Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Local Artist Spotlight - Electrik Emily - May 2012 - Local Artist - Pittsburgh

We missed a month for our local spotlight due to being out of the country, so we are making up for it now. Our feature spotlight is on Electrik Emily for the month of May. Emily was kind enough to answer our normal barrage of questions. You can also find her music streaming throughout the interview. Also find links to her sites at the bottom.

How did the band come together? Were you all friends that went to school?

Well, being a solo artist, haha, I am THE band. But I wasn’t always a solo artist. My first band was back in highschool. I wanted to be in a band, a rock, all girl, don’t mess with this, band. I saw the power that bands like Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Pearl Jam had, and I just wanted to make that kind of music. So, I made friends with 3 other girls who were interested in the same thing. Amazingly, we all went to the same highschool…they were just a grade or two below me. And it was magic! The band Midnight Peace was born. None of us knew how to play a guitar or drums when we started, but six months later, we had our first festival gig in front of a few thousand people. And we weren’t too bad either! Nothing feels quite like that first band. I think all musician’s have a special place in their heart for their first band or gig, you know? But that band, I think we were riot grrrls, and none of us knew it. It was long over by the time we started jamming. But doing it yourself, DIY, making our own flyers, t-shirts, websites, you name it. We had a hand in it all. We all idolized The Runaways before they were reintroduced to everyone, Pat Benatar, Ozzy, Def Leppard, all before it was cool to like the 80s and glam metal again. Well, when college rolled around we all went our separate ways. We still stay in touch, and all have our own projects now, but I was lucky and fortune to have such a positive and fun group of chics to play with.

After that band, I bounced around a bit. I was in a hardcore band called One Last Fight, and well, just couldn’t get into it. I tried doing some acoustic music (a duo called Exit Only) with a fellow college friend but it just didn’t have the same feel. I was also in a classic rock cover band for a while, but needless to say, didn’t appreciate being considered the token chic-accessory in the group. When I moved out to the west coast, I tried getting something together while I was in Oregon. I found a vocalist and a drummer playing lo-fi, fuzzy tunes. But I don’t know. Maybe it was the bit of a perfectionist in me, or just wanting to have my hands in all parts of the music making process that I decided to go solo. Since 2007, I’ve written, recorded, and produced all my own material. I moved to Seattle, worked with the Rock Camps, Djs, and a record label, and now, find myself back eastside in PA. It’s like I’ve come full circle.


How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?

Like Joan Jett & Cyndi Lauper had a love child. Haha. Maybe. Grit ‘n Glitter Rock. Rust-Belt Glam. There’s a new genre mashup created every day! We’re in the midst of a music retromania, so, it’s hard to talk about my music without referencing other artists, and then, everyone else comparing and referencing them to you instead of having an original critical thought about how you sound. It’s not like I’m trying to imitate, or be something I’m not, but I feel like my style is very specific to the late 80s and early 90s. A little glam-metal, a little dance, and a little grungey riot grrrl. Maybe it was the music I was hearing in the womb, and I’m channeling that, I don’t know. Ha! It’s just the style that I am write. Big choruses, big sound, big guitars. And big on meaning, and making it count.

Are you all originally from the Pittsburgh area? Families here as well?

Yes! I grew up in the Johnstown area and my family is still here. I was the sojourner, the one who traveled, went abroad, and braved the “big city” or cities as they say. Portland, NYC, DC, Seattle….concrete jungle baby!

Do you all create music full time or is this more of a part time venture?


Oh, doesn’t every musician and artist wish their craft was their full time gig? I don’t really know, at least part time I’d say, a little less right now since I’ve finished my latest album and now I’m doing the PR part. I’m always thinking musically, doing PR for myself, updating the site, tweeting, facebook, finding new contacts, writing new songs, lyrics, planning the next thing I will do. So, while I’m not getting paid a full time salary, music is always at the forefront of my thoughts and plans. I think musicians today, especially DIY artists, can never turn off unfortunately. We always have to be on, alert, creating, and marketing ourselves. There’s always been a ton of work to do as an indie artist, but I think with social media and our digital culture, there’s a lot more expected of you as far as producing non-music related content. I don’t mind too much. If someone approaches me and wants to make an “Electrik Emily” fragrance line, I’d be game. Ha. Sure, I’d like it to be a full-time thing. It’s one of the few things I can do full time without feeling empty inside.

Do you have day jobs?


Oh yes. Currently, I do some freelance web design and blogging. And some office work as well. Nothing I went to college for, haha, but isn’t that the story of anyone under 30 right now?

How do you create your music? What is the song writing process?

I start with lyrics. And they have to be written down on paper, with a fountain pen. I don’t quite know why. It doesn’t feel right typing them to start. I’ll pen the lyrics, usually at night, sometimes I’ll even wake up in the middle of the night and go “Holy shit!” and scribble something down before it’s lost. That’s how the song “Fat Grrrls” came about. It was in bits of paper scribbled down in the middle of the night. The thing with my lyrics, once they are down, everything about the song is contained in those lyrics. When I look at then, read then, play them back in my head, I hear all the other parts. The kick drum, where the cymbals crash, solos, fx, riffs, it’s all there. It’s rare that I’ll start a song with a guitar riff or synth part. Usually, the words come first, then, it all comes together from there.

Once the lyrics are down, I’ll pull the rhythm guitar part out, the bass line, then any guitar riffs and synths. Then I use FL studio to map out the drums. If I was coordinated enough, I would record the drums live….perhaps next album!

I usually don’t practice my songs very much before I record them. I’ll play it in my mind a thousand times, practice them a handful of times, then, hit my recording studio. It’s not out of laziness, or anything like that, but as a way to capture that energy a song has when it’s fresh and new. And when I record, I don’t slice and chop my parts. I do complete takes, at the minimum at least complete verses and choruses. If I mess up, or don’t like a take, I’ll start from the beginning. I mean, you only get one take on stage when you’re live, so I feel like albums should have that aura as well.

Song inspiration seems to come from conflict for me. Internal, external, something on edge. If I’m perfectly comfortable, it’s like I’ve got writer’s block. Not that I want to have something bad happen to me, haha, or I’m not happy, I’m probably the most chipper, slightly bitter person I know. I’m super gullible. But my songs seem to come from an undying angst, the need to pump my fist, dance, fight, demand some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, dig into that part of me that will never get broken, even when other parts of me are.


What are your goals for the band? What would you like to accomplish? Are you trying to get signed to a label?

Goals…..hmmm. Well, I’d love to keep putting out an album every other year or so. Get a few thousand facebook/twitter fans. Get some more airplay on PA radio stations. And tour eastside, bars, the summer festivals, you know. And revive rock and roll to its former glory! Simple stuff. Oh yes, I’d want to be signed to a label, indie or otherwise. They’re still the gatekeepers, they still have a wealth of resources and contacts that help get an artist attention, fans, and the things they need. I think artists are much more savvy when it comes to labels now, and the relationship can be much more mutual and less-screwing over. Less bad romance, if you will. Now sure, you don’t need a label to get attention. Youtube has spawned plenty of superstars, same with The Voice and Idol. But most artists, even if they get huge via social media, still sign to a major label. It seems that only after being with a major, and building a fan base do some artists go indie or create their own labels. We still need labels, I’ve work at one. And I have no problem with the services and common resources they provide.

What advice would you give to local acts trying to make it?

I’m not going to give you the usual “stay true to yourself” line or the “don’t give up” lines. Seriously, we’ve all heard that and we know. That’s not practical useful advice on how to actually make it. Advice…. well for starters, use what you got. Don’t think you need to buy that thousand dollar guitar, or expensive software to be creative. Use what you have, make it count. It shows more about you, using what you have to make music, rather than footing 10,000 grand on a mix. Sure, maybe later you can do that, but don’t feel as if you can’t because of some entry-level barrier. DIY with yourself. Don’t be afraid to just start something. The hardest thing and the toughest critic is often yourself. It makes you a better artist, but don’t let yourself stop you from even taking the first step. Two, start building a contact list of bloggers, magazines, radio stations, websites, podcasters, ect. Make a spreadsheet with all this info, their names, addresses, emails, websites, what they are looking for. Then, when you have your album, or you want to book gigs, you’ll have this massive list you can begin to email. And make it personal. Make it honest. And three, know you are a brand. Yes, you are an artists, and your craft is pure…..blahhh..blahh.. but what I mean is realize you are not just selling your music, or yourself, but often times an entire idea, concept, lifestyle, philosophy with what and how you do it. Know that about yourself, you’ll then know how to market yourself and find your niche so you can begin to gain the attention you want. Plus, a little analytics software helps too.

Have you all toured nationally? Or do you usually stay more regionally?

I’ve played in Portland, Seattle, Jtown, but it’s been a while since I’ve played regionally around here. Since I’m back in town now, I’d like to stay regionally. Build on that fan base here. I know the youth around here needs that outlet, needs the release that only rock can bring.

Being in the Pgh area, do you find it more difficult to try and succeed?

Well, the rock and hard rock scene seems to be more entrenched here than it is in Seattle. Seattle is very indie, if you don’t have that look or sound, it’s very hard to get a gig. And I’ve talked to other rock and hard rock bands there, and they all feel the same. But here in the ‘burgh, I feel like either due to the area, or because the population skews a bit older, all of the rock that influenced me is still popular and that style is something people still seek around here. I’ve just begun planning and contacting local establishments and such for booking, so I will let you know!

What are some of the obstacles you face trying to create some 'success' in Pgh?

I don’t know if this is specific to Pgh, but as a solo hard rocker, the fact that my backing band is my laptop has quite a different feel. I’d love to have a full backing band, but I haven’t found the right people quite yet. So, to play this style of music usually defaults to stacks of amps, big drum sets ect, and I feel at times not having that is a barrier for me. It makes my job harder as a performer to get that energy on stage and project that to the audience. Doesn’t mean I don’t do it, but it’s a different feel and a way of being. And as a female hard rocker, there is the tendency to focus on my appearance, or advertise me on a “ladies” night, ha, or make some sexual overture on flyers or what not. It gets old. I mean really? If I hear “you play pretty good for a girl” one more time I just might break my mic over your head. Seriously. I’m not the groupie, or girlfriend, I am the band! 


What are the positive benefits of being in the area?

I think the fact that rock is still very popular here helps a lot. I also think that while we don’t have a booming youth population, I think that breeds a fierce loyalty with fans here once you have them. They need things to do, and music is the outlet. It’s mine, and will always be. So, sure, the glitz of other places may not be obvious in Pgh, but underneath it all, there is a passion for rock, and people who live and breath it here. The grittiness and history of this area shines through and gives artists an opportunity where they may not otherwise. There are not as many musicians trying to make it here in comparison to NYC or Seattle, so you have a better chance to stand out and make your mark.

Is there a venue you have enjoyed playing more than others in the area?

Will let you know on this one!


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