By Zooey Mae
What started out as a one-man recording project in the gray city of Portland has grown into a fully realized band that garnered wide praise and acclaim in the great Northwest. Soon after founding member Kirk William Ohnstad released Hello Electric’s first record, Soundwaves, fellow Portland favorite Portugal. The Man asked Ohnstad to tour with them as their guitarist following the release of their new album, Church Mouth. Hello Electric took on its current form when Ohnstad joined forces with Zachary Bendt and Henry Gibson. Hailed for dark, dynamic and intense live shows combining primal aggression with a feverish electronic pulse, Hello Electric’s elemental sound combines an explosive energy with native minimalism.
In early 2010, Portugal. The Man front man John Gourley took the reins to produce Hello Electric’s next LP. The resulting album, Skychief, culminated in a dark and haunting beat-driven album with vocal layering and memorable hooks. Ohnstad was kind enough to talk with Synthesis about the band’s music, cosmonauts, and of course, the perils of tweeting pictures of one’s balls.
What was the original goal in starting a one-man band? Did you see it evolving the way it did, and how was that changed with the addition of the other members?
Well, the band originally formed out of a recording project. The goal, as always, was to be a constructive addition to music in general. When Hello Electric started playing live, new elements such as performance, rhythm and dynamics expanded the ability and boundaries of the band’s sound.
How has the overall sound changed between each album?
Being that there are only two Hello Electric albums out, I suppose many parallels can be made between them. It’s probably better left for future reflection, I suppose…
What band(s), (dead or alive) would you most love to play a show with and why?
Bill Withers – no explanation needed really. Elton John – Greatest Hits Volume II. The Bacon Brothers – Kevy!
Describe your music writing/creating process?
Our song writing process is hard to pin down, as it is constantly changing. It’s not about where we are or what we’re doing, or even a matter of consistency for us; it’s a vision that takes on its own form and just happens. That’s a difficult question to answer.
What has it been like working with Portugal. The Man’s John Gourley?
It has been awesome. Those guys are great friends of ours. We have learned a lot from their musicianship and their ability to create such a niche, distinctive sound. We are really fortunate to know those guys.
What’s next for Hello Electric?
We’re releasing a new album that will hopefully be out by early next year. We’re playing shows and an animated music video is in the works…you know, lifting weights and taking numbers, the usual!
How do you think the atmosphere of the Northwest contributes to the dark, raw sounds of your music?
It rains all the fucking time here. I think that attributes to a working isolation, so to speak… It literally forces you indoors. Some like to get busy in this environment. It helps me focus sometimes. I never really thought about that actually.
What are your major influences?
Marvin Gaye, AIR, Thelonious Monk.
Ultimate goal for Hello Electric? Any major projects in the works?
Our ultimate goal is to play shows in hopes to save enough money to be the first band to play in space. And realistically in our lifetime, it will be in the space station that we’ll have to get to via those damn cosmonauts!
What’s Hello Electric’s official position on this whole Anthony Weiner/inappropriate photo situation?
Sorry, I was just tweeting a photo of my balls…what were you saying?