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Need to Know: Electric Six


On a crisp Chelsea evening, if you listen very closely, you will hear the words 'Take me to the gay bar' being sung in the distance. Thanks to the Detroit glam-rock-electronic-conceptual group Electric Six, these lyrics, along with 'Fire in the disco, fire in the Taco Bell,' have become common vernacular.

Formed nearly 15 years ago, Electric Six has a loyal following of macho bros and gay men alike. Currently touring North America, Electric Six is releasing their seventh studio album, Zodiac on September 28. It is their hope that eventually the entire world will recognize that (as their website so aptly states), 'Electric Six is a force in league with other forces to keep you safe from evil forces.'

Out: How're you, Dick?
Dick Valentine: I am doing real good today. Got up real early and drove from Washington D.C. to New York City and ordered myself a Mexican lunch. You do that drive and you're struck in traffic. I got up early and I was hungover and left early at like 7:30 a.m. When you get to Brooklyn and pull in front of your taqueria and it's a beautiful day -- words cannot describe how I feel right now.

Wow. Sounds amazing.
I just got that food and shoved it down my throat. It's great.

Are you based in New York?
I live in Brooklyn and the band is based out of Detroit.

Do you have any favorite Brooklyn spots? Where is this taqueria?
It's in Park Slope on 9th and 7th. There's a lot a great taquerias in Brooklyn. There are a lot of great places to go in Brooklyn -- I think it is the best place in America to live.

Let's talk about your new album to be released in September, Zodiac. How does it differ from past albums? Was it a natural evolution?
I think it's poppier and happier. We have a couple of songs that could sound like Neil Diamond songs I guess. The other things we did was tack on gratuitous outros to a lot of the songs to extend them. There is a lot of more instrumental music at the end of songs for no other reason than to just do it.

Does that mean the band is in a happier place? What does it mean when Electric Six is making happier music?
I think it is a good place. We tried to make everyone who listens to our music happier, too. We are in a happier time I think. You look at bands that are making music in the past political climate and I thought there are a lot of bands, like ourselves, who wanted to have a good time and dance. Now that Obama is here, everything is OK and musicians are making more depressing music. As a reaction we are going to fight against that and we are going to return a lot of that Bush-ear ethos. I think Jeb Bush is going to be our next president anyway, so it goes well for everyone I think -- musicians and Bushies included.

Naming the album Zodiac (and the website mentions you are an Aquarius), did the stars align for the recording of this album?
They align for the recording of every one of our albums. The fact that we have the funding to put out a record every year is pretty amazing. The only reason we named the album Zodiac is because we had a song called "Typical Sagittarius," which we ended up scrapping, but we continued to make the album.

The opening act that will be touring with you on the East Coast, the Constellations, has such an appropriate band name considering your new album. Was this intentional?
It just came though one of our booking agents. I don't know anything about them. They seem like they are generating a buzz. A lot of time when we book opening acts I make a conscious effort not to check out their music at the time. I like to be completely surprised. I don't even know what kind of band they are.

"The Rubberband Man," originally by The Spinners, is a cover featured on the new album. You've wanted to cover the song for a while, right? Why is that?
I just think it is a really catchy, happy song and compliments the rest of the album real well. Also, it's what played during the mud-wrestling scene in Stripes, which is one of the happiest scenes in cinema.

Are a lot of your songs influenced by cinemas or other forms of art?
I don't know about that. A lot of what we do is insular and esoteric. We play a lot of inside jokes, which aren't even funny to us. I try not to think things too much or over think things, that helps moving on to a new album year after year after year and not really thinking about the consequences of what you're doing.

It's a great position to be in.
It's great. If you don't care about anyone else or yourself or what you're doing and try and hurry up as fast as you can and then die -- it's essentially the best way to go about it.

Your music videos are pretty amazing. Do you use friends who are directors or --
A little of everything. Anthony Ernst Garth is a friend of ours from Detroit and he's done a couple of videos [including "I Buy The Drugs" and "Formula 409"]. We're actually not going to make a video for Zodiac. We're at the point in our lives we don't really have the time to all get together because we are all millionaires and vacationing. Also, we don't really know what music videos get you anymore. We enjoy making them but we're not going to force it. We'll make a video when we have a good idea and right now we don't have a good idea -- unless you have a good idea.

Do you use graphics or incorporate any of your videos into your live performances?
It's fairly low budget and by "fairly" I mean "totally." We take the Guided by Voices approach where we throw a bunch of middle-aged guys on stage with instruments and let them play their songs. With six people in the band there is a struggle bringing in multimedia.

Does your audience encompass the whole spectrum of mankind?
They really do. There are young fans and old fans. In the past a good cross-section of our audience has been meathead frat guys, which was never the intention. It helps because you have to bridge if you want them to buy T-shirts. It takes time to realize that when eight or nine guys show up at your shows you have to talk to them otherwise they get angry.

It must be interesting to see meatheads sing along to "Gay Bar."
They love it! That's a big song for them. I can't tell you how many times they will come up to us and be like, 'I'm not gay and all but I love "Gay Bar" -- not that I'm gay.'

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