The songs have graphic images of women and the tricky things they do: women left holding the gun or on the run, women scratching their crotches or swaying with heart-shaped asses. This eroticism invades their live show, as well.
It’s very hard to pigeonhole the Electric, and that’s the way the band likes it. Start with its name: the Electric. It’s so ambiguous, it could work for almost any band: no-wave synth, unconventional experimental, dark goth, even heavy metal. Even more frustrating is trying to describe the band’s sound. The Riverfront Times tried to classify them and failed when it named the Electric “Best Garage Band” for 2002 and 2003. A commendable award, but the Electric is not garage rock. As a comparison, try this: mix two cups of the Cramps, one cup New York Dolls, a half cup Stevie Ray Vaughn, and a dash of Iggy Pop. And, oh yeah, sprinkle in a little Rocky Horror Picture Show transsexuality, then blend until chunky. That’s the Electric. They’re bluesy, rocky and, more importantly, erotic.
The music is well produced and straightforward, but the hook is the way Jason Triefenbach’s voice winds around the guitar riffs and rhythms and then lingers between the notes. He often pants and groans, and it’s all very sexy, clearly his intent. The songs have graphic images of women and the tricky things they do: women left holding the gun or on the run, women scratching their crotches or swaying with heart-shaped asses. This eroticism invades their live show, as well. The Electric’s live show is, well, electric.
In a normal performance, Triefenbach jumps around like crazy: gyrating his whole body, he bends over and sings into the microphone, climbs on furniture, lies on the floor and pumps the air with his crotch, or wraps the microphone around his neck and a nearby pole. Drummer Jeff Jahn, inspired by Mötley Crüe, purposely hangs women’s panties from the kick drum. Lead guitarist Matty Coonfield pumps and angles his guitar as he plays; he’s also known for going into the crowd to getting a better look. Loren Day, the bass player, is so into the music, it’s as if he’s forgotten the audience.
Through live performances over the past two years, the Electric has developed quite a strong following. And now, after a year spent working on their first full-length album, the band is scheduled to release Degenerotic Doses on St. Louis’s own Pro-Vel Records. Partners Nancy Catalina and Kirk Filley are thrilled. This release marks an important moment in the young label’s history: Degenerotic Doses will be the first full-length Pro-Vel release from a Midwest band.
Over a 12-pack of Natural Light in their chilly rehearsal space, I got the opportunity to discuss the Electric’s history, the St. Louis music scene, and their upcoming CD.
How did you form as a band, and how long have you been playing together?
Jason: We’ve been together for about two and a half years. Loren and I were in some band in high school; Matt and I were in a band together at Webster University.
Matt: We played a couple basement shows. We broke up after graduating college and thought everyone would be moving out of town. But after a year or two, we were still playing and wanted to start a new band.
Jason: We met Jeff on an Internet dating service. He had just moved here and was lookin’ for a boyfriend. We were so happy he could play drums. It worked out well.
Where was your first gig?
Matt: Our first gig was at Jason and a friend’s gallery in this weird-ass loft downtown. We played with a folk singer and had a good turnout; it was pretty wild.
Jason: We got some positive feedback. One guy said, “I’ve never seen anything like that before!”
Tell me about your songwriting process.
Matt: Most of the time, I come with maybe a riff and a couple of verses, and the band will sit down and figure out what we like.
Loren: Most of our songs come from throwing shit on the walls and seeing what stays.
Matt: The main theme of a lot of our stuff is party music with not-so-party lyrics.
What’s your opinion of the STL music scene?
Matt: I think there are better bands here than people realize. All the bands playing out that are good are fairly different. Nobody’s really stepping on each other’s toes. There’s not like 30 bands all trying to sound like the best punk rock band or grunge band. Everybody sounds different; that’s worthwhile. We cross over enough, but we’re not in the same genre.
Matt: I think there are more professional bands here than there are in other places. There’s a better caliber of bands. I think it’s because nobody—
Jason: It’s not like the eyes on the world are watching us.
Matt: Yeah, not like Chicago in the early ’90s when everyone was trying to sound like Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, and the Smashing Pumpkins shit because that’s what was coming out then. We’re out in the middle of nowhere, doin’ what we think is cool. So everybody does their own thing and they do it as well as they can.
Loren: There are a lot of good bands in town, but they play out too much. Some are playin’ out six times in a month. When you play that many shows, you grow old fast.
Tell me about your name.
Matt: It wasn’t from a quote or anything; we just had a list of names. We were gonna be called a horrible name: the Children.
Jason: I loved that name.
How did you hook up with Pro-Vel Records?
Matt: I walked up to Nancy and said, “Hey, do you want to put out an album?” She said, “Yeah, maybe. Let me hear it.” So I said okay.
Jason: Technically, she had already asked us.
Matt: Yeah, we [the band] were talking about how we really wanted to put the album out when Loren said to Jason, “I think Nancy already asked you, but you were too drunk.”
Is the album what you’ve been writing over the last two years, or is there a concept to it?
Jason: Almost song for song, it’s our early set. We’re really impatient to get it out there.
Loren: It’s almost to the point that I don’t know if anyone will [still] be interested in these songs.
Matt: It needs to happen now. Which is good. It’s good. It’s about right.
Where do you think The Electric fits into the St. Louis music scene?
Jeff: Right here, right with the four of us.
Loren: We get sort of relegated to the—what do they call it? “Dirty rock” sound. That’s great, but…
Matt: [Laughing] We also have a Kraftwerk influence!
Loren: Some of the shows we played in the beginning were with a variety of bands. We played this benefit for the STL Punk Web site [with] Ultraman. 19, The Cripplers. That was one of my favorite shows. There should be more of those shows, where different bands play together. There are too many shows where all the bands sound the same. It’s really boring to me; it doesn’t really challenge the listener.
Jason: As far as how we fit into the music scene, we like to think we can fit anywhere.
Matt: We just listen to such varied music. We all try to bring something different to the table.
Degenerotic Doses will hit your local music store February 15. In February, the Electric will play the Soulard Music Festival on February 13 and Lemmons on February 19.