Electric Six are the sort of act that just wants to know what’s stuck to the dance hall’s wall. Five of the original six have come and gone over the past nine albums, leaving singer and principal songwriter Dick Valentine alone with his vision – penning funky jams with utterly detached lyrics. “A lot of times I hold my breath for like, a minute, and then blurt out the first thing I think of,” describes Valentine of this improvised process.
Their newest album, Mustang, has 10 more danceable synthrock jams synonymous with the Electric Six sound. “Adam Levine,” the albums first single, has Valentine telling the Maroon 5 front man to “rot in hell, burn in hell,” but he insists it’s not personal.
“So I wrote a song about Adam Levine, where do you go from there? How does he make you feel?” Valentine asks, “I’m trying to be honest, but hate is not the word I used. A lot of people don’t like him, but lets take a walk through Adam Levine and see what happens”
Their other fan-led single, “The New Shampoo,” is a Queen-indebted falsetto disco explosion. At face value it merely details the fantasy world of men in shampoo commercials with depraved detail, but there’s subtext to consider.
“It’s gayer than ‘Gay Bar.’ ‘Gay Bar’ was actually pretty gay-neutral, but ‘New Shampoo’ is very, very, pro gay,” Valentine relates without much more detail.
L.G.B.T. activism has always been an important subject for Electric Six, leading to awkward fan interactions. “We’ve heard it all before, like people saying, “I love ‘Gay Bar,’ but I’m not gay!” We’re still having this conversation in 2014?” Valentine says, bemused. “Of course, we stand in solidarity with activists everywhere. In Russia, all around the world.” In light of the homophobic reputation of Russia, it’s strange that Electric Six still found a following there. “They said we’d get arrested for playing ‘Gay Bar’”, Valentine says of the write-ups before their first visit, “but everyone just had a great time. I don’t think we’d ever get arrested at all, but I’d love to get arrested in Russia.”
Every member of Electric Six has some anonymity, but Valentine has never considered giving his up. “It was this idea I had when I was 24, when I started the band, and now I’m 42, and I’m stuck with it,” Valentine says. “Sometimes people assume my name real name is Richard,” he relates, “like if I’m at a bar sometimes I’ll hear, ‘Hey, Richard!’ and after a while I realize he’s trying to talk to me.”
Creating a pseudonym has also become a requirement for the other members of the band. “When you come in to the band everyone asks what your name is going to be, and no one puts that much thought in to it,” Valentine explains. “My favourite was a bass player in another band named Frank Discussion, but I really like our guitar player, Da Ve. His name’s Dave.”
Electric Six have always loved touring the West Coast. “Western Canada has always been really good to us, it’s our best North American spot these days. We plan our tours around those dates,” Valentine admonishes. “But I’ve never really been taken out on the town before.” If you’ve always put partying with Electric Six on your bucket list, now’s your chance. And if recent disco ball sales are of any indication then they can expect a similar reception, even without the promise of an imminent arrest.
Electric Six play Venue on March 12th, 2014.
By Mathieu Youdan