In this digital age of music sharing, copying, and outright thievery, it’s rare that you come across an unknown band with such raw, unbridled talent and well-constructed songs that are almost impossible to actually hear. There were few websites offering the tunes of Electric Guest, and only a handful of music bloggers and LA-based DJs were able to gush about the band’s sound after catching an unannounced weekday show at a random Southern California bar. This may be exactly the strategy that Electric Guest, or perhaps their management company Monotone Inc. (whose clients include the likes of Jack White, Vampire Weekend, The Shins, and Cold War Kids) was going for. You’d also discover, with a small bit of digging, their producer is Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, which makes you even more excited to hear the other eight songs on their electro soul-pop debut album Mondo, due out at the end of April.
“It’s kind of great, isn’t it?” says pint-sized frontman Asa Taccone. “You can usually find everything about everything online these days. James Blake has been doing this for a while—using silence as part of the song.”
You most likely don’t know it, but you’ve already gotten a taste of Asa Taccone’s talents. His older brother Jorma is one of the founding members of The Lonely Island, the troupe that brought us Andy Samberg and arguably revived Saturday Night Live to comedic relevancy. Asa was brought on to help produce “Dick in a Box,” as well as the soundtracks for the SNL-cast comedies Hot Rod and MacGruber—just a few of the gigs he worked with Electric Guest drummer Matt “Cornbread” Compton over the six years it took them to carefully craft their first album. You could argue, however, that the seeds of the band were first planted a decade prior, when a young, wily Taccone was in college at Cornish in Seattle and crossed paths with the up-and-coming Danger Mouse.
“Brian [Burton] became a mentor to me, took me under his wing,” Taccone explains. “When I moved to LA, he hooked me up with a spot to live in his old place, this communal artist house in Mount Washington that had an old recording studio inside it.”
At that old, occasionally trashed home studio, Taccone would begin his work. Young artists and musicians were constantly circulating in and out of the house and one of them was Compton, a talented, soft-spoken career musician from Richmond, Virginia who had come out west in search of a change. After playing together a few times, he and Taccone connected and Electric Guest was born.
“I came from an indie rock background and a love for ‘60s-era French pop,” Compton says. “And Asa came from a hip-hop and soul background. So there’s a little bit of everything on this album.”
It certainly seems that way, judging by the three tracks you can currently hear online. “This Head I Hold” is a fast-paced, soul-tinged dance number with Compton leading the way on the drums and Taccone doing what will become his signature falsetto. “American Daydream” has an athem-esque, sing-along quality to it, soaked in mourning—the music video, directed by Asa’s brother Jorma, has the younger Taccone killing Compton in it. And then there’s “Troubleman,” the near-nine minute moody epic antithesis of pop that you never really want to end. All of these tracks—as with many Danger Mouse-produced projects—are instantly familiar and steeped in emotion.
“Both Asa and I are drawn to music that conveys a particularly strong emotion,” Compton says, citing their film and television work, as examples. “There’s so much music out there that doesn’t particularly convey anything. We want our music to put the listener in a mood.”
Yet the real proof that Electric Guest is a breakout band of 2012 (and hopefully long beyond) came the first Monday in February, when they began their month-long residency at The Echo in the heart of LA’s hipster-centric Echo Park. This was the first of a string of shows over the next two months leading up to the album’s release, taking them from Paris to showcasing at this year’s South by Southwest Conference. It was also the first time their growing mass of followers could quell their hunger to hear the rest of the album and affirm the collective belief that these guys are the real deal. We were not disappointed.
The quartet is tight, seamlessly rolling from one track into the next like they’ve been doing it on tour for years. Taccone is especially incredible, striking in his small stature, his look and sound slightly androgynous, somewhere between Prince and Mick Jagger. These are outrageously lofty comparisons, sure—but once you hear and see Electric Guest, you’ll understand that this may be the beginning of something truly great.