The Record Stache

Elk City fascinates on thought-provoking ‘Don’t You Wanna Try’

photo by Renée LoBue
photo by Renée LoBue

Today’s music scene can often be quite confusing for a number of factors, not the least of which is the sheer amount of new music is issued daily. Long gone are the days of record label gatekeepers and steady studio financiers, but the result is such a plethora that it becomes nearly impossible to weed through the steady flow of new releases. Fortunately, word of mouth still remains one of the best ways out there to both hear about those releases that really are worthy of your time, so it was our delight when we were asked to listen to and ultimately feature the music of Montclair, New Jersey-based art rock collective Elk City. Their latest musical output takes you on a ravishing sonic journey. To say this music is enamouring would be an understatement.

Today we present their latest single ‘Don’t You Wanna Try’ – an anti-anthem for anyone living outside of societal norms – there’s an awful lot of people who fit that very description. The band recently released their ‘Above The Water’ album, out now via Magic Door Record Label. This striking and engaging record is one you’ll want to leave on repeat and the diversity exhibited here is not only engaging, but also fascinating and grounded.

This latest offering comes on the trail of ‘Floating Above The Water’, which, like the current single, was filmed by H. Robert Escurel at Union Pool in Brooklyn.

Since forming in 2000, drummer-producer Ray Ketchem and vocalist-artist Renée LoBue have been opening new chapters in Elk City’s sound. With five albums and three EPs to their name before this album’s release, it’s clear that, with their ‘Above the Water’ LP, they’ve maximized the notable symbiosis among the group’s current lineup, which features guitarists Sean Eden (Luna)Chris Robertson (Psychedelic Furs side project Feed) and bassist Richard Baluyut (Versus).

“Putting music first was never a question for me, yet some around me questioned my choices. As years went on, the same people would tell me how I’ve inspired them for sticking to me creative guns. I’ve always known there is no blueprint for what a woman should want out of life. We are not all the same. The meat of the lyrics appear at the song’s end, “In another way I can be a light – for all those who doubt,” says Renée LoBue.

Ray Ketchem adds, “We were harnessing real anger and conversely finding strength. The song is about believing that you can be whatever you want in this world by discounting judgement of people who don’t understand you. The distorted sludge of the fuzz bass blossoms and reveals inner beauty as Renee exclaims “I can be a light for all those who doubt!”.

Earlier, the band released the Suzanne Vega-esque confessional single ‘Apology Song’, upbeat introspective lead track ‘That Someone’ and the laid-back and philosophical ‘Your Time Doesn’t Exist’.

A new chapter in the Montclair, NJ band’s evolution, the new album is vibrant, raw-edged and bold, showcasing a new guitar-rich lineup. Released via the newly-launched Magic Door Record Label, founded by Guided by Voices drummer Kevin March with Ketchem and LoBue with a simple mission to release music created by the rich community of artists who surround them, this album reveals the band’s North Jersey roots and lineage with The Feelies, Yo La Tengo (with whom they share a former label, Bar/None) and Luna (with whom they share a guitarist).

‘Above the Water’ was recorded, mixed and mastered at Ketchem’s Magic Door Recording, opened in 2017 as an acoustically lush refuge for musical expression and experimentation. Ketchem, whose production credits include Guided By VoicesLuna and Gramercy Arms, partnered with legendary studio designer George Augspurger to transform a cavernous warehouse into a freeform studio where vintage microphones, modern studio gear, and bespoke sound tuning elevate and inspire.

The ‘Above The Water’ LP is out now, available across fine digital outlets, including Apple MusicTidalQobuz and Spotify, as well as Bandcamp. On March 4, Elk City presents a night of female-fronted bands with friends Girls on Grass and Creek and Kills at the intimate Windjammer in Ridgewood, Queens (552 Grandview Ave, Queens, NY).

Renee LoBue – vocals
Chris Robertson – guitar
Richard Baluyut – bass, vocals
James Baluyut – guitar
Ray Ketchem – drums
Video recorded and filmed by H. Robert Escurel
‘Above The Water’ LP recorded, mixed & mastered by Ray Ketchem at Magic Door Recording, Montclair, NJ
Written and performed by Elk City
© 2022 sound is crazy music (BMI)
Album artwork by Ray Ketchem & Renée LoBue

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