Electric Guest talk their first album in five years Plural and returning to the road at SXSW

While at SXSW, I sat down with Asa Taccone and Matthew “Cornbread” Compto of American duo Electric Guest, who I first caught up with five years ago at SXSW, when they were releasing their debut album Mondo. Finally with a follow-up in hand, Plural, we spoke about the time it took between releases, what it feels like to be back on the road and we talk about the classic computer game Oregon Trail for some reason.

We spoke here some five years ago and it feels like a lifetime ago now. Now we’re here to talk about the second record, which was finally released last month. I mean, we say “finally” on our end, but does it feel like that for you guys as well?

Asa: Hell yeah …

Matthew: Yeah, definitely. Yeah.

Asa: Probably even more so, honestly. You know what I mean? Like, everyone always asks “What were you all doing, were you just … ” And it was like … I mean, we wrote an entirely different album that just didn’t make it and we scrapped it about a year and a half ago. We played it for the few people that we trusted and they were like “Meh, keep writing”. So we just kept writing and one of the first things we wrote was “Dear to Me”. And we were just like: “Oh, this is better than the shit we were doing”. Like, why not just start clean slate, and so that’s what we did.

Did anything from that scrapped record make it into what we ended up hearing?

Matthew: Yeah, the first two songs, “Zero” and “Glorious Warrior”, ended up being on this one.

So you’re going back quite a while, I’m guessing, with those tracks then.

Matthew: Yeah, yeah, they’re really old. They are really old.

They are classics now!

Matthew: To us. *laughs* No, but they surprisingly still fit in, that’s why we included them. I think it was good, obviously, for us to keep writing and we’re really happy the way it turned out, but it was all kind of a mish mash that now seems to be a puzzle that fits together somehow.

How much work went into making Plural a cohesive record?

Asa: Not to sound self-important at all, but I’ve kind of realised that because we’re kind of all over the place and just musically I think it’s pretty colourful and kind of every song is kind of a little random in what it pulls from, we don’t worry about cohesions because I think they end up all being kind of cohesive in a way. And so I think some of the randomness of the songs, kind of like a paradox of it, some of the randomness of how we write songs in general, ends up kind of making it cohesive, in a way.

Matthew: Yeah.

Asa: We never thought about it, really, once, and then yeah, I think you’re right, like when we put those two songs, the older ones, together, we’re like “Oh, this is … I don’t even bat an eye now, this just feels like the same body of work.

And in including those songs, does it kind of feel like you’re representing the progression of work you’ve been doing over the last four years that we haven’t been hearing the material from you?

Matthew: Yeah, definitely, that stuff is a lot darker, the stuff that didn’t make it on the record, but yeah it all fits together. I mean whether it’s a guitar thing we’re doing or in general Asa’s voice, honestly, that’s the cohesive part. I mean, it all comes from the same place, things he’s singing about, things he’s saying, it all kind of has a unified sentiment.

We started talking about life back on the road. You know, you popped up here and there over the years but actually touring, having a bus … Going, going across … I don’t know if this is your bus.

Matthew: Just for today.

Oh, just for today. But touring around the country and around the world, again. I know you sold out a show in London, which is great. What does it mean to be back on the road, back on the horse, touring the world?

Asa: Crippling depression. Straight up! I’m not even joking, this past two weeks I was like: “What am I doing?” Yeah, emotionally, it’s hell hard. I was in my pajamas for the last four years in my room, in the cocoon of my room, and we were just writing songs, doing hell of a … We did a tonne of work in the past, chunk of years … But it’s so different than putting yourself out there and all your energy and your light into the world. And I think I’ve struggled with it a lot. I’ve been super depressed on tour. But something has shifted a little bit, we’ve been on tour, like, weeks and weeks now and I think something has shifted a little bit. And I’ve been like “Oh, shit, I can do this”. And we’ve been super lucky, we’ve been selling out like damn near everything …

Matthew: Yeah!

Asa: It’s been like … It’s the people! The people, they remind you of why you’re doing it …

Matthew: Yeah, we were gone for so long, we were afraid, will people still remember us? Will they be at our shows? And actually it’s been better than the last time, I feel like. And, like you said, we’re at this bus right now, but literally four days ago our van got ruined and we had to make a spur-of-the-moment decision to rent minivans to bring as little equipment as we could possible shove into a minivan to drive to the next two shows, or we were going to have to cancel them, Atlanta and Nashville.

And so it was going back to the punk roots of how you grow up doing shit and making it happen, you have to remember and you just do it. I think, wouldn’t you actually accomplish certain things and you’re like “Fuck, should I stop doing this? Is this the fucking universe telling me that this is not supposed to be happening to me?” And you get through it and you get to an amazing show like last night was Dallas and people going off. And you’re like “Fuck yes, this feels so good”. And you remind yourself of why you’re doing it and the fact that it’s beneficial for everyone, hopefully.

Asa: There is this video game in the United States called the Oregon Trail and it’s an old-timey, you’re trekking across the Oregon Trail and your wagon … and it would be like: axle broke – lose two days. That’s what that shit is like, it really is! We filled our van with 16 gallons of kerosene on accident, so we made that shit into a bomb, basically. And we just had to leave it there. So we just left it. We left it dead at this gas station.

In the context of Oregon Trail … You died, and then actually killed the computer.

Matthew: Yeah.

Asa: So, we took a couple of pairs of pants and then we stripped down our set and we played the next two shows. But the thing is that each time you get fucked up on a tour, you have to faction it all out into time segments. If you lose eight hours, that means you lose hell of sleep, you’re fucked on those little periods of time that you get to recuperate and everyone’s sick and blah blah. But then when you overcome, it’s like “Okay, I can do this show”.

There’s an ideal of what this glamorous touring life is but it’s rarely met. But occasionally you have your moments where you get your RVs and things align in a way that it’s comfortable and-

Matthew: Replenishes you a little bit.

-replenishes you a little bit. So you can get kicked down for another week.

Matthew: Exactly.

Take that! But do those sort of experiences lend to the performance at all? In a positive or negative way? Lend to how you perform that night?

Asa: I think so, I think it ends up being an emotional release, kind of, you know what I mean …

“It took us so much to get here!”

Asa: I mean, for real, it’s like I’ve wept on stage because I’ve just been so fatigued, but through the song and you’re using the crowd’s energy and blah blag…

And it’s been a while since we’ve seen you down in Australia. Are there plans to get Plural down there?

Matthew: I love going there. I want to get back.

Was it just once or did you get … Was there a second time? I thought it was just once.

Matthew: I went there another time with a different band but every time I’ve been it’s been really enjoyable experience for sure.

We hope to get you down there and playing the new songs live, how you’re finding it’s translating, and you’re enjoying playing them.

Matthew: Yeah, definitely.

Asa: Oh yeah.

Matthew: Yeah, good. We kind of redid our thing a little bit, I think it’s going to sound better, we’re doing-

In terms of like …

Matthew: Sonically … We’re adding …

Asa: We added a bunch to the music … And a lot of the songs of the new album are much more modern, for lack of a better word.

Matthew: Yeah.

Asa: And at first we were scared of it, and now we’re like: “Oh, it’s jamming as fuck, look at that” … Big girl, get on a tiny bike.

Matthew: Yeah, we’re excited, I think it’s going to sound really good. So come check it out.

Are you happy with the response to the record so far?

Matthew: Yeah, totally, totally.

Asa: I haven’t really looked online, so I don’t know, but yeah, I think so.

I guess you can kind of gauge at those shows, what songs work and what songs don’t.

Asa: I think for us actually it’s really surprising what songs get the most crowd love. Like, there’s a song called “Oh Devil”, that is not our single, but yet that seems to be the one that is really resonating with people. So it’s cool, thanks. Yeah. That one was a big surprise for us when we started doing the tour and we were like “Damn! Okay, cool!”

Now you know!

Asa: Now we know!

Plural is out now.