Mellow, melancholic tunes | Peter Borg

Fresh off the launch of their third album Inside You, and just ahead of an upcoming gig at Hugo’s Terrace, Paceville, TEODOR RELJIC speaks to Peter Borg of Red Electrick about what got the band to where they’re at right now… and what lies ahead for them in the future, now that they’re exploring a more “melancholic” layer of their radio-friendly sound

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
5 May 2016, 8:01am
Red Elecktrick (left to right): Ivan Borg, Jonas, Matthew James Borg, Peter Borg and Robert Spiteri
Red Elecktrick (left to right): Ivan Borg, Jonas, Matthew James Borg, Peter Borg and Robert Spiteri
First off, how would you describe ‘Inside You’ – your new album, which you’ve just released? How would you say it builds on previous work?
Inside You is basically a Pop album, with songwriting given the highest priority, with various other influences. The main genre is pop, but each song touches a sub-genre, like rock, classic rock, reggae, electronic and funk. What brings the album together and what makes it sound focused are a few things – Matt’s voice obviously and vocal melodies, our addiction to lots of layers on backing vocals, my guitar sound which people have told me is quite recognisable nowadays and Jonas’ fat mid-ranged tone in the rhythm, Ivan’s signature melodic bass lines and our latest addition, Robert’s invaluable drum playing.

It builds on previous work in the sense that we were always a band who wrote songs that we enjoy listening to. We never wrote songs to be played on the radio, or to try and be “fresh”, even though subconsciously we were always in tune with what is going on in the industry.
During Vine-Lady we were 19 years old, so we felt like writing a louder, rockier album. The Unplugged album we were going through an acoustic phase, and during this album we felt like writing about our life experiences in mellower, melancholic tunes.

What would you say have been the most significant lessons you’ve learnt, ever since you started playing, and how did you take them on board as a band?
I think Red Electrick was always a very hard-working band, and we did things the hard way. We never did Eurovision to become a household name, even though we never rule out the possibility of us taking part, we never cheated our way through some corporate deal. We simply gigged heavily since the age of 18, wrote songs, released albums, released videos, worked on our talent like there was no tomorrow. We tend to be naturally business-minded so that helped as well. We grew organically and this is the best advice I can give to any aspiring musician really. So yes, the most significant lesson is that there are no short cuts to becoming successful. The short cuts may seem like an easy way out, but they will not give you longevity… if you can still use that term in 2016, anyway!  

You are perhaps one of Malta’s most recognizable local acts. How did you get to this point, and given Malta’s small size… where do you go from there?
We are actually discussing this at the moment. It’s easy to just say that we are pushing abroad. That is the case yes, but the reality is that since we are pushing 30, it’s very hard for us amidst an industry where upcoming artists on the charts are 17 years old sometimes. Nevertheless we are currently formulating a plan.

Peter Borg:
Peter Borg: "There are no short cuts to becoming successful"
But the truth is this. Success is such a broad term that it depends on what you actually set out to achieve. Being successful in Malta might seem like it was an easy task, but the reality is that it took 10 years of full-time dedication to reach this point, and not many bands do so.
We toured all over Europe and we met so many bands that were amazingly good and performed in front of 20 people. Many acts would kill to be successful in one country, let alone a country like Malta. Having said that, we are not going to stop here, as I said, we are currently formulating a plan which involves tackling another country. In fact our first project is collaborating with a big singer in Europe who placed 10th – if I’m not mistaken – in X Factor a few years ago. Can’t say more at this stage.

What are some of your main musical influences, and how did your sound evolve over the years?
Quite vast. I would say that Ivan’s reggae and ska influences coupled with Matt’s strong pop songwriting influences – since the bass lines and the vocal lines work together in pop, have been a great influence on our sound from day one. Obviously my influences played a big part of the sound since I have been producing Red Elecktrick for the past five years now.

My influences are quite vast as well, but in general I would say my favorite sound is the late 70s American rock/pop/country sound. In fact, backing vocals and harmonies are a big part of what Red Electrick sounds like nowadays. Then there is the guitar side which has been influenced by Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, The Edge, Jack White, Joe Walsh to mention a few.

How would you describe the local musical scene? What would you change about it?
I would change the fact that there is a lot of snobbery going on. Bands played on the radio are snobbed by the alternative acts, and vice versa. I think that we are a very small but extremely creative and talented industry and we should all work together to export our product. I strongly believe that our production level has matched ‘Level B’ production level of foreign acts with a far smaller budget.

Acts like Monsters and Men and Lissie – just to mention a couple off the top of my head – acts who are still huge but not Coldplay, U2 who have millions of pounds behind them to produce. Even video wise, we are managing to create visual productions that can compete with semi-big international acts with 10% of their budgets.

What’s next for you?
As I said, we are currently formulating a plan to try and export our sound across Europe or beyond. The most important thing for us at this stage – and it might sound obvious and cheesy – is to try to be better songwriters and try to produce the best music we possibly can, and last but not least, to enjoy the ride!

Red Electrick will be performing at Hugo’s Terrace, Paceville on May 4. Doors open at 19:00. Tickets can be purchased from Hugo’s Terrance and Charles Grech (Valley Road, B’kara) or online from ticketline.com.mt

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...