This year I stepped away from my comfort zone and started a blog about the aspects of adulthood. From living situations to sex to next month’s topic, family. With that, it made me think of ELEL. They’re a merry band made up of six and that made me personally breakout in hives. I can’t imagine having that many people rely on me to make their dreams come true, to be the best me, and to talk to on the regular. That’s because I am a hermit freelancer who is okay with seeing her family every couple of months face to face. Thankfully that’s not how ELEL runs because they wouldn’t be on point if they decided to practice and perform every once in awhile. Tight family aspects aside, we talked about first kisses, creating sounds and of course – basketball. Let’s get to it!
Kendra: How do practices play out when you have six members – are they always chaotic, or have you found a good balance between work and play since starting a few years ago?
Ben Elkins: They’re pretty organized, and probably a lot quieter than you might think. Well, after the initial 20 minutes of everyone arriving and catching up about their weeks. It’s a really enthusiastic group of people; lots to yell and laugh about. Then we get down to business and put the songs under a microscope. Everyone gets a say, and sometimes we discuss ideas at length, but eventually we come to some kind of resolve.
Kendra: With such a big group, you’ve definitely got a family vibe. Who would have what role in this little family of yours; father, brother, cousin Oliver, etc.?
Ben: I’m the father for sure. Some because I’m oldest, and some because I wear smart wools. Listed in order of oldest to youngest children: Stefan, Zach, JoJo, Tim, Alex. Surprisingly, Stefan’s actually the youngest one in the band, but he’s just always so relaxed and confident. He kinda runs the show sometimes, and then I get to be a kid.
Kendra: Now onto the music. “Kiss Kiss” dropped last month on Under the Radar and they absolutely raved about it. Would you trade your memory of your first kiss for the chance to continue on this good path you’re on with ELEL?
Ben: Haha, yes definitely! I mean, it was a first kiss so in a sense, it was alright, but I had no idea what I was doing, and it probably wasn’t great from her perspective. (Tongues too?!?) Needless to say, this good path I’m on with my friends in ELEL is much more fulfilling.
Kendra: On a serious note, “Kiss Kiss” is a great song. It has this funk meets pop meets indie sound. Back in the day there used to be such a fine line between genres, now those have blurred. Why do you think there’s been so much genre bending music in recent years?
Ben: Well, probably because our world has become so small. It used to be much more difficult to hear Indian music say, but now it’s right at our fingertips, not to mention possibly right down the road. The world is becoming less and less segmented. Some of that’s sad I think because the contrast of cultures becomes less striking and special. But the new things that come out of combining older things is really exciting. I feel like the music world is wide open right now. Sure, there’s not millions of dollars being thrown around in the music industry anymore, but when else could an Eastern European horn line be so prominent in a the pop hit “Worth It?” It’s not just cute or kitschy either, that musical part feels familiar enough to be in our popular culture, and that’s SO exciting to me. Anything goes, it’s all fair game now.
Kendra: Will your upcoming 2016 release, Geode, be all about that – intertwining genres?
Ben: That’s not the goal, but it does range quite a bit genre-wise. It’s a product of me, a solo creator with a laptop, introducing these songs to a live band who then puts their own spin on it all. Sometimes it’s hard to find how things flow together, some of it’s very organic, some of it’s more fabricated and electronic. But it’s all ELEL, and we love it all, so we just keep playing all the songs together in the same set, while cutting the things that don’t work anymore. The record is a good representation of what we all feel like works live.
Kendra: When you start creating a song, what comes first for you – the lyrics or the sound?
Ben: The sound comes first, and then about a year or two later comes the lyrics. Songwriting is often a very lengthy process for me. Musical ideas pop into my head from time to time and I say “Thanks!” and write it down. Then lyric writing eventually happens to which I say “Go fuck yourself” because I get no help at all. It’s like pulling teeth and takes forever. But usually I end up with something that I really believe and really like the flow of, so it’s worth it. Songs last forever after all.
Kendra: Switching gears a bit, with a big love of basketball – what team would you want to adopt one of your songs as their own, and what song would you want it to be?
Ben: Current day Golden State of course! Mid-90s Chicago Bulls of course! I know, not much mystery there, but a lot of us love the NBA, and there’s no denying the magician-ship of Steph Curry and/or Michael Jordan. I think we’d freely give either team our song “Animal” because the intro…Just want to see a team run out of the tunnel to that intro. That’d be the best!
Kendra: When will ELEL be on the road come 2016?
Ben: A lot in March, including SXSW, April through May, and hopefully a lot of the summer as well; as much as possible. We love being out there. Like you said before, it’s like a family now, and when we’re here in Nashville everybody’s got their own lives which is fine, but we miss each other and we long for those laughs in the van.
Kendra: If you had to make a mixtape for an old school “makeout” party like you’d see featured on Full House and Blossom, what five songs would have to be on it?
Ben: Wait, do they have to be songs from that era? I broke the rules if so! Okay, building up here:
“Eternal Flame” Bangles
“Step” Vampire Weekend
“Gila” Beach House
“Disclosure” You & Me feat. Eliza Doolittle
“Sweet Thing” Van Morrison
Then just put “Baby” by Donnie & Joe Emerson on repeat after that.