Post-rock quintet Drop Electric have been through several changes in both lineup and sound in the few years they’ve been a band. But thanks to a visually eye-catching show that’s made them a rising band on the Washington, D.C. scene, they’ve landed their music everywhere from NPR’s All Songs Considered to the movie 300: Rise Of An Empire.
Drummer Ramtin Arablouei credits many of these successes to the productivity allowed by the home studio in the house he shares with keyboardist/guitarist Sho Fujiwara and singer/multi-instrumentalist Kristina Reznikov. “All of this has happened in this really kind of crappy house in Bethesda that 3 of us live in,” says Arablouei. “We’ll write music in our rooms, we’ll use the downstairs studio area to write, so there’s constantly creativity going on.”
“Ramtin and I met about 10 years ago at St. Mary’s College in Maryland,” says founding guitarist Neel Singh. “We played in a few bands together there, and after college was done, we continued. We’ve done multiple genres, we’ve done hip hop, we’ve done a downtempo electronica kind of stuff, we’ve done all sorts of stuff. And so we put Drop Electric together just a few years ago and it was a totally different lineup then.” The previous lineup released a primarily instrumental, guitar-heavy album, Finding Color In The Ashes in 2010. Fujiwara joined shortly after, Reznikov joined in 2011, and guitarist/bassist Navid Marvi joined in 2013.
Reznikov’s addition to the band, initially as just a guitarist, was a significant turn of events that gradually led to Drop Electric ceasing to be a primarily instrumental band, with her stepping up as lead vocalist. “We were all really impressed by her guitar playing. Then she slowly let on that she writes songs on her own that she sings. And we all really liked them, and were like, ‘let’s try this,’” says Arablouei. “I wasn’t a singer before I joined this band,” Reznikov says. “I would call myself only a singer within Drop Electric, because we’ve all molded my voice to this band.”
“The same kinda goes for a lot of what all of us are doing,” adds Singh. “Ramtin has only been playing drums for a handful of years, I grew up playing guitar but I mainly used to play bass as a kid. And [Fujiwara] on keys, he was taking piano lessons growing up, but when he first joined the band he was a guitarist. The way each of us have pioneered our own voice musically has been all within the confines of this band, so I think it lends itself toward hopefully giving us something of a unique sound.”
For the first half of their BSide, Drop Electric recorded a new version of “Blue Dream,” a single from 2013’s Waking Up To The Fire. It was originally written and recorded with synths and drum machines and was subsequently reverse engineered for the live arrangement the band played at Mobtown. “As a band, we’re way more guitar-focused and loud, live, and this last album was kind of an experiment for us. And so we have to figure out how to recreate that stuff live,” says Arablouei. That wasn’t a simple matter of transposing everything to guitar and drums, however – a loop of Reznikov’s voice still figures into the new arrangement alongside her live vocals. “It’s actually a sample of Kristina that’s used in the studio version of the song, so we had to figure out how do we do that live? So we threw it on an MPC and she just plays it live.”
“Blue Dream” is one of Drop Electric’s catchiest, most immediately accessible songs, which actually nearly caused its premature demise. “We almost scrapped the song when we were first writing it, because it was a little bit too poppy,” says Fujiwara. “Then we flipped her voice and sampled it and made it a lot weirder, and that definitely did help us to like it more.” Reznikov says her “very dark” lyric for the song also gave it another dimension that helped the band get behind it. “Basically if you ever loved someone so much you wanna kill them, not kill literally, it’s about things going too far.”
The flipside of Drop Electric’s BSide is a new song, “Rival Churches,” that the band recently wrote for their next album. The new material harkens back to the early Drop Electric sound with its guitar-driven live band arrangements, but with Reznikov’s lyrical perspective now in the mix for the personal song. “I’m gay, and the lyrics were very frustrated against some things people had said to me recently, some very religious people saying I was going to hell,” she explains.
Perhaps by accident, or perhaps by virtue of the international community that is the Washington, D.C. area, Drop Electric’s members represent a diverse range of cultural backgrounds. Singh has Indian parents and Arablouei has Iranian parents, while Marvi’s parents are from Iran and Puerto Rico, Fujiwara’s parents live in Japan, and Reznikov parents are of Mexican and Russian descent. “We’re all very different people from very different ethnic backgrounds, but I feel closer to everyone here because of that,” says Arablouei. “The 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation immigrant thing kind of does unite us. But it’s not really something we lead with, we fundamentally play American rock music.”
Recorded on March 8, 2014 at Mobtown Studios
Guitar by Neel Singh
Guitar, keyboards and vocals by Kristina Reznikov
Drums by Ramtin Arablouei
Guitar and keyboards by Sho Fujiwara
Guitar and bass by Navid Marvi
Mixed by Mat Leffler-Schulman
Engineered by Sean Mercer and Paul Mercer
Filmed by Joe Austin, Justin Foreman and Nick Hughes
Edited by Nick Hughes
Audio post-production by Aaron Wold
Photography by Tedd Henn
Interview by Aaron Henkin
Thanks to Drop Electric, Jeffrey Silverstein and Lisa Kaneff