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Be the Mule Blog

A Love Electric History

This was written recently for some folks interested in how this all happened, our band, getting out, living in Mexico, so on. Thought it may be of interest to post here.


A Love Electric began as a reaction to my experience in the traditional music industry. After living and studying in Boston for three years, I moved back to Minneapolis and began performing often in mostly rock clubs in the Twin Cites, eventually through the greater Midwest, working in studios, and producing records of my own as well as a series of records that came out on Liquid8, the one that got the most notoriety was a Tribute to the Beastie Boys and a band we had with my brother on drums that ended up being called 4 Letter Man. I haven't heard those in years. By the time I was 22 I had performed on a number of records and released a few of my own out of my basement, but was largely unhappy playing clubs and with the music we were making, or at least the way we were going about it. I grew cynical fast, life felt it had reached a point where I was either going to be this for many years to come, or I could run at something completely different. 

Uptown Bar 2005

Rusty Trombones at the Uptown, Minneapolis, MN 2005


    I never wanted to play music to be popular again, never wanted to be told what music was supposed to sound like, be part of any scene or specific genre clique, or put quantity of production over the sincerity of it. So I left everything, sold a lot of stuff on Ebay, gave my family and jobs a couple weeks notice that I was heading out, and packed my car with mostly musical gear, some clothes, and Wes, my dog. We drove from Minneapolis to the tip of the Baja Peninsula, where I had vacationed with family and made some relationships. The drive was magic, I recall listening to Bill Frisell's "Blues Dream", lots of Bob Dylan Bootleg series stuff, some Electric Miles, and staring off to nothing, feeling human and inspired again. We stopped in towns along the way, Vegas was terrible with a dog, Tahoe was amazing with him, ran around the Rockies where I used to vacation as a kid, it was mid- May at this time.

VAIL area dog park , May 2006 (or 7?)


    We arrived to Los Cabos and I found a job teaching music at a local international school. The joy of being around the kids and their fascination with what I was bringing them set me right in many ways. I rediscovered some altruism in music. I remember playing "Blue Suede Shoes" the first day, I had arrived not knowing I was going to be teaching, or that I had the job, so took my acoustic guitar from my car and improvised how to teach elementary music. The school didn't care about books or following some set course of learning, so my job was to inspire, and it was cyclical.





     After a year of teaching I began playing out again, jazz, groove, and improv gigs. Whatever I felt like playing, at a great local jazz club called Havana's, since departed. The owner s gave me a chance to come in and do whatever I felt, and I fell flat a lot, lots of mistakes, lots of trying to rediscover a voice, which is useless, and eventually some sort of voice emerging from all that. Meanwhile I was still teaching at school and had loads of private students. The Los Cabos area is a small town, and it was an exciting time a few years ago before the decline in economy, travel, and health and safety scares. Many families have since moved on. 


tracking "Baja on summer school break with Schutte, Linz, Benny Weinbeck


I began spending more time playing, at least a few nights a week, and hanging with musicians from Argentina, Mexico, and the US quite often. I was becoming a performing musician again, but felt liberated from the pressure to conform to a certain style, and the darkness you can find in some music circles was to a far lesser degree than that of some of the bigger cities Ive hung and lived in. 

At Havana's with Jack Sonni and my student Eliot on drums  2008


Summers in Los Cabos are extremely hot, I don't mind it, but the rest of the population down there seems to, choosing to vacate the area for much of July, August,and September. Timing worked out as kids were out of school then. I decided to spend some time in New York playing and studying in the summer of 2009 and everything shifted. I met Steven Bernstein, trumpeter, arranger, encourager. I took a workshop from Steven and admired the way he pulled power from simplicity in music, and there was the blues, soul, jazz, rock, all in there. I sheepishly asked him if he would be interested in coming down to Mexico to do a tour. He said yes. I never really expected it to happen until I got an email a month or so later, and I booked a ten day tour through the Baja and a portion of the Mexican mainland. I had gone from Berklee shed-machine to rock writer to school teacher to performing not-jazz jazz musician in a few years. But there was little question after that tour that this is what I was going to do. Playing with Steven, though I had my insecurities and bumps, gave me the confidence to get back to writing and playing and living free of any of the pressures I would put on myself as far as what is good, what it should sound like, achieving some impossible level of greatness and popularity. IT didn't matter, I loved making music again. Thats all it was, making music. 

First Bernstein tour, Havana's, Los Cabos - with Frankie Mares and Samo Gonzalez


  Art District, San Jose del Cabo - first Bernstein Tour


 So I spent the next month or two writing a record Id hoped I could get Steven on, but needed to get out and tour the tunes, see what worked. Still in Los Cabos, I asked some friends in Guadalajara who I should look up in Mexico to begin this thing, which I was uncertain would turn into anything lasting, but for now, a two week tour of little clubs or wherever we could set up would be cool. A friend mentioned an Argentine drummer, Hernan Hecht, this was  couple years ago, but I can now say that was a gift that gratitude will never fully serve. Hernan is an incredible musician, producer, businessman, and many other things, and has become a close friend and partner in creativity in A Love Electric. We got out and played the short tour, and it was just alright, but there was enough there in the tunes that at least Hernan stuck around, and I asked him about adding a couple guys he plays with frequently, Aaron Cruz, a bassist from Mexico City, and Mark Aanderud, a pianist who at the time was in between New York, Mexico City, and where he now resides, in Prague.  I wrote a ton over the next few months and got into the studio in Minneapolis with some guys I've played with for years there, and one of the all-time great bassists I've ever known, Gordy Johnson. Bernstein and I met in the studio and he put his parts down. It all happened fast. That was the first A Love Electric record, I liked it more than I had liked anything Id done previously, so I blind sent it out to some record labels, venues, so on. Ropeadope Records sent me an email saying "fucking love it, lets talk future release". I never considered myself worthy of that kind of attention from a label I grew up buying record after record from. Yes, times have changed, but that shit not only excited, it also gave me a sense of responsibility to the music I was creating I think. It had to be real now, because thats what I want people to see from me. Thats what I really care about. Yes its subjective, but people can feel it when its there.


    The cats in Guadalajara          and an early early US tour, early 2011, feels longer ago

 Then summer 2010, the four of us - Mark, Aaron, Hernan, myself, all residing or hailing from different countries managed to carve out a month where we could get together, get on the road, and hit it. The energy from the first gig, I don't recall if we ever rehearsed, was outrageous. Just the other day Aaron told me, "when I came to this band, I didn't know how much I needed it". Thats how it felt, a few seconds in we could all look at each other and say this is going to be good. The music ran to places it hadn't with anyone else, and the dialog with the audience reflected it. Writing about those first shows, Adam Meckler had also come down from Minneapolis to join us on trumpet, I want to play now. Things, for me, became completely transcendent when we made music, and we didn't care in the least whether it was rock or jazz or funk or whatever. It was music, and we were there to express, the collective nature of the expression coming about in a completely natural manner. Egos were abandoned, music was served, and people felt it. I remember feeling like that in my teens playing, but not with much frequency since, its almost every night with A Love Electric now.

An early "Curtis" at Zinco - remember feeling we'd conquered all when we could finally get booked there


    I remember Bernstein came back down more recently, spring of 2011, just after Ropeadope released our first record, and played with Mark, Aaron and Hernan and commented that "these are the guys, they know what you're doing with your music". So we recorded records together in Mexico City. As with the shows, the recordings happened fast, we got along great, no vibing, and we recorded some outrageous amount of tunes in 2 separate 2 and 3 day sessions at Sala De Audio in Mexico City. I cut about half of what we recorded, some at various points of completion, but still ended with two plus records that we all felt good about. One, a project I've wanted to do for some time, is de-rrangements of folk music, while also serving as a commentary on what exactly folk music is, or can be. The other is a record of all original tunes I've written and grew with the band over 8 months of touring. Everything happened really organically, after our first sessions in MX City, I went out to NYC for some shows and recording and met up with Steven Bernstein to lay down some trumpet on a number of tracks that I felt called specifically for his unique voice, and also got to hang a bit with Cyro Baptista, who played on both records as well. 


   got to Europe 


   The life of the band, our music, and our relationships with each other, continue to evolve, but everything is positive right now. We've all made enough time for this to be our primary project in terms of dates on the road. When I can't get the guys up from Mexico, Ive been spending more and more time in New York City playing with a bunch of different cats who continue to make me better. Each record is part of a larger body of work I hope someday I can make sense of, but it is honest. There's no hiding my deficiencies, passions, what has informed our music, my writing. Its all in there, and Ive learned to leave it like that. Thats what makes this band unique to me, we are ruthlessly honest and passionate. The experience of playing in A Love Electric, and making music with these guys is abstract, transcendent, and empowering. All that matters has already been accomplished, now we just get to continue to play with the music in a way that inspires us, let it grow as we do. Its going to be fun for me.

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