Funktronica personified — Steve Mink, Dan Gerken and Jordan LeFleur are Lord Electro Tim Szablewski Photo
It takes nearly three hours to travel from Albany to Saranac Lake, where the three members of Lord Electro were scheduled to play last August. And, they were running late.
“We were late,” said Steve Mink, the band’s bass guitarist. “We were late and they were calling us. ‘Where are you guys?’ And, we said, ‘We’re gonna be there. We’re gonna be there.” Geographically, The Waterhole is in the middle of nowhere. A tourist attraction of a town nestled in the Adirondacks, Mark Twain and Albert Einstein would vacation there. Today, it’s a little more accessible, though several miles off the New York state Northway. Plattsburgh natives claim ownership of the village that sports a population that’s a few ticks more than 5,000. But, so do beer drinkers who love the beer that shares its name.
Nonetheless, The Waterhole is a special venue for musicians to visit. The intimate confines surround visiting bands with hordes of music lovers who come to listen — both on the floor and the balcony. It makes for an impressive live music experience. And, Lord Electro, at this time just five-months after officially forming as a group, was threatening to make a poor impression.
“We got there. Set up real quick. Started. [And,] it was a crazy party. Everybody was going nuts, the entire time,” said Mink.
A year later, the band is hitting festivals across the region. Yasgur Farm, DiscJam, Bellstock — to name just a few from the past few months. “Business,” one of its two tracks available on both iTunes and Spotify, has received generous playtime on WEQX’s “Jam and Toast.” And, next week, they play to a home crowd at The Hollow Kitchen + Bar in Albany.
Mink, Dan Gerken and Jordan LeFleur are getting the name out to the public through self-marketing and social media. Pressing the flesh as all good bands do. But, the name?
The name alone sounds like a villain out of the pages of a comic book. But, instead of an arch nemesis created by Stan Lee, Lord Electro is the personification of funktronica.
“We wanted to be on top of the electronic music game, so we are the Lords of Electro,” said Mink.
“I don’t think names are as important as people make them out to be,” said Gerken, “but I kinda liked the sound of it and said, ‘Alright, let’s do this.’”
Gerken, the band’s keyboardist, ironically does not have a Nord Electro, to which the band pays homage to in its name. The subtle switch of a letter reminds people that music, too, is just a gentle manipulation of sound. For Lord Electro, that sound comes from a culmination of bass guitar, drums and electric keyboard. A dance band intent to bring the funk, “make feet move and booties shake.”
“We don’t have a particular sound, per se,” said Mink.
“[But,] I think we’re getting one,” Gerken replied.
Gerken is a product of the College of Saint Rose’s prestigious music program. Purveyors of the local music scene may recognize him playing guitar for Groovestick. But, when it comes to Lord Electro’s emerging sound, he can spin a long yarn about musical theory and where it is taking them. One of the band’s favorite tracks to play is called “Wesley Snipes,” named after the “Blade” actor whose career peaked in the 1990s.
The three are children of the ’90s. LeFleur, 25, admits he and his bandmates have recently been on a “Jock Jams” kick as of late. Another product of the ’90s. Gerken, the oldest member of the band, is 30 . Their penchant for the nostalgic music of new jack swing combined with the funk from the disco sounds of Studio 54, garners the attention of fans across different demographics.
“We’re still on a four-on-the-floor upbeat, but we’re getting a little more funky,” said Gerken.
Each of the three musicians traversed within the same social circles over the past few years, Gerken and Mink previously knowing each other through, Gerken with Timbre Coup and Mink through Digital Dharma. It all started to come together when Gerken and LeFleur began jamming together on keyboard and drums.
LeFleur, the band’s drummer, comes from Plattsburgh. He was influenced early by the punk rock of NOFX, and later by the heavy metal from Iron Maiden. When he felt the punk scene was on the wane, he started attending jam band shows. His first Phish show was in 2010, “and that’s when I started getting into the jam scene.”
LeFleur was gifted with a Micro Gord keyboard in December 2014. Gerken would go to play bass lines and improvise melodies as LeFleur played drums. “And, we ended up playing dance music,” said Gerken.
Mink was in between bands at the time. He’d been playing bass since he was 15, and most recently with Digital Dharma for the last few years, where he found his niche in electronica. Dharma disbanded two years ago, leaving Mink without a band.
“[In a band before starting Digital Dharma] one guy went to jail, and I wanted to start a band that I actually wanted to be in [Digital Dharma]. … I get depressed when I’m not in a band,” he said.
Gerken asked him to join them at LeFleur’s. The four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern is the signature sound of disco and electronic dance music that Lord Electro holds onto. Gerken said if the band introduced a guitar player into the mix, it would give it a distinctive disco feel harnessed by other bands.
Instead, the three are pushing to distinguish themselves without it.
The trio is still improvising, even while on stage. The band’s Facebook profile explains their idea to make a predominantly improvisational live electronic band. To aid in this effort, it stores several live recordings in an archive. If there is something they wish to capture from a particular show, such as The Waterhole from last year, it’s a few keystrokes away.
“When you hit that nugget of gold, and it’s at that moment of laying the brick, and you want to know exactly what happened — the tape don’t lie,” said Gerken. That archive is accessible to fans, too (at archive.org.details/LordElectro).
Gerken said the number of downloads affirms the band’s efforts. “It just shows that people are interested in what we’re doing every single night,” he said.
Lord Electro is scheduled to play a set at The Grape Room in Philadelphia, Penn. on Thursday, Sept. 2, before coming back home to open for the G-Nome Project on Monday, Sept. 8, at The Hollow Bar + Kitchen.
CORRECTION: The print version of this story erroneously states Mink as the oldest member of the group. Mink also founded Digital Dharma after his previous group disbanded after an arrest.
Michael Hallisey is Managing Editor of Spotlight Newspapers.