Straight from the Rocker’s Mouth: Rocker Stalker Interviews ELLA RIOT

Posted: April 7, 2011 in Entries

Ella Riot, better known by their previous name, My Dear Disco, is excited to present their new album, Lovechild. Recently, the self-proclaimed “dancethink” quintet sold out Pianos here in NYC, which is not so surprising given the band’s stellar stage presence, feisty lead vocalist, Michelle Chamuel, and strong affinity for electronic, disco, and synth-heavy music. Guitarist Bob Lester took time to enlighten us on everything from band name changes, music in Ann Arbor, musical influences, Lovechild, to why Ella Riot loves playing New York. Also, check out the official video for Ella Riot’s “It Could Be” below.

What inspired you to change your name from My Dear Disco to Ella Riot?
Well, it was a number of reasons really, but the short of it is that we found out about a band in Australia called My Disco that has been around a little longer than us. The awareness of that band was a catalyst for conversations about the band name, about the relative joys and stresses of being called My Dear Disco, and also a good amount of reflection about how the band has changed since its inception. With new material coming out and some new photos, we decided now was the time to rename the band. Ella Fitzgerald is a big inspiration for Michelle. In Greek, Ella means “bright light” or “torch.” Then riot: a crowd, a revolution, chaos, a party, or something hilarious. Add this all up and you get an elegant, rebellious, brightly shining torch, moving with crowds of people, spinning out of control, ending in hilarious party chaos. And we were also pretty tired of explaining to everyone “well, it’s not actually Disco music.” 🙂
What is the music scene in Ann Arbor, MI like? Who are your favorite MI bands?
Ann Arbor has a diverse and active music scene. There are a lot of amazing bands, producers and musicians representing a wide array of styles and tastes, which for us means constant inspiration is found in new sounds. It definitely has a bit more of a DIY flair, as it is not really a music industry “hub” or anything, but that is also inspiring to me about it. Some of the favorite bands, musicians, or scenes I’d shout out would be Nomo (killer afrobeat band), Celesius Electronics (funky, head-nod electro hip hop swagger), Ghostly International (quality electronic label that you hopefully have heard of already), Theo Katzman (soulful hard grooving pop music), Professor Purple (electro-house DJ producers extraordinaire), and Subvader (dust-up, UK funky producer). There are many more that I will probably kick myself for not mentioning, but so be it. Come to Ann Arbor and see the glory for yourself. That’s my best advice.
When did you know you wanted to seriously pursue music? Who were your inspirations?
I guess I feel more like music pursued me. I have always enjoyed doing a lot of different things (interests, hobbies, etc), but no matter what I got into, music was just always happening alongside it. It has sort of been the only constant interest and activity in my life. So I just can’t get away from it and it can’t get away from me. I have had a couple of musical inspirations in my family: my father played beautiful piano recreationally; great-grandparents were a composer and singer; my younger brother was always playing some kind of music on vary instruments; and, my mom and dad loved to dance to disco music in our living room. That all definitely helped. I have always been obsessed with sound and music. My inspirations at the moment are mostly electronic or old-school funk: Egyptrixx, Alex Metric, Julio Bashmore, Kraak and Smaak, Skrillex, A-Trak, Christopher Willits, Benoit Pioulard on the electronic side. On the funk/soul side, I have been listening to a TON of James Brown, and also Zapp, Rick James, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Curtis Mayfield.
On your new album, “Love Child,” which song is your favorite, and what is the story behind it?
That’s tough. I really love them all. I’ll go with “It Could Be.” I have never heard a song or recording quite like it. Tyler made the crazy ass super funky sample collage stuff that is the kind of lynchpin of the track, and that was the first thing I heard of it and it just freaked me out. That’s the story behind it for me; I just thought it was a big danceable track with cool hooks and great production. When we play it live, it really jumps too. Super fun.
Where are you favorite places to tour? What’s your best tour story?
New York/Brookyln is my favorite place to be while touring, but playing in those places can be a logistical pain in the ass. Dealing with trailers, and parking, and goddamn parking tickets (which are almost ALWAYS a part of a band visit to the city) can be pretty fatiguing. But man it is an enriching place to be. We always make new musical and artistic friends. My current best tour story is when we sold out Piano’s on our last NYC visit. Killer show with lots of love and people DANCING HARD. Sweaty, wholesome fun. The best I could hope for with an NYC show. LET’S DO IT AGAIN NEW YORK!
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be? What would be your dream line up?
Basement Jaxx. I want to write/produce music with those guys. Live band: Honestly, in Ella Riot I play with my favorite musicians to play with. It is kind of a dream line-up for me already. I would just add some favorite guests to the tour if I could. Todd Edwards on sampler, Wayne Krantz on Guitar, Theo Katzman on Aux Drums, Roger Troutman on talk box, Thom Yorke and Little Dragon on vocals.
If your music was a movie soundtrack, what would the plot be?
Young girl/boy human falls in love with boy/girl robot. They start a band with a bunch of talented friends and try to deal with life while spreading funk and joy with their music worldwide. It would be a dramedy directed by Richard Linklater and Judd Apatow.

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