Three songs. That’s all it took. For Electric Flower, it was a three song EP that introduced their sound to the world. Three songs that came together in the span of a few days, from two men who’s collaboration was the result of two incredibly chance meetings on different sides of the world. It feels like the three songs on their debut EP were meant to be. Songs created by the cosmos or some greater being that put Imaad Wasif and Josh Garza together. The stripped down work of one guitarist and one drummer- the melodies and sounds of a band three times as big. We sat down with Electric Flower to find out how it all came together, and to get a sense of where it was all going. Read their first interview as Electric Flower- an unveiling of things to come.
“I have an ‘eyes wide open’ approach to the world, and that’s where a lot of my lyrical influences come from,” said singer and guitarist Imaad Wasif. That approach has lent itself to the creation of one of the most exciting new bands of this year and next. Imaad Wasif has had a storied solo career as a respected vocalist and guitarist. He’s played in bands such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and his last solo record The Voidist received positive reviews across the board. Josh Garza calls upon his experience in Secret Machines, a band that was well received by adoring fans, as a platform to expand his drumming and vision with Imaad. Together they are Electric Flower, and recently they’ve put out an EP and played their debut show at Harvard and Stone to a packed house.
The two are highly regarded in the local and international music community and have accomplished a great deal already, but the way they talk about Electric Flower gives you the sense that there is something special with this band that Imaad and Josh had not found before. Their story is just beginning, and it’s interesting to hear Imaad call upon his early concert and musical experiences as we talk. As he reflects on the things that inspired him to be a musician, I can’t help but think songs like “Four16″ and “Circles” are being played to impressionable music minds and ears across the globe. It’s impossible to know right this second what future musician Electric Flower is currently inspiring, but it’s definitely happening and those musicians will be better for it.
Imaad was especially taken back by Nirvana in the early 90s. “Nirvana wasn’t a complete story yet, we only got a part of it. It’s amazing to see a band have an impact on people like that with only part of their story revealed,” reflected Imaad. The theme of revelation is constant as we talk. There is the revealing of their music in their first EP, and the revealing of new songs in their first few live performances. There is also a greater sense of revelation regarding the true nature of music and rock and roll in particular with Electric Flower. Seemingly comfortable with the idea that their music and sound will be created organically, they are also concerned with doing things the right way. For them, the right way is playing loud and with emotion, and making sure that the music continues to be an expression of art and creativity. That’s why Electric Flower is the most exciting new band we have talked to this year. With a grasp on their musical influences and an appreciation for those who came before them, they are moving their music forward with only one rule, and it’s the most important- rock and roll should never be a compromise.
Rabbits Black (RB): Tell us how Electric Flower became the band it is today.
Imaad: We met on Top of the Pops (a British music television program), I was touring with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the time and Josh was playing there with The Secret Machines. I was trying to get to the bottom floor, and we got stuck on an elevator together. The rest is the unveiling of the flower.
Josh: What’s funny is that you meet people along the way when you are in a band and you are touring and staying busy. You never know how its going to come back. Because most people you just never see again, or maybe you touch base or get in line with, but in this situation we actually met again. In hindsight its funny, but at the time it’s like “Ya, I got stuck in an elevator with a guy, whatever”. It’s no big deal, but years later you have to answer that question, you have to talk about it and its funny.
RB: When did this happen?
Imaad: In 2006.
Josh: Here we are years later, and imagine picking any random moment in your life 6 years ago and looking back and saying, “Oh ya, what about that incident!” It wasn’t a big deal then. It was funny though, because we were the only two brown dudes in the building!
RB: After that chance meeting at Tops of the Pops in London, how did you meet again?
Josh: We just ran into each other again in LA. It was great because I was really bored and itching to play and I saw this guy (Imaad). This guy plays guitar, he is wicked- dude let’s jam! And I remember at the time saying, “Let’s jam”. And he was busy and had things going on, and I totally caught him off guard. I’m like let’s go, and he’s like “I haven’t seen you in awhile, how’s it going?”
RB: Shortly after that meeting, I believe “Circles” was recorded a few days later. Correct?
Imaad: Ya, the whole thing has had a momentum of its own. It’s been pretty amazing. Josh and I went down to my studio and we don’t talk a lot about the ideas, they just sort of happen. We trust that there is not something we have to follow.
RB: Was the early recording and writing sessions more of a jam session? Or was there some structure?
Imaad: It’s not coming out of a free for all jam, we both have a vision that just creates itself. We definitely have with this project, things we are both bringing to the table. Me, in particular, having experimenting a lot with different tunings, and I always wanted to be in a rock band where I could explore these tunings. With Josh I just figured it out, maybe a couple of weeks ago, the way he plays and something really particular to his sound as a drummer lends itself to being in a two piece band and feeling like there is nothing missing. He’s creating a resonance that is actually filling up the space.
RB: Is that part of the challenges and difficulties with a two person band?
Imaad: This is definitely a new experience for me. A challenge.
RB: Is there a big difference between your approach with Eletric Flower compared to the other bands you have been in?
Josh: I think fundamentally, for me personally, they are the same as in that they are both pure expression. Both projects allow me the basis for whatever it is I want to say- this is my platform. And that’s the only way to be in band in my opinion. You can play for other people and do what they tell you to do, or you do your thing. In this band, I can continue that trend. And what I think makes it obviously easier is when you have two people. Personally I am amazed when bands show up with five people, cause I don’t even now how they arrange rehearsals. Its hard enough with just two people. So I think its slightly easier- the ideas tend to be quick, we make executive decisions quick. It helps the music to just go go go, and allows us to be more creative. That’s one thing I see that is sort of different from Secret Machines. Even if its just one person, we were three in Secret Machines, but one person exponentially takes it up a notch in terms of bullshit. Imagine four or five or six people- I don’t want to even imagine it!
RB: What drives you as musicians?
Imaad: The thing that gives me the most faith in this project is this realization of the most primitive aspects of music. Those are things that I’ve always been drawn to musically that I’ve heard. Really old records, old records that inspired me growing up, minimal Eastern Indian drone records. With this project it’s all there, but its the most stripped down that it can be. We are both dedicated to this idea of getting right to the core of things. That is one of the most inspiring things about this project. We don’t have anything to hide behind. Taking that step to unveil that to the world, to actually hear what you guys are hearing.
RB: What’s next for Electric Flower?
Josh: We already started recording the record, probably around 70 to 80% done with. Still missing some vocals and obliviously mixing. In a weird way this EP was the beginning, but we are already past that. And these weren’t the only songs we had. When we recorded these songs, we didn’t do it saying let’s record for an EP and pick the songs. We had a buddy who was going to give us a day to record- so we said let’s go in! We had this song, and this other guy wanted to record these songs because they lent themselves to the situation. And we just did it. And it was surprising when we found out somebody was interested in putting these out there. Its kind of like the momentum that was generated then has continued. Its funny because its going to be the same band, but it feels like the songs have evolved more. If you like the EP, you are going to really love where we are going. And if you don’t like the EP, then you’ll love where we are going. We already have taken some steps. We already feel like “Four16″ and “Faces” are songs we love playing, but we have other songs we are even more excited to play. We are excited about the album, it’s really going to knock some socks off!
RB: What is one thing you want fans out there to know about Electric Flower?
Josh: Bring ear plugs. We play loud. There are some rules in rock n’ roll, and that’s an important one. We are trying to make sure we follow those rules. At the Harvard and Stone show, there were two girls in the front plugging their ears- but they were smiling! That’s who we play for. Not the bartender or club manager in the back telling us to turn it down. We play for the fans in the front smiling.