Here, I present to you, dear reader, our latest exclusive interview with Eric Elbogen aka Say Hi (To Your Mom). Say Hi produce some of the most endearing glitch-pop to be gleaned from Casio equipment. Elbogen’s patented, slightly off-key vocals combined with his impeccable sense of melody make for many beautiful moments…even if a large proportion of his back-catalog is about topics that are generally perceived as less-than-serious (vampires, robots, Star Trek).
Currently, he is on tour supporting his 2007 release The Wishes and the Glitches, and took some time out on Thursday to chat with us a bit.
Enjoy! And don’t forget to catch his show Backstage at the Black Cat in DC next week, Tues Mar4. $10, 9:00PM doors.
Aural States- Thanks for taking time out to talk to us. You are probably a little tired of this question, but I’ve gotta ask. Could you say a little about why you decided to drop the end of Say Hi (to your mom)?
Eric Elbogen- Well I really wanted to. I’ve been meaning to do it for a long time. It just seemed a perfect opportunity with the new record having alot less songs about stuff like robots and vampires. It just seemed appropriate to me.
AS- Yeah, I had heard some crazy rumors and stuff about lawsuits from Norway?
EE- No, I alot of times will make stuff up if I’m feeling in a fun kind of mood. I think I put some lines in the FAQ on the website about being sued by a Norwegian death metal band from the 70s.
AS- Hahah OK. Good to clear that up. You moved to Seattle fairly recently?
EE- It’s been over a year actually. It was December 06 that I moved there.
AS- What prompted you to move out of Brooklyn?
EE- You know, I still love New York, but it was just time for me to take a break…from living with 7 roommates and not really being able to park our van on the street. I just wanted to move somewhere that had a bit of a slower pace.
AS- Are your roots on the East Coast?
EE- No I actually grew up in southern California, Los Angeles. After I graduated college I moved to New York where I lived for 7 years until I moved to Seattle.
AS- How are you finding Seattle so far?
EE- Oh it’s great. Exactly what I was looking for. The people are really great, there’s a nice little music community there. And for the first time in my life I can afford my own apartment without roommates. It’s just a really beautiful part of the world.
AS- Great. So moving on, could you tell me what your musical background is like, you know, like when you got your first Casio?
EE- Wow, my first Casio…that was probably age 9 or 10. I got one of those, I think it was SK1? The one where you could record a little 4-bit sample through the microphone built-in. My friends and I would make burp or fart noises and play little melodies with it.
But I didn’t actually get a guitar and start writing songs until I was about 13 or so.
AS- Were you a band geek or anything more formal?
EE- You know, no. I am still fairly illiterate at reading music. I think I bought the guitar and took one lesson then quit. I just started listening, playing along to Guns N Roses and Motley Crue records and taught myself how to play the guitar. Really focused on writing songs as opposed to getting better technique-wise.
AS- Do you think that has influenced where you’ve taken Say Hi?
EE- I do, I think that everywhere I’ve taken my life as it relates to music is based on the fact that I am a former songwriter. Throughout the process of making several records, I’ve taught myself to play a few other instruments as well…but I am certainly not excellent at any of those. The focus has definitely always been on songwriting.
AS- What artists have been major influences musically?
EE- Early on I was into the Beatles and a huge U2 fan for a long time. And I still am. Maybe not as much on the last couple records, but there’s definitely some of those records that I can still listen and consider some of my favorite records of all time. And Radiohead and the Pixies.
AS- Do they also influence you lyrically?
EE- Mostly musical inspirations. I don’t really know what my lyrical style is influenced by. I was an English major in college and certainly I use some of the tricks that I learned about how to write when I was in school when I am writing lyrics. But I don’t otherwise base it on any other bands.
AS- Other than your more classic influences, who of your peers is really inspiring you, who are you really into?
EE- I am always buying records and getting into new stuff. Right now, the new Black Mountain record, the new Hot Chip and MGMT records. I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll get bored of those and move onto whatever else comes up.
AS- Have you seen any good live shows recently?
EE- You know I’ve never seen any of them live. Several months ago I saw Grizzly Bear and Deerhunter play. That was one of the better shows I’ve seen in the past couple years.
AS- Anyone you interested in touring or collaborating with?
EE- Well like I said before, I am a huge Radiohead fan…as I’m sure anyone who makes music similar to what I do is. Playing with them would be a dream come true. But at this point it’s more about touring with people you like to hang out with and respect their music. We’ve never been the sort of band to be opening huge tours…so…that would be nice but I don’t know that I have my sights set on anything at the moment.
AS- OK. So you just put out your fifth album, The Wishes and the Glitches. How do you feel about it? What went right and what is really different from your other albums?
EE- I feel really good about it. People have been responding very well, which is nice. There have been a lot of great opportunities happening because of it. It is a bit different of a record. I tried to change up some of the ways that I go about songwriting. I also tried to sing a little bit louder, instead of doing the whisper singing that I did a lot of on the previous records.
Overall I’m really pleased with how it’s being received. But there’s no way for me to be objective about it. The only way I can tell how good a record really is is by other people’s responses once it is out.
AS- I find it is definitely, as advertised, a more personal album and like you said before, you have pretty much ditched singing about vampires and robots. But I think, maybe as a consequence, the tone is more somber than say Blahs.
EE- I think a big complaint certain people had in the past was that there was a lack of a personal nature to some of the records. It’s in my opinion, not a good or bad thing to have that. But I wanted to try something new. I don’t know that I’ve abandoned writing concept records about vampires forever, but for this one, it felt appropriate. I tried very hard not to make it over the top in terms of gushing about all of my fears, desires and dreams. Which, I think, I ended up doing for the most part. But yeah, I would agree that it is a more personal and somber record.
AS- The one track that stands out as possibly “bridging the gap” between your old content and the new is “Before we were brittle.” You can interpret it multiple ways, in a sort of fictional way like your previous material and in a deeper, more personal way.
EE- That song has actually been kicking around for a very long time…since the second record. I never found an arrangement and all of the lyrics that I was completely happy with. I think part of it actually exemplifies what I was going for with the record. Starting fresh, there’s a line about “maybe we should move someplace new” which is saying “oh yeah, our life was great in the past but it isn’t anymore…let’s figure out what we can do to fix that.”
AS- Other than the tone change, how do you feel the album has changed musically?
EE- You know, I don’t know. The hope is always to get better as you go along. I certainly paid attention to writing better arrangements, better songs, better melodies. I’m happy with what I got done. Anytime I finish a record, I’ve spent so much time with it that I think I grow musically beyond the songs that make it on the record. So I’m already looking forward to using what I’ve learned on the next record.
AS- I’ve probably seen you 3 or 4 times now live. Each time, I think you’ve had a different line-up, be it solo, backing guitar and bass or just backing keyboard. Is this reflective of a changing view on where you want Say Hi to be going?
EE- I think one reason is just a logistics thing. Sometimes the musicians I really want to come on tour aren’t available. It’s also sorta me, excited sometimes to make it a different show on each tour. Particularly songs that I’ve been playing for so many years, adding a new musician or changing to a different incarnation really changes how those songs sound. And you’re right, it’s been a very long time since there’s been a consistent line-up between two tours.
AS- Have any of the touring band members affected your recorded output? Or has that been just you solo…kind of like your baby?
EE- It’s been my baby for the most part…but the girl who was with me for a couple tours sang on the latest record…but really it just depends on where I am with the recording and writing process and where other people are at and what the songs call for.
AS- I feel like, listening to each new album, that “this is the album that Say Hi cements into a bigger band.” Are you aiming for that eventually?
EE- No actually, I mean I like the idea of that. But I don’t think this project will ever lend itself to that. Just because of the way that I work and my personality. I would love to be part of something like that, maybe for a different band.
AS- You’re almost 2 weeks into this tour. How’s it been going, show attendance, audiences?
EE- It’s been great, probably the best headlining tour ever. A lot of people coming out, very responsive.
AS- What are your plans for the rest of the year?
EE- More touring, but once we get back, writing more for the next record. Just sketching out some songs and themes for that.
AS- Great! Well thanks for taking time to chat with us, Eric. Any parting words for Baltimore/DC area fans?
EE- No, just I’m looking forward to the show and we always have a good time in DC. Come on out!
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