Ross and Laura Dolan have a lot to celebrate recently. The married couple and bandmates in Electric Citizen — he on Tony Iommi-fired riffage, she on earthy-yet-ethereal lead vocals — just marked a special occasion. It’s not their wedding anniversary (no idea when that is), but the first anniversary of the band’s live debut, which took place back in May 2013 after eight months of rehearsal.
The Dolans also welcomed a new addition last fall. Not a baby (you guys aren’t getting any of these), but Electric Citizen’s debut four-song EP, produced by local wunderkind Brian Olive at his studio, The Diamonds. Although the band had self-recorded a trio of demos, which were released first as a vinyl single by webzine/label The Crossing, then on cassette by Holland’s Breathe Plastic, the Olive-tinted EP was the band’s first foray into a real studio.
The Dolans were so pleased with the outcome of the EP, they returned to The Diamonds with their muscular rhythm section — former Lions Rampant bassist Nick Vogelpohl and drummer Nate Wagner — as well as keyboardist Yusef Quotah (of Electronic duo You, You’re Awesome), to work with Olive on tracking the material that would become Electric Citizen’s full-length debut, Sateen.
“I’m really proud of it,” Laura says of the album over beers at The Listing Loon in Northside. “I feel like it’s taken on even more meaning for me as time’s gone on. In the lyrics, there are things that make even more sense now than when I wrote them. I guess it’s grown on me to be even more meaningful than when we recorded it.”
“I’d worked with Brian before, so I knew what I was getting into,” Ross says of recording with Olive. “He plays the producer role. Other than the tape and the analog and all that crap, Brian’s got a good ear. He’ll tell you, ‘I think that should stay’ or ‘How about this?’ On our song ‘Burning in Hell,’ in the middle part, the words are backwards, so it sounds like Laura is possessed. That was something Brian did. It was our idea to have a percussion breakdown (in the song) and I was really happy with how it turned out, but Brian has other tape machines that he uses for delay and stuff, and I think he accidentally had it on reverse on a vocal track, and he heard it and it was like, ‘Oh shit, what was that?’ It was his suggestion to put it over the percussion part and when he mixed it we thought it was really cool so we kept it.
That’s why we go to Brian.”
“It actually came on by itself, playing at a slow speed, backward, out of nowhere,” Laura adds. “It’s terrifying to hear it. If you listen all the way through on our vinyl, and let it play a little longer, that’s exactly what Brian heard in the studio that night. He emailed it to me and I was like, ‘That’s scary as shit.’ Then he figured out a way to include it in the one song.”
As has been typical of Electric Citizen’s unexpected, fast-lane success, Riding Easy Records label owner/operator Daniel Hall caught wind of the band’s sessions and contacted the Dolans with an offer to release the album. It caught the Dolans slightly off guard.
“We’d been introduced to (the label) and they really liked our music,” Laura says. “We’d finished the album and we were putting together press packs to send it off to labels, and that’s when we were introduced to (Riding Easy). Daniel has a really cool vision for his label that really resonated with us; we got into talks with him before we were able to shop it anywhere else, but everything made so much sense, we kind of went with our gut. We said, ‘You’re a new label, everything about you is right for us, and we want to grow with you.’ It’s been the right move, I think. He did a great job with our release, we enjoyed working with him and he’s got a lot of other great bands on the label.”
Although the album officially came out July 1, the hometown release show had to be put off to accommodate a string of dates opening for The Budos Band in early July and a similar stretch of opening gigs for Wolfmother’s West Coast run in late July. As the Dolans were knee-deep in all of the road activity, they were also desperately trying to keep up with the feedback from Sateen’s advanced release to the media, almost all of which was positive and much of which referenced heavy Rock from the ’70s and similarities to early Black Sabbath.
“We can’t keep up with the reviews,” Laura says. “They’ve been really positive and we’re thrilled every time one comes through. It seems to be resonating well with people and that’s all you can hope for when you make music. I can tell you, I do like it when we’re not considered time travellers trying to do a Retro Rock thing as much as we’re pulling from (a bygone) era and creating something that’s meant to be here and now. There’s a distinction between the two. We have elements from the past that we appreciate — some of our favorite music is from then — so we study that and understand that the warmth of analog recording is part of what makes us love that music and so we want that for our music.”
Electric Citizen has been almost pathologically busy these past several months, maintaining a relentless touring regimen. That won’t be changing in the foreseeable future; the album release show at the Northside Tavern this Friday could well be Electric Citizen’s only local appearance for some time to come.
“It’s been busy but really fun,” Laura says. “We played five weeks out with Fu Manchu (across North America) and there were a couple of headlining shows intermixed to get us home and back. We played the Copperhead Festival (in Illinois) and opened the main stage for Joan Jett, which was really exciting. I got to meet her and she saw our set and liked it. That was probably the most flattering thing that’s ever happened to me.”
In addition to roadwork, Electric Citizen has been working up new songs and is more than halfway done with enough material for a new album. The group used one of the new songs (grudgingly, if you ask Ross), “Ghost of Me,” for the B-side of the 7-inch vinyl release of the single “Light Years Beyond.” The Dolans say the band is equally happy to hit the studio or the stage.
"That's our favorite thing, the writing,”
Laura says. “Any chance we can get together and have a practice and be
working on new songs, we take it.”