Some bands struggle for years and always come up short. Elkland, a youthful band from Horseheads in western New York, formed in early 2003 and had a manager and offers from major labels before they ever played in their own town. By the end of the year they had a six-album, ten-year deal with Columbia Records. Not too shabby. Singer Jon Pierce and his younger brother, Jesse David Pierce, who plays drums, are joined by keyboard player Joel David Tarpin and guitarist Adam Kessler. They borrow from the melodic styles and synthesizer love of such '80s bands as New Order, the Cure and OMD, but their catchy-as-hell songs are rooted purely in the modern age. It's been a long wait since getting signed. Though they have played a number of times in New York City and appeared at SXSW earlier this year, their debut album, Golden, has yet to be released. For now, their live show, and the lone MP3 on their website, is all the Elkland you can get.
Tonight Elkland plays Pianos, earlier this week they took out some time to answer our questions...
Let's get this out of the way, where did the band name originate?
Jon: Elkland is the name of a town near where we live, where nothing seems to go wrong and nothing seems to go right either, because nothing happens there at all. I am fascinated by places that have something constant about them. Whether it be a big city or a small town. I like things that don't change. There is something timeless about it. These kids in Elkland are just like kids in any other farm town. They wake up, go to school, do their work, hang out, drink and drive, and go to bed. I like that. It could have been any town, but we chose Elkland.
If I could change my band name, it would be Goat Explosion. It's the name of my old band. I still get complaints from old fans that they liked my old name better. That it was "cooler". What's in a name anyways? It's just a name.
Joel: Jon's first band he was ever in was named after a small town as well. He has some sort of obsession I guess. Goat Explosion was such a cool name. I wish we never changed it.
What is your first conscious memory of living in New York?
Jon: I was down in NYC back in 1998 for my class trip. (There were 8 kids in my class). We went to see Cats, the musical. I slept through the whole thing.
Joel: My first memory of NYC would have to be visiting my uncle in Brooklyn at his closet sized apartment on Smith St. I had to be about 4 yrs old. I became fascinated with it after that.
What is your favorite/least favorite memory involving New York?
Jon: I became involved in a love affair in NYC. That ended bad. Oh and one time, the lead singer of Coheed and Cambria was totally drunk and he tried to pick a fight with me. We were sharing a table at Plaid and my friend accidentally knocked over a table of empty glasses. He goes "You think you're a fucking rockstar?? Get the fuck up!" I still have yet to hear his music. Has he ever been to a party? These things happen! Angry drunk.
Joel: My best times were when we use go out dancing to NYC's finest underground DJ's until like 7am. That was a fun time in life. I don't really go out like that anymore though.
My worst time was two winters ago when our car got a flat tire, and then the battery died, and then a huge blizzard hit, and I had to be home the next day for a bunch of tests at school. That was like the worst day of my life actually.
[INTERVIEW CONTINUES INSIDE]
What is your favorite place to drink in NYC? What's the best night of the week to go out in the city?
Jon: Tortilla Flats. It's my favorite place to do everything. I really do hate all these silly "cooler than you" spots. It's all so cheesy. It's so nice to have fun.
Joel: I don't really go out drinking, but I use to love Passerby. I haven't been there in ages.
What is your favorite/least favorite thing about playing shows in New York? Is there a difference between shows in Manhattan and Brooklyn?
Jon: I like being around all the NY energy, but the crowds are very specific. Right now we are on tour with Elefant and playing Boston, DC, Philly, etc. These kids have been amazing. They are so hungry for music and they really show you much love. NYC crowds stand back a few feet from the stage unless you are their favorite band. We are also new, so give us a few more months to get known.
Joel: I like playing NYC shows because there's always familiar faces, the crowds can be a little too pretentious at times. I hate trying to find parking for the van and the trailer.
We've only played Brooklyn once or twice, but I would say the only difference is the location...HA
Living Upstate, do you think you have something else to offer than all
of the bands coming out of NYC right now?
Jon: All I want to offer the world is great pop songs. I don't think it matters where you are from. I guess maybe we are a little less tainted? There is a naiveness to who we are and what we do. We are not heavy drinkers and we respect women. We are peacemakers and we write pop songs.
Joel: Coming from upstate, you don't have all the hot NYC trends to get caught up in. It leaves a lot of room to be original and creative. It can also be very depressing and lonely, but that always helps for good song-writing. I like it upstate.
Finish the following statements:
"You know you've made it when "
Jon: You can take the city out to Tortilla Flats.
Joel: Everyone stops picking on you for listening to "techno"
"It'll be time to pack up the gear for good when "
Jon: You are on your death bed.
Joel: Adam is addicted to heroin, Jesse has 5 kids, and Jon and I have killed each other in a bloody dispute.
"I'll never forget the first time "
Jon: got drunk. I couldn't stop crying.
Joel: was at the Tribeca Grand Hotel...that was a crazy crazy time.
Ill never forget the first time [insert another band members name
Jon: Joel started driving stick. He has a nice 1991 Jetta.
Joel: Jon actually sang in tune... HAH HAH! jk....
Now for some quick word association. Give me your immediate feelings on the following:
Joel: The time I rode the ferry up the river to Yankee Stadium and watched a baseball game. That was fun.
Joel: Not the team the Yankees played against the time I rode the ferry up the river to Yankee stadium and watched a baseball game.
Jon: I like the song "Slave 4 U". Super sexy. I also think of an old lady.
Joel: Murphy? I loved the movie, Just Married.
Bridge & Tunnel
Jon: Are those card games?
Joel: Tolls & Traffic
Jon: Novelty. Good voice. Hate the video.
Joel: I believe in a thing called....YIKES... the video freaks me out.
Jon: Underwear cowboy.
Joel: The apartment we had above the porn-store. That spot was so shady.
Bloomberg/Smoking Ban/Noise Laws
Jon: It's too bad, but NYC will find away. Always does.
Joel: No fun, I thought Rudy was doing a decent job cleaning the place up.
Questions inspired by movies...
If you will, a brief justification of the ontological necessity of modern
man's existential dilemma (in 10 words or less). (Reality Bites)
Jon: I don't think I know what that means. I don't always know why I am alive.
What came first, the music or the misery? (High Fidelity)
Jon: Misery! Misery spawns everything. It's beautiful.
Joel: Music brings misery.. uh?...misery brings music as well...
And a few last questions on the music tip:
What were the first & last albums you bought on the day they were released?
Jon: Joy Electric- Robot Rock (in 97)
Joy Electric- Hello Mannequin (in 2004)
Joel: The first album I bought on the day of its release was probably a Joy Electric album.
The last album I bought on the day of its release was probably a Joy Electric album as well
Who would be in your ultimate music supergroup, your all-star Olympic team of rock?
Jon: I don't really care if someone is a good musician or not. Our drummer is the best musician in our band. Adam is great at guitar, but Joel and I just somehow make it work. I am big on pop songs. This question is too hard to answer.
Joel: I don't know.. I like bands the way they are I guess
If you released a 7 what would you put on the cover?
Jon: A flower.
Elkland plays tonight, August 18th, @ Pianos
Listen to Apart, off their upcoming album
[intro written by Coolfer Glenn]