RELEASING HALF IDEAS THAT ARE MORE INTERESTING THAN YOUR AVERAGE BAND’S PROUDEST WORK
There is an issue with the opening of a packet of peanuts: Paul haphazardly grapples with it for a bit then hands it over to Charlie who considers carefully ripping the top down the middle before assuming the position for a full-on crisp-packet-pull-apart-style attack. Even as Paul is voicing his relish at the idea of the savoury snack explosion that could ensue, Bonnie calmly removes the pack from Charlie’s determined grasp and, with one neat tear the bag is open.
“The cover’s actually better than the material on it,” states Charlie, Electricity In Our Homes’ guitarist, referring to the band’s new 12″ EP, ‘We Agree completely’. “That’s not putting down the material, the cover’s just so good.” The sleeve is a photo of what could be described as doily heaven, with the band cosied up in an opulently hideous bed, surrounded by white lace ruffles and a garish red carpet as well as a rusty shovel, a smart shirt and a tiny man in a tux.
“Charlie had this idea of a bedroom scene and where these guys live there is the most horrendous Italian furniture shop you could imagine,” says bassist Bonnie. “It’s got gold thrones and‚” it’s amazing! You can’t believe how much it costs to be tasteless, the bed we were in cost something like three grand.”
“And it was made out of hollow plastic,” adds Charlie. Bonnie giggles. “It looked like ivory from a distance but when you got up to it, it was more like a margarine tub!”
As for the material, “There’s a few really good songs on there,” says Charlie “and some others which are just sketches, unfinished things. I don’t think we were too worried about putting out an album or an EP or anything in particular, we just had the chance to record in this really great studio and we had some songs we really loved and some bits and bobs we liked so we just kind of cut them together, in quite a na√Øve way, I think. Listening to it now, I think we could have done it better but maybe now, because we think we could do it better, it would actually be worse and it’s that naivety to it that makes it good.”
“It is what it is,” says Bonnie. “We just wanted to put something out rather than waiting around. It was a bit rushed. We went to Fortress with a guy who’d come to see us live and he said he’d like to do something with us and the original idea he suggested was to do a ‘Trout Mask Replica’, a seventeen one-minute track record and just bang it all out in a day. That’s what he came to us with and,” Bonnie laughs, “it just all changed, it wasn’t really what we wanted to do!”
Charlie continues, “We wanted it to be like ‘The Faust Tapes’, like loads of spliced bits and bobs and I think that’s what it is, it’s like a one-day version of ‘The Faust Tapes’, which were years of catalogue cut together.”
“Ours was a bit‚” time constrained, I suppose,” says Bonnie “but I think it’s a great record.”
And it is. Prior to ‘We Agree Completely’, EIOH released two singles and a 7″ EP.
“The 7″ was the first thing we did,” says Bonnie “and if you listen to that now, compared to the 12″, you can still tell it’s us but there is quite a big departure. I suppose we understand each other more and can play a lot better.”
“We’ve already got some new songs,” announces Charlie. “We’re ahead of ourselves, planning on an album maybe in the wintertime. The songs we’re writing are more‚” mature.”
“Not ‘mature’, ” interjects drummer Paul, but Charlie continues, “We’re looking further ahead than we ever have before – when we first started we didn’t think we’d last more than a year or two and now it’s been two and a half years and it’s getting better.”
Paul points out that, in fact, it’s only just coming up on a year that EIOH has been a three-piece. They used to have a singer, Tom, “The last member to join and the first member to leave”, whom all three agree was a great guy but “didn’t want to do it.” Charlie calculates that it’s almost exactly a year to the day that Tom left, a few weeks before their set at Offset Festival 2008. EIOH had to scrap their whole set because, among other things, this departure meant that someone else had to sing and none of the remaining trio was thrilled by the idea of playing and singing at the same time. A year on, they’ll be playing Offset again and it will mark their first anniversary as a three-piece. “Then a year from now we’ll be a two-piece,” says Paul, turning to Bonnie. “We’ve already spoken about who’s going to replace you.”
At the moment, the band are very much concentrating on new songs and admit this is due to a communal impatience, playing tracks only a few times before getting bored and wanting to move on to new material. “There is a down side to that,” admits Bonnie “because people maybe don’t get to hear the songs they really like but we don’t want to play stuff just because someone else wants us to.”
“But we’re not in a position to have to do that,” Charlie counters. “We don’t have to please anybody because we have so few fans.” [Hmmm, and what about those that recently filled Rough Trade East to capacity at the band’s EP launch, aye?] “It doesn’t matter, we can play what we want and that’s a really nice position to be in.”
“Yeah,” concedes Bonnie “the set’s already new again which feels quite nice.”
“It’s all about the album as far as I’m concerned,” says Charlie. “This time next year we’ll hopefully have a handful of really interesting gigs, a few in London maybe and I’d really like to go back to Europe again. Next year could consist of us playing about three gigs a month, maybe less, depending on what interesting things pop up – and also writing this record.”
Bonnie muses, “It’d be nice to get a bigger label as well at this stage, I’d like to.”
“I don’t know whether I agree with that, y’know,” replies Charlie. “Our best record release experience has been this last one, which was with the second smallest label we’ve ever worked with and it worked so much better than with the other ones because we were the priority.”
Bonnie: “Yeah, it was very straightforward and it’s not always like that, I suppose, working with a bigger label, but I would like more people to get the chance to hear it. I think the songs are getting so good now and we write them for people to listen to them. I mean, we’re getting played on the radio a little bit more now so that’ll help and the EP is selling really well, all the other records have sold out so, like Charlie said, we’re in a nice position. We’re really lucky.”
Lucky indeed, to have released such a successful body of work in such a short time. “It just so happened that when we’d been writing and playing songs for only a few months we had the chance to put out a record and normally that doesn’t happen,” says Charlie.
Unlike some of their peers, EIOH didn’t have the time to develop their sound or settle on a style before laying down tracks for release. The result has been a succession of snapshots, freeze-frames of where the band happened to be at that particular moment in their musical evolution. “We charted unfinished territory each time,” proudly states Charlie “nothing was ever on standby and nothing was a statement of ‘this is what I sound like’ or ‘this is what I want to do, musically, for the rest of my life’ and I think that’s a real benefit.”
And the others agree that it would be a very different story if they hadn’t got a record out for the first twelve months but, then again, these days all any band needs to get their music out there is a computer and a MySpace page. Bonnie feels this makes the whole thing a bit less special, Charlie sees it as a good thing, a sorting process in which the good stuff survives and everything else eventually fizzles out. It’s also a testament to how fickle fans can be – even with their apparently minimal fan-base, EIOH have come across people who preferred them as a four-piece, when they were a more aggressive, sharp, post punk band.
“It’s a one trick thing,” says Charlie “and people really liked that and now‚” I don’t know what they think. They just don’t like it!”
This doesn’t bother EIOH at all, they’d be bored if they still sounded the way they did over two years ago and it would be manufactured anyway; that sound was the product of a band who were still learning their way round their instruments and, as Bonnie says, “You can’t fake it, you can’t pretend you’re shit at something; you get better.”
“We were just genuinely shit,” states Charlie, matter-of-factly “and now we’re slightly less shit.”
Electricity In Our Homes are, in fact, quite a tight band. Their songwriting process is quick and intuitive; it might be a drum beat or a bass line that kicks things off, they’ll try various things around that, keeping or binning ideas with minimal, if any, deliberation. The vocals are a slightly different matter: Paul tends to blurt things as he plays whereas Charlie has a notebook of lyrics. Their current sound is more bass and drum led, closely followed by vocals with the guitar being added almost as an afterthought and, in the case of ‘We Agree‚”‘, being treated as more of a percussive instrument than a melodic one, “like a twenty-four fret cymbal with six strings,” explains Charlie.
“We wanted it to sound a bit silly,” he says “a bit funny. I think it’s really important to have a sense of humour.”
“We have become a bit more light-hearted,” agrees Bonnie.
“Not light-hearted,” Charlie insists. “I’m really serious about being funny.”
While EIOH may have progressed into the realms of being “slightly less shit” they have yet to get to the stage of acquiring their own gear and are constantly borrowing amps and drums etc from the bands they play with. This touches a nerve. “We got in trouble when somebody’s drum kit got smashed up in Scotland,” says Bonnie.
“The Low Miffs,” exclaims Paul, momentarily relinquishing his empty peanut packet crinkling, “Yeah, get them in there, they still owe us money.”
Apparently the band were having a bit too much of a nice time and broke the Miffs’ stuff, resulting in the forking out of all of EIOH’s money, leaving them to hitch a lift to Edinburgh (and the smashing of said lift’s back window when the boot was closed). “Those guys owe us at least sixty quid.”
For a band that formed with no intention of lasting, EIOH have had quite a few adventures (playing so badly at a birthday party that they had to be physically removed from the stage) and some amazing opportunities (being flown to Russia to play – and executing their set well enough so as not to be removed from the stage) but we digress‚” Charlie’s getting impatient and he wants to talk about the album. “I think it’s going to be an album made up of quite strong songs,” he declares as Bonnie nods enthusiastically. “I have this really good idea for the artwork‚””
Believe us, it’s another conceptual one and a stunning departure from the Italian bedroom suite aesthetic. Meanwhile, Paul has begun a slightly more strategic assault on the next packet of peanuts.
By Polly Rappaport
Originally published in issue 9 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. August 2009