Interview: Elk City

I’m a massive fan of music across the board, focusing more on quality of song rather than genre. It’s always great to hear a band doing something a little different to the norm, which is why I loved Elk City’s track Strong (You’re Not Alone) so much. If you liked the track, you can find out more about Elk City here!

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a new single titled Strong (You’re Not Alone), which I loved. What can you tell us about the song?

Ray Ketchem: Strong is about finding the courage to love your life. Its psychedelic drone is contrasted by the words of encouragement. It was written in two pieces and sewn together in the studio.

Renée LoBue: I wrote part of Strong (You’re Not Alone) while improvising into my phone in 2018. Later, I played it for the band. We brought it into the studio to elaborate on it with everyone jamming on/improvising parts. It’s about the strength we all have within us… the strength we’re born with. It’s about remembering the boldness and the beauty of who you are, no matter the circumstances.

How has the reception to the track been so far, and where can it be purchased?

Ray Ketchem: You can find our discography for purchase on Bandcamp. The reception to Strong has been very positive, considering it’s nearly six minutes in length and is not a conventional single in any respect. We chose it as the first single from our new record because we’ve been anxious for people to hear it.

Renée LoBue: People connect with it. I’m proud to say we’ve written a song people relate to.

Do you have any more singles planned for release soon?

Ray Ketchem: Yes. There will be another single released in late August.

Renée LoBue: The next single, Tried to Move On is out on August 30th.

Your new album, Undertow, is set to be released in September. What can you tell us about the album?

Ray Ketchem: Undertow is the companion piece to our 2022 album Above the Water. Both albums were recorded simultaneously. Like all our albums, there are pop songs, but Undertow has a musical darkness that is unique to this release, yet lyrically it seems to be about independence and personal strength.

Renée LoBue: What we haven’t revealed until now is that both Above the Water and Undertow were written at the same time. We considered releasing a double album. The most interesting thing about these records (to me) is that the water theme was not planned. The water theme revealed itself to us after. Even more ironic: The cover art pieces that were chosen for both records have water themes. The cover art for Above the Water is called Memories of the Sea, and the cover art for Undertow is called Come Back to Sicily. I created both pieces of art before the records were done. At the time I didn’t realise they were part of a larger water theme expressed in the music. Upon completion, we were able to look atboth the art and the music with a more objective lens. We could see the hidden theme looking back at us. It had been there all along.

Your music has a unique and experimental sound. What/who influences you most as artists? What have you been listening to recently?

Ray Ketchem: Thank you. We try to create sounds and songs that feel familiar at first listen, but reveal deeper connections at a closer inspection. For influences, we run the gamut. We explore new artists as well as studying from artists who came before us. Currently I love a Mexican band called Lorelle Meets The Obsolete. Renee and I both love a band from Texas called Khruangbin.

Renée LoBue: Thank you. I’m a music fiend and listen to both old and new music equally. My influences are varied. I love African music like Amanaz, WITCH and compilation LPs like the Nigeria 70 LPs. I’m massively into classic country, jazz, pop, psych bands – both retro and modern like Tonstartssbandht, Soul, Soul, and more Soul. The funny thing is, I was such a rock kid growing up and now it’s probably what I listen to the least. Say what you like about modern streaming, but it’s given us the gift of constant musical palette expansion. Lastly, Judas Priest is still amazing.

Do you have anything else exciting coming up this year?

Ray Ketchem: A few shows that we’re excited about. We’re playing a reunion show for the 90’s band Velocity Girl on September 30th at Bowery Ballroom in NYC. On December 1st we’re playing with Ted Leo in our hometown of Montclair, NJ.

You’ve produced seven albums so far. What is the secret to your success? How do you keep things fresh?

Ray Ketchem: Always push forward by letting the songs guide the way.

You’re based in New Jersey, home of Bruce Springsteen. Bon Jovi and The Gaslight Anthem. What is the local music scene like with you at the moment?

Ray Ketchem: We live very close to NYC, so the city and Brooklyn/Queens feel like part of us too. We have amazing shows by bands from everywhere going on every night of the week in our area. It’s an amazing place to be for music.

Renée LoBue: We’re surrounded by amazing musicians from NJ, NYC, Brooklyn, and Queens. There are more people making music in these parts than ever. Dive in and trace the trail of inspiration that led so many bands to form or to continue. You can go out 7 nights a week in NY or NJ and catch a slew of bands. It’s ON … and, apparently, it’s poppin’.

Do you have any tour dates lined up and perhaps in the UK?

Ray Ketchem: We’d love to play in the UK! Can you hook us up?

Renée LoBue: Samesies.

Any last words for the fans?

Ray Ketchem: Be yourself and thanks for listening.

Renée LoBue: You’re not alone.