Rock ’n’ roll doesn’t get much better than a trio of passionate musicians giving their all onstage.
The Electric is a three-piece rock band based in Reno. The group’s live shows, featuring both covers and originals, are full of high-energy performances—guaranteed to include sweat. Billy West (aka Billy Gunn), Brandon Reiff (aka Brooklyn) and Darin Goslar (aka Dangerous D) are releasing a new album, After the Flood, on Friday, March 25, and celebrating with a release show the same day at The Alpine.
I spoke with West and Reiff over the phone about how the band got started.
“Brooklyn and I were in a band called The Reagan Years, and that had about a 9-10 year run,” West said. “It started in the early 2000s and ran up until 2013. We did a few albums and toured the country, and just had a blast. That was much more on the punk, thrash and metal side—a fast and rowdy college band. We were writing the last album for that band, and one guy was having a kid, and another guy wasn’t really interested in continuing on past that, so we had a great opportunity to go out on our own terms, instead of somebody sleeping with somebody else’s girlfriend or whatever it might be.
“Once settled down, I let Brooklyn know that I thought we had hit a stride with some of our writing, and if he was interested, I’d send him a mixtape—not in a high school girlfriend way, but a mixtape of some of the bands and some of the songs with the direction that I wanted to go in with this next project. He clicked with a bunch of it, and we started jamming together. We wanted a bass player who could fill some space, do some backups, contribute to the power that we were going for, and match with Brooklyn’s rhythm. We ended up finding Dangerous D.”
One of the long-forgotten aspects of rock bands of yore is revived in The Electric: the use of nicknames.
“I joined The Reagan Years two years into their run, because their drummer moved, and everyone already had nicknames in the band,” said Reiff. “Billy’s is Billy Gunn. I grew up in Chicago and came out here after college, and they thought I had a weird accent, I guess. Someone blurted out ‘Brooklyn,’ and I just went like, ‘Oh, that’s so stupid,’ and the more and more I started getting upset, the more and more the guys were like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re Brooklyn.’”
They both said a key to their creative success is having a great working relationship.
“Brooklyn and I have just kind of gelled together,” West said. “I’m a little bit more on the A-type side and get really pissy—not like aggro; I just have mood swings and get bitchy, and I want things done a certain way. … We wouldn’t still be doing this unless we both thought really highly of each other as musicians, Darin as well. When we started this band, we kind of decided we’d have to dole out some responsibilities. If one person does everything, it ends up stuck. We can’t have one person paying rent at the practice studio and doing the booking and doing the merch and writing the songs and handling all the other bullshit, so we dole it out quite nicely.”
West explained how this works during the writing process.
“I bring in a skeleton of the song, rather than all three of us kind of just throwing spaghetti at the wall,” he said. “This is Brooklyn’s and my sixth album together, so I think we have more of a method to the madness. The albums have somewhat of a concept. I wouldn’t go as far to say that we’re Rush, writing concept albums, but they have a theme. When I start in on an album, I’ve got an idea in my head, even though the songs aren’t all there yet, and I like to see that through.
“That’s one of the biggest joys that I get out of being in a rock band. I write in all aspects; I’m a writer for a living; I write board games; I do everything that has to do with writing, so they know that I like that part of it. I think it comes across when the vocals come in, because I’m singing something that I care about, instead of hugging trees or saving the ocean.”
Added Reiff: “We all know our roles really well in the band, because obviously, if someone says, ‘Hey Billy, I have ideas for lyrics, too,’ that’s sometimes where things can clash. I like to just strictly focus on playing drums. Darin is a great guitar player in his own right, and he has a great understanding of guitar as well. We just all know our roles in the band well, and let each other do those.”
While both previous releases from The Electric (2016’s Storm’s Comin’ and 2018’s Wildfires) are rooted in rock ’n’ roll, the vibes do shift.
“Each one kind of has a slant towards a genre of rock,” said West. “The first one (Storm’s Comin’) was like if Bruce Springsteen started a trio, and had the angst of a late 20-year-old, and it was 2015. It’s a ton of sweat, and a ton of high energy, and they’re all three-minute catchy songs about breakups, taking the girlfriend out on a Sunday night, and just fun, feel-good shit like that. The second one (Wildfires) leaned much more toward the late ’80s, early ’90s, with big, soaring vocals and guitars, and singing about partying and staying out too late. A lot of the influence came from our time in The Reagan Years, going out and doing dumb shit like that.
“In this latest one (After the Flood), I think what COVID did is allow us to take more time on the songs and put more into it. There probably is some angst in there, but it leans a little more toward the thrash genre—so now we’re maybe mid-’90s, and we were able to be a little bit more complex, where the first two were more three chords and out.”
While After the Flood may be more complex, The Electric’s live shows are as raucous and sweaty as ever.
“Paul Stanley once said, ‘If it’s for 10 people or 10,000, you play exactly the same,’” West said. “You’re out there for yourself as much as you are for them, and vice versa. If you’re not doing it for that, really, what else are you doing it for? Enjoy those moments of coming up with dumb shit on the fly, whether it be a pick toss, or spitting in the air, or looking back at Brooklyn, and he’s spinning a stick, and you’d catch each other at the exact right time with the exact note right when the crowd goes nuts. Even if it’s 10 of them, you still take that, and you’re loading up your gear afterward feeling good about what you just laid down.”
Added Reiff: “I turned 40 last year, which is still kind of a shock. Playing drums, especially the style I play, takes a beating on your body. I’m still having a blast playing drums. I think this album we just put out is the best we’ve ever done. I’m damn proud of it, and I’m just on the ride until the wheels fall off.”
Both West and Reiff promised the album-release show at The Alpine will be epic.
“If people are gonna come out for one rowdy-ass rock ‘n’ roll show this year, this is gonna be the one,” said Reiff. “We’re leaving everything out there. There’ll be theatrics, and we’ll go onstage heavier than we’re gonna leave the stage. We want to lose a few pounds in sweat.”
The Electric will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, March 25, at The Alpine, 324 E. Fourth St., in Reno. Admission is $10. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/TheElectricReno.