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Electric Echoes

Malta's youngest rock band

From San Remo to sharing the stage with Delirium MT and X-Vandals

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In the waning weeks of 2023, The Garage hosted a remarkable performance (part of an event organised by X-Vandals, who were celebrating their 40 years anniversary) showcasing arguably the youngest ensemble of musicians to grace its stage. While some years ago, there was a brief appearance by X-Vandals' bassist James Spiteri's two sons, the recent standout event featured a group of students whose average age is barely 13 and who already made a name for themselves when they secured a victory in their category at the San Remo GEF on May 5th. But before we meet the young members of Electric Echoes we asked some questions to their mentor, Delirium MT’s keyboard player Maria Borg.

Electric Echoes with Maria Borg - photo: Electric Echoes

NM: How did the idea of forming Electric Echoes generate and who came up with the name of the band?

MB: The idea came to be when Antonella Vassallo approached our school, MVPA to enter in the GEF Festival in San Remo, some of the students from Electric Echoes already had an ensemble lesson together where we had started playing some songs from Musicals adapted for band form, however this was a smaller band of 4 students at the time. Two of the students, Jake (bassist) and Aidan (drums) approached me on the deadline of applications for the students and told me they wanted to enter, and asked if I would be willing to go with them, support them etc in this endeavor. I enjoyed our ensemble lessons a lot already so after checking some logistical aspects, I was happy to oblige and excited to begin. The festival required a minimum of 8 people for the band, and so we started searching for other members who were interested after confirming all students were up for it from the previous band. That's when Isaac, Kyle, Elisha and Luka joined the band. We then brainstormed to pick a song which had to be from a musical since we were representing the school (the syllabus involves Classical music and musicals, so this was a requirement), and I did some research of my own and picked "My Favourite Things", from "the Sound of Music". I wrote the arrangement within that week as we only had around 2 months or so to teach everyone the music; become tight musically (as they had never played together before); prepare staging etc from scratch up until the festival in San Remo. We started rehearsals last week of February and the festival occurred in first week of May and most students except the lead guitarist and bassist and drummer did not have any experience in a band setting. We all went up together, me and the kids really clicked and rehearsals, albeit productive, were very enjoyable for all of us. When we went up to San Remo with their parents, us adults also really clicked and enjoyed hanging out, we all agreed that it would be a shame for the band to stop there, so after some discussion and planning, we decided to keep going and I would be their manager & band leader, I also write all their arrangements (except the original song).

[With regards the band’s name] I asked them all to come up with a list of names and bring it with them to rehearsals, we had quite some hubbub to come up with the name... There were many votes and slightly heated discussions - they might seem quiet and well behaved onstage, but believe me they can be a handful, haha! Eventually, we all agreed on Electric Echoes. Ylenia had initially come up with a variation of it and we fixed it to Electric Echoes which was easier to remember and quite catchy.

Electric Echoes on stage at The Garage - photo: Maria Baldacchino

NM: As you mentioned the band composed an original song which was also performed live at The Garage

MB: [The new song] ‘Let The Music Move You’, was a combined effort; however, Isaac, the lead guitarist came to us with a written-through arrangement, he did most of the heavy lifting musically. Ylenia, our singer, wrote the lyrics; we workshopped during rehearsals then she continued writing them and showed them to me once finished. We worked on the song together during rehearsals and I gave them some suggestions to improve piano parts and structure of the song and fixed some errors in the music score, however I did not have much to fix honestly! Aidan, the drummer, also gave his own twist and additions to the drums as he saw fit.

NM: Who chose what to play and how did the students work on the arrangements of the chosen songs?

MB: The kids already knew ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘My Favourite Things’. I wanted them to write an original song so that they gain experience for their future endeavors, so I suggested that they write an original song. Isaac jumped on the wagon straight away and was very eager, he started working on it immediately. Ylenia's voice is quite sweet and so I started looking up rock versions of certain musicals as that's what she had most experience in till now. I came across Once Upon a December coincidentally (originally from Anastasia) and I absolutely loved the harmony, and so I looked up some more pumped-up versions and got inspiration from those and wrote the arrangement for them. Initially we were going to try more classic rock songs, considering the audience of The Garage, however we had some obstacles with rehearsal space the last few months and so had limited time to prepare, so we went with the four songs they were confident in.

NM: What were their comments after their performance at The Garage?

MB: Due to Delirium MT's performance straight after theirs, I didn't have so much time to get their feedback, however they all seemed very happy with their own performances, and I let them know they did great. They all were grinning and were still very pumped up after the show, so they definitely enjoyed it. Their parents were also very grateful to me after the show; they are very keen supporters of their kids and have always tried to adapt to our not-so-simple situations to ensure the kids had enough rehearsals done.

NM: What’s in the near future for Electric Echoes?

MB: At the moment, the plan is to build their repertoire for the next few months. I do not wish for them to become just another cover band, so we are aiming to pick music which is perhaps not always the most commonly known songs, but the important thing is to give it their own twist and their own style. Of course, playing songs that are familiar to the audience is always also important, as is knowing your audience, however they are still kids at the end of the day and so, building a repertoire takes time. We usually brainstorm any song ideas in the rehearsal, and I take note of any songs they mention to me to see how possible it is, then I do some research of my own, so in that way we are very collaborative as they are the ones playing the music, at the end of the day so I want to make sure they're enjoying it.

So who are these young musicians?

Electric Echoes Malta's youngest rock band - photo: Electric Echoes

Electric Echoes is made up of:

Luke James, the 12-year-old rhythm guitarist for the band, draws his primary inspiration from street buskers striving to earn extra money. Despite harboring a deep admiration for The Beatles, his favorite band, Luke envisions a future not solely dedicated to music but intends to pursue studies in the sciences. However, he foresees himself continuing to play the guitar until academic commitments intensify. Luke finds the experience of performing abroad to be excellent, describing it as both exciting and surreal. The band's victory in their category left him shocked and amazed. Reflecting on his performance at The Garage with Electric Echoes, Luke admitted the experience was ominous yet ultimately great.

photo: Maria Baldacchino

Isaac Azzopardi, the band's lead guitarist at the age of 14, attributes his musical journey beginning to his father, who owned a guitar. Slash, (Guns 'N' Roses), serves as his primary inspiration in the realm of electric guitar, alongside favorites like Bon Jovi and Carlos Santana. Recounting his experience at San Remo, Isaac describes it as a highly enjoyable musical journey, expressing pride in representing Malta, despite initially missing the culmination of the winners’ announcement due to the Italian language. Reflecting on their performance at The Garage, he emphasizes the band's appreciation for the crowd's support and notes it as a new, cool experience. Isaac envisions a future where he continues playing guitar and studies music abroad.

photo: Maria Baldacchino

Kyle Farrugia, one of the band's two keyboard players at the age of 13, embarked on his musical journey inspired by his grandfather, who presented him with an old synthesizer. Recalling the moment, Kyle admitted, "I immediately fell in love with music and wanted to learn how to play the piano." His musical taste aligns with Queen as his favorite band. Reflecting on performing abroad, he expressed awe at playing in one of Europe's most renowned theaters, where legendary artists have graced the stage. Winning was initially unbelievable, but the joy of the accomplishment resonated with both the band and the audience. Kyle is determined to continue his musical journey with aspirations to become a composer and perform in front of large audiences.

photo: Maria Baldacchino

photo: Maria Baldacchino

At the age of 13, Aiden Bondin, the drummer of the band, credits his uncle as the key inspiration that led him to pick up drumming at the age of 4, swiftly declaring Dave Weckl as his favourite drummer. Recounting his experience performing abroad, Aiden expressed that it marked the best experience in the past nine years, describing it as extremely amazing. The disbelief of winning was followed by immense happiness, fuelled by the audience's love for their performance. Reflecting on the band's presentation at The Garage, he described it as a pleasant experience, left without words as the crowd cheered for their band. Aiden envisions a future where he joins a professional band and attains popularity. Concluding with a powerful statement, he emphasises the importance of hard work in achieving dreams, stating, "I wish that people know that you need to work hard to achieve your dreams!!!"

Jake Azzopardi, the 13-year-old bass player, attributes his interest in music to his brother Isaac and their shared inspiration from Guns 'N' Roses. Beyond Guns 'N' Roses, his favorite bands include Duff McKagan, Rick Astley, and The Beatles. Describing his trip to San Remo as fun and exciting, Jake expresses genuine happiness at winning. While his commitment to playing bass with his bands—Freefall, The Rhythmics, and Electric Echoes—is unwavering, his ultimate inspiration lies in becoming a sound engineer. Reflecting on the experience of playing at The Garage with Electric Echoes, Jake was naturally delighted.

photo: Maria Baldacchino

photo: Maria Baldacchino

Elisha Bugeja, the band's other 13-year-old keyboard player, draws inspiration for her interest in music from a love of various genres rather than any specific artist. She expressed, "I enjoy listening to different genres of music, so no one in particular. I just love music and feel that it helps in whatever life throws at you." Her favorite band is Queen. Recounting her overseas adventure, Elisha shared, "I had a lot of fun and enjoyed living the experience. I enjoyed competing abroad with so many people, hearing us play and cheering our music. I couldn’t believe it when the band was announced as winners. I was really surprised and full of happiness because I wasn’t expecting it." Reflecting on her experience at The Garage, she highlighted the enjoyment of playing different songs in a unique venue. Looking ahead, Elisha aspires to become a well-known pianist, composer, and musician.

photo: Maria Baldacchino

Ylenia Vassallo, the 12-year-old singer of Electric Echoes, developed a love for music from a very young age, inspired by her mum's encouragement to take singing lessons. Her admiration for the art grew, and Ariana Grande became her favorite singer. Recalling her experience performing abroad, Ylenia described it as the best she had ever had on stage. When the band was announced as winners, she initially couldn't process the news, but joy quickly overcame her. Reflecting on The Garage performance, she expressed surprise at the enthusiastic audience response, stating, "It was also an amazing experience. I honestly didn’t think the audience was going to cheer as much as they did, but I’m so glad they did." Ylenia aspires to participate in musical theater productions in the future while continuing to grow as a singer, both individually and with the band.

photo: Maria Baldacchino

Luka Stojakovic, the 13-year-old saxophone player for the band, developed a love for his instrument after discovering the music of Lucky Chops and being captivated by the playing of their saxophonist, Leo Pellegrino, making both entities his favorites. Reflecting on his experience abroad in San Remo, Luka described it as unlike anything he had experienced before. Playing on a large stage in front of a sizable live and online audience was exciting, and the delightful result left him extremely shocked and happy, especially when the judges praised their performance. Recalling his time at The Garage, he termed it an overall great experience, particularly enjoying the support from many students and teachers from his school who attended the performance. Looking ahead, Luka aspires to enhance his jazz skills and perhaps join an orchestra. However, his current focus is to continue playing with the talented and hardworking musicians from his school. extends best wishes to these young musicians for their future endeavors in both music and life. The audience at The Garage undoubtedly acknowledged the bright prospects in their talent, so radiant that sunglasses might be necessary for the next performance!

photo: Maria Baldacchino

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1 commentaire

Maria Borg
Maria Borg
05 janv.

Thank you so much for the feature, Noel!

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