A simple suggestion over email between Electrelane colleagues was all it took to reunite the English act after a near four-year break.
“I can’t remember who brought it up,” says Electrelane’s keyboardist, multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist Verity Susman down the line from her London home. “We were keeping in contact via email over the years and someone mentioned it at the start of 2011 and we thought, ‘Yeah’, because we’d missed playing together.”
Reforming in February 2011, Susman and her band mates decided the time was right to rehearse for appearances at summer festivals throughout England and wider-Europe last year. And it wasn’t long at all before they found their way back to the musical fold.
“Our first gig was last July at the Rock’n Coke festival in Istanbul, Turkey and since then each show has relaxed the band,” explains Susman. “After one or two shows it didn’t feel like we’d had four years in between and it was amazing how it all came back!”
With the band in preliminary talks about the possibility of new material, the quartet will tour Australia this month with a renewed sense of vivacity. Susman informs Broadsheet that Australian audiences can expect to hear a slew of back-catalogue tunes and a cover of Smalltown Boy, the 1984 hit by UK synth-chaps Bronski Beat, which Electrelane have been pulling out since returning to the live arena.
“We’ve been talking about writing through SoundCloud, which we’ve never done before. It’s a completely different way of working but interesting to try, but at the moment there’s no definite plans,” says Susman regarding a new album.
Originally formed in Brighton, England in 1998, the female foursome was globally revered during the 2000s for their unique brand of post-rock, pop and electronic-fused intellect. Over the course of four albums over a six-year period, the ensemble continued to explore the outer realms of curious, experimental soundscapes.
But unbeknown to many, it was tough going with the band continually struggling to make ends meet. Susman cites financial issues and burnout as being just two of the many reasons that Electrelane disbanded in late 2007. “A lot of people can know about you but that doesn’t turn into money, especially when you are in an indie band opposed to a mainstream one,” she says.
And aside from general music industry disillusionment, Electrelane’s members also wanted to explore other professions, international landscapes and even the world of academia, with both Susman and bassist Ros Murray shifting their focus to attaining PhDs.
Susman sought her PhD in International Politics before withdrawing mid-way to undertake a course in Studio Composition. Murray took an even more impressive route, recently completing her French Literature doctorate on Materiality, Mediation and the Problem of Representation in the work of the 20th century French realist and playwright Antonin Artaud.
“I think we just all wanted to go and do different things and we’ve come back to playing feeling fresher and more mature,” explains Susman of the members’ current vocations, which also find half the Electrelane line-up living in the U.S.
Drummer Emma Gaze resides in Los Angeles with her spouse and has worked for a scenic painter and as a music supervisor, while Chicago-based guitarist Mia Clarke has continued her music critiquing; writing for the likes of The Wire, The Guardian, Pitchfork Media and Time Out Chicago.
It was clear that even from Electrelane’s first release, 2001’s Rock It to the Moon, that the women had their own spin on things. Largely instrumental, the record bled out a slew of sonic opulence and marked Electrelane’s arrival on the scene over some 70-odd minutes.
Two albums followed with the band working alongside revered engineer/producer Steve Albini in 2004 (The Power Out) and 2005 (Axes), before parting after their fourth record No Shouts, No Calls in 2007. It was quite a ride for an act who never conformed, and who always hunted its own interpretation of a manic, musical utopia.
Susman tells Broadsheet that if and when the band does write new material, they’ll lean heavily back to the dynamisms heard on their 2001 debut and 2005’s sporadic, investigational mood piece, Axes.
“We’d want the record to be very heavy, primarily instrumental and something quite psychedelic I think,” concludes Susman. Bring it on.
Electrelane play the Corner Hotel on Friday March 23.