"We just play very honest rock 'n' roll, really," says Shane Lawlor in his North England accent. "We play from the heart. We try to be relevant, of course, but we try to keep the subject matter about the human condition, and the music just sets the scene behind it."
Over the course of a 15-minute phone interview in the midst of the buzz-band blitzkrieg known as South by Southwest, Lawlor, singer for Electric Touch, utters the phrase "rock 'n' roll" perhaps a dozen times. Coming from some other rising young musician (and from the heart of the hippest music showcase on the planet), the repetition might sound purple or overzealous or, even worse, ironic. Coming from a polite guy whose band is nothing if not straight-up, though, it just sounds ... real.
The music made by Lawlor, guitarist Christopher Leigh, drummer Louis Messina, Jr., bassist Portland Musser and keyboardist Isaac Strycker is, unarguably, rock 'n' roll. It is not groundbreaking or artsy or visionary. It's just loud and evocative and catchy and danceable. In fact, if there is any one thing that makes Electric Touch sound unique, it's the way the band manages to make loud, evocative, catchy, danceable music without seeming overly stylized or forced. Electric Touch's major label debut, Never Look Back, is nothing more or less than a soundtrack to the lives of the young.
"Everybody has those same feelings, love, lack of love," Lawlor says. "It's all about the human condition, and hopefully people can connect with the stories we tell. But it's also about having a good time, leaving your troubles at the door and going on this roller coaster ride with us."
Lawlor and native Texans Leigh and Messina — fraternal twin brothers whose father happens to be noted maverick promoter/industry pioneer Louis Messina — first met when their respective bands were playing around the state during the mid-'00s. They immediately hit it off on the strength of their shared passion for guitar music, though ironically it was the two Texas boys that sang the praises of British bands like The Clash and the Rolling Stones while Lawlor extolled the virtues of seminal American blues and R&B.
"It's so true, the grass is always greener," says Lawlor with a laugh. "It was very true that growing up in England I watched a lot of American movies, I was always a huge fan of American culture. To come to America and play music was a dream come true ... even though we're from very different backgrounds, we just kind of hit it off as friends. We definitely all spoke the international language of rock 'n' roll."
The three new friends eventually formed Electric Touch. Their shared interests resulted in a style that recalls the classic elements of just about every contemporary rock subgenre, from hip-shaking garage rock and bluesy riffage to throbbing, propulsive Old Wave basslines and power-pop melodies. An indie coming-out full-length, deal with Island Def Jam, and relocation first to Los Angeles and later to New York City followed; by the time Musser, Strycker and Never Look Back came along, Electric Touch had become something of a living, breathing master class in Lawlor's beloved rock 'n' roll.
The group just finished a road trip in support of cooling alt-metal outfit Evanescence, and is currently on tour with "Tonight Tonight" pop purveyors Hot Chelle Rae. Both headliners might seem at first glance to be a bit mismatched with an opener that owes much more to tradition than modern-rock trends. To hear Lawlor tell it, however, the acts with whom Electric Touch has shared the stage have more in common than listeners might think.
"Actually [both tours have] been very similar," he says. "They're all wonderful people. Everyone hangs out. The audiences are both wonderful, the fans are so great, everybody just wants to have a good time. And even though the styles are very different, everybody just wants to have a good time."
Exactly what rock 'n' roll was made for. And while some young bands might spend their opening-acts days watching the headliners, taking notes and storing away tips and tricks for their opportunity to close the show, the members of Electric Touch seem to have put their studying days behind them; they know all they need to know, and they're already exactly where they want to be.
"Every show, whether there are five or five thousand [people], we play just as hard, we sweat just as much," says Lawlor. "We just try the best we can to have fun, and it seems other people enjoy it too. That's how we judge ourselves — on whether or not we had a good time, and everybody else did as well."