Interview: Electric Guest

Photo by Philip Cosores

Beats Per Minute (Philip Cosores): Starting off, talk about your earliest musical memories and how you got into music.

Asa Taccone: I was always in jazz band, and singing was sort of mandatory in school. I always danced, as well, which was a big thing while living in the bay. As far as what I listened to while growing up, it was mostly limited to listening to records that my pop would put on. My parents were big hippies, like, my brother is named after the guitar player for Jefferson Airplane and I was named after a D.J., so music was always a big part of my life.

I think the first concert I ever went to was a Grateful Dead show, which is a classic Berkeley first show.

Matthew Compton: My best friend growing up played guitar and we wanted to play in bands, so I learned drums. I grew up in Danville, Virginia, which was a really small town and we didn’t get much exposure at all to music or culture, so I’d always go to Chapel Hill in North Carolina to see shows and stuff. I listened to a lot of music from that area at the time, the Merge Records stuff.

Did you guys move to L.A. to pursue music or is that something that sort of happened after you got here?

MC: Yeah, we both moved here to pursue music.

And, talk about how you met. I heard it involved some house where you guys would hear each other play or something?

AT: We both lived in communal, artsy houses, classic East-side shit. And, in both houses, it was sort of a revolving door of who lived there. And he would come over to play with this other composer who lived downstairs from me and had this nicer studio. And, I think we just got introduced, he heard me writing my little songs and started coming over to play with me whenever I needed it. So, we just started playing together on more and more things and I started to get this body of songs, and eventually we got officially linked.

How long ago was this?

AT: Six years ago.

Wow, that’s a long time to just be releasing a first album.

AT: I mean, I still easily have about a hundred songs written. And, part of it was the time from when Brian (Burton aka Danger Mouse) asked me to do the album, it was about two years until we actually go around to doing it, before he had the time to actually get in the studio.

So, did you guys plan on waiting around for him to produce it?

AT: After he asked, yeah. -laughter-

MC: And he would check in from time to time. It wasn’t, like, a ‘see you in two years’ kind of deal.

AT: Yeah, we’re friends with him so we’d see him all the time, but he wouldn’t be in the States for long enough to have the time to work on it.

So, the album, Mondo, is coming out on April 24th. How much to you think the final project is indebted to Danger Mouse as a producer?

AT: I can’t undervalue him in the slightest. I think the biggest thing that he added to this album is his faith in the hypothetical, meaning that when you are on your third day of working on a song for fifteen hours a day and you are totally lost, he has this total faith in where to go, even if you have no idea.

He asked us if we even wanted him to put his name on it. And, its understandable, because his name is so big. But, I’d say that 60-70% of the album is stuff that was already there and the rest were elements that he enhanced.

I’m sure at this point that you realize that every interview you give, you are going to be asked about working with him. I’m sure part of you would like to have received this attention solely on your own merits, but still you can’t discount the doors that having Danger Mouse involved has opened and how lucky you are.

AT: Yeah, for us it’s more of the latter. We realize how lucky we are and, for us, there is no bad part of it. He’s been so good to us and has been totally there for us anytime we have questions about our live show or if something doesn’t work or he’ll just come to our practice. He’s a cool friend to have.

I read that you guys both have production experience with your bother (Jorm Taccone) in The Lonely Island. What have you taken from working with that project on the production level that has helped your growth or direction as artists?

AT: Probably the social dynamic. For so many years, I was alone in my room working on music and it’s a whole different thing working with human beings and sharing ideas and having everyone put their own input and stamp on it.

MC: Also, it’s one of those job where it has to be done immediately, because it either has to go on the air tomorrow or it could be for something else, but it has to get done very fast. And, it’s kind of nice to work in that environment every now and then, when you’ve been working on the same idea for months and now here is this other project where they have an idea and need to get it out right now.

AT: Yeah, you can’t be overly analytical.

MC: It’s nice, it keeps things fresh.

Looking at your itinerary, as this interview won’t be published til close to the album’s release, you guys have a European tour coming up and SXSW and Sasquatch. You said you’ve been working together for six years, but do you ever feel like you are moving fast, with these big time gigs scheduled?

AT: I mean, I’ve never done this before, in terms of singing on stage and touring, so I have no idea what is ‘fast,’ but people tell me it is pretty good. I have no basis for comparison, but it sounds fun.

MC: I agree, I’m just excited to actually be doing this now. We’ve been waiting for a while.

Right now in February, you are playing these residency dates at the Echo in L.A. And, it’s sort of a rite of passage for many local bands as they make the leap to becoming national acts. Recently, Local Natives and Foster The People went from playing a residency to playing giant venues in no time. Do you guys consider yourself an L.A. band in that sense, since you both moved here from other places?

AT: I think we are part of the scene here.

MC: Yeah, I identify with the scene, for sure.

AT: But, yeah, I still don’t really think of myself as an L.A. person, just because I love my hometown so much.

Yeah, I just get this sense that right now you are still an area, local band. But, you seem like you will very quickly become a national band.

AT: Hopefully.

Yeah, all I’m saying is that most bands playing residencies at the Echo aren’t playing Sasquatch in a couple of months. That’s a big leap. Do you feel pressure when you think in terms like that.

AT: Yeah, yeah. I think so. But, I try to constantly remind myself in my personal life no to put too much pressure on myself. Just to go out there and have fun.

MC: Yeah, eliminate fear.

AT: That’s what we are about, eliminating fear.

So, 2012 is kind of a key year for you guys. You can see the progression, as you get ready to release the debut album and then will tour it.

AT: Plus, it’s the end of the world.

Yes, and that. Assuming the world is still here at the end of the year, where do you guys see yourself at the end of 2012 and what would you consider a successful year.

AT: I hope we are incredibly wealthy and doubly as attractive. -laughter- But, yeah, it’s kind of crazy, because the days keep getting more compacted for the both of us, so there really is less opportunity to think about the future. I have to stick with just what I have to do on a certain day. But, who knows where we will be. Our dream is to just keep making music.