While some electronic bands live and die by the studio, Afghan Raiders are meant for the stage. The San Francisco/LA/Vegas-based alternative electro trio has brought their energetic live show to audiences across the nation and have shared the stage with a ridiculously impressive list of acts, including Muse, Soulwax, and Devo (yes, Devo!). When they aren’t on stage with other talented artists, Afghan Raiders are putting their own spin on the artists’ music, having produced official remixes for the likes of The Faint, The Black Lips, and Neon Indian.
The trio of Mikey (vocals/synths), Beans (synths), and Drew (drums) just finished recording their debut EP, which will be released later in 2011, and took some time to talk to LA Music Blog about the group’s formation, their plans for the rest of the year, and the French film that influenced their band name.
How did Mikey and Beans (Vince) first meet?
Vince: We met in high school in the tenth grade. Started jamming on guitar together around then. We shared a lot of musical interests. After high school Mikey moved to LA for college, and we lost touch for a bit. We reconnected a couple years later, and I started playing in his band Golden Ax. After the demise of that band, Mikey and I started Afghan Raiders.
How did Afghan Raiders form?
Vince: Mikey was singing in Golden Ax, and they needed a synth player. Mikey and I had just reconnected, and he asked me if I’d be interested in filling out that role for the band. I played keys for Golden Ax for about 6 months before the band split. After that, Mikey moved back to Vegas, and we started our new project, which turned into Afghan Raiders.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has yet to hear your music?
Drew: I would say that we are an electronic band at heart. We have influences stemming from punk, to electro, to disco and pop but at the heart, we are an electronic dance band.
Why did you choose the name Afghan Raiders?
Vince: I wish this story was a bit more interesting, but its origin is of a cinematic influence. About a year before I was even involved with Mikey musically, I saw the movie Amelie. There was a part in the movie where the main character conceives this neurotic story of mishap that leads her love interest into the hands of a pair of “Afghan Raiders.” I thought it was a catchy name and made a note of it for future projects.
As you’ve already mentioned, before Afghan Raiders, you started a thrash band called Golden Ax. Coming from the thrash world over to the electro world is a big leap. What pulled you towards the electro world?
Mikey: I had been playing in punk bands and thrash bands for many years before starting Afghan Raiders, but Beans and I both had a passion for electronic music. We loved bands like LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, the Juan Maclean, and Soulwax, who were all making electronic music but performing live as a band.
We had the idea to start an electronic side project, and when our little thrash band broke up, we decided to try out recording and producing some tracks using our analog synthesizers and the built-in synthesizers and drum machines in Logic Pro. We didn’t really know what to expect from it, but the tracks turned out cool and subsequently, Afghan Raiders was born.
The leap to the electronic music world wasn’t a huge deal for us. At the end of the day, we always wanted it to be a live band, and we were familiar with how to pull off that type of energy and performance on stage. The only difference was the music.
Last year you added a third member to the group. How did you meet Drew and what made you realize he was a good match?
Mikey: I met Drew in college and played in a few bands with him over the years. He was a super rad guy and the best drummer I knew, so naturally when the idea of adding a drummer came about, he was the first person I thought of. He is also a great producer, so having him come in before we started writing the new EP was instrumental in the direction of Afghan Riader’s sound.
If you could tour with any acts, who would they be and why?
Mikey: There are so many acts we would love to tour with, big and small. I think because our sound crosses over to so many different genres, we could tour with a lot of different sounding bands and get away with it. At the top of my list would probably be touring with bands like Miike Snow, Hot Chip, Soulwax, Crystal Castles, Ratatat, Cut Copy, Gold Panda, and Caribou.
How do you feel the new EP reflects who the band is?
Mikey: The new record is a phenomenal representation of where we are as a band. We are still a young band in the grand scheme of things, but we spent a lot of time and energy discovering our sound on this record. We recorded dozens of ideas and demos throughout the recording process, only to narrow it down to the five that made the final cut for the record. Doing that really forced us to grow as a band. Not only have we grown musically, but we are all going through a lot of big changes in our personal lives, and I think that is reflected in the music and the lyrics as well.
What is the group’s songwriting process like?
Drew: Our writing process is a collaborative effort. All three of us produce and write songs, and we all bounce ideas off each other. Usually one of us will come up with a skeleton of an idea for a song, and the other two will fill it in to make a complete statement.
What does the group have planned for 2011?
Mikey: Right now we are continuing to write music and work our live set so we are ready for the road. Once we find a home for the new record, we hope to be touring non-stop around the globe to get the music out there. We have some really cool video projects in the pipeline, and we also plan on continuing to work with a lot of different artists on remixes and other musical collaborations. It’s going to be a busy year for us.
Why should people check you out?
Drew: At our heart, we are a live band that loves to connect with our fans. People should check us out to see what an Afghan Raiders show is like and to get down to what we have to offer. Hopefully people will connect with the songs we release, but it’s my sincere hope that our shows become an entity of their own and become events that people get excited to see.
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