Joel Tarpin - Keyboards/Synthesizers
Adam Kessler - Guitar
Jesse Pierce- Drums
"It's all about the chorus," says Elkland frontman Jon Pierce when asked about his songwriting technique. "I love a great pop song. I'm obsessed with great melodies, great hooks, huge hooks. I think it's evident on our record."
He's referring to Golden, the debut album from Elkland, a strikingly original and irresistibly tuneful pop quartet hailing from the unlikely upstate hamlet of Horseheads, New York.
With Golden, the members of Elkland have taken the group's collective deep love, and passionate understanding, of classic post-punk synthpop and Britpop - from Joy Division and the Smiths to New Order and Björk - to create a hook-dappled blueprint for a harmonious shimmering synthpop of tomorrow. "We wanted Golden to sound classic in every sense," Jon reveals. "That's what we were going for: a classic-sounding record with a few twists. We used vintage analog synthesizers and drum machines for all the electric parts, but we tried to use them in new ways. Our chord changes are very simple. There are no tricky key changes and no show-off guitar solos. We want our music to be a new 'new wave,' a new 'synthpop.' Using authentic old school synthesizers that we have collected over the years, we took the sounds of yesterday and threw them into the future."
Growing up in a devoutly evangelical household, Jon Pierce, and his brother, Jesse, weren't "allowed to listen to any sort of music unless it was gospel music. I didn't grow up listening to anything that I'm influenced by now. We didn't watch MTV and all our friends were listening to Nirvana."
At the age of 12, Jon bought the album, Melody, by Joy Electric, a synthpop ensemble from Orange County, California. "That album totally changed my life," says Jon of this, his first watershed musical influence. "The music was about love and sadness and real life. The most exciting things to me were the choruses, the hooks, the huge beautiful melodies. Studying that band basically was how I learned to write songs for myself."
After "Dad gave me his old synthesizer--a Sequential Circuits Multi-Trak--when I was 13," Jon began his hermetic pursuit of songcraft in earnest, seeking out records by Joy Division, Yaz, the Smiths, Björk and others. Beginning in his teen years, Jon started putting virtually every penny he was earning into his collection of analog synthesizers. "1997 was the year music took over in my life," he remembers. "Grunge and punk were in, synthpop was a joke. It didn't matter to me. I was in love with this music, but I wasn't hearing it on the radio, so I had to really search it out. I wrote my first song, 'Put Your Hand Over Mine,' on the synthesizer and then wrote another, and then some more, and it started really flowing.
The more I did it, the more I loved it. Pop music became my obsession. I would spend countless hours up in my room programming beats and putting together big melodies."
While both Jon and Jesse were cutting their chops in "a bunch of high school bands," Jon realized that they needed to form their own ensemble.
With their best friend, Joel Tarpin, joining in on keyboards, they formed "Goat Explosion," an early incarnation of Elkland. With gear and luggage and personnel crammed into a 1991 Chrysler Town & Country minivan, Goat Explosion traversed the country, making the trek from New York to Los Angeles several times.
By 2002, sick of the name and adding new guitarist, Adam Kessler, Goat Explosion gave way to the freshly-christened Elkland, named for a town near where the Pierces grew up. "We hardly know anything about it," Jon confesses, "other than nothing happens there. It is as plain as a town can get. There is something I like about that. I like consistency. It is pure. I want our music to reflect those things: purity, honesty, consistency."
As New York City-based management sought out the group, Elkland began making regular trips to the city from upstate to record demos. "A bunch of labels became interested and we started showcasing for all of them," Jon says, the realization dawning on the group's members that Elkland was being transformed from a passionate hobby band into a credible musical entity.
The band was being taken seriously by both its avid developing audience as well as the music industry.
The members of Elkland have honed and polished 12 pop music diamonds for Golden, including a definitive version of "Put Your Hand Over Mine," the first complete song Jon Pierce ever wrote, and the stunningly gorgeous.
"Every Time You Tell Me That You Love Me," Jon's favorite song on the album.
,br> The group recorded all the album's electronics, using vintage gear exclusively, at New York's Sony Studios with producer John Hill. "It was cool using all the old synths I'd collected over the years on our first album," Jon says. "That includes my Korg MS-10, a Sequential 6-Trak, a Seil DK-80, a Mini-Moog, and, of course, the synth my dad gave me 10 years ago." Guitars, drums, etc. were recorded in Los Angeles at Kingsize Sound. Labs with producer/mixer Dave Trumfio, of Chicago's Pulsars, at the boards.
"Our goal," says Jon, "was to make an entire album with no filler.
Everything is always leaning towards the chorus. We hope that people buy the record and that people enjoy it and that people have fun and we hope that 10 years down the road that we've put out a bunch of records that are all really great and that they all bring something new to the table. Most of all, we'd like people to come away from Golden wearing a smile."
Elkland is Golden.