A band's influences speak volumes about its material; some turn to film and literature, others look to genre pioneers. And high-volume indie rockers Elba, in addition to citing bands like Built to Spill and Pinback, have the 1995 Ben Stiller flick Heavy Weightsto lean on, facetiously calling its humor a concise summary of their intra-band dynamic.
Elba With Black Nite Crash, Les Jupes, and Derek Kelly & the Speedwobbles. Comet Tavern, 922 E. Pike St., 322-9271, comettavern.com. 21 and over. $7. 9 p.m. Fri., Feb. 11.
If the barrage of jokes flying back and forth across the Ballard Grill and Ale House are any indication, five years of strenuous low-budget tours and playing small venues for small crowds have created a good sense of humor—a necessity if you're going to debate the merits of British anarcho-rock outfit Chumbawamba.
"Oh yeah, this song really does it," joked Brian Graham, bandmate and cousin of frontman Nick Cappelletti, as "Tubthumping" blares through the bar's speakers. "Speaking of our influences . . . "
Grouped around a table at the divey watering hole before practice, all five musicians look the part of a low-key outfit in sync with their environment. But their mellow appearance belies their music; sprinkled with brass crescendos and crashing cymbals, Elba's guitar-driven melodies frame Cappelletti's understated vocals. Consumed with a garage-raw energy, their recent five-track Diplodocus EP inspires an irresistible urge to twist the volume knob up a few decibels.
Though the departure of a drummer left the release—and the band's future— uncertain, Elba had fresh motivation to release the project properly after the record's title track was added to Portland label Tender Loving Empire's Friends & Friends of Friends compilation alongside the likes of Loch Lomond and Boy Eats Drum Machine, In Graham's words, "It was the best thing we ever did."
Diplodocus is nothing if not diverse. With tastes of up-tempo surf rock ("To the Coast"), mood-shifting key changes, and instrumentation that includes brass and acoustic guitar, the EP has legs that stretch beyond its five tracks.
Coming back after a year off means Elba is starting from scratch in many respects, but it's not as though they've had to rebuild musically. They're already in the process of recording a new record, and the outfit has big plans—including translating their notably roaring performances onto wax, and taking them down the West Coast for a tour in May.
"This might not be where I wanted to be five years after starting the band, but it is what it is," Cappelletti said, only half-joking. "You don't last very long if you have monetary goals in something like this. We would be playing even if no one listened to us—in fact, we have."