Songwriting savvy and memorable melodic hooks collide with electronica on Automatic, the 12-song debut from keyboardist/ producer Chris Qualls and singer Lauren Baird, known to their ever-growing fan base as Electric Valentine. In less skilled hands, the floor-stomping beats, sliced-up stutter vocals, and huge stacks of slightly-detuned sawtooth waves might have added up to merely throwing the major sonic food groups of dance music onto one plate. In Qualls’ hands, it adds up to a lot more: a sweaty, sexy romp that’s as actively listenable as it is danceable. “I deliberately tried to avoid listening to electro, house, anything with a four-onthe- floor,” he explains. “I didn’t want to be too influenced by popular music in any genre similar to ours. Ideas that sound fresh and edgy can quickly become dated in this scene. I was listening to a lot of indie rock: Jimmy Eat World, Brand New, and Metric.”
That the album hit number seven on the iTunes dance charts makes Automatic an ironic title, because unlike many dance records, recording it was anything but: “We did the whole album in Pro Tools without any loops or drum machines,” says Qualls. “Every beat, vocal cut, drop, swell, and edit was done by hand on the PT edit grid. For the vocal stutters on ‘Binary Outbreak,’ for example, I’d run lines through Digidesign Transfuser [reviewed Oct. ’08]. I’d bus a 32-bar phrase of each line and apply some of Transfuser’s unique effects randomly. Then I’d sort through all the bounces and play with the best parts on the grid until I liked all the stutters.” Their approach to touring is no less organic: “For live shows, we have a drummer and play everything as a real band.”
Since Automatic is a free download, you can hear its standout mix of no-holdsbarred fun and meticulous attention to sonic detail for yourself, and learn why we heart Electric Valentine.