Eliot Sumner

Eliot Sumner

ELIOT SUMNER BIOGRAPHY Following her first studio album, Eliot took a four-year hiatus to re-evaluate her sound. “I went into hibernation for a while, to search for my soul,” she jokes. Thankfully she located it – quite possibly in the Lake District. “I moved there for five months in total isolation, with just my dog,” she remembers. “I was experimenting with different writing methods.” During this time she also worked with the composer Clint Mansell on a soundtrack for the film Filth.

Eliot decided to shed her previous band name in favour of her actual name: “I’m proud of the music I’m making now,” she said at the time, “and I want to take ownership by putting my real name on it.” After putting out the blistering, three-track EP ‘Information’ last August, Eliot embarked on a European tour with Swedish songstress Lykke Li. The tour was captured in a two–part, behind-the-scenes documentary that featured on i-D : ‘On the Road with Eliot Sumner and Lykke Li’. https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/video/on-the-road-with-eliot-sumner-part-one

“We have been friends for a few years and always wanted to collaborate on something,” says Eliot of the joint tour. “This was cool timing cause I had the EP out and she was touring so we just made it happen. The homecoming show in London was most memorable; we played the Hammersmith Apollo and I didn’t expect so many people to be there but it was fully packed.”

Eliot had the luxury of recording her second studio album directly after coming off of the tour, meaning that the band felt tight musically, and that the tracks were – as she puts it – “well refined”. The album, also titled ‘Information’, will be released on the 22nd of January 2016. Its sound marries the hauntingly-low-register vocals and upbeat electro-pop that have always been Eliot’s hallmark – however, this time, there are new, Krautrock-inspired inflections. “It’s the kind of music that I would probably listen to myself,” says Eliot.

The resultant sound is digressive and experimental, but also familiar. The record shows of a range of sophisticated influences, from Eliot’s favourite band as a teenager, the Bad Seeds, to bands like Cluster and Faust, as well as iconic German electronica four-piece Kraftwerk. “The album is very motoric, with hypnotic beats,” says Eliot. “I use a lot of drum machines and snares. I like noise. There are some industrial sounds on there too. There’s definitely no swing or jazz!”

Eliot’s new band line up features Nick Benton on guitar, old friend Jan Blumentrath on synthesizer and Adam Gammage on drums, with the four-piece arranging songs together as a team. “There’s a lot more organic energy with this group”, Eliot says, smiling, “It feels like a nucleus.” During their live sets, the band’s closeness is palpable. All of the tracks on the album were produced by Duncan Mills, who has worked with The Vaccines, Spector and Crocodiles.

This lends it coherency, says Eliot, although from first listen it’s obvious that each track could stand alone as a single release. Mills gave Eliot the space to experiment, meaning that the album also tells of psychedelic influences – it’s heady, with whirling guitar sounds, unusual song structures and unpredictable synths. Information is the single that leads the album, a bracing six-minute synth-and-strings song that plays out with a long, confident instrumental passage.

“It’s a break-up song,” Eliot explains. “It’s about not understanding the situation.” The video, which premiered via Dazed Digital, features a supernatural Eliot doing battle with two muscle cars at night in the desert outside LA. “It’s slightly self-destructive,” she smiles, “I’m being chased by this car, then you work out that it’s me driving it.” Following Information, Eliot and the band have released four tracks from the forthcoming album one-per-month over the Summer of 2015. The first was Dead Arms and Dead Legs. “This is my favourite track on the album,” says Eliot, “Lyrically it was very easy to write because I was in a very vacant state of mind – I was going through an adjustment period. It’s
about walking through something robotically making decisions.” The song debuted on The Fader. The next, After Dark, was an anthemic ode to having one too many. “It’s a little bit about me not knowing when to cool it,” Eliot laughs. She wrote the song with friend and ex-Kaiser Chiefs drummer Nick Hodgson, who makes guest appearance elsewhere on the album: “He’s playing tambourine somewhere – you’ll have to listen out for it!”

After Dark was followed Firewood, an apocalyptic song about how everything is temporary. Inspired by the song Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Öyster Cult, it’s not about anything specific, just living in the moment. “It started just off as a guitar riff, then we decided to put some acid synths on it and it really worked.” Stereogum premiered the video.

Species was the fourth track to be released in anticipation of the album, and has stronger techno influences than the rest. “It’s about how we’re evolving into this new species where things can be totally genderless and unidentifiable,” says Eliot. The song, its composition and its lyrics are futuristic and genre-defying, something Eliot says she was pushing for.

Upon release of these four tracks, the band shot an intense four-part video performance for which lighting design mavericks Flat-E – the creative brains behind the visuals for Jon Hopkins’ live sets – created a conceptual installation. The band wanted to do something experimental to reflect the fact that these singles are, as Eliot puts it, “the most left-field songs on the album”. Come Friday, one of the tracks from Eliot’s EP, is also uplifting, and musically sets the tone for the whole album. “When I took that song to Duncan he said, ‘you have to write a whole album like this!’” A more guitar-driven track with an anthemic chorus, its pace and soaring melodies disguise a darker subject matter. “It’s one of my favourites,” says Eliot, “It’s about still being in love with someone but not allowing them to have another life. It’s very selfish.”

The process of writing the album wasn’t easy, says Eliot, between sighs. It was a labour of love. “I tried to write it maybe four times, from 2012 to more recently,” she says. “The stuff I wrote back in the Lake District was so depressing no one could have listened to it, but there are happier moments on the album now.” Let My Love Lie On Your Life is one of these moments: “It’s about being distracted,” says Eliot cryptically, before adding: “in a good way.”

My Jerusalem

Near the icy waters and snow-covered shores of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York, Jeff Klein locked himself in a rental house and did nothing but write for a month. A few blocks away, in the Midwood area, sits the home in which his mother grew up. A prolonged illness had claimed her life a few years earlier.

"That was me coming to terms with the whole situation," the My Jerusalem frontman explains of his attempt to embed himself within his family history after many years of being on the road, touring. "I kept walking by this house my grandparents used to live in on Avenue H. I've never been very connected to family. I've romanticized the idea of family, but I think I was just trying to connect with something."

Klein, who normally resides in Austin, felt an immediate inspiration there and was prolific during these winter weeks near his mother's childhood neighborhood, producing 14 songs, 12 of which would come to be the band's forthcoming album, A Little Death.

"The little death," or "la petite mort" in French, refers to, well, an orgasm, and somewhere between the literal definition and the slang is where Klein situated the album. "Like any kid, I was obsessed with death and obsessed with sex. Some people grow out of it and start families and become normal people and some of us just stay the same," he laughs. "I'm still obsessing about the psychology behind death and sex."

This duality bleeds through on the album, which flexes a lurid sexual energy, reminiscent of something between Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Echo and the Bunnymen. Though My Jerusalem has been kicking around in some capacity since 2010, A Little Death is the first album with a solidified lineup. Previously, the band had been more of a collective, with contributions from Klein's revolving door of friends from previous projects, Gutter Twins and The Twilight Singers, and who had also played in bands like Cursive, Okkervil River, and the Polyphonic Spree. Now, with a full-time lineup of members including Grant Van Amburgh (drums), Kyle Robarge (bass), and Jon Merz (guitar, keys, horns), My Jerusalem is a true band, Klein says.

Alongside standout tracks like the high-energy "Rabbit Rabbit" and the slowed down banger "No One Gonna Give You Love," Klein also enlisted the help of another friend on A Little Death's opener, "Young Leather," singer Elle King, who contributes background vocals under the song's raging saxophone. The two have history back to when King was younger and used to work at the tattoo shop where Klein's friends would hang out. Her timeless voice is the perfect complement to the old-fashioned nature of A Little Death, an album which pays homage to a classic era of rock and roll, one that lacked pretension and focused on honesty in songwriting.

"The album has a throwback vibe to it," says Klein, who spent many nights walking around the time capsule of an area around his rental home, among the Russian immigrants and foreign culture of the New York blocks. "I feel like you can hear Brooklyn in the 50s and 60s in that record, or maybe it's my delusional mind."

Ultimately, through A Little Death, Klein was finally able to reflect on the family and personal issues he'd put on the backburner for years. "There's a recurring theme of fate, luck, desire, and consequence," he says of it, "and also, how to be more accountable as a human."

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