RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane, December 2022.
As the heat beats down on the final day of Good Things Festival — Australia’s premiere alternative and heavy touring event — a six piece electronicore band from Castrop-Rauxel in Germany’s Ruhr Valley finishes their final Australian show, performing to a rapturous crowd hungry for more.
The band is Electric Callboy, a group whose notoriety has skyrocketed since a brilliantly crafted song and music video, “Hypa Hypa”, released during the depths of the pandemic, brought them large-scale international fame – including a stream count exceeding 65 million on multiple singles each.
Seeing the band backstage not long after, it’s clear emotions have been running high. It’s the first time they have performed to Australian audiences, and their final show of what had been a chaotic year of touring.
Almost exactly one year on from that Brisbane show, we find ourselves in the company of the band once more. Announcing their debut headline tour of Australia mere months after the summer festival, the demand for Electric Callboy around the country led to sold out shows within minutes, with venue upgrades soon following.
From their Good Things sideshows shows at Max Watt’s in Melbourne and Sydney, the band now look down the barrel at venues like Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion and Melbourne’s PICA, as well as debut shows in Perth and Adelaide.
Reflecting on this rapid expansion with frontmen Nico Sallach and Kevin Ratajczak ahead of their 5,000-plus capacity show in Melbourne, both speak with nothing but gratitude, albeit with a slight sense of overwhelm.
View this post on Instagram
“This year was full of rushing around,” Ratajczak says. “I know that we need time in between tours to process all the things that are happening. I remember, like you say, last year was such an experience to be in Australia for the first time. Getting that response, we didn’t know what to expect. It’s such a blessing to not have to think about selling more tickets, because the run has sold out. We’re at home, knowing that the whole tour is going to be sold out and it’s such an amazing feeling.”
“It’s going to be emotional when we play the last show of the year, again, it will be in Brisbane,” Sallach adds. “There was so much happening this year and I think this will be the point where we realise what has happened. And now, it’s done.”
The Australian run for Electric Callboy marks the end of a tour cycle that has found the band headlining venues throughout Europe, the UK, and North America with their sixth studio album, Tekkno. Along with headline touring, the band has been a constant feature on festival bills throughout Europe, including their second curated-arena festival, Escalation Fest, in Germany.
Asked how bringing Tekkno and their now-acclaimed live show to audiences worldwide has changed them, both Ratajczak and Sallach reaffirm the tightness of the band’s overall bond.
“When you only exist on the internet or through YouTube videos, I’ve seen it with other bands… when you see them play live, it’s different,” Ratajczak insists.
“It’s easy to look and sound great when you have a studio produced album and studio-produced videos but in the end, it can only be meaningful and special when it works together as a band onstage. After a year or two of touring, we are very confident now. It feels better than ever before.”
Prior to the release of Tekkno, a large percentage of Electric Callboy fans had fallen in love with them through their internet presence during lockdown, with “Hypa Hypa” becoming the gateway for a whole new wave of fans. A sharp injection of neon-infused electronic and metal music was what people needed when feeling at their darkest, and perhaps most chronically online.
The runaway success of the track provided a strong foundation for the German group who, already with five albums to their name, were ushering in a new era.
A lineup change saw the introduction of clean vocalist Sallach and with it, a new chemistry within the group. Between Sallach and Ratajczak, an undeniable bond was born — one that has become a particular bedrock of the Electric Callboy live experience.
“I’m not that nervous anymore. There’s still an amount of nervousness, but it’s not like it was one and a half years ago, when everyone was expecting so much,” Sallach explains. “Kevin describes it as a bubble [of hype] that was growing during the pandemic; for every show, I was super nervous. I wasn’t that self-assured, but now that has changed.”
But while the energy of the band’s two frontmen is a huge drawcard, the rejuvenation of the group, especially during a time where international exposure was hit and miss for so many artists, positioned Electric Callboy on a precipice of becoming one of Germany’s biggest exports.
The release of Tekkno proved to be that final nudge for the band. Ten tracks heralding an official rebirth of a group primed to take a global spotlight, Tekkno landed as a polarising addition to the Electric Callboy catalogue.
Fusing massive breakdowns with confident metalcore riffs and unpredictable vocal bends with a bold lean into pop melodies, Tekkno gave Electric Callboy their first number one charting album in Germany, as well as multiple top 20 placements on album charts elsewhere in Europe and the UK.
Moreover, the record demonstrated the refined artistry of Electric Callboy as songwriters and producers. The band operates almost like its own production house; from songwriting to production to a hands-on approach to their videos, there’s nothing the band releases that doesn’t have their consistent input and direction.
“We enrich each other,” Ratajczak says. “I know there are a lot of bands who may have a producer and one or two people from the band who work on the songs; we have at least four people who work on them. Of course, we like to have influences, but we all discuss these songs. Sometimes I might not feel a song at the beginning, but Nico will. And it will be the same the other way around. Everybody has ideas that they put on the table.”
“Through the process of writing Tekkno, we got to know each other so well,” Sallach agrees. “Kevin is the guy who used to learn by playing piano, but he has so many other harmonies in his head that I don’t have. They’re like the missing little puzzle pieces that fill everything in.”
With a new year fast approaching, the cogs are already turning when it comes to what is up next for Electric Callboy.
A new purpose-built studio space waits to be broken in back home in Castrop-Rauxel, while a fresh headline tour in Europe and a return to the US awaits in the first half of 2024.
The follow up to Tekkno is also waiting to be written — a prospect both Sallach and Ratajczak admit they haven’t properly begun to wrap their heads around yet. Though it will be the band’s seventh record, for many newcomers it will almost feel like their second, the impact of Tekkno landing like a breakthrough debut.
Though ideas for the new album are still in their infancy, Ratajczak and Sallach are confident that the formula the band has been using is clearly working.
“When you’re successful with something, it gives you confidence,” Ratajczak says. “For example, we tried some things out when we started as a band years ago, we’d ask ourselves, ‘Can we really do that? Is it something that we should dare to do on a record?’ And now that we have tried and have done everything it’s like, ‘Yeah, why not? Of course we can!’”
“It’s not like we don’t give a fuck,” Sallach adds. “But we have the freedom to do whatever we like to do, and that’s the best part of being in this band. The people don’t know what we’re going to do next.”
Electric Callboy play in Sydney on Thursday, November 30th and Brisbane on Friday, December 1st (more information here).