ELESSAR (from l-r): Dan James (drums), Ricky Powell (vocals/guitar), Jack Gambling (bass), Alex Evans (vocals/guitar)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Influenced by the likes of Taking Back Sunday, Lower Than Atlantis and Don Broco, emerging Gloucestershire four-piece Elessar have already amassed a dedicated fan base with a strong work ethic, distinctive gritty emo-punk sound, and live sets abundant with energy and passion.
The band’s frontman, Ricky Powell, chatted with me about all of this, as well as giving an insight into their upcoming release, ‘Is This All We Are’, the much-anticipated follow-up to well-received 2016 debut EP, ‘Reflections’.
How did the band form?
We formed early in 2016 from basically being friends that all played within the same music scene. Dan and Alex were in separate bands, and Jack and I were also in a band, but over time, we all started hanging out a lot more, and it nudged us to get together as a four-piece!
From where did the name Elessar originate?
It’s a Lord of the Rings reference for all you “nerds” out there! We wanted to choose a name that had a cool hidden meaning, and LOTR is a film series we’re all pretty keen on. I think it’s a character name only mentioned once in the films, so it’s not something many people know about.
What would you say was your songwriting approach?
We wanted to keep things open, honest, and most importantly, write “in the moment“, to the point where we were still finishing parts of the tracks while in the studio. We spent of a lot of time demoing these tracks too, trying different ideas, re-working songs after giving up on them several times.
We even went up north to Harrogate to work with our friend George Tyreman at Homefire Studios, who played a big part in the track ‘Saudade’. It was definitely harder to write this EP than our previous effort.
What influences the band lyrically?
Personally, I love writing about my relationships with people. The beauty of writing about emotions within relationships is that your feelings constantly change, so a lot of these songs on the EP were actually written about the same relationship/situation, but at different stages of its demise.
I like to think it makes things more relatable, and that one day, our fans could use these tracks as a healing tool.
In 2016, you brought out your debut EP, ‘Reflections’, which was produced by the esteemed Romesh Dodangoda. How was the experience, for you all, of working with him?
Romesh is a great guy! We were nervous going in for our first record with him, but he totally put us at ease. He’s got an unbelievable ear for things too, I’d say he really got the best out of us at the time! I wouldn’t be surprised if we go back there in future to work on more material.
And the EP was well-received by many on the British underground music scene. Was it surprising for the band the reaction that it got?
We were definitely surprised, because those songs were thrown together so quickly, we didn’t expect people to latch onto it as well as they did, but at the same time, we’ve always been confident about our songwriting, we know we can write catchy songs, and we know there is talent in the band.
The word “potential” was thrown around a lot in 2016, so we’re pushing more and more every day to make sure we hit the heights expected of us.
Later this month, you will be releasing a sophomore EP, ‘Is This All We Are’. This time, you’ve been working with Matt O’Grady, who has produced the likes of You Me At Six, Deaf Havana and Don Broco. How was it different working with him, in comparison to Romesh?
Working with Matt was a totally different experience, but equally as good! He really worked us hard to make sure everything was perfect, it was a little less casual than before, and we also spent more time in the studio with him than we did with Romesh.
Unfortunately, our experience was tarnished slightly by vocal issues I was going through at the time. We took a four-month break while I recovered before going back to actually finish the EP.
Nonetheless, Matt was a top guy, and he’s still got that killer raw sound that you hear in everyone he’s worked with, hence why we opted to work with him in the first place.
And how will the upcoming release differ from ‘Reflections’?
‘ITAWA’ is a lot softer! The songs hit a little closer to home this time lyrically, and we’ve thrown a few extra bits into as well, synths, keys, etc, whereas ‘Reflections’ was very much a straight-up record without exploring ourselves too much. Overall, it’s just more mature!
The band have already gained quite a reputation for delivering live sets abundant in energy and passion. How is it, for you all, playing live and touring?
We said from day one, our live set would be the main focus. Anyone can sound good in a studio if you spend the money, but live, that’s where people see your true colours.
We love playing live, as it really gives us the chance to let loose and connect with the room. Touring, however, has changed for us in the last few months, we toured so relentlessly when we announced ourselves, it was such a wild time, partying, making new friends, etc.
However, with the vocal issues I’ve been through, and the fact we’re all looking to make a career from this, we definitely switched our focus to staying healthy and pushing the band as far as we can.
What are your plans once ‘ITAWA’ has come out?
We do have a tour booked for next month, which will see us play the new EP in full. Following that, we plan to keep playing live shows, whether that be more tours or filling our calendar with one-off shows.
It’s important people see the record live, and we can fully announce ourselves within the UK up-and-coming scene. We’ve also began writing for the future, again, testing the water with new things and pushing the boat out. It’s something we’re excited about!
What is the band’s long-term aim?
We want this band to be our lives. We would love nothing more than to be touring the world, with our best friends, playing songs we’ve written every night! It’s a difficult dream to accomplish, but we know we have what it takes to make it happen.
For now, it’s about reaching everyone we can to get our name out there.
‘IS THIS ALL WE ARE’, THE SECOND EP FROM ELESSAR, WILL BE RELEASED ON APRIL 27.
FURTHER INFO ON THIS, AND THE BAND’S UK TOUR THIS MAY, CAN BE FOUND HERE.