we kept getting pointed to this label, so we went for it. We intended to mail our album to other labels once we’d finished our press kit, but Daniel Hall, owner of RidingEasy, took one listen and was calling us the same day. It’s a young label, but Daniel’s terms, philosophies, and industry experience sold us. We didn’t need to look further; it was exactly what we were after. We gave our full trust to RidingEasy, and here we are.

You recently celebrated a birthday while on tour with Fu Manchu, which sounds insanely fun. Was that your first major tour?

Yes, perhaps my favorite birthday yet. And being on tour with Fu Manchu was a dream – not only are they great musicians, they are great people, and their fans welcomed us with open arms. We’ve toured before, but nothing close to this. We saw many parts of the country we’d never seen, and made a lot of friends out there.

As a new band, was it your goal to get signed and hit the road immediately?

Our intention was to write music we were really proud of; we didn’t think too hard about the rest. We just figured if we really put our heart into what we were doing, the rest would follow, and so far it has.

The first time I heard Electric Citizen was “Ghost of Me” from the Light Years Beyond EP. Why wasn’t that song included on the Sateen?

You know how I said we were halfway through writing our second album? Well that’s where “Ghost of Me” came from. We’d already finished the first full-length when we decided to release the single, so we wanted to throw in a totally different song on the b-side, and presented RidingEasy with a practice recording of “Ghost of Me.” [Daniel] asked us if we could have it recorded, mixed, and mastered in a week, and that’s exactly what we did.

How did you develop your vocal style and the unique sound it has on the record?

My influences are all over the place, and I love experimenting with how male singing styles translate to a female range. As for the vocal sound on our record, I leave it up to our producer Brian. He’s too young to have learned them firsthand, but he knows a lot of lost techniques from the days of analog recording. We discovered early on that I was (coincidentally) very good at doubling my vocals, something they did a lot of in vintage recording. We’d take the first track, then I’d sing another without hearing the first, and they’d end up matching up in really cool ways, so we’d use both. We use vintage recording techniques because we believe they sound better, but we still want our sound to be fresh. This is the music we have been moved to make in this particular time and place because this is where it belongs, we don’t want to be known as time travelers.

Your sound has been compared to ‘60s West Coast rock bands and British psychedelia. Is that intentional or did your sound develop organically?

The music we write is influenced by the music we love, much of which is from the ‘60s and ‘70s, but it comes out organically. We didn’t aim to sound like something in particular, but I do believe every movement in music is a build off something else, and that creativity comes from an outside force that we’re all connected by.

Where does your lyrical inspiration come from? Personal experiences? Fictional stories?

I wrote a lot of poetry when I was younger. The lyrics are very important to me, but I couldn’t tell you exactly where they come from. Life experiences, I suppose. Most of the time, I’ll get a melody and the words will sprout from that, and the song will take on meaning as if it’s come from some unconscious place. The best lyrics happen so fast, I have to scramble to write them down, almost as if they’d vanish as fast as they came if I didn’t.

Are there any movies, books, or records that influence your songwriting?

Sure, everything we’ve ever experienced or been inspired by is in there somewhere. Our album name, Sateen, is a word I’m enamored with. I tried to name my previous (short-lived and failed) band Sateen unsuccessfully, then it came back up when we were naming this album. I’d completely forgotten it, but we happened to watch this old Italian movie called The Visitor, and one of the characters was named Sateen. I thought it would be a great album name, so we went with it. Only recently was I reminded by my dear friend that I had tried to name our old band Sateen, and it really freaked me out. I still don’t understand its full meaning, but strange coincidences keep reaffirming its rightful place.

Purchase Sateen here: http://ridingeasyrecords.com/product/electric-citizen-sateen

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