Electric Children on Duenday, DIY, and riding the flow

Electric Children on Duenday, DIY, and riding the flow
Photo by Alex Simpson

Earlier this year, Minneapolis band Electric Children headed back into the studio to record their sophomore album Ride the Flow, collaborating with hip-hop group Duenday along the way. The result is no less a battle cry of a record, which is angular and barren all the while containing a certain beauty that characterizes the band.

Gimme Noise spoke with the band before their show at the Nomad on Friday evening on the months leading up to the album release.

Band Members: Kirstin McDuffie (vocals/keys), Jon McDuffie (vocals/cello), Jon Hoffmann (guitar), Alex Hamberger (bass/vocals), Toby Ramaswamy (drums)

Gimme Noise: The band has been around for a few years now. How do you feel you've adapted and evolved musically and in the music business?

Electric Children: One thing that we've really gained a lot of experience in is working on our own to build a grassroots following. One of the things we've been really conscious of is that recording seems to make the whole process a lot more real. From talking to people like the producer on this record, Ian Combs, and Matt Carter of Duenday, we've learned that a lot about making music as a group successfully in a market at saturated with great musicians
as the Twin Cities is about who you meet, who you talk to. We've been working closely with the folks at Honey, Acadia, and Harriet Brewing Company over the last few years as we've learned how to set up and promote shows, invite artists who are our friends or our local heroes. It's become more real with the advent of this release in as much as everybody seems to get really on board with the idea of your particular project when you have a tangible thing to share with your friends and family. It's been super fun working this far, and we're even more excited to start working with more artists from different places as we continue to grow.

How did you meet Duenday, and how did you come to working with them?

Our bass player Alex had a class with Matt Carter his freshman year of college. Two years later when Carter and Thornton of Duenday wanted to put together their debut release show with a live band playing their tracks and filling in the space between rappers, he contacted the band's original drummer Josh. At that point, Kirstin was out of the country in studying in Japan, so the rest of us (Jon, Jon, and Alex) worked with Duenday to learn their material. After the first show together and especially once Kirstin returned to the US, we started playing a few more shows with them, mixing our own original material in with theirs. Eventually, we wrote a
song together, which we called "Vibin'." We recorded that track for our first informal release, a demo CD called Get You Loose. We wound up playing that cut and another one at what was our biggest show to date (as of spring 2011) at the University of Minnesota's Spring Jam opening for OK GO!. They've been really supportive to us throughout the process thus far,
and we're really happy they could join us for the release of Ride the Flow. Sidenote- we've since re-arranged "Vibin'" and will be releasing the new version on Ride the Flow.

What's the story that you wanted to tell with Ride the Flow?

First off, we grabbed the name from one of Jon McDuffie's lyrics in the new arrangement of "Vibin'." We didn't set out to create any sort of concept album with this release, but rather a collection of songs that we wanted to share with people. The songs themselves aren't necessarily thematically linked; each one has its own unique story to tell. For instance,
the fourth track "Release Me" is about the moment when you realize that you're completely and utterly smitten with someone who you know is bad news. "Mr. Right" is almost the exact opposite, where Kirstin sings about the moment when you realize the person who thinks they are the love of your life isn't for you. There are a lot more than just love songs on this record, and a lot of the songs relate to moments in time and staying in the moment. It's like riding a wave; if you want to do it, you need to let yourself go and ride the flow.

Any favorite tracks off of the new album?

It's so hard to answer this question, but the single "Sirens" and "Mr. Right" are on the top of all of our lists.

Can you take me inside the new single "Sirens"? Why did you choose this particular song as the single, and what's the meaning of the song?

It's really kind of a battle of faith that occurs when you're on a journey, a struggle between the options to keep moving forward or to give in to the seduction of quitting and taking the easy route. There's a bit of a stormy-sea vibe that goes on between the keys, bass, and vocals
right off the bat, and we wanted to relate a sense of desperation, both rhythmically and melodically. None of us could really articulate in words any single "meaning," since part of the fun is letting any listener relate the sounds we're making with our instruments and voices to something immediately relative to them.

Electric Children seems very much the quintessential DIY band. Do you feel this to be true? What do you feel the band excels at, and what are areas where you can grow? Was it tough having to learn about the music business as you progressed as a band?

To us, we've really only been "making music" together for a few years and have had this recent realization that this is what we want to do. Without any sort of past experience in the music business, we've naturally had to take a lot of chances and make a lot of mistakes to figure out exactly what we're getting ourselves into. To be honest, I don't think any of us has any idea what it could all entail, but we're definitely working towards that.

Do we do it ourselves? Absolutely. Everything from writing our own press releases and printing our own flyers in the McDuffie's basement for shows that we've set up, to working on building our contacts and using a whiteboard...it's something that we've completely embraced.

Would we like some of the load taken off eventually? Maybe, but for now it's nice to see what anybody else would be doing for us to understand the business side of things better. Plus, who doesn't like working three jobs?

The band plays in town quite often. Any plans on touring with the new album?

We have tentative plans for touring around the Midwest region including college towns and major cities, but we are still in the process of booking those shows so we do not have any details as of yet. We are also planning a trip to New Orleans for some shows before the year is over (hopefully in November) and we'll definitely have some shows in Minneapolis as well.

How did you pick the Nomad for the album release show, and what can we expect that evening?

We've played at the Nomad in the past and those were good times. A lot of local artists around Minneapolis have had some great shows there as well. The line-up consists of some of our favorite bands; What Tyrants' piano-driven blues-rock, Alicia Steele and the Endeavours' smooth jazzy sound, finished off with Duenday's fun-loving hip-hop. There will be CDs at the door for five bucks, and a great night of music inside.

Electric Children will release Ride the Flow on Friday, August 17, 2012 with What Tyrants, Alicia Steele & The Endeavors, and Duenday at the Nomad World Pub.
21+, $5, 9 pm

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