Published on August 31st, 2017 | by Lord Pierro0
Deciphering the fathomless rock machine that is ELDER with Nick DiSalvo.
While eulogistic write-ups of Reflections of a Floating World keep piling up faster than Joe Satriani riffing at the speed of light, it is time for a proper round-up with ELDER. Since their beginnings in early 2000’s, the Massassuchetts trio has treated us to real collector’s pieces like the rock goldsmiths they are, each release being a step further into what would become their own sound trademark. Their third full-length and cornerstone Lore set things straight, proving the crowds that Elder definitely didn’t belong to the stoner rock category. Nor even the doom or metal one, or I-don’t-know-what kind of other eccentric sub-genre coming from the mind of uninspired music columnists. Their background, creativity and will to explore and transcribe their feelings through mind-bending live performances, have made them become one of the most inclassifiable and fascinating outfits of the decade, with Reflections of a Floating World being one of the best Rock albums… Not of the year. One of the best albums ever released in Rock music. After an extensive summer tour, we caught up with the band’s frontman and mastermind Nick DiSalvo, to see how the now fantastic four has been dealing with all this.
With all the praise you’ve received since Lore‘s release in 2015, how did you come up with the idea of welcoming a new member on guitar and keys? Was it meant to give more depth to your live shows, or maybe a way to take your songwriting a step further?
It was clear from lore and the music materializing after that album that the ideas we had were more suited to (at least) four people, and that we were only limiting ourselves in terms of depth and creativity by our 6 hands. As the main composer of our music, I never had any trouble making more complex songs than we three could actually play live, the problem was more dumbing things down so that the live shows wouldn’t feel like a step down from the record. With the new album, we didn’t want to simplify our ideas, so we decided a fourth member would be the only way to implement them live.
Now I’d like to talk songwriting. Even though most ideas come from Nick, does the rest of the band have their say during the writing process, and more generally, how do you guys work in the studio?
That’s always a changing scenario, really… for the last album, probably 80% was written by me, recorded as demos and circulated for the better part of a year, culminating feedback and changing as time went on. Since I live in another country as the other guys, that was basically the only way we could work on this record. Once we entered the studio, it was easier for everyone to make their impact, and we left time to experiment, change things and try new tones or instruments that couldn’t be thought of in the demo recordings. Even if the others essentially played the music I wrote, they always re-arrange and re-write their own parts with their own style, interpret them through their own filter, so the music always feels like a collaborative effort.
“We all agree that for us, the most amazing opportunity would be to tour with TOOL.”
We can hear some melotron on Reflections Of The Floating World, something I could barely pinpoint on Lore. You managed to add touches while keeping that massive sound of yours. Was it a way of taking the subtle shift initiated on Lore further, or was it more like a studio opportunity?
This was definitely an intentional move to take some of the more experimental or at least less conventional aspects of Lore and expand on them. I love the addition of keyboards in the mix and that’s a prime reason we needed to add Mike Risberg to the fold – he can play both keys and guitar, which is a huge asset.
When listening to Lore, then Reflections Of A floating World, there is no doubt that Elder can no longer be labelled as a stoner rock band (if you have ever been so!). Such pigeonholing makes me cringe, whereas you’ve managed to transcend genres and reach wider audiences through the years. Would you like to share the stage with bands from different backgrounds or play other festivals than the ones you’re usually invited to? Also, is there any band(s) you would like to bring on tour with you?
We are also a bit tired of being labeled as a stoner rock band, as that’s just one of the genres we’ve played with and assimilated to our sound over the years. I guess it’s hard to break free of the old albums! We’ve talked a lot about breaking out of this “stoner rock” circuit in recent years and would definitely love to expand our reach to other audiences. I think now the potential to cross over to other genres and fans is bigger than ever, and we’re noticing that as our audiences change over the years. We all agree that for us, the most amazing opportunity would be to tour with TOOL. We can dream, can’t we?!
I feel like some parts of Reflections Of A Floating World are reminiscent of Pink Floyd, for something in your music goes beyond any categorization, with its spellbinding atmospheres and incredible build-ups. Has this band influenced your work in any way?
Pink Floyd, absolutely. I love this band and their legacy has certainly influenced me, recently even way more than Black Sabbath or Zeppelin or whatever are considered the fundaments of heavy rock. They were masters of atmosphere and made such unbelievably heavy music in an emotional way. I think their influence will be heard more heavily moving forward as well.
“Our fans are true music fans and have a deeper appreciation for the craft of songwriting than what comes out in the wash of bland, generic 70’s rock worship nowadays.”
There has been a tidal wave of 70’s psych/vintage rock releases recently. It must be a bit confounding, especially when you’ve (naturally) gotten a bit proggier yourselves. Aren’t you afraid sometimes of being pigeonholed like thousands of those bands who have been “riding the wave”?
I think it’s fairly easy to discern bands that are playing music with integrity and who are genuinely trying to write their own songs as opposed to just reinventing the wheel. At the same time, it took us many years to find our own sound that wasn’t an emulation of the music we loved, but something a little less definable. I mean this with absolutely no snobbish intent, but I think that our fans, the ones who really dissect and appreciate our music are true music fans and have a deeper appreciation for the craft of songwriting than what comes out in the wash of bland, generic 70’s rock worship nowadays. So I’m not really worried about us being swept up with anyone else, because we have a pretty discerning fan base.
I guess you hardly imagined that you would achieve such success when you started the band. Do you make a living from your music now, or do you still have a regular job to pay the bills?
We absolutely never would have dreamed that we’d have any semblance of success as a band, and when I step back and think about it, it still boggles my mind. The best part about it is that we never had to compromise our musical ideas or integrity to gain fans, which seems like a myth in the world of rock music (or always did to me as a kid, at least). We still all work day jobs, though we earn a little money, it’s too sporadic and not really much to live on. Anyhow, working when you’re not on tour keeps you sane.
How do you feel when meeting fans on the other side of the world who are looking forward to seeing you on stage?
It’s a pretty fantastic feeling. I can’t get over the fact that kids in Moscow or Porto want our autographs, or even know the music. But that surreal feeling is fading, even if it’s no less thrilling. Somehow the unbelievable becomes palatable over time…
Speaking of touring, you’ve been playing numerous festivals that have allowed you to cross many cities and countries. What place would you absolutely love to play now?
I think after our last gig at Sonic Blast festival in Moledo, near Porto, we absolutely need to go back to Portugal. I’d love to see every country we haven’t yet: the Balkan states, the Baltic countries, more of Eastern Europe, and then of course whole continents we haven’t seen: South America or asia. Hopefully we’ll make it everywhere one day!