Locals: ElectroCult Circus brings its three-ring affair to Big Room Bar
Despite adopting the fantastical name ElectroCult Circus, much ofI Wanna Know (I Don't Wanna Know), the new album from the sprawling, eclectic rock collective, finds inspiration in reality. Songs are shaped by tragedy ("Heartgarden" was penned about a friend of the band who died), and, in the case of "Anthills," a general sense of political and social unease.
"Every morning we rise to the lie that we are separate," the band sings, making allusion to external forces that frequently position humans as combatants rather than entwined threads in society's fabric.
"There's always been that underlying part of me where I want to see things change," said singer/guitarist Casey Ward, who launched the group in 2001 and has been the sole constant in a 15-year run marked by change (the band has included anywhere from three to 11 members over the course of its existence). "When we had three members, I lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and we were doing anti-[George W.] Bush shows, and that was a big deal because I was in a very conservative part of the country. So it's always been there."
At the same time, Ward is quick to note he doesn't have any real answers - "I'm just pointing out, 'Hey, things kind of suck,'" he said, and laughed - noting the music can also serve a wholly escapist role, or as a means of living in some alternate reality, even if temporarily.
Concerts, in turn, can be surreal, audacious affairs that blend performance, burlesque and comedy. The band's current roster even features a belly dancer, who will perform alongside the standard array of guitarists, percussionists and singers when the crew hits Big Room Bar for a record release show on Saturday, June 11.
"You never knew what the show was going to be, other than it would be something fun and something you hadn't seen before," said Bossy Grrls Pin Up Joint owner Mike Folker, who joined ElectroCult as a guitarist a year ago after existing in its orbit for several years as a producer and occasional contributor.
Musically,I Wanna Know reflects the diversity of the group's lineup, swinging from simmering guitar jams ("White Tornado") to oddball, Ween-esque goofs ("T.M.D."). On "War Is Peace," the bandmates even experiment with spoken word, Folker delivering a beamed-in, "1984"-informed rant atop flowering, watercolor strokes of guitar.
"Nothing's off limits. We can put any random sound in there," Folker said. "There's a song in here … where part of the percussion track is me banging a mic on a table and squeaking a chair. It's a total meritocracy as far as what gets on the record. Whatever's good goes."
And while the band hasn't always functioned so seamlessly in the past - "There have been times where it was hard to go to practice," Ward said - both he and Folker feel as though the collective has hit its stride in recent months.
"I can safely say this is our best group yet," Ward said. "It's the best season of 'SNL' so far."
Big Room Bar
9 p.m. Saturday,
1036 S. Front St.,
ALSO PLAYING: Dominic Francesco, Cherry Chrome,
They're Coming! They're Coming!