Some things Europeans are just great at: tailoring slim-cut suits, Cathedral-building, curling (itâ€™s an Olympic â€œsportâ€â€¦look it up), pasta, and producing the finest electronic in the world (see Daft Punkâ€™s Alive 2007, Andy Hunterâ€™s Life EP, or the backing score to the laser-dance scene in Oceanâ€™s 12 for near irrefutable evidence on this). Sure, the U.S. has made some decent contributions to this style of music (mainly Moby and ummâ€¦Moby), but the European set still largely dominates electronic music
But this may soon change. Artists like 17-year-old Dan Hunter recently inked a deal with Island Records (home of Jay-Z) under the moniker PlayRadioPlay, and is poised to take his synthed-backed sound to the Warped Tour crowd (his full-length debut Texas is out Tuesday 3/24). Couple that with the buzz factor around club acts like Young Love and Junkie XL, and the programming elements popping up in bands like HelloGoodbye, Jonezetta, and even worship group The Glorious Unseen, and it looks like American electronic music is poised to make a bigger dent in the pop world, and the musical breeding ground seems right to push a stateside act into the international spotlight (a la Daft Punk).
Two-weeks ago, I stumbled on Breathe Electric, the stage name of Grant Harris. Playing a local venue in Chicagoâ€™s southland the 19-year-old churned out songs that share as much common ground with the hooky choruses Fall Out Boy (circa From Under the Cork Tree) as they do with pulsating club tracks. After the show, I checked out his debut EP, I Wish I Lived on an Airplane. Thereâ€™s a beautiful unevenness Grantâ€™s song-craft, with his raw energy to succeed standing aside a few shortcomings. In some ways, it reminds me of Kanye Westâ€™s debutâ€¦full of good songs where the flaws actually serve to make the music more relatable to the listener.
You’re taking electronica into the punk/emo/hardcore scene. How is the response to that?
Grant: Its been pretty good actually. I grew up with music in my life so I’ve gotten a pretty good view of the majority of the “scenes” through booking shows, going to them, and playing them. I don’t think music should be something that has boundaries set by genres, because then people will never be willing to hear something new. Thatâ€™s how I like to treat it when we play shows, if kids are willing to come out and see music then they should get a taste of something different. If they don’t like it then thatâ€™s ok, at least they experienced it. We’ve played with metal bands, pop bands, you name it, and its been a good time every time.
Why do you think a live show is important? Most people who make music in your genre rarely, if ever, perform live.
Grant: Live shows will make or break an artist or band. Studios can make almost anyone sound amazing because thatâ€™s what they get paid to do. If a band or artist can pull off a live act that reflects their album or goes beyond that, thatâ€™s when I become a fan. Some live bands/artists Iâ€™ve seen that reflect this are Copeland, Misery Signals, and Ben Folds. Those guys blew me away when I saw them, they had so much passion in their music and I would like to do the same when I put on a live show. I have one of the most talented live drummers I know, my good friend Nathan, which just adds to the live show as well. When I write I put my heart into it, and when I perform I try to reflect that; if its heartfelt then hopefully other people will pick up on that and feel the same way I did when I saw those other artists.
Do you have an affiliation with any faith?
Grant: While not having any affiliation to any faith, I have nothing but the utmost respect for it. I really enjoy playing church shows because I find them to be a clean and friendly environment for kids as well as the bands playing, something that is important to me.
You live just miles from Northern Illinois University. As an artist, how do you respond to the tragedy? Will you ever write a song about it?
Grant: Having a lot of friends as well as family in the area, I was really upset when I heard what was going on there. It hit close to home as well knowing that many of the places the shooting occurred were places I used to walk everyday as a student there. I donâ€™t think I will ever write about the tragedy because I feel I could never put into words or describe the magnitude of the situation. Music can definitely be a part of healing; everyone has that band/song(s) that can make them feel better or at least perk them up a bit. Music is one of the best ways to illustrate emotion.