Johnny Brenda’s re-opens this weekend with Philadelphia’s Birds of Maya and Electric Candlelight.
Sure, this is Johnny Brenda’s re-opening weekend, and Frankford Avenue is glowing like it has not in 18 months. Yes. It’s been fine to be able to grab a Wolfe’s Neck IPA and a JB’s Burger to go. But without Johnny Brenda Presents’ live shows, there’s been no real sizzle.
And while we are pleased as tomato pie to see Philly’s lo-fi, manic-psych-blues-Stooges, Birds of Maya (guitarist Mike Polizze, bassist Jason Killinger, drummer Ben Leaphart) taking the stage on night one of the JB reopening (September 3), nearly 20 years since the start of their career (wow), as of late, I have been paying tons of attention to night two’s act – the Philly hard alterna supergroup Electric Candlelight for September 4.
The taut as a snare drum’s skin Electric Candlelight – singer Owen Stewart from Ruby The Hatchet, guitarist Justin Pittney, formerly of Residuels and Moon Women, bassist Max Jonas from Tough Shits, drummer Joshua Aaron from The Lawsuits, and Ali Awan on guitar – got together at the top of the pandemic, never looked back and dropped three swaggering, rough rocking singles (“Another Year Gone By,” “Make No Mistake,” and now “Grand Delusion”) in a row. Plus Owen Stewart’s Ruby the Hatchet is gearing up to play JB with Heavy Temple on Sept. 18.
Justin Pittney, dosage MAGAZINE and I spoke via email about Electric Candlelight before September’s start.
A.D. Amorosi: So, “Another Year Gone By” and now “Grand Delusion” were written and recorded during the pandemic. Fill in the dots. What sort of vibe, spirit, shadow, shade has that cast or made for Electric Candlelight?
Justin Pittney: We actually formed a bit before the pandemic but everything sort of crystalized last summer. Prior to that, Owen and I had created a “covid bubble” or whatever and would get together at the Smoke Before Fire space to write songs, work on demos and quite often just hang out and listen to records. There was literally no one else in the building, so it wasn’t long before we invited the rest of the band down to jam. Eventually, I hauled my Tascam 388 tape machine down to capture some of the sessions. What you hear on those singles is the sound of us nailing it for the first time. If you listen to “Another Year”, we are literally figuring it out as we’re going and there’s a sense of spontaneity that is hard to ignore. I think that the pandemic allowed us the freedom to create in a way that might not have been possible otherwise.
A.D. Amorosi: Along with most of its members having other bands and, or solo gigs, Electric Candlelight… the music, the buzz, has sort of pushed itself to the forefront. This is not to say stuff such as ruby or Ali’s solo music, etc… is less crucial. Thinking about the music, its presence and from an artist and audience perspective, why do you believe it has pushed itself to the front or gathered such curiosity? Because it has.
Justin Pittney: It’s an interesting question. I honestly don’t know. If you were holding a gun to my head, I’d say that it’s because there is very little pretense in what we do. This is the sound we make when we play together. Like, this is the most honestly that I’ve ever played guitar in a band. We’re not going for a genre, we’re going for a vibe. And I think that stands out.
A.D. Amorosi: Certainly there are big plans ahead, including the Sept 4 Johnny Brenda reopening, that you must be hoping is some sort of bacchanal. Boom! Delta. How do you see this affecting your plans and the vibe of the shows, if at all? How much of an enemy has Covid been? How can you make masking upturn to your advantage if you haven’t already?
Justin Pittney: We’ve been taking everything as it comes, man. Johnny Brenda’s will be our third pandemic show in Philly. They’ve all felt like celebrations more so than just shows and I have a feeling Johnny Brenda’s will be no exception. Something about being back in that room after all this time is special. It’s gonna feel like coming home in the best way possible. Everything changes so quickly that this question became irrelevant within a few days.
A.D. Amorosi: What released music comes next and what will it sound like? The first track was long, snaky and CCRevival vibing. The new single is more glam slamming.
Justin Pittney: We actually just started recording at my new studio this week and, in true EC fashion, it’s been live to tape and all about vibe. The inspiration can run the gamut from Eddie Floyd to Television and that’ll be in the same song… which is to say, “varied”. Our live set is running well over an hour, so if you really wanna hear what’s next the show at Johnny Brenda’s is the move. Just make sure to grab tickets because if it’s anything like our other shows, it’ll sell out.
For the record, Cosmic Guilt – “an extended family of musicians from Fishtown, founded in late 2019 by lead singer, James Everhart who spent years on the road as Low Cut Connie’s lead guitar player” – opens for Electric Candlelight for the Johnny Brenda’s gig. Get there early.