Breaking & Entering
A look at acts breaking at radio and retail and entering Billboard charts. This week: The Electric Six, Dwele, and the Pernice Brothers.A look at the latest acts that are breaking at radio and retail and entering the Billboard charts.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER: Two years ago, Detroit hard rock act the Electric Six couldn't afford to tour beyond Chicago. The band lacked a record label, and spent its time toiling away in forgettable day jobs. Then a British DJ discovered the band's 2001 single, "Danger! High Voltage," which just happens to feature a guest spot from the White Stripes' Jack White. Suddenly, the motor city metal act had an underground dance club hit.
Initially recorded as a bit of a joke, "Danger! High Voltage" features cheesy disco beats while Electric Six vocalist Dick Valentine screams about a "fire in the Taco Bell!" "The song itself was just a riff that our guitar players would break into and practice," Valentine tells Billboard.com. "It floated around for a number of years before we even put words to it. We just thought it was funny, so I guess it's kind of ironic that it ended up being the song that broke us."
The song has spent 12 weeks on Billboard's Hot Dance Single Sales chart, and peaked at No. 10. London-based label XL Recordings signed the band, and released a full-length, "Fire," two weeks ago.
A collection of songs that the group has recorded over the last five years, "Fire" represents the mid-point between Andrew WK and "I Was Made for Lovin' You," the 1979 hit that marked the entry of Kiss into the dance world. It made its debut last week at No. 10 on Billboard's Top Electronic Albums chart.
"We had about 80 songs to choose from," Valentine says. "So we wanted our first record to be an upbeat party record. Our next record will explore themes like religion and out-of-body experiences. We wanted to save those songs for later. Creed makes a lot of money doing that, so we think that might be the way to go."
Valentine, of course, is joking. Electric Six isn't a band that takes itself too seriously, as evidenced by the video for current single "Gay Bar," which features Valentine dressed as Abe Lincoln in bondage. "We have a lot of free time on our hands," Valentine says. "That's really all that comes down to."
Electric Six kicked off a U.S. tour Tuesday (June 3) in Indianapolis. A European tour will follow later in the month, with the band slated to return to the States for more dates in July.
READY TO STUDY: Detroit-based neo-soul artist Dwele has reaped the benefits of some well-known pals in Motown.
Dwele met the members of Slum Village at a local club, and an ensuing friendship resulted in a recording session with the old-school rap act. Dwele made an appearance on Slum Village's 2002 single "Tainted," which peaked at No. 31 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. The association with the group eventually resulted in a deal with Virgin Records.
"I released a demo album of which I only made 100 copies," Dwele recently told Billboard. "I sold those copies, and Slum got one of them. They took it to Timotheous, their management, who shopped it to a few labels. Virgin offered the best deal at the time. I wasn't really shooting for this from the jump, but when the opportunity came along, I said, 'Let's do it!'"
Debut album "Subject" arrived last week at No. 10 on Billboard's Heatseekers tally, and entered at No. 28 on the magazine's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums count. The self-produced album has a heavy hip-hop slant that's earned Dwele comparisons to D'Angelo.
Yet despite the urban beats, his inviting tenor approaches the lyrics in a friendly, conversational manner. First single "Find a Way" arrived two weeks ago at No. 63 on Billboard's Hot 100 Single Sales chart. While he's off to an impressive start, Dwele feels he has plenty to learn.
"The title song is about me looking at music as a subject the way an artist would look at a subject," says the singer. "He has to study the subject. He has to almost become one with it. In order for me to make a work of art, I have to study everything about the subject."
IT MUST BE SUMMER: "Yours, Mine, and Ours," the third album from Boston act the Pernice Brothers, is a sunny, breezy affair, with elegant melodies that are built for harmonies.
In opening track "The Weakest Shade of Blue," vocalist Joe Pernice asks for a lover's hand in marriage over a jangly guitar that brims with anticipation. Even "One Foot in the Grave," which hints at a car crash in the rain, is driven by an exhilarating '60s-influenced guitar line and pep-rally rhythm. For a bandleader who has a reputation on the indie scene as being as dour as Morrissey, the music of "Yours, Mine, and Ours" represents a surprisingly upbeat turn of events.
Indeed, when the Pernice Brothers opt to slow things down, as the group does on "How to Live Alone," the orchestrated pop recalls Wilco's "Summerteeth" (Reprise). From start to finish, "Yours, Mine, and Ours" glides along at a far more cheery pace than anything the Pernice Brothers have previously recorded.
Pernice, who made his name leading alt-country downers the Scud Mountain Boys, released "Yours, Mine, and Ours" on his own Ashmont Records, which he started with the help of some friends who had worked at Sub Pop, his former label. "Yours, Mine, and Ours" is Ashmont's second release from the Pernice Brothers, and its first to dent any of Billboard's charts. The album arrived last week at No. 45 on the Heatseekers tally.
The Pernice Brothers launch a North American tour June 18 in Falls River, Mass., and will be out on the road through July.