Vancouver Band Elias Breaks New Ground with “Fossils”

If you liked Vancouver indie rockers Elias’s last two records, chances are you’ll love Fossils, their latest studio album. Just don’t expect it to sound the same.

In the past they’ve been compared to bands like Radiohead, Keane, and Snow Patrol – even being ranked above the latter two by Americana UK. But with their latest record, lead guitarist Rob Tornroos explains that Elias wanted to break away from the comparisons and do something new.

“We always got those comparisons ’cause we always had the piano up front in our band; like, Keane’s all piano and Snow Patrol’s that kind of British, soft-rock sound,” says Tornroos.

“It’s funny, we still get those comparisons because I think we’ve kind of completely tried to go in the complete opposite direction from all those bands. Like in our new record, we only have the piano for half a song! It was just kind of one of those things where we were kind of tired of the comparisons and just decided to say, screw it, let’s not have piano on every track like we would have before.”

However, for a band known for wide variations in their instrumental sound – for 2008’s “All We Want,” Chartattack noted that “instrumentally each song goes in odd, unexpected directions and makes the listener pay attention” – trying something new actually means going back to the most basic formulas that have proven tried and true.

“I almost want to say it’s the opposite of experimenting, just going for it all out, and just relying on a groove to not change,” Tornroos says.

“A lot of songs have a drumbeat or a feel that goes through the whole song. It doesn’t really change and vary too much. I really just think it was something we were influenced by the music of the past year, like a lot on the record was influenced by Fleet Foxes, and the first Florence and the Machine record. And then even later in the year, the Radiohead [record], King of Limbs, came out, and it’s the same thing. They have songs that have the same drumbeat for like six minutes, and then Thom Yorke changes something over the top of it; but it’s not like these crazy, start-stop, up-down, all-over-the-place things. We kind of just wanted to rely on – almost make it groovier in a way. And I don’t know if we succeeded, but we tried to!”

Despite this approach, Fossils still shows signs of Elias’s trademark instrumental gymnastics. The songs move from the grungy, hard-rock feel of “Tunnel Lights,” to the wash of orchestral rock (a la Keane) found in titular track “Fossils”; and then on to the darkly melodious riffs of “Knockdown Dance,” and the fast-paced, electronic sound of “Glass.”

Coming out of Vancouver, where the vibrant music scene has produced such rising stars as Dan Mangan and surf rockers Current Swell, Elias says that the new direction they are going in is influenced as much by the city’s support for local musicians as by the music the band has been listening to.

“Coming from the musical side of things – our influences and stuff we’ve listened to over the years – [we] have completely grown and changed. Every week we’re listening to something new; it’s totally inspiring,” Tornroos says.

“So in the writing of this record, literally every week there was a new theme, like, Oh, we should make a song like this, or Oh, this band’s album is amazing; we gotta do this. So we did try to make the music different from what we did before.”

Amongst their varied influences, Tornroos lists early 90s Brit-pop bands like Blur and Oasis, older material like The Smiths, and newer artists like Florence and the Machine, Wilco, and indie Brit-pop band The XX.

Tornroos says they’re hoping the fans will love this effort as much as the last two, but this is not the reason the record comes out on Valentine’s Day – they promise.

“It was supposed to come out mid-January, but our record label put this insane, unrealistic deadline. It’s like, dude, we’re still in the studio; you want it to come out in a month? What are you talking about?” Tornroos says with a laugh.

“So it just kind of got pushed back and pushed back. . . . So this was the first date available we’d for sure be able to make. So it coincidentally comes out on Valentine’s Day, which is pretty funny because it’s emotional but not really ‘love-songy’ emotional, but more like ‘screw-you’ emotional. It just happened to be that way. But I don’t mind it; it’s pretty funny . . . It’s a funny coincidence.”

Well, coincidence or not, Fossils is certainly a good soundtrack for Valentine’s Day this year, whether you’re going the route of celebratory singledom, or examining the remains of past relationships (listen to “Fossils”) or looking to exorcise emotional demons (try “Rising Tide”).

For more information on Elias, check them out at www.eliasband.com.

Track List
01. Fossils
02. Enough
03. Knockdown Dance
04. Tunnel Lights
05. Hands and Knees
06. Lake Louise
07. Rising Tide
08. Catapults
09. Glass
10. Hold the Line

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