Everyone adores the Elanors

One of the biggest surprises on the local scene has been the quick rise in notice afforded to The Elanors. The young married couple of Noah and Adriel (formerly backed by drummer Joshua Lucas) write songs that are utterly sincere and personal, and their sonics are always evolving. Buzz was able to sit down with the duo to discuss their history and their debut record, A Year To Demonstrate.

Buzz: Tell us the story of your debut album, A Year To Demonstrate.
Noah: Adriel and I got married October 2003, and right after that I started writing songs again. It had been maybe eight or so months off from writing. So I really wanted to start writing songs again-
Adriel: On our honeymoon, actually.
Noah: -and so, we had all this extra cash from getting
married, so I really wanted to demo the songs. We bought an eight-track and I did a little bit in the basement of our house, for probably three weeks or a month.

You were working alone at that time, right?
Noah: Yeah, I was writing by myself, with inspiration from Adriel, but not anything hands-on.
Adriel: There are a few songs on A Year To Demonstrate that were written before Noah and I were actually dating. You can hear a difference in the songs-there are some obvious love songs.
Noah: I spent a year and a half trying to woo her … after we got married, there are a few more social and political songs. So I demoed those songs and sent them off to friends. Then another six months passed and I wrote a whole new batch of songs and demoed them. Then, when we met Steven and Heather Zydek, who run Isidore Records, they were really excited and they wanted to put something out with us. They heard both sets of demos, and we sort of agreed on the first set.
Adriel: We picked the best songs.
Noah: And then we put that together, and that was A Year To Demonstrate. The title is supposed to smack of ‘demo.’
Adriel: Steven and Heather-we met them at Aroma Cafe-we were both playing that night (they have a project called Joyful Sorrow), and we met them that evening, and we probably sat in Aroma in the outside area just talking about things.
Noah: We stood.
Adriel: Yeah, we stood there. They’re two of the finest people in this town. They’re really passionate about music and community and relationships, so the CD was sort of born of that friendship. Steven actually mastered it all in his basement.

Could you explain who Isidore Records is?
Noah: Steven and Heather put it together to release their first album, Quietude. Right around the time we got together might have been the first time they were really thinking about bringing other people in.

What brought you back here after living in Madison?
Noah: We got married, then decided we were going to go back to school. We live in my parents’ basement.
Adriel: Since we moved back here we’ve really fallen in love with this town. I think when Noah lived here the downtown area was totally undeveloped.

When did you leave?
Noah: 1999. The Blind Pig had closed and it was pretty desolate.
Adriel: Everyone in town has been really encouraging and receptive.

Who are some of the people who were particularly helpful?
Noah: Rob McColley.
Adriel: He gave us our first show in town, and he was our first musician friend besides the Zydeks.
Noah: We got a show with Cameron (McGill). Scott Kimbell came to our aid. It was his idea to have us play with Cameron.

Sounds like a good match.
Noah: I think that a lot of Cameron’s people were like, ‘someone new!’
Adriel: We instantly had crushes on Cameron … Seth Fein … Mike Ingram … Jana Roberts …

How’d you create the typewriter rhythm on ‘Roads To Freedom?’ Is it looped?
Noah: Not at all. That was before I knew how to loop things.
Adriel: He found an old typewriter in his parent’s garage.
Noah: The story of that song I find interesting, because I did write it in the morning, and I recorded in the evening. I’d never done that before.
Adriel: We have some paper that’s probably filled with ‘JKJKJJK.’

How’d you discover the baritone guitar?
Adriel: I’ve been a Blonde Redhead fan for a long time. When we first started playing in a band, we went on this little tour with some friends and I was playing a Wurlitzer and just doing bass notes on it, and Noah was playing guitar and we had a friend playing drums with us. During that tour, we were like, ‘Man, this would really sound nice on a baritone,’ so we came home and found one for really cheap and tried to learn some things on it. I loved playing it, but I never felt that comfortable on it, so lately I’ve gone back to guitar. I think it would be fun to play with a band again someday, I think-also, you know, Noah and I are married so we’re in constant communication on a dime, and having another person in there and expecting them to invest time only to have us change again is making us a little bit more cautious.

Your live sound originally was much different than the way A Year To Demonstrate sounds. Why is that?
Adriel: For a while I think we felt like we had to the do the rock band thing for people to like us; we had to make it loud and fast, and that was really fun, but after a while it really wasn’t us. Rob McColley was one of the people who encouraged us, ‘You don’t have to do the rock band thing if it’s not what you need to play right now,’ and I think that sorta gave us the final nudge, and it’s hard.

How do you think listeners should take your very personal songs?
Noah: The cheap answer is that I guess if there’s anything people are used to dealing with it’s love songs.
Adriel: I hope that they respond thoughtfully and are spurred to some sort of action, whether it’s just loving other people-being passionate or generous with their lives. Those are really lofty ambitions, but I hope that’s how people listen to them.
Noah: We really don’t have the stamina to write fiction,
I think, I think literature has had a huge impact on us, we’re humans-this is our way, I think, responding to that and trying to make some ourselves. I mean, when I listen to music that really moves me, that power really moves me.

How did you two begin making music with each other?
Adriel: When I first met him he was just playing by himself on guitar, and it was really beautiful, and he’d captivate audiences up there in Madison. I think when we were engaged we played one show in Chicago at Uncommon Ground, and I sang along with him and played guitar on one song. I think our voices are really compatible-it was just really fun to sing. It wasn’t until after we got married that we did this little tour in January of 2004 with our friends The New Kentucky Quarter. For that tour, I learned some bass piano parts and I just sang harmonies. But, I think from the very beginning we realized what I really added best I think was just harmonies and our voices mix really well. So … switching to the baritone (guitar), I’m much more comfortable on guitar, so I’m a little more comfortable on the baritone, like singing more, and now that I’m switching back to just regular guitar I think I’ll be singing a lot more.
Noah: It was this past August that we went on a little tour, just the two of us … It was hard for her to know how to approach the live show-it was just weird.
Adriel: Should I just be in the background humming along?
Noah: It was poorly defined, so at that point we were like, ‘Why don’t we create something that’s really us?’ and that’s what we did. I think actually the songs themselves have started to take on the personality of what the Elanors is. They’re developing with us. But it was in August that we decided we were going to do this together.

Where does the name ‘Elanors’ come from?
Adriel: Our niece is Elanor. She’s 4 years old and she just moved in with us-that is, her family did. We’re all living together now for the summer. We tried all sorts of names, and it’s the most pretentious thing, coming up with a band name. It felt so uncomfortable, but when we said The Elanors it felt like it could be potentially disarming. She’s obviously very important to us.

You two are instantly recognizable to people, and resemble each other. Did you cultivate that appearance?
Adriel: I think the more you’re around someone, the more you start to look like them. I think definitely our mannerisms have become more like each other.
Noah: We thought it was hysterical-the first rash of local press was all talking about our appearance.

What do you listen to? Do you two listen to different things often?
Adriel: Pretty much all the stuff Noah really likes I like. Rufus Wainwright has probably been played the most in our CD player. Jeff Buckley.

I heard you guys on (WPGU’s) Under The Influence, playing songs you liked.
Adriel: We played some songs people got mad about, like um …
Noah: Yea, we played the Dissociatives and somebody called in-
Adriel: Daniel Johns of Silverchair’s new project is the Dissociatives. People didn’t like it because it sounded too boy-bandy, I guess, but we like it.
Noah: Anyways, I’ve been listening to that Cameron (McGill) album a lot.

The new one?
Noah: Yeah.
Adriel: We also listen to a lot of classical music. Chopin, Debussy.
Noah: Art Tatum.
Adriel: I do love the Art Tatum.
Noah: Keith Jarrett.

I can see that.
Noah: Alicia Keys. We love Alicia Keys. That probably drops us down (on) the indie-rock scale, but that’s OK. Ron Sexsmith is a huge influence on me, especially a year or two ago. Our friends’ music has been growing to become stuff that is really educational and inspiring and stuff I want to be listening to-the Wandering Sons and the New Kentucky Quarter are both writing songs that just do it for me.

The Elanors’ next appearance will be this Monday at Cafe Paradiso. The headliner is Ida, with Colonel Rhodes also appearing. Tickets are $8 in advance, or $10 at the door.

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