Latest release: The Last Great Hope (MGM)
“Who is this biggest band in Australia?” Rusty Brown says, subverting the question about why his band is not. “I don’t know. Does anyone know? I think the reason we’re not is because we’re self-managed, self-financed and self-deprecating.”
Electric Mary have rock n roll credentials. They’ve played some of the largest stages in the world with some of the biggest names but apart from a brief period almost ten years ago their commercial impact in Australia has been limited.
“When ‘Let Me Out’ came out it got a bit of airplay on Triple M and on TV ads and stuff,” Rusty recalls. “But apart from that, we’ve just made our own way. You know, after that happened, I actually started trying to write songs that I thought Triple M would play.”
It wasn’t something he was compelled to do due to any kind of outside pressure – Electric Mary has always been an independent act – and the experiment didn’t last very long. When he looks back on it, the singer sounds rather thankful he didn’t compromise his original vision for his band by pandering to radio or anyone else.
“These days,” he says, “when I listen to something like Red Hot Chili Peppers – when you hear their new stuff, you can tell it’s them and they still have good songs but they just sound like a brand now.”
Instead, Electric Mary kept close to their roots, plying their trade in a style of rock with its foundations laid by the Stones, the Faces and Led Zeppelin, great 70s American rock and, of course, the Australian boogie and pub rock tradition. ‘The Last Great Hope’, Electric Mary’s first release in three years, features a sound that places it anywhere in the rock n roll calendar post-1967. It’s an EP in perfect keeping with the rest of a catalogue that has won them a strong following in Europe, particularly in France, a country they’ve already visited three times in the past.
“You can be 12 and start going to gigs in France,” Rusty says. “You can’t drink, of course, but you can go along. So it’s always great to meet the younger fans who come along with their parents. And you don’t get that thing like you do here where people can’t go to shows anymore because they have to stay home with the kids – they can take their kids along with them! Another thing is, the gigs are early. By 9 or 10, the gig’s done. It’s not like when you play the Espy or the Corner and you’re not even on stage at 1 o’clock, so the younger ones can come to a show without being out all night.”
The first time Electric Mary went to France they quickly learned how different the live music culture is from their home in Melbourne.
“We finished our usual set, what we would normally play here, and we started to unplug everything and the club owner came out and said to us, ‘You must play more! You have played too short,’” the singer remembers with a chuckle. “So we just played the set again! We had to, because that’s all the songs we had!”
It’s all about spreading the rock n roll word, or Spreading the Electric Love! as their recent Pozible campaign was dubbed. With $15,000 raised from fans around the world, Rusty says the band can now plan for the next five years. The beauty of such campaigns, he says, is that bands can find out who their fans really are, where they are and what they’re willing to pay for. Electric Mary now have 2015 mapped out and are already looking forward to the year after. In November they head back to Europe for shows in the UK, Spain and France, including Hard Rock Hell in Wales with W.A.S.P., Blue Öyster Cult, Krokus and Y&T. After that they’re back on home soil for an early December run through southern Victoria. Despite their popularity on foreign shores, Rusty appears to have no plans to move Electric Mary closer to them.
“I guess we just love the lifestyle here,” he says. “When we travel to another country we treat it like an adventure and we like to spend time there hanging out and having a good time. It’s the same when we go to Sydney. We don’t just drive up there, do a show and then drive straight back home the next day or the same night. We treat each trip like an adventure. It wouldn’t be the same if we were in the middle of it all the time.”