Friday, August 27, 2010

Bands in the Neighborhood: The Electric 11s

This latest installment of Bands in the Neighborhood features the Electric 11s, a new band who've played a few shows and will play at Columbia Heights Day tomorrow at 11 am, plus another show on Saturday at the Red and the Black. Here's what Jim from the band had to say:

How did you all come up with the band name?
We fought a good, long while over the band name. For the first show or two, we went by "The Sneaky Bastards". We were never thrilled with it, and even less so after Jonathan looked up the term on Urban Dictionary. So then we started throwing random stuff out there -- we went from The Bourbon Omars to White Knuckle Turbulence to Johnny and The Moondogs to The My Little Ponies (kidding). We finally settled on "The 11s" because of the Spinal Tap reference ("These amps go to 11"), and then added "Electric" to give the name a little boost.

How did the band form?
Brian (guitar/vocals) and I are old friends from grad school and play in an oft-hiatused DC-band band called Butros Butros. Brian and Jonathan used to play in an Atlanta band over ten years ago when they both lived there. Their claim to fame was opening for Quiet Riot.

The three of us started jamming late last year, but we needed a bass player. Good bass players are like high school chicks that are astonishingly rare combo of smokin' hot AND cool. We auditioned a bunch of folks and then finally found Rob through a friend of a friend. Then we found out that Rob is prone to impulsively purchase cool instruments, so we liked him even more.

How many members live in Columbia Heights? Whereabouts? (roughly)
I'm the lone Columbia Heights resident at 11th and Harvard, though I feel like I pay rent at Wonderland. Brian's down in Logan Circle, Rob's up in NW, and Jonathan is in Arlington.

Working on any records?
In April and May, we recorded our first EP, which you can listen to and download (free!) here. We're busy working up a new slate of originals, and we'll probably get back to the studio in the near future.

Gone on any tours? Any crazy or terrible tour stories?
In our brief existence, we've only had one out-of-town show, which was up at a great venue in Manhattan called Sullivan Hall. We're anticipating a return soon. As that gig makes up about 20% of our entire live-performance catalogue, that ain't too shabby I guess.

But even that one experience makes you realize why life on the road is so tough -- rock stars look like rock stars for a reason. You wake up on your buddy's hardwood floor after three and a half quality hours of sleep. You're hungover, you stink, and you're still wearing what you were the night before. But you don't have time to worry about any of it, because you've got to hop in the car and hit the road again. I was worn out after a weekend -- I have no idea how people do it for years on end.

What’s your take on the music scene in Columbia Heights and in DC?
The music scene in Columbia Heights is improving -- there aren't a ton of venues, but Wonderland and Bloom are decent music spots. As things open up along 11th, it will only get better.

DC, on the other hand, is a tale of two cities -- there's a well-established indie/punk and jazz scenes, and maybe even an up-and-coming bluegrass/Americana with groups like Junior League Band and These United States. The problem is that we're a straight up rock band -- think... I don't know... Guns N Roses meets early Wilco or something. And that scene is tough.

Even worse is the fact that we're probably DC's nerdiest band -- Brian's a respected journalist, Jonathan works at Treasury, Rob's a lawyer, and I work at a think tank (we had a good run where we where every practice began with a update and discussion of the Iran sanctions) -- and our friends and colleagues don't necessary rock out as much as we'd like them to. So breaking through can be tough.

One fixable problem, though, is playing out during the week -- one of these days, a booker somewhere is going to figure out that booking bands to start at 730 or 8 on a Wednesday brings in more business than an 11pm start. It's tough to get people out that late on a school night.

And if you had to rename your band for something Columbia Heights-related, what would it be?
I'd push for "Mr. You", no doubt about it. Mr. You (or is it "Yoo"?) owns Sonya's Market at the corner of 11th and Harvard, and I must see him between 7 - 10 times a week. I've lived in Columbia Heights since 2006, and I've probably given that guy $20k in beer, Doritos, and Washington Posts alone!

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