Some local bands play so much that you take them for granted. In the case of Elkhart, they've barely played this year, but with good reason. Luckily, their Americana-influenced rock returns to City Tavern tonight.
Frontman Travis Hopper, who told us earlier this year about the band's future plans, gave a little follow-up on what the band is up to now. Plus, he told us what it's like to be a first-time father, hoping to start his child off young with the Boss.
You became a father for the first time this year. Do you ever play your own songs for your daughter? If so, how does she respond to them? I do. Our daughter was born in May of this year, and now that she's six months old, she's pretty aware and into what's going on around her. So I play guitar for her, I sing to her, and she smiles sometimes; and looks out the window other times. So, really, it's like anything else. You never know.
There are lots of ways to start music education early, though, even before kids are born. My wife had this belly-band thing with speakers facing in when she was pregnant, so we played lots of music for her. I'm pretty sure I insisted on Born to Run being the first album, but after that, there was Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Van Morrison, Ryan Adams, Bon Iver and lots of soul music. There was also some Elkhart and The O's, so she'd know voices from her family.
When we talked in February, there were plans for a new Elkhart album and a covers EP. Have those come to fruition? The covers EP has actually turned into a series of vinyl 7-inch singles. Each one will have two cover songs: one local song and one non-local song. We're in the process of pressing the first two records, and the plan is to release one every other month in 2012, starting with one in January and one in March. I think the first record will be "Heaven or Las Vegas" by Cocteau Twins b/w "Secrets That You Keep" by J.D. Whittenburg.
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As far as a new album goes, we've written several new songs and we're unveiling one at City Tavern. We'd hoped to start recording earlier this year, but there were just a lot of things outside of music this year that took precedent over the band. Becoming a father changed my outlook on writing, though, if I'm honest, it changed my outlook on everything. And recently, the songs have been coming pretty quickly. We're hoping to start recording in the spring of 2012.
If you were to re-record the songs from your debut, The Moon, would you do anything different? I actually wouldn't. It's the first time I've ever made a record where, start to finish, I wouldn't change a single thing. It's not to say that the arrangements haven't changed over time, that the songs and our sound haven't evolved. But Salim Nourallah and the band really captured a particular time and place and, more than that, a distinct vibe. I wouldn't trade that for anything. Some people really responded to that record; we heard some pretty touching things about how it affected people and their lives. And then there were some people and publications around town that didn't really get it at all. That's okay as well. We weren't trying to make a pop record that pleases everyone. We were pretty selfish about trying to make a record that we liked and said what we wanted to say. And we did that. And, for me, that's good enough, every time.
Besides this show at City Tavern tonight, any other Elkhart shows in the near future? We're planning to play a lot more in 2012. As I said earlier, there were extenuating circumstances this year that kept us from playing, but we've figured those things out, and the band is tighter both off and on-stage than it's ever been, so we're anxious to get out there and play. We're a band that plays slow Southern music, and we're not suited for every setting, but we've really honed in on our own sound; it's becoming more distinct and unique, and we have a great time playing together, so we're excited to see where things go from here.