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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Behind the Music: The Anti-Electrics

They were about to embark on a journey together. Fulfilling a life-long dream. Little did they know it would change their lives forever. 

One boring, lonely weekend in suburbia hell, Malcolm and Tori found themselves agreeing to form a band. And not just any band, oh no, they were forming a rock band. Their prior knowledge of being in a band was limited. Malcolm once played organ at his church and had spent many weekends with friends playing guitar in their living rooms. Tori had once played clarinet in her school's band in middle school. Neither one of them could sing, so they immediately agreed to look outside their coupling for vocals. They chose their instruments easily enough, Malcolm on guitar and Tori on drums. Settling on a name would prove to be much more difficult.

After tossing around various different ideas, Malcolm suggested "Fuzzy Electric Peaches" while Tori wanted "The Fraggles". 

"'Fuzzy Electric Peaches' evoked images of hairy vaginas in my mind. I really didn't want our fans to associate us with twats sporting five o'clock shadows. I was against that name from the start," claims Tori.

She told Malcolm as much too, and he explained that that was the whole point of the name. Seeing no compromise in sight, Tori suggested they decide what direction they wanted their band to head in, theorizing that this would make the name choice easier.

Malcolm saw folk rock in their future. Tori was envisioning alternative/punk rock.

As legend tells it, Tori became exasperated and discouraged by her and Malcolm's differences and feared for the fate of their band before it even had a chance to exist. She told Malcolm to go ahead and name the band whatever he wanted, but for the record, she was "anti-Electric".

And a band was born, and they called themselves The Anti-Electrics.

"I was okay with the new name, but I insisted we add the 'the' to it," interviews Tori, "All great bands have 'the' in their names, The White Stripes, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Black Keys, The Shins."

The Anti-Electrics began their tour in New York City, where the crowd received them well enough. As a cover band, Malcolm and Tori discovered creating a set list was no easy task. Malcolm favored The Beastie Boys and Survivor while Tori preferred the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bikini Kill and Interpol. They agreed on Beck, Radiohead and Talking Heads.

As their skill level and ability to please the crowd increased, so did The Anti-Electrics' consumption of whiskey and beer during performances.

"I wouldn't say our alcohol use really affected our performances at the start, but I did notice as we gradually began booking more shows, our stage fright disappeared and our awkward nervousness became nonexistent. I think, in the beginning, the booze really helped to loosen us up and make our performances more entertaining." Tori laughs, "I remember this one show, it was between sets, and Malcolm and I were joking around backstage and I remember we had had a few drinks, and I couldn't find my drumsticks, and I said to Malcolm, 'Hey, man, have you seen my guitar sticks?'" Tori chuckles, "To this day I still refer to them as my 'guitar sticks'. It became a running inside joke between Mal and I, you know?"

As their popularity grew, so did their need to hire a manager. Much to Malcolm's dismay, The Anti-Electrics decided to hire a real manager, resulting in the firing of his mother. 

"I remember Malcolm took that pretty hard," interviews Pete, former vocalist for The Anti-Electrics, "I had only been with the band for a few months, I think I was the third, no, maybe the fourth singer they had hired, any ways, I started with the band just when its popularity took off and we were in need of a real manager. Mal's mom had been doing the job for years, but she just wasn't able to bring in the big shows."

Now booking shows in cities like Boston and Chicago, The Anti-Electrics were quickly becoming a household name. As the pressure to put on stellar performances increased, so did the distance between the band's founding members. 

"You know, from day one we wanted to go in different directions. We tried to compromise with our song selections, but it was hard for both of us to play certain sets. I remember there were plenty of times Mal had to carry the set on stage. I just couldn't get into the groove, you know? But, then again, there were times when the crowd was on the verge of booing him off stage. Looking back on it now, I guess I should have known in Boston that the pressure was really beginning to come between us," Tori interviews.

The fame began affecting Malcolm and creating resentment within the band. Malcolm started spending the band's money frivolously and took to performing shirtless. Tori retreated further into the comforts of her own punk/goth style while the image of the band changed as frequently as the band's lead singer and bassist. It wasn't unusual for fans to attend two shows in the same week and discover that half of the members had been replaced in between shows. Again.

At the end of their tour in Boston, The Anti-Electrics finally fell apart. 

"We'd been at it forever, it seemed. It was just one show after another. We were drinking too much, eating too little and Mal had taken to doing drugs in between sets. Nothing serious, just a little Mary Jane here and there, but it was definitely affecting his ability to perform on stage," Molly, former singer for The Anti-Electrics, explains. "Tori was really holding her own out there, and she was always the most energetic performer on stage. I know she was ready to continue the tour onto Chicago and even San Francisco, but it just wasn't meant to be."

The crumbling of The Anti-Electrics was even becoming evident to hard-core fans and dedicated crew. Shows were frequently being interrupted, often in the middle of songs, to replace old, malfunctioning instruments and equipment.
"No one wanted to come out and blame Malcolm for the problems the band was having, but we all knew the truth. We all knew," claims Rat, a former roadie for The Anti-Electrics.

After only a short time touring together, Malcolm finally admitted to the band that he wanted to end the tour early so he could "take a break." Tori, who'd been with him from the beginning, took it the hardest.

Tori reminisces, "It hurt, it really did. I don't want to say it wasn't expected, we all knew it was coming, but I was hoping we could at least make it to Chicago before Mal bailed out. He was struggling though, and our music was suffering. Despite it all, we had good times together. Good times."

Since the band's break-up, Tori has become a rock journalist, chronicling the lives of bands much like The Anti-Electrics, cover-bands with big dreams and even bigger underlying resentments and grudges. In the heart of their career, The Anti-Electrics hired and fired a total of eight lead singers and an equal number of bassists, all of whom have moved on to better things. Malcolm hasn't made a public appearance since The Anti-Electrics last show in Boston. Some believe he has found comfort in his bed, much like Brian Wilson had. Tori remains hopeful.

"I'd still like to believe that The Anti-Electrics will reunite and go on tour again. I have hope that we will make it to Chicago and maybe even San Francisco someday. I'm not giving up." Tori holds up her hands and winks, "These hands will hold guitar sticks once again, man, you can be sure of that."

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Krista said...

What is this?

One Blonde Girl said...

@ Krista- I played Rock Band for the first time this weekend. Decided that instead of just saying that, I would turn it into a more interesting account.

Patricia ~ The Naked Writer said...

awesome read! Very interesting...I love the way your brain thinks...I feel like I should put a 'g' on my forehead for gullible ;o)

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