Belfast quartet Electric Red’s demo landed with a hand written note to say they’d only been going for 6 months and recorded the CD in their rehearsal room. Fearing the worst I stuck it on and was immediately blown away by not only the quality of the music but the massive production. I figured there was more to this band than meets the eye so decided to chuck some questions at them to try and catch them out!!! Drummer Conor Sweeney took the time out to field my queries.
You guys are a bit of an unknown quantity and your MySpace page doesn’t give much away. The note I got with your demo said you’ve only been going 6 months yet you seem so impressive already I suspect there’s more to the story, care to fill in the gaps?
As it turns out there is a bit more to the story… we have just been playing as Electric Red for around 6 months now, but we have been playing together in various forms for years, having been friends since 1997! Rory [bass/vocals] and I are brothers and have been in a band since we were teenagers. Dee and Gareth, the 2 guitarists, have been playing in bands together since they were teenagers too, and the four of us came together in a band called Involution in 2001.
Involution came to an end in the summer of 2006 after releasing 3 CDs and doing a couple of tours… the reason we split was down to usual clichéd personal / musical differences with our vocalist at that time, but the four of us still wanted to play together in some form.
In 2007 our guitarist Dee decided to travel to America for a year for some time off and during that time the remaining three of us jammed and Rory and Gareth began sharing vocal duties. The four of us then regrouped in May of last year, and started developing further, material we’d already been working on since the break up of Involution.
You’ve already notched up support slots with Taint and Slomatics, what’s the scene like in Belfast/Ireland for bands? Is it easy to get gigs? What other bands around your area would you recommend? Do you ever venture south of the border?
The scene isn’t bad but it could be a lot better, Belfast has a lot of great venues and it’s relatively easy to get gigs, but the hardest part can be getting the crowds in and at times it feels like there’s more bands around than punters! Unfortunately the main thing we’re lacking in Northern Ireland is music industry infrastructure, there’s a little here and there but nothing adequate enough to get NI bands out there to the wider UK/European audience… well, I suppose there is a limited infrastructure, but it tends to be a bit of a closed shop, and we’re certainly not members!
The Taint support gig was only our second gig as Electric Red but we got it on the strength of our previous efforts… the promoters that put that show on, The Distortion Project, bring over a lot of underground metal bands and are great at getting local bands on the bill and getting the synthesis of support act to headliner matched!
Mmm, local bands I could recommend? Parhelia, We Are Knives, Rigger, Adebesi Shank and Sky Pilot are probably the cream of the current Irish crop these days!
We played all over Ireland in our previous band… playing in Dublin is no different than playing in Derry for us – it’s still a 2 hour drive home after!
Electric Red’s debut in the south should be in April of this year with instrumental post rockers Parhelia in Dublin…
Ireland is also famous for Guinness, whiskey and drinking in general. What are gigs like out there? Are they a total alcoholic wipe out or do people hold it together for the most part?
It’s a double edged sword for us, it’s great to get out and play in bars and clubs but someone’s gotta drive the gear home after the gig, and being a drummer, it’s usually me! But we do like to have a couple of pints before we play.
Generally I haven’t seen too many bands fall apart on stage due to intoxication but there are a few who are renowned for being more wiped than others, we always save it for after!
Obviously over in England we’ve always been aware of the troubles in Northern Ireland, how are things now? Do you think the history of trouble puts bands off from visiting even now?
Belfast is unrecognisable to what it was 10 – 15 years ago. There are more small venues to play now as well as new bigger “arenas” such as The Waterfront and The Odyssey. The nightlife and amenities in general have also improved immensely.
When we were growing up in the 90s we went to almost any rock gig in Belfast because there were so few bands that came over… its incomprehensible the amount of gigs we have now compared to then, for example Saxon, Megadeth, In Flames, Soulfly all coming to Belfast in the next 6 weeks! But then again that could all be a result of the rise in popularity of heavy music in general recently.
We do still have to make trips to Dublin and over to the England/Scotland to catch certain bands, like Meshuggah last year, but for bands and promoters I think its more financial than political issues involved with playing Belfast.
I found your sound quite hard to pin down, I picked up touches of Helmet, Mastodon, Baroness and Taint. I guess my best description would be post stoner. How would you describe your sound and what are your main influences?
I don’t think I have heard of post stoner before! I’m not really into the crazy categories people have these days but I guess if you have to have one that’s not bad!
We have quite eclectic tastes as a rock/metal band and listen to a lot of different stuff as individuals that may not show through in our music. But you definitely have hit some of our contemporary influences spot on.
Separately Dee and Gareth would still dabble in classic metal and heavier stuff which can creep in sometimes, although Rory and I fight it! We are still pretty much influenced by 90’s bands like Soundgarden and Kyuss as well as 70’s classics, Sabbath, Zep, King Crimson etc.
Your songs sound quite open and freeform in structure yet incredibly tight. It sounds like a group effort, is that a fair assumption of the writing process?
We have always written our songs as a group effort. Everyone contributes to the riffs – with the bulk coming from the guitar players. We all work out the arrangements at practice and Gareth and Rory usually work out vocal parts and lyrics last, it gives our songs good variety as the ideas are coming from everyone. I think we are good at filtering out crap too as no-one is too precious about their own riffs, it’s an equal partnership!
You recorded the CD at your practice space. What sort of set up do you have their because this is clearly not just done with 2 mics in a room with a 4 track?
This is really Gareth’s speciality. He has built up a collection of recording equipment over the years and become better at recording and getting a big sound. Basically he uses a PC with Sonar as his main sequencer. We have a good range of mics for the drums and guitars, top notch sound card, some preamps and various other devices. All our instruments/amps/equipment are pretty good too which accounts for a lot of the way it sounds. When putting a CD together we’ll do a couple of live recordings first to see how all the parts are sounding, then do our all tracks separately for our final recordings.
With such a full and impressive sound from a home set up would you ever see the point in working with a producer or even in a pro studio given the chance? If you had to choose a producer (with a gun to your heads) who would you go for?
At the minute we are happier just to record ourselves… we have used professional studios before, but we never really came out sounding like we actually sounded in the practice room or at a gig. Financially it doesn’t make sense to spend thousands in a studio if we can do it ourselves and be just as, if not more, confident in how it sounds. From our perspective it’s also nice to keep it DIY and work on your own terms…
I think if we had to choose a producer most of us would probably say Terry Date due to his work with Soundgarden, Deftones etc. I don’t think we’re quite there yet though!
It’s early days for you guys but how has the response to the CD been so far? Have any labels shown any interest yet?
The response has been great, some good and fairly accurate reviews – like your own!
In terms of labels is nearly impossible to get any interest over here…at the minute we just need to play gigs and raise our profile locally [Rory bust his knee the night before our CD launch gig and we haven’t been able to play any gigs since] and also try to get a few more decent and relevant support slots, then we’ll think about labels…
You guys obviously have a very professional approach to your music and presentation, what are your next plans to move the band forward? Any plans to come over and play England?
We are always talking about coming over to play again, we have in the past and it was one of the best times we’ve had as a band, so hopefully if we get a few contacts for gigs and get off our backsides this summer we’ll be over – we haven’t always been the best when it comes to organising stuff like that!
Ok, daft question time…you’re trapped on a desert island, what 5 albums would you want to have with you?
For me personally? Mmm, that’s pretty hard! Ok,
Tool – Aenima
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
Pearl Jam – Vs
Mastodon – Leviathan
Soundgarden – Superunknown
Cheers for doing this interview, any last words?
Just to say thanks to The Sleeping Shaman and Ollie for taking the time to do this interview, put up the review and further the Electric Red cause! Cheers… and don’t forget our CD is available for free download from our website – www.electricredband.com.
Interviewed by: Ollie Stygall