[17 February 2011]
PopMatters Interviews Editor
It’s time to say hello to Eric Elbogen—despite the fact that he’s been here for awhile.
Ever since he initially moved to New York to form his band Say Hi in 2002—which is mostly a solo project for all intents and purposes—Elbogen has managed to put out six well-regarded solo albums, his stature growing with each and every release. His 2009 album Oohs & Ahhs, for example, managed to get songs featured in everything from Cadillac ads to Showtime television programs. Now, with his seventh disc, Um, Uh Oh, Elbogen’s alter ego is poised to break wide open, and the single “Devil” has already been featured in the TV show Gossip Girl, exposing Say Hi to a much larger audience.
Elbogen’s unique home-spun sound feels right at home on Barsuk, and his expressive, perfectly imperfect voice might invite more than a few welcome comparisons to that of Arcade Fire’s Win Butler. His songwriting abilities are as sharp as ever, and people merely need to hear Um, Uh Oh‘s album opener “Dots on Maps” to understand what the fuss is all about. Taking time from his busy schedule, Elbogen managed to sit down with PopMatters to answer our famed 20 Questions, revealing how he’s still trying to be a badass drummer, why you don’t mess with the Stones, and how he wants to be remembered for his terrible jokes . . .
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
That animated movie, Up. There’s some super-dark shit that happens during the first ten minutes. Plus, at 34 years old, I often feel like a hopeless, bitter old man.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Any one of the Ghostbusters during the first half of the original film. Obsessive, misunderstood, gearhead nerds? Sounds about right.
3. The greatest album, ever?
The Beatles’ Abbey Road. You really can’t mess with it. It’s got tenderness, groove, psychedelics, flow, darkness, light, heaviness, narrative, and absurdity. My ears never fail to perk up when the record comes on.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars, hands down. Better characters, better imagination, better sense of humor, Wookies, and Ewoks? Come on now.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Most anything the Rolling Stones did between 1968 and 1973. I’ll take a listen to something like Exile and it makes me want to stay up all night writing groovy rock music.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Who said anything about being proud? I’m still looking forward to that period of my life.
7. You want to be remembered for . . . ?
My ability to cram 72 recorded tracks into a three-minute pop song. Also, my terrible jokes.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
See above. The Beatles and the Stones. They’re cliché for a reason.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Or [Bruce] Springsteen’s Nebraska.
10. Your hidden talents . . . ?
I can make any comfortable situation awkward.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
I’m way too proud to ever follow other people’s advice.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
Propellerhead’s Reason is the best investment I’ve ever made. It lets me flesh out musical ideas that no other thing in the world can. And at the end of the day, musical ideas are the only thing I’m interested in.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . . ?
If I have my way, I’ll wear Levi’s to both my wedding and my funeral.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
I like eating alone. It’s when I do my best thinking.
15. Time travel: where, when, and why?
Back 11 years to my 23-year-old, New York City-dwelling self, to tell him to stop dillydallying, ‘cause life will pretty much be over in seven years.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . . ?
Caffeine. And burritos.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
I miss living in New York City sometimes. It’s the best, hands down.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Can I have a job? There no money in music anymore.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
I’ve spend the last 12 months trying to learn how to be a badass drummer. I’m still working on that.