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In 1969, as the free love-obsessed hippie movement was giving way to a more spacy 1970s, author Philip K. Dick wrote a short story, “The Electric Ant, ” a cerebral sci-fi piece about a person stuck between being a robot or a man. In keeping with their namesake concept, the similarly nebulous Dallas band Electrik Ants straddles the lines between genre.
This stylistic breadth is best shown in the band’s recently released third record, Stories Untold, making a type of music they now describe as “Hip-hop fusion, like if Gorillaz plus the Red Hot Chili Peppers plus Tame Impala [were] strapped to a rocket ship.”
“The band is modular now. Everyone plays everything. Like IKEA.” says Electrik Ants founder-lyricist-singer-rapper Dylan Collins, otherwise known as MCDC.
“But with no instructions,” adds his brother, guitarist-drummer-vocalist Jeff Collins, aka mr. limb.
The modular nature within the band is more by kismet than design. When a founding member, David Wilson, took a recent sabbatical from the band to move overseas, he left the two brothers and Mike Maschmann (Mike “100”) on bass, Jared Cortez (“Still Do”) on turntables/samplers and Ryan Dahir (The Professor) on sax/synth/keys.
Wilson’s exit created a sort of vacuum that was a sink-or-swim moment for the Ants.
“It could’ve destroyed us, but instead we ended up exploring new ground out of necessity,” says mr. limb.
With one man down, they quickly regrouped, and moved on with the thought that “the band’s a process, not a static thing,” limb adds.
This new freedom allows almost all of them to jump around switching instruments whenever a song calls for it.
Stories Untold, makes use of this versatility, mostly in that it sounds like an entirely live recording; it’s equal parts Pink Floyd with soaring sax solos and Gorillaz.
“One of the lyrics in ‘Place To Be’ is ‘There’s a place that I’d like to know / Where heaven and hell are stories untold / A humankind with no history.’” says MCDC, explaining that the album’s name took on a new meaning when Wilson moved away.
“All the stories that could’ve been with the band with him as a part, are now stories that could have been,” he says.
Limb says that the album was recorded just before Wilson’s exit.
“The band as it’s heard on the record is almost a story,” he says.
Stories Untold kicks off in a huff called “Struff,” which mr. limb describes as the Ants’ “‘Welcome to the show’ song.”
This track is quickly followed by “Place to Be,” a meditation on the tension that occurs between realism and idealism.
Third and fourth are “Drip” and a cover of “Clint Eastwood” by Gorillaz, followed by a song the band describes as their old show closer, “Half Pages.”
Of the lyrics, limb says: “Who doesn’t like to yell ‘I just don’t give a fuck’”?
The closing track may capture the album’s consortium of vibes the best, as a near 10-minute Pink Floyd-esque drone through MCDC’s consciousness that ends in a cacophony of sax and guitars, as the words “Take me back to outer space / a taste of what awaits,” resonate in a sort of half-sung half-whisper.
As they move forward from recording, the Electrik Ants have innovation on their minds.
“The rise of streaming doesn’t demand the same presentation any more so we’re thinking what’s the best packaging,” MCDC says, suggesting that gone are the days that the format of music dictated its presentation; gone are the days of Side A and Side B.
The Ants’ vision now is to start releasing music in what they’ve been calling “pods,” a form of digital concert.
“We want to be making a place where the listener can be in our rehearsal space,” mr. limb says. “[Where] we can control all aspects of the experience.”
“Give them a chance to step into the Electrik Ants universe with visual, auditory, and full sensory art.” MCDC says in agreement before adding a joke: “Other than that, I really want to do ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ as a full-on beat tape.”
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