In 2007 Watford-based indie group the Electric Cinema won much acclaim for their self-released eponymous debut album, and their regular London gigs which saw the band playing against a backdrop of 60’s and 70’s home movies that came from the family vaults of vocalist/guitarist Dan Neale and his bassist sister Rebecca.

The Electric Cinema, who Pennyblackmusic described at the time as being like “a lo-fi Mercury Rev or Grandaddy” with “their dreamy and epic sound”, seemed destined for potentially greater success but broke up seemingly abruptly in 2008.

Now they are back after a hiatus of eleven years in the same line-up, which also consists of keyboardist Martin Gear and drummer Jamie Oram. They have just released their second album, ‘Animals + Gods’, which takes off from where ‘The Electric Cinema’ finished, combining an euphoric pop sound with Dan Neale’s bittersweet and thought-provoking lyrics and vocals about science and religion, reengaged lovers and childhood memories.

Pennyblackmusic spoke to all four members of the Electric Cinema about their reformation and ‘Animals + Gods’.


PB: It seemed that the Electric Cinema were doing well when you split up in 2008. You had earned strong reviews for your first album. You were building up an enthusiastic following and begun work on a second album. Why did you break up when you did? Was it just a case of the rest of life got in the way?

DAN NEALE: It was a combination of lots of things really. Our manager left the music industry to go abroad, which meant our plans for album two felt they had fragmented, and for me making an actual living became more pressing. So, we agreed to step away from it all.

REBECCA NEALE: Actually Mart always insisted that we didn’t formally split, but “just let the dust settle and see where it led.” So, we left the dust settling for about eleven years. Ha, ha.

PB: It was the discovery of an old hard drive which kickstarted your musical career again as it contained the basis for your second album. How many of the songs on ‘Animals + Gods’ go back to then and how many of them are entirely new songs?

DN: Yes, I was throwing out my old G5 and as part of that I managed to get a friend who is good with these things, to pull files of an old external drive that I thought had died. And we found demos and mixes and realised album two was so close, that we felt compelled to finish and release it.

MARTIN GEAR: I think about seven of the songs were on that drive in one form or another and then we also wrote some additional tracks once we got going. Three were either very rough sketches, or just one verse; ‘Memory Theme’, ‘Cover All Mirrors’ and ‘Sparks Not Poses’.

JAMIE ORAM: Yeah, it was the energy in some of those performances that we really liked, and thought it captured something about the band’s live sound.

MG: In a way the existing tracks were in the perfect state because there was enough down to capture the essence of the songs but they were rough enough and incomplete enough for us to really shape them into something new. Finding the drive was a fantastic gift because it kicked off a two year project where we got to remember and reimagine the band sound. I loved the whole process and, to be honest, didn't want it to end.

PB: How many of you had remained involved in music during your hiatus? Was it easy or difficult picking up your instruments again? Not all of you now live in Watford. Did that affect things at all?

DN: We all remained involved in music in various ways. I fell into music supervision. That has allowed me to stay involved in music full-time, but I also kept writing songs, as one of the best things you can experience is that moment you have a new idea. Mart has continued composing for short films and adverts, Becky and Jamie played a lot more live music with different bands.

I hadn’t sung properly in a long time, so found that really daunting when we started recording the new songs. I was conscious that my voice is that bit older now and might sound different. Actually it blended pretty well, especially once you have put some delay and reverb on, and I enjoyed being in that role again.

PB: You have always had strong links with film and visuals. You hoped to release a video with every track of ‘The Electric Cinema’ involving different film makers. There have been two videos for ‘Animals + Gods’. Are you conceiving to do something similar with the rest of the album?

JO: We are really lucky to have friends who are animators, editors or film-makers – so we have asked a few people to get involved during lockdown.

RN: The two videos we've done for the album so far have been enjoyable to do and have worked out really well. In a way, I think the limitations of lockdown helped us to focus on getting the right result for each of the songs.

MG: Mark Roberts, who is a childhood friend, is such a talented editor and he was able to bring out an emotional connection with the band and to present the story for ‘Rewind to Kickstart’ in a very honest way. Mark had actually toured with us when we were a young band. and you can really see that connection and that sense of nostalgia coming through in the closing stages of the video.

The second promo, for the album title track was created by a film maker, Danny Nellis - who our good friend Euan Hinshelwood of Young Husband, introduced us to. Based out of Paris, Danny has been doing great work with lots of different bands during lockdown and through a process of editing remotely, exchanging and directing phone captured footage and a series of experimentation with re-filming archive - it was remarkable what he was able to achieve.

Hopefully we will work on more and Dan has a great idea for a stop frame animation which could work great for one of the other songs.

PB: The title track reflects on the age old debate between science and belief. While seeing both sides of the argument, it comes down on neither side and concludes that there are some things simply beyond explanation. Would that be a fair assessment?

DN: Yes, I think that is fair, although it is probably a bit more assertive that there is more to us than current logic alone can explain. Although it doesn’t attempt to approach what that might be. It was also me telling myself off for being too definite and logical sometimes, as there is a lot of self-protection in not questioning things we don’t understand.

PB: You sing “we rewound to kickstart our prophecies” on ‘Rewind to Kickstart’. Is that a song about getting the band back together? The video shows all four members getting covered in various shades of paint. It may have just been a striking image, but did you see some kind of symbolism in that to you?

DN: Not really, it was written in 2008, and is a fictitious story about two lovers re-connecting to try and re-capture their past, when they probably shouldn’t. How trying to re-visit the past is often a mistake, but at the same time it can be what you need to allow you to move on. We all saw though that there are lots of parallels with the story and us as a band releasing this album, and the video plays on that. We liked the idea of peeling off the layers one at a time.

Martin: At the end of the video for ‘Rewind’ you get a nostalgic sense of what it’s like for a band to reform and look back to what they were like before. The paint idea started off as a fun, striking image that we could film in our gardens under lockdown, but when we saw it rewound in the video it did become more powerful and meaningful for us and it became a visual symbol of how the album has allowed us to connect with our past.

PB: The video for ‘Rewind to Kickstart’ features clips of home movies, and the one of ‘Animals + Gods’ shows clips of space missions and Russian laboratories. You used to play gigs again against a backdrop of home movies. Why is the appeal to you of these old films?

DN: I’m fascinated with that sense of nostalgia. It is a hard feeling to get a grip off, the bitter-sweetness of it. It is both happy and melancholy. I think a lot of the songs echo that feeling, or attempt to explore it – and I think our connection with old footage comes from that too.

JO: Some of our previous singles used stills from cine film taken by Dan and Rebecca's relatives and we also used to project the films across the stage during gigs. The light would shine across our faces & instruments and this wonderful old footage of family members holidaying in the 60s & 70s would add a real warmth and nostalgic interest to our set. I'd love to see them again.

PB: Back in 2008, the plan was to record the second album in a studio, whereas the first one had been recorded at home. Was ‘Animals + Gods’ recorded at home again because of lockdown restrictions?

DN: We were pretty true to that concept, as we had recorded lots of the foundations of it in 2007/2008 in various studios: Fortress near Old St, Oilville Studios in Holloway, Bonafide Studios at that time in Curtain Rd. The newer recordings were done at my current studio in Soho.

RN: Yeah, we were lucky enough to get to record all the new parts together at Dan’s studio. It was so much fun and it really gave us the space and time to get all the parts down exactly as we wanted them. I can remember also spending the hottest day of the year in the blistering heat - putting the finishing touches on with everyone, adding additional backing vocals and percussion.

PB: Why have you decided to release ‘Animals + Gods’ digitally only? Will there eventually be a CD or vinyl edition?

DN: It was just a financial decision really. We would love to press some vinyl at some stage.

MG: There’s nothing quite like releasing on vinyl. For one of the first singles we released, we had a limited run of 200 vinyl copies and with the help of my mum we hand stitched and printed individual sleeves made from old bed sheet material that had been passed down from a Great Aunt. It sounds odd but they looked fantastic and we managed to get Rough Trade to stock 150 of them and they were all quickly snapped up.

PB: What are your plans for the future? If and when we get back to gigs, will you be touring or playing dates?

DN: If there had been no Covid then I think we would definitely have played these songs live. We had such a good time all being back together in the studio, that it would be amazing to play live together again. Hopefully by the time we can do shows again, we can arrange it. Beyond that, we will keep writing together for sure, and if we like what we’ve done then there is no reason not to keep releasing new material.

RN: Yes, we would love to gig again, but for now all hope of playing live has had to be put on hold. Who knows what we will be doing over the next 10 years. Anything is possible.

PB: Thank you.









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