Latest release: Mother (Dinner For Wolves)Website: www.facebook.com/electricmary
Electric Mary’s Rusty Brown doesn’t necessarily adhere to the philosophy that more is best. The band’s new release Mother, their fourth album and first new music in almost five years, contains only eight songs. For the gruff-voiced lead singer, it’s not the number of songs that counts – it’s whether they’re any good or not.
“This time we only did eight songs,” he says. “But we stretched it to the forty minute mark. For me it’s not about how many songs or the length. It’s an embodiment of music. That’s how much music we’ve got, not how many songs we’ve got. Don’t worry about how many songs there are, worry about if it’s good music when you put it on from the start to the end.”
It might seem to be a gamble on the band’s part to drop an album that just crosses the magic 40 minute mark. Their 2014 EP The Last Great Hope was rejected by their European label for being too short – “in Europe they don’t like EPs” Rusty says, but in a world where music both new and old appears across more and more formats all the time, he reckons that this is just the right amount of new music to add to that.
“We live in a world now where there’s a lot of music, man. You can listen to a lot of music, a lot of old music on YouTube videos, and there’s a lot of great new stuff around, no doubt. We had other songs, but this amount of songs, right or wrong, to me felt like the right amount. I guess I’m going to find out!”
The eight songs that make up Mother range from straight up hard rockers like first single ‘Woman’ to more expansive brooding tracks like the epic blues ballad ‘Sorry Baby’ and the big-hearted ‘It’s Alright’, a song that looks at personal struggle that can often lay hidden within.
“‘It’s Alright’ is actually a song about depression and anxiety,” Rusty explains, “but it’s a positive song about how we all go through something, but when you come out the other end, you’re not going to be thinking about suicide and stuff, you’re going to be surrounded by people who love you who are going to work their arses off to make sure you have a good life. When somebody takes their life, that’s a massive thing, man.”
“Let’s not get morbid,” he says, but the conversation then leads to the recollection of the suicide of a fellow band member from a period in his youth. It’s an episode that has never left him.
“I was talking to our bass player about a show, it was a Tuesday and we were playing on a Thursday, and he took his own life the next day. I had no idea, while I was on the phone, what was going through his head. I heard the words he was saying – What time are we gonna set up?, Are we gonna play this song?, How’d you go today? How’s the Swans, they won yesterday… I didn’t hear any, ‘I’m gonna hang myself tomorrow’. And that’s affected me still, over thirty years later. When I write a song like ‘It’s Alright’, which is a little different for us – it has a chorus – it’s about that: It’s all right, it’s OK. We’ll all be here when you get in. A total positive song.”
While Mother sees the band teaming up with Melbourne label Dinner For Wolves, Electric Mary remain very much an independent act at heart. Rusty has had his disappointments with record companies in the past. He admits to being devastated by a label rep’s casual remark about his song ‘Let Me Out’ many years ago: “Average at best”. The memory still seems to hurt as he talks about it. While he once tried to write songs he thought radio might play, the idea of using a formula for songwriting doesn’t endear itself to him.
“I watched this documentary on Max Martin,” he says. “He writes the songs for Pink, and lot of songs in that genre. He’s up there with the Beatles with the number of songs he’s written that are hits. He has a formula though. The chorus must come before forty seconds, and there must be six syllables of this, and it has to have this in it, and that in it.”
Martin’s formula has in fact put him behind only Paul McCartney and John Lennon as the most successful hit song writer in Billboard history, but Rusty will have none of that.
“If you look at [songwriting] that way – and I’ve liked a couple of the songs he’s written, no doubt about it – even though they’re pop songs… when he’s explained it that way, and not that he cares I’m going to say this, but that just doesn’t make it good for me,” the singer says, with a faint note of disdain in his voice. “You’ve got a mathematical formula, and the kids of today are accepting it – not just kids, adults! How many adult women love Pink? To them it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.”
As Electric Mary enters their 16th year as a band, they may not win over the masses from Pink, Katy Perry or the other pop divas Max Martin writes for, but fans of honest rock and roll should definitely not find their latest album in any way disappointing.