Electric Empire
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Electric Empire

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia | INDIE

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia | INDIE
Band Alternative Soul




"Electric Empire - Electric Empire"

Electric Empire is a love song to early ‘70s soul. Dennis Dowlut, Jason Heerah, and Aaron Mendoza of Melbourne, Australia mine more than the sounds; they straight lift the spirit and feelings of those times. More than a retro-soul gimmick, the Electric Empire band delivers something authentic, true, but undeniably familiar. Referred to by the band as “soul searching” music (no relation to the classic Average White Band album), in achievement the music here seems to have found what it was searching for. Writer, producer, musician and vocalist Dennis Dowlut does the legacy of his brother and former music partner, Darren Dowlut (of Disco Montego fame), good with songs that echo an era without completely ripping it off. Every complaint made about contemporary radio R&B by fans of organic soul is answered by an album of stellar original tunes that feel as though they’ve always been here, like family.
Independently released, written, produced, arranged and engineered by the Australian trio with co-writing help from Darius Mendoza and Rob Woolf, their self-titled debut has all the technical production and mastering values of a major label offering. Yet, there is an undeniable warmth and nearly a jam session feel to the proceedings. The songs can blend into one another if one isn’t being attentive, but in both chords and rhythm there is definitely musical variance from track to track. It’s just that in an day of schizophrenic albums trying to appeal to multiple audiences it is rare (and refreshing) to hear such cohesion and continuity married to diversity.
Dennis Dowlut’s contribution here makes one want to go search out the Top 40 hits he and his brother, Darren, created as Disco Montego and as a much sought-after production team for such artists as Mariah Carey, Elton John, Daniel Merriweather and Jimmy Barnes before young Darren’s untimely demise from cancer in 2005. It is unclear whether the Dowult-Heerah’s lyrically ambiguous “Brother” is written in memoriam; the emotional tune is itself unusual for seeming to take the perspective of a heavenly brother talking to his lost and grieving brother here on Earth: “Brother, in these words of comfort you will find/There’s a place made of the purest kind/Sending love from up above.”
With seasoned musicians Aaron Mendoza and Jason Heerah joining Dowlut, the band’s musical voice is definite, clear and distinctive, if not always fully its own. At least three songs can be accused of following the 1970s Stevie Wonder template too closely, out Glenn Lewis-ing Canada’s Glenn Lewis on the environmentally conscious “Life Again”; and the reverb-enriched ballad “Then It’s Over” is Innervisions or Fulfillingness’ First Finale ready for a generation that never heard the originals. The country acoustic “Because of Yesterday” could have easily been an outtake of “Happier Than The Morning Sun” from Wonder’s Talking Book.
The hip grind of “Little Things” rivals bluelight-in-the-basement jams like Heatwave’s “Always and Forever.” The sweeter side of Motown on “I Just Wanna Give You” is pure Marvin Gaye, but early Marvin. The audible inspirations are as varied and predictable as any influence roster call you’d hear from any soul artist who’s done his homework, from Mayfield to Green. The difference is these guys actually pull off a kind of roundabout emulation with skill and an easy, laidback approach that belies the 10,000 Gladwell hours it must have taken to master such calculated casual in capturing the Silver era of soul. Think Donnie’s Colored Section, but with diction.
The three men share lead vocal duties and are competent in guiding their particular songs to emotionally satisfying ends, particularly Aaron Mendoza. While never unattractive, the leads’ flights of falsetto fancy are not always pristine and there are the occasional pitch problems. The “pitchiness” on such songs as the bonus track, “Love,” is minor and fleeting, and overall the tonal imperfections benefit the natural feel and sincerity of these male tones. Electric Empire feels like homegrown soul singers instead of manufactured pop stars or riff crazy, church-bred technician. In beautifully masculine harmony, their brash to soothing voices never fail to complement one another, particularly in the flawless acapella opening of “Always.”
Flashes of lyrical genius like the awareness-raising melancholia of “Life Again” and panoramic “Always” or the heartfelt simplicity of “Little Things” and “I Just Wanna Give You” invite eyebrow raises to the comparative Hallmarks of “Baby Your Lovin’,” “Everything I Am,” and “Have You Around.” Though nothing outright clunks, with even the aforementioned compositions’ words and music merging seamlessly; in lyrical consistency there is room for growth.
Nonetheless, artistically so much is right here that the prescient idea that U.S. radio will likely ignore the rise of this musical empire seem like a crime before God. Like their equally brilliant and unsung peers, UK’s Mamas Gun, the potential for timeless excellence is ever present, immediately catapulting Electric Empire into one of the world’s top five soul bands to watch. Highly Recommended.
By L. Michael Gipson - Soul Tracks

"Big Sound Live 2012 Recap"

I’d seen Electric Empire before supporting Fat Freddy’s Drop and Aloe Blacc, and third time around they did not disappoint. They lure you in slowly with their soulful sound and just when you think you’ve got their act figured out – bam – they take it to a whole new level.

Music to bang to. (Katie)

You know one of the things I love about live music? I love the discovery of someone new. I love it when you're just hanging out, chatting with friends and then from the stage a sound starts that you just can't ignore or a person appears that you just can't take your eyes off. Electric Empire did just that. They had me captivated for their whole set, simple grooves and beautiful harmonies from such delicious voices, yep, thirty minutes and you can declare me a fan. Must. Hear. More. (Jo)

Electric Empire were one of the nicest surprises of Bigsound. Katie said we should check them out and I'm glad she did; they were all kinds of awesome. Having not one, but three amazing vocal-instumentalists in your arsenal is something a lot of bands would kill for. They've got a new album coming out soon. I think I'll have to buy it. (Matt) - It's My Kind Of Scene

"Electric Empire - Changin'"

I’m often quoted as saying that ‘such and such band will be huge’ or ‘watch out for these guys’. It’s very easy to fall into these clichés review after review – particularly when writing about young bands with only an EP to their name.

Prepare to be whacked over the head by that cliché, because Electric Empire are already going places fast. Their incredible blues and roots stylings are garnering international attention as they’ve graced the stage at the infamous Glastonbury and even managed to venture to Kazakhstan for a performance. If the bands they’re supporting are any kind of inkling as to their level of talent – Electric Empire have gone on the road with the likes of Aloe Blacc and Mayer Hawthorne.

All of this is on the back of their debut, independently released record in 2010. Long story short – they’re bloody good.

Which brings us to a new EP, Changin’, and it’s clear that nothing’s changed in the
caliber of performance on this latest offering from the Empire. What has changed a bit is the balance of the range of influences the band take – with the roots sound taking a lesser role in comparison to those funk and soul gems that the band brazenly lather each track with.

The title track rings of soul, blues and Britpop as Oasis undertones mask the
ladsy soul vocal hooks that span the entire record. A string section towards the end is particularly resonant with Noel Gallagher-penned track What a Life, which is a comparison I never expected to make with a soul record.

There’s no wondering why it was that Aloe Blacc took these guys on tour with him, because the following two tracks keep up the pace. Taking It High is another soulful masterpiece and Hello Mr Morning doesn’t let up either.

The relatively short EP culminates with a live performance of a staple of the Empire’s sets: Love. Recorded in Sydney, it sounds as crisp as you imagine it should.

There’s not much more to say other than to implore you to listen. It’s only going to take you twenty minutes to give it a go and I guarantee that after one minute you’ll be hooked anyway! - Music Feeds

"Electric Empire, Oxford Art Factory – Sydney 02/11/2012"

Consistency is something that eludes many bands, especially in this day and age of disposable music and YouTube fads. One band that proves time and time again that they are the real deal is Australia’s own Electric Empire. Having seen this four-piece on numerous occasions, from their debut album launch back in 2010 to support slots and festivals, and through lineup changes, one sticking point with this band is that they always deliver soulful goodness. This past Friday at Oxford Art Factory in Sydney was no different.

From the moment the curtain lifted and Electric Empire graced the stage, the crowd instantly surrendered themselves to the band’s capable hands. The crowd asked to be filled with funky soul music, and that’s exactly what the band gave them. Looking out at the crowd, I was hard-pressed to find a person not grooving, not smiling, and not singing along to the songs. From the favourites from their debut album such as Baby Your Lovin’ to tracks off the recently released Changin’ EP, such as Takin It High, (which reminds me more than a little of Fleetwood Macs Don’t Stop) the band managed to fill every crevice within Oxford Art Factory with love and joy. Not to sound too much like a peace-loving hippy, but that is clearly what this band stands for: love. It’s an overriding theme in their music, and the joy that is emitted from these talented musicians as they play only solidifies that belief.

The show flew by in a haze of that love and joy of and for music that I just mentioned, with stand-out tracks being It Ain’t Easy, which is yet to be released, and their latest single Changin’. The sublime falsetto of Jason Heerah as he smashes the drums and the stellar vocals and musicianship of both Dennis Dowlut and Aaron Mendoza – who threw in a vocoder-led Kanye/Jay Z cover and the one-line vocal solo in the encore number Love, that sent the crowd into screams by bass player Simon Olsen – all confirmed one thing. What’s that I hear you ask? Well, that one thing is what many knew heading into the OAF on Friday – that Electric Empire are here to stay, and it’s a guarantee if you experience them live that no matter how hard you try to fight it, you will leave with a great big smile on your face and a new-found or renewed respect for soul music in Australia. - Music Feeds

"Review: Electric Empire"

'Baby Your Loving' starts off promisingly and sounds like an outtake from Al Green/Willie Mitchell session. 'Have You Around' builds into a real barnstormer with explosive drums, Stevie Wonder clav and some choice fretwork and flowing horns. And talking about Stevie, 'Brother' sounds like the man himself from his classic self produced period, a little to eerie in it's likeness (be careful guys you're too good to a be a pastiche!) However despite my reservations there's no hiding the first class songwriting talent Electric Empire have and their singing/vocal arrangements blend so well on record just listen to the fab 'Always.'This is a real band who have different lead singers which gives them a double edge. The mark of a good soul band is how they tackle a ballad and 'Little Things' amply demonstrates this. This is soul alchemy that's going to shock the listener as to how good this band really are. - Blues and Soul (UK)

"Electric Empire: Water Rats"

The Water Rats, for those who don't know, is a respectfully sized establishment on Gray's End Road, in Central-ish London AND is but a well aimed stone's throw from Kings Cross Station - it was here on this sultry evening, that this unpretentious surrounding was to play host the best musical talent that OZ has produced in a fair while. So, after PAYING £4 to get in (I did pay honest!), it was a short walk through the doors at the back of the bar and into the throng of fans who had turned up to witness this exciting outfit - as we joined, the party was in full swing already, with the crowd singing in verbatum with the band's choice of delicious musical starter. Second tune 'Then It's Over' enabled EE to start to turn the heat up in the proceedings, it was at this point that this night really took off! I remember thinking to myself how in-tune both band and audience were with each other and how both appeared to be up for a truly memorable night! ...and how right I was... It was time to slow the pace a little with tune 3 as one of my favourite tracks 'Brother' from their self titled album (a hit if you release it guys) rang out. This immense track was given it's wings by the accomplished backing of rhythm guitarist Dennis Dowlet. And just as palatable was the band's glaring nod, via their music, to Stevie's '70s/Early '80s Motown sound - with not only this track but others which ensued. As each member of the band would take their turn to sing lead this evening, it was keyboard/singer Aaron Mendoza who began to command proceedings with shall we say... Well, as Monty Python would put it... "And now for something different!" And different it was as keyboard supremo, sorry extraordinaire, sorry what's the next one up from that? Anyway, Mendoza had the inspired idea of slipping something long and black into his mouth and trying to sing while it was still in there!?! …Yeah, you got it, it was a talk-box! How the Shelia's Wheels did you know that?! Tune of choice, and personally I have heard it covered to death of late, Adele's 'Rolling In The Deep." But boy, you haven't heard it like this! And man did the crowd, including me, absolutely love every last drop of this electrifying performance - complete with his skat-tastic keyboard ending! Aaron you da man dude!! Where could you possibly go after that you ask? Well how about their current cut, 'Baby You're Lovin.'' This ultra cool track was delivered with the precision of a Swiss watch as the lead vocal baton was transferred to the very capable drumming hands of Jason Heerah. You could see why he is currently rated as one of Australia's premier drummers, with the added bonus of a deeply soulful voice to match. It kinda makes you think which came first with Jason - The Chicken OR the egg… Or should I say, the drumming OR the singing! To round these words of admiration up for this amazing band I can't go without a repeat mention for Heerah's drumming skills as a 'Funky Drummer' solo (which almost looked improvised as to it's timing) threatened to steal the show! All I can say is, those sticks were talking pure unadulterated funk that night!! I also remember thinking, I don't know why, I hope he throws his drum sticks out at the end (he was that good!) - the room isn't that big and I could probably have most of my competition! All in all, it was a great concert from a superb band who have gone back to the future to mix the sounds of yesterday with the vibe of tomorrow and thus creating the most memorable of shows! - Blues and Soul (UK)

"Interview with Electric Empire"

Since their inception and launch onto the Melbourne music scene in 2009, Australia’s hottest new soul act Electric Empire have been turning heads and gaining industry respect all over the shop.

Releasing their impassioned self-titled debt album in March 2010, it’s through their live shows that Electric Empire truly shine. With three multi-talented vocalists making up the core group, the line-up features Dennis Dowlut on guitar, Aaron Mendoza on keys and Jason Heerah on drums all doubling on sensuous vocal duties.

Heavily influenced by the raw sounds of the late 60s and early 70s soul music revolution, the group play an authentic, melodic blend of early rhythm & blues and jazz that defies traditional labeling, but which the band refer to as “soul searching” music.
- Soul Tracks

"Listen out for 2011"

Electric Empire's album is one of the best albums of 2011 thus far, in my humble opinion. Sure it is very Stevie derivative, however, the music has so much going for it, that any quibbling regarding 'sounding like this track' or that track are pretty meaningless. The group hail from the other side of the planet, from where I am currently sitting! Melbourne/Australian dudes, who are currently doing their thing at Glastonbury over here, beginning the process of promoting this fine album in Europe. On the Soul circuit, they have made the perfect start by hooking up with Ralph at Expansion here in the U.K. He has hit the bonus ball with this release, which I enjoyed throughout all of the 10 tracks on offer here. Electric Empire are Dennis Dowlut, Aaron Mendoza and Jason Heerah, although it appears several other family members are involved in the creation of this fine release. The group do cite the Beatles, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie as influences, with Stevie being very influential on the tracks 'Brother', 'Then It's Over' and 'Always', all of which draw from the 'Where I'm Coming From'/'Song In The Key Of Life' era. Great it wasn't from the 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' time frame!. One thing struck me, whilst listening to this album, is that the U.K. Soul fraternity could do well to listen to this album, with a view to, perhaps, a different road forward musically, than the well trod template, which was great in it's time, but is beginning to lose it's way somewhat. Hope that is constructive and not destructive. The latter it certainly is not my intention, just an observation. This is a cracking album, which will retail through Expansion shortly, and I am convinced will sell very well. It deserves to. Incidentally, the liner notes and sleeve are very nicely designed. One of this years finest. - Soul Walking

"Live Review: Electric Empire live @ Beresford Hotel"

Electric Empire have been gathering legions of fans over the last five years and particularly the last twelve months with the release of their album and plenty of touring experience overseas and at home. What sets them apart from many other bands in the soul/funk genre is that they back up exemplary performances with strong songs and invest likeable personality into their music that comes across as entirely genuine. Drummer Jason Heerah is the undeniable focus of the band on-stage with his beaming smile and some of the most powerful and tight drumming around. He put a bomb under the crowd with his usual drum solo/James Brown impersonation showing how aware they are of the art of stage craft. All three members of Electric Empire were brilliant vocally, mining that vein of soulful r&b pioneered by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield and harmonising with a sweet cohesion. Baby Your Lovin’ was a standout track, as were a couple of new songs that showed they have the ability to head into more slightly psychedelic soul pop territory. Aaron Mendoza got all Frampton on the crowd with his talk box spotlight – leading the band into covers of Sly Stone’s If You Want Me To Stay and a crowd pleasing take on Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. From there it was plenty more hard grooves and soulful crooning as they mixed old and new songs into a set that never outstayed it’s welcome. Mention should also be made of their new bassist who was rock solid and dropped some killer runs locking in with Heerah’s drumming. Electric Empire are bound for massive success if they can keep writing and performing at this level.
- The Drum Media


Electric Empire, Electric Empire



Electric Empire is fast becoming one of Australia’s top music exports. But like many of their contemporaries, the group has taken the global route before hitting the headlines at home. And what an incredible journey it’s been.
In less than a year, the four-piece has achieved more than most others would manage in a lifetime. Electric Empire has toured the world, filling illustrious theatres and clubs, and playing some of the best-known festivals on the
In 2011, Electric Empire delivered a string of shows at Britain’s famous Glastonbury Festival, they graced the stage of London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall (2012) and played to full houses in Japan and France. The band’s music has even taken them into Kazakhstan. And along the way, Electric Empire has sold tens of thousands of copies of their debut album. For Electric Empire, the incredible ride is just beginning.
Electric Empire is comprised of Jason Heerah (drums), Aaron Mendoza (keys), Dennis Dowlut (guitar) and Simon Olsen (bass). They’re an independent-minded collection of talented musicians, songwriters and producers, where some relationships within the gang trace back a near lifetime. Between them, they call Sydney and Melbourne home, but right now they’re better accustomed to life on the road.
Those experiences are shaping the music of Electric Empire.

The group have cut a new EP CHANGIN’, which gained a full-release in the Australian market in 2012.

The recording is a follow-up to their self-funded and self-titled 2010 debut album, which has sold more than 40,000 copies outside Australia – a remarkable achievement for a fully independent release.

“On the first album, we explored the vintage sounds from the 60’s and 70’s era, the music we grew up listening to,” explains Jason. “This time around, after touring and playing so much together, we were much more aware of our sound and we’re taking that into our writing sessions.”
On the new EP, the group experiments in new soundscapes, built around strong themes and messages. It’s co-produced by John Castle, the studio mastermind behind recordings from Washington, The Cat Empire, The Bamboos, Lior and The Drones, among many others.
It’s an EP filled with heart, a collection of rich works which rise, and glow with dreamy touches. And of course there’s a whole lot of soul. “We’re opening our minds to mixing a bit of a fresher, wider sound. It’s 2012 and we’re making a record with all that history, but created with a modern feel.”
Jason, Aaron and Dennis all take turns on the lead mic. It’s a democratic process which has a life of its own. “The song tends to find the singer,” explains Aaron. “We know each others voices. And more often than not, we know who the song belongs to.” On the EP, each member of Electric Empire gets to showcase their vocal talents. The newest recruit, Simon, also lending his vocals to the mix.
Electric Empire’s story so far has been one of talent, persistence and belief. The debut track Baby Your Lovin’ received plenty of international airplay, and helped establish a sizeable following, both online and in a live setting.
The international artist community has proven to be a decisive factor. Support slots for the likes of The Brand New Heavies, U.S. soul sensation Mayer Hawthorne and Antipodean funksters Fat Freddy’s Drop and The Bamboos pushed the group into the spotlight in 2011. More recently, shows with British soul star Beverley Knight and Aloe Blacc have thrust them further ahead.
“The overall goal had always been to have international success, to play overseas,” says Dennis. “We opened that door quickly. With Glastonbury, that was our first international show. It’s rolled on ever since. Our big goal is to break big internationally. That’s what we’re all pining for.”
The promotional buzz behind Electric Empire is now well and truly humming towards that goal. British media outlets the BBC, The Sun, Music Week and Q Magazine are all turning their attention to Electric Empire. On the Continent, the likes of Radio Nova (France) and Rolling Stone Magazine have thrown their considerable support behind the group.
Electric Empire have embarked on a relentless schedule in support of the latest EP release. The band’s itinerary included five August shows in Japan, and this September they swing into Brisbane’s Bigsound, one of the music industry’s most important conference and showcase events. A headline tour in the U.K. and France has been confirmed for October. Electric Empire will showcase at the Australasian World Music Conference on November 17, in what figures to be a particularly busy month. A string of Australian summer festival and headline tour dates will follow in November, when the collective plays the Queenscliffe Music Festival (Victoria), Mullum Festival (New South Wales) and Golden Days Festival(Queensland). Electric Empire is just getting started.
“We all love to play live. There’s nothing better than playing a festival, or working with other art