For a band that’s been active on the scene for less than a year, Electric Citizen draws on tons of history.
Vocalist Laura Dolan and guitarist Ross Dolan, now married, were high-school sweethearts 15 years ago; their band pedigrees date back nearly as far, including stints with Two Headed Dog, The Lions Rampant and Children of the Emerald Fire, among others.
“I wanted to continue the sound I’d created (for Two Headed Dog), but I wanted a little more dark, ’70s style,” Ross says over beers at Northside’s Listing Loon. “With Two Headed Dog, I had an idea of Cream, Blue Cheer and a little Black Sabbath. With this band, I wanted more Pentagram, Black Sabbath. No ’60s, all ’70s.”
Laura was similarly inclined. “I wanted to do something heavy,” she says. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to do Garage; I want a heavy project.’ That’s my favorite music.”
In mid-2012, the Dolans seriously pursued a band inspired by the tumultuous sonic reverberations of 40 calendars ago. Ross crossed paths with local Rock band Lions Rampant alumni, drummer Nate Wagner (also of local band Frontier Folk Nebraska) and drummer Nick Vogelpohl; impressed by their musical growth, he invited them to jam on the nebulous entity soon to become Electric Citizen.
“I went to see Frontier Folk Nebraska because I hadn’t seen Nate in awhile, and I thought, ‘He’s really matured as a musician, I’ve got to have him,’ ” Ross says. “So I talked to him, and he was like, ‘Yeah, man!’ Everything’s ‘Yeah!’ and ‘Sounds good!’ with him.”
“He lives life to the fullest,” Laura says. “I love that about him.”
Vogelpohl received a similar invitation. Although he hesitated because of school responsibilities, Ross assured him they’d work around his classes. The last to join was keyboardist Yusef Quotah of local Electronic band You, You’re Awesome. The quintet wrote and practiced for eight months before Electric Citizen’s live debut last March, after which they posted three recently recorded demos on Bandcamp.
Almost immediately, they received an offer from Omeed Izadyar, director/curator for webzine-turned-label The Crossing, to release their tracks as vinyl singles.
Shortly thereafter, Dutch label Breathe Plastic Records released those songs via cassette in Europe and the positive press began rolling in globally. Last summer, the band connected with local musician/engineer Brian Olive, who recorded their eponymous four-song EP. Olive also helmed Electric Citizen’s as-yet-untitled and nearly completed debut full-length.
“It’s getting mastered,” says Laura, whose angelic wail rises well above standard-issue Hard Rock. “[Local mastering expert] Dave Davis is working it. We’re super excited. Brian recorded and produced the whole thing at [his studio] The Diamonds, and we trust him and his ear so much. The ideas he brings to the table throughout the process are invaluable. We don’t want anybody else to record us, ever.”
Regarding Electric Citizen’s influences, Black Sabbath is the obvious touchstone — Ross’ pummeling guitar riffs would bring a tear to Tony Iommi’s eye and Wagner is Bill Ward’s doppelganger — but Pentagram, Sir Lord Baltimore and others guide the band with equal intensity.
“I love obscure ’70s Rock bands,” Ross says. “Budgie, Captain Beyond. Pentagram’s first album is every bit as good as Black Sabbath’s first. There’s so many — Master’s Apprentice, UFO — it’s endless. It’s basically when bands were making this heavier, louder, more progressive kind of sound.”
“We were born in the wrong age,” Laura says with a laugh.
Electric Citizen was attracted to Olive for his devotion to old-school analog recording, which accurately reflects their love of that era. And yet Electric Citizen plays with a contemporary edge and vitality that elevates its sound beyond slavish retro worship as the musicians translate their influences into a celebration of the past and a reimagining of the future.
Electric Citizen has plenty of future looming, but they’ve already achieved much in the slight past they’ve generated: well-received recordings, two successful tours, plum opening gigs (Buffalo Killers and The Sword, the members of which liked the band enough to trade band T-shirts, wearing their Electric Citizen apparel at their next gig) and two Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nominations in the Rock and New Artist of the Year categories.
“I wasn’t expecting that because we’re such a new band,” Ross says. “I’ve been nominated with other bands but we’ve played for a year, year and a half. It was flattering.”
Not surprisingly, Electric Citizen has big plans after its first real album drops. The band has retooled its live sound, as Quotah has removed himself from the road component (he remains available for all studio sessions), but they’ve adjusted to his absence, a fitting testament to the band’s internal strength and chemistry.
“Our band members are great people,” Ross says. “We tour and travel and we all have a hell of a time. We’re lucky to have them, they’re great, positive people.”
All of this has led to the best problem imaginable.
“We can’t stop writing songs!” Laura exclaims. “We’ve got almost another whole album in the bag. Ross came home last night, and I’m like, ‘Listen to this melody!’ It feels really good. Maybe it won’t always be like that, so you’ve got to keep going while it’s there.”
ELECTRIC CITIZEN performs at the Best New Bands showcase at Bogart's Saturday, Jan. 18. Click here for show details and click here for more on Electric Citizen.