The Big Musical World Of Elf Power

The band took its pint-sized moniker from a message etched in the cement outside an Athens, Ga., taco stand.

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" (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" (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

elongated elves.

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

developing.

"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

like that."

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."