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Hinterland – Interview with Elks

A stampede of Elks....

A stampede of Elks....

We really hope you are enjoying this series of interviews as much as we are. It’s also heartening to know there are so many committed, talented new acts coming through. We’re particularly taken with Elks, whose ‘What hit the Ceiling’ could be the alternative song that could this year as far as we are concerned. Rob from the band took time out to chat with us;

‘A Strong Confident Woman’ and ‘What Hit the Ceiling’ are cracking titles as well as songs. You clearly feel lyrics are important in music. Who influenced you lyrically?

More often than not my lyrics are about the shape of a word or the urgency that they can bring to a song, rather than telling a story.  I guess it’s more a literary ‘cut n paste’ approach, although i’m holding out for the day that I can find the perfect beginning, middle and end.  There is no one person I think of when I sit down to write lyrics, there are too many, one that springs to mind at the moment though is M. Edward Cole from Joeyfat – he writes fucking great lyrics!

Are you looking forward to playing with Jeffrey Lewis?

Absolutly!  I’ve seen him quite a few times and each time it’s been different.  I think he might have a full band with him this time which would be good – he’ll need to be a bit louder to keep up with us!

What got you started in music?

There have been loads of little episodes that have got me to where I am now: pre-school free percussion sessions, infant school recorder recitals, primary school tenor horn, church choir (£1 for weddings!)…I’ve been doing music all my life but I’ve never had the guts to call myself a musician because I still feel like I’m starting out.  There’s always a million new things to learn and try.

What’s the best aspect of live performance?

The immediacy of it.  I never get nervous and beyond the songs I love interacting with the audience and doing something on the spur of the moment and seeing what reaction you can get.  It helps make it a show for the people that come to watch you as well…I’ve never subscbribed to the whole stand still and looking moody thing.

What’s your favourite gig played so far?

I think I can whittle it down to three: the last show we did on our Italian tour last November, a show in Munich a couple of years ago or a show in Manchester last December.  All because the audiences were receptive and amazing and we were playing like we couldn’t hit a wrong note if we tried.  If only they were all like that.

Do you feel your labelmates and you share a vision?

Great Outdoors or Unlabel??  Either way, yes!  It’s all about getting stuck in and making thought provoking music, not disposable tripe reliant on trends.  DIY bands and labels are the foundation of music creativity in this and probably any other country and that should never be forgotten!

Who at Hinterland are you most excited to be sharing the bill with?

I’m loving the look of the line-up in general.  That might sound non-commital but it’s better just to go and check it out.

Of the less well known acts at Hinterland, who would you recommend to check out?

85 Bears, Manatees, These Monsters, Guanoman, Geordi La Force, Wintermute…

What does the rest of 2009 look like for you?

We’ve just said goodbye to an old member and just got a new one, so we’ll be writing a load of new stuff as many of the old songs simply won’t work anymore. Hopefully we’ll be recording over the summer and touring again around September.  I can’t wait!

How  important do you feel art is in reflecting society?

I think it plays a very important role in reflecting what goes on with society as a whole – culturally, politcally –  but sometimes when it’s taken too literally either but those making or consuming it, it’s useful to remember that art serves an equally important role as a means of escape – something that’s often hard to identify amongst the constant barrage of information.  I’ll stop short of using the word distraction because it’s a loaded term, and I’m a firm believer in context, but increasingly I believe people need a side door to slip out of once in a while.  That’s certainly how I feel about the process of making music.  In a rehearsal room or on stage, everything else stops for me for the time that we’re playing.

Art v Commerce – Is it possible to be hugely successful and hugely respected at the same time? What’s most important?

I think it has been in the past but the way things are going I’m not convinced it will be.  For example, if we are measuring success by financial reward then absolutly not because the future would appear to lie in product sponsored albums and the like and art dictated to and by adversting revenue can never be true and I would hope not be respected.  Saying that I’m by no means an advocate of free art, at least not within the confinds of our present society, purly because it can only lead one way and that’s down.  The Radiohead led music give-away is the worst thing to have happened in the 15 years I’ve been working in music.  It completely devalues the work, and huge record companies and bands who are fincially secure enough to be able to do this only succeed in putting pressure on lower level labels, acts & unsigned artists to emulate because it would appear to be the only way to make it big…whatever the hell that means.  Everyone needs to make money to progress, to grow and keep creating and somehow this ideal is being erased in music.  Success and respect should be concomitant, somewhere along the line we seem to have forgotten this, and that’s why I believe we should support the music we love by sticking our hands in our pockets.

It’s an interesting time for the music business – has technology been a help or a hinderance to aspiring artists?

A bit of both I think. It can’t be denied that technology, the internet specifically, has revolutionised an artists ability to self-market themselves but the other side of the coin is that it can become a lot more about the marketing and less about either genuine talent or aquired skill, meaning these are all too often overlooked in favour of someone that simply gets their face in the right places.  The music business is still driven by the traditional aspect of who you know not what you know though, and I can’t see that changing for the forseeable future unfortunatly.

Who are the most overrated and underrated artists in music?

Those at the top are overrated and those at the bottom are underrated, everyone knows that, right?

Check them out at http://www.myspace.com/elkstheband

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4 Responses

  1. Great point re downloads…..the danger was and is that artists get ‘lost’ in the process as too many kids believe that music appears from the ether. There has to remain a link between the song and the person / people who wrote it….music is not free. Music needs to have a charge attached in order that the bands can make more. Also a nominal charge reminds people that music is something they need to access, and not just wallpaper, not just ‘always there’.

  2. I think you’ll find a lot of interesting things in our Geordi La Force interview. His contention is that the people who follow you are still the ones who come to see you and make a connection that way. interesting.

  3. Read that…..probably true. Having a ‘presence in cyberspace’ is actually worthless as a band, pretyy much. It is fun, but pointless!!

  4. Everyone just assumes it’s the Arctic Monkeys/Lily Arsehole approach to success; post music up on MySpace and wait! It doesn’t work like that!

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