Bassist Bryan Poole is the first to admit that the eccentric members of
Elf Power march to the beat of their own zanzithophone ... or giant
popcorn tin or whatever instrument they may be incorporating into their
fuzz-pop sound at the time.
"I play bass just because we need a bass," said Poole, 25, of the
Athens, Ga.-based foursome rounded out by vocalist Andrew Rieger, drummer
Aaron Wegelin and keyboardist and -- yes -- zanzithophonist Laura Carter.
"Anybody can play anything," Poole added. "It's more of an aesthetic. If
anybody has an idea of what they want to play, they play it. It's
another thing to swish around in the bowl."
The "bowl," in this case, is a sound that knows few boundaries or
definitions. As Poole explained it, songs such as
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Elf_Power/Icy_Hands_Will_Never_Melt_A way.ram">"Icy Hands Will Never Melt Away"
way.ram">"Icy Hands Will Never Melt Away"(RealAudio excerpt) affirm
the idea that Elf Power conform to the instrumental free-for-all approach
employed by their Elephant 6 labelmates Neutral Milk Hotel. In Elf
Power's musical world, concepts such as drummers, guitarists and
bassists are given a much more elastic interpretation.
As the band gets ready to work on its third record, tentatively
scheduled for a January release, Carter, 27, said Elf Power have no
plans to alter their loose recording style. "A lot of people that play
on the records are friends of the band," she said. "It's the method of
recording we use now and probably always will."
That method isn't the only thing eccentric about Elf Power.
On their most recent release, 1997's When The Red King Comes, the
band took listeners on a 14-song journey through a fantasy land of
Rieger's creation, an environ similar to that of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit." The
record began with
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Elf_Power/Step_Through_The_Portal.ram" >"Step Through The Portal"
>"Step Through The Portal"(RealAudio excerpt), leading listeners into
Elf's musical world with the lyrics "It's one more year in the dream
when you wake up/ it's hard to tell what is real and what's made up/ step
through the portal into your own time/ fly through your galaxies/ fall
through your landslides."
As the liner notes indicate, songs such as "The Frightened Singers,"
"When The Red King Comes" and "Spectators" aren't merely song titles but
concepts and characters in the kingdom created by Elf Power. The album's
cover offers a glimpse into a world packed with red-roofed castles, a
forest, a tower bridge and -- what else? -- a host of squat and
Rieger said he didn't set out to make a concept album. But he didn't shy
away from it either, once it became apparent that a concept was
"A couple of the songs seemed to have a fantastic kind of supernatural
feeling to them. Then I came up with this idea of the red king's
kingdom, and then all the songs I wrote had that in mind," Rieger said. "It's not
like a story. You can take the songs out of context of the album and
have them stand on their own. I was a little bit wary that people would think
it was silly, like a prog-rock album, but I don't think it comes across
In keeping with their intuitive recording style and Rieger's
otherworldly lyrics, Elf Power stumbled onto their pint-sized moniker either by a
complete accident or via a spectral messenger outside the Taco Stand in
the band's hometown.
"I was walking down the street here in Athens, in front of a particular
restaurant, and I saw 'Elf Power' written in the concrete," Rieger said.
"When I went back later I couldn't find it again. Either I looked in the
wrong spot or it was a divine communication from an elf."