Depending on what night you catch them, ELEL could have anywhere from six to eight members at a time playing horns, keys, drums, and guitars. This eclectic mix of pop, jazz, and soul that hails from Nashville was born out of true love. With their first EP – self-titled ELEL – dropping just a few days ago, we have a lot to look forward to during their showcases at SXSW 2015.
VM: How do you manage to coordinate schedules to collaborate and play shows with so many members involved with the band?
Ben Elkins: It’s definitely tricky, but it’s just so damn worth it when we get in the van together or hop on stage together. We’re all from very different backgrounds, so every tour is a lesson in flexibility and understanding. But it’s paying off. It’s just such a fun and special crew of people, and I think all of us are very glad we stuck it out through the beginning and now have become a tight knit family.
VM: Will all seven members be playing at SX?
BE: There’s gonna be six of us there for most of the shows. We have some horn player friends who might join us for a showcase or two, but mostly just the six of us. Fredrick who plays trumpet for us got scooped up by a fancy cruise ship gig. He’s getting paid really well and traveling around the world. Pretty much what we’re doing without the paid-really-well part! He’ll be back with us soon though, for summer touring thank goodness.
VM: How has coming from rural backgrounds – like Arkansas and Kentucky – combined with living in Nashville influenced your music?
BE: I guess the pace down in the south is just a little slower. People are generally more laid back. I love going to New York and LA as much as the next guy, but they both feel more frantic. Our music, though not at all country or soul music, has been influenced by the ease and slower pace of both those southern musical traditions.
Also, the fact that most of us grew up around hills and trees, playing in creeks, I think makes us very interested in the organic live performance. So much of recorded music is so fit in and perfected now-a-days that it’s got no soul. ELEL struggles to keep humanity in our music even though we all use computers to record. Humanity isn’t perfect, so why should our music be? I’m not saying that we’re messy on purpose; I just know that we prefer things sounding like they do when they’re performed rather than after they’re fixed. We can relate to them more that way.
VM: Why did you choose these four songs for your EP?
BE: So far, all that’s been out and available is our single “40 Watt” which stylistically is one side of ELEL, but definitely not the whole thing. I just wanted to show ELEL’s other side on this EP. The softer vibe of both “Geode” and “Cherokee” introduce that part of ELEL.
VM: Will you be playing other songs like “Eliska” and “Kiss Kiss” during your showcases and SX?
BE: Yes, definitely! Those are probably my two favorite ones to sing in our set. The melodies are both so bouncy and fun.
VM: Speaking of “Eliska,” how does she feel about being the spark that started ELEL?
BE: She loves it! Thankfully, she really likes ELEL’s music. She’s got very good taste in music, so it’d be a real bummer if she wasn’t into the band that she inspired. She helps me a lot behind the scenes when I’m first writing songs. Her influence is probably way stronger than anyone would guess.
VM: Who are you most excited to see while in Austin?
BE: Our good friends, Avers. We just got off tour with them last week and already miss them so much!
VM: Would you say you are barbecue joint or a taco truck person?
BE: Taco truck all the way. We’re staying a few blocks from Torchy’s, oh boy…
VM: Any chance your hit song “40 Watt” has any relation to the beloved music venue here in Athens?
BE: [Laughs] Well, I’ve heard about that venue a lot, but never been. Needless to say, I hope we get to play “40 Watt” at The 40 Watt someday soon. Will rainbows fill the room? Will everyone suddenly stop watching Fox News? I don’t know, but when that goes down, something good and magical will occur.
VM: We see you guys are quite busy touring across country through April. What’s next for ELEL once you return?
BE: We have a lot of work to do here in Nashville. There are some new songs that we want to finish, probably for release in early summer. Also, we need to shoot a bunch of videos. We’re hoping to release our full-length by mid summer, so there’s just a lot of prep for that. We’ll also be doing some touring around the region. Give us a call, 40 Watt. Let’s make the magic happen.
Wed 3/18 – Palm Door – SXSW Showcase @ 12am
Thurs 3/19 – Off-Site – House Show
Fri 3/20 – Brew Exchange – Beautiful Buzzz x Vitalic Noise Party @ 1pm
Sat 3/21 – Wonderland Austin – BirdDog Presents Party @ 2pm
Sat 3/22 – The Scoot Inn – Wild Honey Pie Party @ 6:15pm