Over the last decade, Indianapolis sextet The Elect has steadily built a following in the Midwest with their own blend of blues, rock and soul. After a brief departure from local stages, the band is back with two albums, released simultaneously this May, and is playing select dates at jam-friendly venues, including a gig at the Mousetrap Aug. 16.
Guitarist Pete Lenges, who co-writes much of The Elect’s material with lead singer and guitarist Michael Weir, says one of the releases — In Your Heart, There’s a Light — represents the “‘democracy’ Elect.”
“Everyone’s got their chunk of it,” he continues. “Everyone’s got big amounts of input, and it’s a total collective thing.”
Produced by Smashing Pumpkins and Buddy Guy producer Manny Sanchez, In Your Heart is a warm and energetic rock album, liberally seasoned with rhythm and blues.
The other album, Stitches Stronger Than Steel, is a complete departure from In Your Heart’s rootsy rock sound; the folk- and country-tinged album is quieter and more intimate. The contrast demonstrates how the band’s individual influences are revealed in their music.
“It’s mellow music — two totally different sides of us,” Lenges says of their two latest releases. “With this CD [Stitches], we all took a back seat to Mike and let him be him without having to worry about what he wants to do. We were studio musicians, giving him the freedom to go to the edge.”
Just gimme the bass
Weir began the group more than 10 years ago with childhood friends drummer Chad Baker and Lenges.
“We all went to high school together,” Lenges says. “We were friends before we were playing together.”
“The first CD came out 11 years ago,” Weir adds, “and we’d been playing in the garage long before that. We’ve been trying to get serious about it the past couple of years.”
Bassist Sam Taylor is a music veteran, having played with R&B singer Bobby Womack and blues legend ZZ Hill. He’s also the newest member of The Elect. After doing duty as the sound man for the band’s live shows for five years, he filled in one night two years ago after the previous bass player was called away unexpectedly.
“Mike plays acoustic guitar, and was strumming the bass,” Lenges says. “Sam got shitty and said, ‘Just gimme the bass, man!’ He already knew the songs and he fell in nicely.”
Though Weir is also The Elect’s chief songwriter, the band has maintained their success by making the creative process a group activity.
“When you’re sitting by yourself at home, it’s hard to write something that five other people are going to like,” Weir says. “But I know whatever the other guys put down is going to be right.”
“Mike’s good about giving us freedom of arrangement,” Baker says. “He’ll write a piece and bring it in and it’s written, the structure’s there, but he’s pretty free with the way we arrange it — usually it works out pretty well.”
The band collaborates on and off stage, maintaining family lives, outside careers, non-musical pursuits (Weir has authored a book on baseball) and friendships with each other.
“We try to keep close to home,” percussionist Jimmy Tucker says. “You know, we’ve all got day jobs. We’ve had decent success here in town and Louisville likes us, so right now we’re just sort of hanging out between here and there.”
“But we do all hang out,” Lenges adds. “This weekend, we’re going over to Chad’s house for a cookout.”
A few years older than his bandmates, Taylor has raised his family and now spends his spare time playing in two other bands, Sudden Impact and Power Play.
“I probably play in a week’s time, maybe, 200 songs,” Taylor says. “Now that my kids are grown, I’m just back to what I started doing. I really just enjoy playing live music for people who enjoy good music.”
The band is already looking forward to playing and recording new material.
“I think our best album is to come,” Weir says. “And I think these two are our best so far, and that’s why we keep going — because we’ve made five studio albums now and they just keep getting better.”