Electric Grandmother Brings “Sitcom Core” to Washington DC
Electric Grandmother has relocated their home base to the District of Columbia. I wrote to Pete and Mary Alice to discuss the big move, Fugazi, Alphonso Ribiero and their next album.
David: You lived in Columbus for 10 years, why did you decide to move? Why D.C.?
MA: We’d never intended to stay in Columbus forever and ended up staying a lot longer than we expected. Speaking for myself, Columbus came as quite a pleasant surprise to me, not being an Ohio native. The people, the culture, the pace and the food are just a few things that I grew to love and already miss terribly. It took an abrupt political shift with the potential to impact our livelihood to motivate us to finally leave. And I echo Pete in his assessment of the pull factors. I don’t think it’s completely sunk in yet that the White House is three miles down the street.
David: You just unleashed Sitcom Core on the nation’s capitol for the first time. How was it received?
MA: ^ Cute, isn’t he? I completely agree. After playing in front of an audience that was pretty consistently made up of friends and friends of friends for so long, it’s at once thrilling and scary and amazing to look back at brand new faces.
David: Can you describe “Sitcom-Core” for those who may not be familiar?
MA: What’s the over-under on Fugazi references in this discussion? It probably doesn’t matter what it is, I’ll put my money on the over.
David: Several years ago Pete, you and I have talked about the evolution of Sitcom Core. You said that you were moving away from the low-hanging fruit of 80 and 90’s family programming to explore more existential themes like “New Coke” and hipsters who talk like they are from England. How has your audience responded?
MA: I think he’s understating the response, honestly. Audience response has followed the same natural progression as his writing. I think it’s fair to say that England Man and Car Phone are two of the most beloved EG songs, because a good song is a good song.
David: You have a seventh album in the works. When is the projected drop date? How is your writing/recording process different now than when you released “My Imaginary Audience” in 2003?
My recording process has definitely changed a lot since 2003. For one, I used an analog 4-track back then, and was always scared that I’d wear out the tapes on playback, so often times I’d record a song and then not hear it again for months. Now since I record digitally, I can playback, tweak, adjust, doctor, and whatever to my heart’s content. The songs are less lo-fi, and have a lot more muscle now than they used to. I switched from Casio-keyboard beats to drum machines. I upgraded my synth/keyboard sound. Like I told Mary Alice before, it became a matter of wanting to be “good” instead of just “weird.” And not just for me, for her too. We invested a lot of money into our LCD Projector in 2006, and she’s really stepped her projection-game since then.
MA: Aw, thanks! I want to quickly add here, that having heard most of the songs that will go on the new album (spoiler alert!), I think the writing style has evolved (again) and listeners will either be surprised by the thoughtfulness and introspective nature of the lyrics or placated by the fact that it’s a total party up in here.
David: Will Smith recently purchased a piece of the Philadelphia 76ers… do you think Alfonso Ribeiro has ruined his dance prodigy legacy and been overshadowed by playing the role of “spoiled rich-kid Carlton Banks” in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air from 1990 to 1996?
MA: This from the man who once wrote: “Will Smith is one fine actor, I wish I could be his benefactor.” Scientology changes everything.
Pete: But anyway, regarding Alphonso Ribiero. I don’t think he ruined his dance prodigy legacy by playing Carlton, in fact, he’s probably only enhanced it since the advent of YouTube. Have you seen his “Breakin’ and Poppin’” commercial? That shit is hot. Remember when there was a rumor that he broke his neck while breakdancing with Michael Jackson? This was in the early-80’s, I’m not even sure he was on Silver Spoons yet. I was always proud that I identified him as “Alphonso” almost immediately after I saw him as “Carlton,” even though it had been several years and he was now grown up. I’ve always been pretty good at those type of TV cross-examinations.
MA: You know, I don’t think anyone becomes famous purely for being able to dance well anymore. Good dancers are pop stars too, and I think poor Alphonso is to square-headed and greasy-looking to have become a pop star. But what’s cool about him is that people remember Carlton primarily for the Carlton Dance, so he kind of got the best of both worlds, even if his remarkable dancing ability was on display in a wacky, spastic routine to the sounds of Tom Jones instead of impersonating Michael Jackson. Yes, I would say old Alphonso did pretty well for himself in the end.