The band formed in 1996 and was initially known as The Wildbunch, eventually dropping that name due to pressure from the Bristol trip hop collective of the same name. Throughout the later half of the '90s, they played regularly at the Old Miami and the Gold Dollar in Detroit, the center of a scene that produced breakout acts like the White Stripes.
The band was originally composed of Dick Valentine (Tyler Spencer, vocals), Rock and Roll Indian (Anthony Selph, guitar), Surge Joebot (Joe Frezza, guitar), Disco (Steve Nawara, bass, former member of The Detroit Cobras), and M (Cory Martin, drums). Dick Valentine is and has always been the primary songwriter (both music and lyrics) of Electric Six. During the band's temporary split at the end of the 1990s, Tyler Spencer formed his own band called The Dirty Shame and released one CD titled Smog Cutter Love Story which featured, among other tracks, a first version of Fire track "Vengeance and Fashion." The band reformed by 2001 to record and release the first release of "Danger! High Voltage" and record the track "Dealin' in Death and Stealin' in the Name of the Lord" with Troy Gregory for his Sybil album.
The 2003 release of "Danger! High Voltage" (produced and mixed by Damien Mendis and Stuart Bradbury) proved a massive hit, particularly in the United Kingdom. The single also garnered the band public attention after a rumor got out that a pre-fame Jack White from The White Stripes sang backup vocals on the single track "Danger! (High Voltage)" when it was recorded. Although this was presented as fact in multiple sources, then-guitarist Surge said in an interview:
In another interview, former drummer M. said: "My attorney has advised us to neither confirm nor deny the presence of Jack White."
Still, the rumor persisted that Jack White was featured on the song "Danger! High Voltage." Initially both he and the Electric Six denied this, and the vocal work was credited officially to the unknown John S O'Leary.
The band's 2003 debut Fire (also produced and mixed by Damien Mendis and Stuart Bradbury) earned the group significant critical success, landing the "Danger! High Voltage" single at number 2 on the UK singles chart. Their second single, "Gay Bar", released in 2003, reached No. 5 in the UK charts.
The album made it into several best-of-2003 lists, as well as reaching the top 10 in the UK album chart, and another single "Dance Commander", which gave Electric Six its third Top 40 single in the UK.
After finishing the recording of Fire, three members left in June, leaving Dick Valentine, M, and Tait Nucleus? (Christopher Tait). Johnny Na$hinal (John Nash, guitar, member of The Volebeats, The Witches and solo effort The Alphabet), The Colonel (Zach Shipps, guitar, ex member of Brendan Benson, The Atomic Numbers and Mood Elevator), John R. Dequindre (Chris Peters, bass/guitar) and Frank Lloyd Bonaventure (Mark Dundon, bass) (both-ex members of Ann Arbor's whirlingRoad, Getaway Cruiser and Six Clips) subsequently joined the group, although The Colonel had to opt out of early performances due to prior touring commitments. In time, Dequindre switched from guitar to bass and Bonaventure left to attain a law degree.
In early 2004, Electric Six played at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
The band's second album, Señor Smoke, was released in the United Kingdom on February 14, 2005. Since the band had been dropped from their previous American record label, a North American release of the album was delayed until February 7, 2006, when it came out on Metropolis Records.
The first single from the album put the band at the center of controversy, especially with Queen fans, following a cover of the Queen hit song "Radio Ga Ga." The controversial music video shows lead singer Dick Valentine as the ghost of Queen's lead singer Freddie Mercury and a backing band of poodles. Queen drummer Roger Taylor, who wrote the song, said that he was "unimpressed" with the video; Queen guitarist Brian May reportedly liked it.
According to Dick Valentine
In November 2004, drummer M. called it quits, leaving Dick Valentine as the sole original member of the former Wildbunch. Their new drummer, Percussion World (Mike Alonso), had been affiliated with the band and its members for some time, and was named as a permanent member of the band.
Electric Six finished recording their third album, titled Switzerland, in November 2005 and released it in North America on September 12, 2006. The band intended to record a video for every song on the album, "a lot of them...low budget." At present, eight videos have been released.
In May 2007, Swedish bassist Smörgåsbord! (Keith Thompson, member of Johnny Headband) joined the band, replacing John R. Dequindre on the bass, who reportedly wished to spend more time on his other musical projects.
I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me from Being the Master, Electric Six's fourth studio album, was released October 9, 2007. It has sixteen tracks. In the UK the album was released on October 22.
16 of the 18 tracks recorded were used on the album. There were no singles in support of this album, however the band have had several music videos produced and spread over the internet for a number of tracks on the album.
A fifth album, Flashy, was released on October 21, 2008. This same year the band won the 2008 "My Heart" Competition for this album.
The band promoted the album in the US, the UK and Spain on their 'Hitting the Walls and Working the Middle' tour. A 30 track album of demos and previously unreleased material titled Sexy Trash was released and made available at those shows.
In May 2009, Metropolis records released "Covered in Gas" by Evil Cowards, a project by Valentine and Fall On Your Sword's William Bates.
KILL was released on October 20, 2009 in the US with the UK release following on November 2, 2009.
Dick Valentine told the audience at Johnny Brenda's in Philadelphia on April 30, 2009 that the new fall release would be titled "Jared Styles"; however the final name for the album simply became KILL.
A music video for first track on the album, "Body Shot", has been released on the internet, and is featured on the upcoming soundtrack of Michael Benveniste's "Tedd Can Chronicles".
On February 14, 2010, Dick Valentine announced via the Electric Six website that the band is in the process of recording their 7th studio album. Valentine also mentioned that this album would contain a cover song that they have been contemplating for a long time. This cover has since been confirmed as "The Rubberband Man" by The Spinners.
On April 30, 2010, Dick Valentine confirmed at a concert at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana that the seventh album would be a twelve-track compilation titled Zodiac. It was released on September 28, 2010.
The band's eighth studio album is titled Heartbeats and Brainwaves, as announced through their official website on June 22, 2011. It was released on October 11. It was the first release of which Johnny Na$hinal served as producer. Previews of five tracks from the album were posted on the band's official Facebook page.
On January 30, 2012, the band announced via their website and Facebook that they were going to release a live album, entitled Absolute Pleasure, set for release in the fall of 2012. The album was recorded at shows in Minneapolis and Chicago in May. Absolute Pleasure was initially reported to be a double-disc album, with the first disc containing the entirety of their first album, Fire, and the second containing their "favorite tracks from all the other albums", however, these plans changed in development and the finished product was a single-disc amalgamation of both discs' content." A live DVD of Fire was also going to be filmed at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London on December 15, however, these plans were cancelled and later revisited as the band's 2013 Absolute Treasure Kickstarter project.
Lead singer Dick Valentine released his first solo album Destroy the Children under the Dick Valentine moniker on May 14, 2012.
On February 16, 2013, the band launched a Kickstarter campaign for a live DVD called Absolute Treasure. The project was intended to give Electric Six the funds to film and release a live DVD of a performance to be filmed on September 7, 2013. The funding was successful. Absolute Treasure was released for download in February 2014.
On April 11, 2013, the band confirmed through their Facebook page that their next album, Mustang, would be released in October 2013, and was released on the 8th of the month.
Lead singer Dick Valentine released his second solo album Halloween Fingers under the Dick Valentine moniker on April 30, 2013.
Towards the end of their 2013 tour, Dick Valentine confirmed on stage that they were working on a new unnamed album to be released in 2014. On January 22, 2014 the Electric Six Facebook page posted "Hey Crazies...work has commenced on studio album # 2,143...or 10, depending upon how you're keeping score. It'll be out in the fall. No confirmed title yet, so don't ask."
The title was later confirmed as 'Human Zoo' on May 16, 2014, and was released for streaming on Spotify on October 13, 2014.
On the 6th of June 2014, Electric Six launched their second Kickstarter project; this time for a two-disc album entitled Mimicry and Memories. Disc 1, Mimicry, is to be a cover album. Each member of the band personally selected a song to cover and the funding packages offered four fans the chance to choose a song to be included on the album. Songs to be included on Mimicry include covers of One by Harry Nilsson, The Warrior by Patty Smyth and Scandal, The Look by Roxette, Do You Love Me? by Kiss, Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac, Easy Lover by Phil Collins and Phillip Bailey, Turn Me Loose by Loverboy and Cat People (Putting Out Fire) by David Bowie.
Disc 2, Memories, is to serve as a sequel to Sexy Trash, offering another selection of rarities, demos and B-sides from the band's back-catalogue. The project was successfully completed and was released to the public in March 2015.
Lead singer Dick Valentine announced the release of his third solo album, Here Come The Bags! under the Dick Valentine moniker. It was released on April 21, 2015.
On March 24, 2015, it was announced that bassist Smorgasbord was to leave the band. He was subsequently replaced by Matt Tompkins, AKA Rob Lower.
On October 2, 2015, the band released its eleventh studio album, entitled Bitch, Don't Let Me Die! It was originally released for streaming via Spotify on Metropolis Records.
On January 7, 2016, the band suggested via their Instagram page that longtime drummer Percussion World would be leaving the group. A few weeks later, he surfaced as the new drummer for Celtic punk band Flogging Molly under his real name, Mike Alonso. He was replaced by Noah Appel, AKA Two-Handed Bob.
On July 29, 2016, the band announced its twelfth studio album, Fresh Blood for Tired Vampyres, for release on October 7, 2016.
Electric Six incorporates a variety of styles, resulting in being termed a "genre-blurring" band. The group's sound has been described as a synthesis of "disco, synth pop, glam, and arena rock," including the falsetto vocals of disco, laden with "rampant solos, be they guitar riffs, synth wails, or strutting drums" that enforce the band's "energetic sound." However, the band members themselves have rejected such genre classifications as "disco-metal" and "disco-punk."
Critics have termed their lyrics as "disaffected, angry, ironic and lustful", expressing "macho flippancy" and "tongue-in-cheek pomposity". Dick Valentine has estimated that "90 percent of our songs, maybe even higher than 90 percent" are "about absolutely nothing." Songs by Electric Six are often concerned with subjects such as human sexual behavior, masculinity, dancing, hypersexuality, fast food and fire (The band's official biography states that their debut album Fire was so named because they "noticed an abundance of the word fire on this record and...decided to go with it."). Lead singer Dick Valentine had commented on the aforementioned lyrical tendencies in song content with regards to the band's third album:
[...] for the first time, none of the songs have the word "dance" or variation of "dance" in the title. But fear not. We have songs with "drugs" and "girls" and "tonight" and "night" and "louder" and "party" in the title, so we haven't given up on our philosophy just yet.
Valentine cited Freddie Mercury, Talking Heads, Falco, Devo, and Captain Beefheart as his musical influences, as well as Black Sabbath, Queen and KISS for the rest of the group.