[19 June 2014]
PopMatters Interviews Editor
Eric Elbogen isn’t big on biography.
The Seattle-based sonic wunderkid simply states in press releases that he’s been “making records since 2002,” but the such a deft statement somewhat belies the power of the work he’s done. Initially called Say Hi to Your Mom (despite the fact that it’s Elgoben himself who plays every instrument), the Say Hi moniker has been a guise for Elbogen when he being a music critic in New York. He did concept albums about vampires well before they turned mainstream chic, and although he moved to Seattle a few years back, his time since switching from Euphoric Records to the more well-known Barsuk has resulted in some modest surprises for his career, his songs frequently featured in TV shows and films, notably soundtracking a great scene in 2011’s excellent Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Yet even with his trademark echo-heavy vocals decorating his new album Endless Wonder, there is a notable change about this record from his last. It’s notably more keyboard heavy than his more recent efforts, but it’s also very melodically on point and direct, some songs (like closer “The Trouble With Youth”) borrowing production techniques that sound like they were borrowed from glitch artists like Oval before they were turned into indelible, powerful verses on his own record. In many ways, Endless Wonder may go down as Elbogen’s most accessible record to date, but it manages to do so without sacrificing a single aspect of his trademark sound.
Of course, as great as that record is, it could barely prepare PopMatters for the responses to our 20 Questions, in which he notes how much The Dukes of Hazzard cast (probably) likes him, how great cheeseburgers are, and how he can’t wait for the music industry to die so he can get that standup comedy career off the ground ...
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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
If only! My tear ducts stop producing decades ago. I’ve only the haziest memory of being able to be moved so much by anything at all. What’s it like? Is it embarrassing? Cathartic? Does the school bully punch you in the arm once you start? Is it normally only Bambi-like situations that make people cry? Or is it a much broader gamut of subject matter? You know what they should do? They should synthesize that stuff that happens when you chop onions. They could pump it out at movie theaters during the appropriate scenes. Or make you scratch and sniff it in a novel after the most moving passages. That way people like us could start crying again!
2. The fictional character most like you?
Yes, most fictional characters do like me! Vampires like me. Frankensteins like me. Mummys like me. Smurfs like me. Transformers like me. Talking cats like me. Talking dogs like me. Unicorns in general like me. The entire cast of The Dukes Of Hazzard likes me. Who knows why that is. I’m not really that remarkable when it comes down to it. I don’t bathe very often. I’m kind of a jerk most of the time. I don’t even have cable! Ha. Suckers!
3. The greatest album, ever?
There’s this one sitting in a cabinet in my parents’ house. It’s got a whole bunch of super cool photos of me and my sister in our various Halloween costumes over the years. They were shot on film! Can you believe that?! Most of them are cut with scissors into cool shapes. It’s truly the greatest album, ever!
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
I haven’t tried either of them. Are they energy drinks? Are they caffeinated? Unfortunately, I can’t drink caffeine like I used to, or I’ll be up all night. That’s the cruelest joke nature has ever played. It makes me so sad sometimes I could cry.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Hm. The only thing that works is starving my brain. My brain could stand to lose a few pounds anyway. It’s never gonna make it in this industry looking like that!
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
There is no pride. There is only shame. Shame in the morning. Shame in the afternoon. Shame in the evening. Shame in my dreams. Why? Who knows? But at least I’m not proud. Have you ever seen a proud person? They make me want to vomit. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true.
7. You want to be remembered for ...?
Nobody knows it yet, but I want to be remembered for my stand-up comedy. So far I only have three jokes. One is about vampires, one is about Hall & Oates, and one is about a statue. I’m waiting patiently for the music industry to dry up for good, so I can focus more on my joke catalog.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Inspiration is a strange concept. I don’t like it very much. Imagination is far more interesting.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
10. Your hidden talents . . .?
I can do a few mediocre yo-yo tricks. I also play music. Not a lot of people know that.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Advice is the worst! I’ve often knowingly gone down the wrong path just so someone couldn’t say he was the one who advised me to do something. You might even say that’s why I don’t ever talk to other human beings. Just to be safe!
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
I’ve purchased some darn good cheeseburgers in my life. There’s little that gives me joy like a good cheeseburger.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?
What are those? Cities? Would I feel better in one of them? I feel pretty good in Seattle right now. Will I need a passport to get to them? Which one should I go to first?
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Oh man! I love Ritz. Those flaky, buttery crackers! They just crumble in your mouth. And the peanut butter! Do you think it’s just Jif? Or a special, proprietary blend the bigwigs at Nabisco came up with. Nabisco. I always thought that would be a great name for a kid. Nabisco Elbogen. Thoughts?
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
Back to time of writing these answers. To give myself a sweet high five.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
You’re right! I cannot stress management enough! They’re the ones who make sure us peons don’t get out of hand. It would be chaos with them. Nobody would manage!
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, coffee, vodka, cigarettes, and chocolate. Sorry, what was the question?
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
The city. But only if every time I arrived, someone played “Welcome To The Jungle” on a boom box, to herald my arrival. Dunna nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh. Dunna nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh. Dung a dung a dung a dung a dung dungga. Dung a dung a dung a dung a dung dungga.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Hey man, nice shot!
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
I’m working on being a nicer person. I’m working on being a better person. I’m working on writing better jokes. I’m working nine to five. What a way to make a living!