EL VY

EL VY (10:15 PM)

Hibou (9:00 PM)

Sun, November 8, 2015

8:00 pm

$25.00

Sold Out

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EL VY - (Set time: 10:15 PM)
EL VY
For years, Matt Berninger kept a secret folder on his laptop called “The Moon.”

"When I got off stage with the National, or found myself alone in a hotel room somewhere, I'd open it up, along with the minibar, and get to work."

The files in that folder were bits of music from Brent Knopf, the Portland musician and producer best known for his work in Menomena and his more recent band, Ramona Falls. Berninger and Knopf struck up a friendship nearly a decade ago, when the National and Menomena joined together for a west coast tour of small, half-empty clubs. It would be years before the New York indie rockers were playing on television and packing arenas, earning Grammy nominations and topping critics' lists, but the two felt an immediate musical kinship. It's a testament to their chemistry that Berninger and Knopf continued to feed that folder over the years with ideas.

“We kept throwing little seeds of future songs in there.” explains Berninger “It wasn’t until November of last year that we really dug in to make it a record.”

It's only fitting, then, that their debut album as EL VY (pronounced like ‘hell pie’ or a plural of Elvis) is called Return to the Moon.

Return to the Moon sounds exactly like you'd hope a collaboration between these artists would: Berninger's darkly funny, lyrical storytelling and his immediately identifiable sense of melody offset by Knopf's playful, architectural arrangements and inventive production. The National and Ramona Falls are both currently preparing upcoming releases, so EL VY is not a replacement or a side project, but a glimpse into an alternate musical universe: a universe in which Berninger never left Cincinnati, and Midwestern punk Mecca the Jockey Club never closed. A universe in which Mike Watt and the late D. Boon of the punk band Minutemen are every bit as iconic as Mick and Keith, and a teenager's sense of rebellion is fed by the dark social politics of middle America.

"This record is more autobiographical than anything else I've written," says Berninger, "but the details aren't true. It's written in the voices of a few invented characters, composites of different people—myself, my wife, and other people I was thinking about."

Despite the fact that Berninger and Knopf might have been on opposite sides of the world, it was over these last few years on the road that Return to the Moon really took shape. "I would send Matt some sort of demo or a rough sketch of a chord structure or a beat," Knopf explains. "I never worried about sending him something unfinished. He's able to imagine where it can go. He can grab the four bars that will become the core of the track and develop them into something amazing."

Berninger loaded the files onto his laptop and recorded himself singing melodies whenever and wherever he could (on one song, you can hear a hotel employee enter the room). As lyrics bubbled up from his subconscious, subliminal connections between his past and present emerged, and he began to play with the idea that the songs' stories would overlap. The album traces a relationship between two characters, Didi and Michael. Berninger acknowledges that the characters are named after Minutemen's D. Boon and Mike Watt, and that their band and friendship was an inspiration, but says it’s not specifically about them. He thinks of the Didi and Michael of Return to the Moon as semi-fictional characters in “a punk rock Grease set in Cincinnati in the 1980’s.”

Right from the opening minutes of the album's title track, the tone is more playful than anything we've heard from these two before. They turn up the sordid humor on the alternately hilarious and pathetic “I'm the Man to Be,” in which Berninger sings from the perspective of a drugged-up lonely rocker in a Singapore hotel room, with lyrics soaked in hip hop braggadocio.

On tracks like “Need a Friend” and “Paul Is Alive,” Berninger conjures his Midwestern adolescence. "I think ‘Paul Is Alive’ is about finally finding the water that you can breathe in, finding a place or a person that makes you feel like you," he explains. "It's very much my story of what Cincinnati was like, growing up and falling in love with music, discovering these little places where like-minded people could find each other."

Meanwhile, it was the tight-knit Portland musical community that led to one of the album's happiest coincidences, when singer Moorea Masa moved in to a studio just across the hall from Knopf's. Knopf invited her to sing back up on the album, and she brought along a few friends, including the beloved soul singer Ural Thomas.

"One of the most exciting things for me on this record was working with Ural," says Knopf. “He's seventy-four and kind of a legend. He's the closest thing to a Taoist master I've ever met." Thomas lends his rich voice to “Sleepin' Light,” a sleazy, sexy come-on in the vein of Leonard Cohen’s ladies’ man phase.

The relationships on Return to the Moon are complicated, and tracks like “Silent Ivy Hotel” blur the lines between friendship and romance. “Sad Case” and “It's a Game” deal with the ache of loss, while “No Time to Crank the Sun” is about finding love by making an effort. In album closer “Careless,” the narrator tries desperately to hold on to someone who already has one foot out the door. "It's maybe the most unapologetically romantic song on the album," Berninger explains. "I embraced the melodrama of it."

The making of Return to the Moon, Berninger and Knopf are both quick to emphasize, was itself without any melodrama. It's the product of a long friendship between two restless songwriters working in secret without any pressure or expectations. Crafting the record was certainly hard work, especially considering everything else the duo had on their respective plates, but its making was an escape from the anxieties of being on tour, and, as Berninger puts it, “a lot of guilty pleasures without any guilt.”
Hibou - (Set time: 9:00 PM)
Hibou
Peter Michel left home to begin life as a touring musician when he was in high school, playing drums in the San Francisco group Craft Spells. And now that he’s now reached the ripe old age of twenty-one, with five years of legitimate touring life behind him and a new career as Hibou before him, he feels home calling for him. “I actually recorded half of the new album at my parents’ home,” Michel says of Hibou, his debut LP for Barsuk.

And while the album does repurpose some of the warm, rounded-edged pop tones of Michel’s former group, the video he and his touring band have shared for album cut “Above Us” strips away the song’s buoyant drum pattern and sticky guitar work, leaving behind a cascading piano melody and Michel’s gentle voice. Armed with nothing more than piano, bass, and acoustic guitar, and lit by the sunlight coming through the windows, the trio transform Michel’s parents’ living room into an intimate cafe space and reveal the expertly built structure that supports one of Hibou’s strongest songs.
Venue Information:
Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
http://www.troubadour.com/

All lineups and times subject to change