EL VY Proves to Be More Than Just a Side Project, with Debut Release, “Return to the Moon”

el vy

The much buzzed about EL VY creates an inspiring album, Return to the Moon, out now via 4AD. Consisting mainly of Matt Berninger of The National and Brent Knopf of Ramona Falls/Menomena, what the duo creates is something honest, heartfelt, and truly unique.

Like when all high profiled musicians break off from their main band, there seems to be a bit of a back and forth skeptical reaction that travels throughout the internet. I believe it was in Pitchfork that I had read a blurb stating that Berninger and Knopf were “incompatible” as musicians. To be honest, yes, they kind of are incompatible as musicians; but on the bright side, that is exactly what makes this combination work well.

The first two singles shined light on the blending of two parties; first with “Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo)” and the follow up “I’m the Man to Be.” The first singles were definitely a departure from Berninger’s deep and heavy sounds of The National, but it allowed us to see a more upbeat version of what he has to offer. Knopf on the other hand, brings a stunning element of instrumentation to the table that sometimes provides a lively vibe, and other times, a haunting and unusual sound. The mixture of these elements seem to work completely, as they weave throughout each track of the record.

The biggest misconception that a listener can have going into this, is that it’s going to sound like a “National” record. It’s not. Then Berninger would just be working on National songs right now (Right? Right.). What would be the point? The voice is there, but the content isn’t always as heavy. You’re going to dance, you’re still going to get depressed as hell, and you are going to love every moment of it.

Releasing a series of lyric videos directed by the multi-talented Tom Berninger, it provides multiple songs with an intimate look to capture your attention even more. Tracks such as “Happiness Missouri” bring a haunting, yet determined sound into play, while harmonies fill the album in pieces such as “Silent Ivy Hotel,” or the chilling musicianship of “Paul is Alive.” Songs such as “No Time to Crank the Sun,” offers up Matt’s signature delicate crooning, as “Need a Friend,” shares a more vibrant sound, that brings Knopf’s intricate brand of musicianship to the table. Together they create a truly special musical experience within Return to the Moon.

Each piece on the record is strong enough to stand on their own, which is perhaps why the group decided to release a track one at a time leading into the record. Return to the Moon is perhaps the finest record of 2015; mark my word.

EL VY is currently on tour, recently kicking off their Eastern U.S. dates, with two stops in New York. Friday at Bowery Ballroom, and Saturday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. See you there kids.


CMJ Diary: Wednesday October 20th

By Sedera Ranaivoarinosy

Not to going to go into detail, but my life has never been busier. Still, I decided this year I would let it affect my CMJ time as little as possible. Sure, for these first few days, that means no day parties for me, but hey, there’s plenty for me to see at night. So here’s a little run through of last night:

1. Pujol at Santos Party House

Pujol @ Santos, Oct. 20th, 2011

After almost going in the wrong entrance–two shows were happening at the same time–I make it inside Santos while the members of the band are finishing up their mic checks. Not to be stereotypical but Pujol‘s garage rock is not necessarily the type of music you’d necessarily expect to hear out of Nashville, TN. The club was at that point where there are quite a few people around but it’s not so full that you are squished into everyone so the vibe was welcoming but it was maybe still a bit early for a rager. Nonetheless, Pujol brought it: the bass made the ground under my feet shake and I caught myself checking if someone was texting me because the waves of sound were making my jacket vibrate. Cute note: Daniel Pujol ended the set mentioning that it was his sister’s birthday. It didn’t seem like she was in the audience but if I had had that set dedicated to me, I’d be pretty happy.

Next stop was Pianos. On the train over, I saw a contestant from the dance competition So You Think You Can Dance. It felt like an odd intrusion of the mainstream into my evening of indie takeover.

2. Cloud Nothings and Exitmusic at Pianos

Cloud Nothings @ Pianos, Oct. 20th, 2011

Going from Pujol to Cloud Nothings (if you subtract the subway ride from Santos to Pianos) made for a fairly seamless transition, although the Cleveland outfit could have used the clarity of sound Pujol enjoyed at Santos. Needless to say, my ears might not really ever function the same again but that didn’t ruin their performance per se. In fact, there was something kind of pleasant in the way the songs sounded and the flow of the band’s set. From one track to the next, I felt like I was going back through all the various stages of adolescence: the pop-punk “rebel” phase, followed by the angsty, more “hard rock” one and the more exploratory one, represented by more experimental and noisy sounds. Since these days I live running from place to place without much breathing time, that little bit of nostalgic energy was pretty comforting. But next time, I’ll be careful not to stay as close to the speakers.

Exitmusic @ Pianos, Oct. 20th, 2011

The second Exitmusic started playing, the pace changed immediately. While the music I’d heard until then was immediate and very raw, this was carefully calculated and orchestrated. It was obvious from the moment the band stepped on stage; their polished appearance was a long way away from the torn t-shirts and plain old jeans of the previous bands. In some way, it was almost a little intimidating to see how attractive everyone was in the band but bit by bit, that feeling faded away as the music and Aleksa Palladino’s haunting vocals shrouded the room. As the set built up, it was like we were all suspended mid-air, as if carried by the lofty guitars. And then Cold War Kids’ “Hang Me Up To Dry” started playing as they took off their instruments and it was back to reality where class the next day meant no more shows for that night.

Tom Vek @ Union Pool, July 13th 2011

It was Tom Vek’s second night playing in New York City and even though I was not at his Mercury Lounge concert, I can assure you the vibe at Union Pool had to be drastically different. It had rained that day, the temperature had cooled down a little… A nice evening outside sipping drinks in the bar’s outdoor courtyard right by the BQE must have given the audience a better disposition to rock out. I like to think so.
But before we could see Mr. Vek, we heard Cookies, “a band from New York City specializing in popular music” as they say on their website. A trio of multi-tasking musicians, they played a short set of danceable electro-pop songs, under the watchful eye of the headliner himself. Audience was a bit shy during the set, leaving a wide safety distance between the small stage and the first row. Still, the way the band mixed electronics with their instruments seemed like a fitting match and an appropriate lead-in for Vek. The set only got better as it went along; by the end, ears were warmed up, necks were a bit looser and the room was packed.

When Tom Vek steps out onto the stage, it’s hard to imagine he is actually as animated a performer as he is. With his new perfectly combed and sculpted hair, thick-rimmed black glasses, white t-shirt, jeans and tan lace-up boots, he seems very unassuming and calm. But once the music starts, the shift is immediate; he’s in it.

The set opened with “Hold Your Hand” off his new record, Leisure Seizure. The bass could have burst your chest open and the music immediately filled up the entirety of the cozy venue. As he plays, Vek sways and swings with the music, marking every drum break, every moment a new electronic sample is introduced with some part of his body, even moving his hand next to the microphone according to the tune he is singing.

Performing a nice balance of songs from his new album and songs from his first LP We Have Sound, Vek switched between playing bass and guitar. Hearing the song “C-C (You Set The Fire In Me)” showed just how powerful the marriage of two bass guitars and sharp drumming can be. “World of Doubt,” off his new release, took on even more grit and toughness live than on the recorded version.

The band was having fun on stage and so was the crowd. The audience’s appreciative head-bobbing quickly escalated to full-on dancing, with some concert goers up by the stage almost looking like they were in a trance. Vek isn’t too much into funny banter between songs but he did stop to thank everyone present for coming out several times and even complimented the venue (which was indeed very cute).

The set was tight and never felt like it was dying down, even during the slower songs. The last two songs were the first single off the new album, “A Chore” and the harsh “A.P.O.L.O.G.Y,” before which he thanked the opening band Cookies and his band mates. Sadly, there was no encore, but after such an electrifying set, our ears were bound to be ringing with the sound of his beat rock tunes for a while.


1. Hold Your Hand

2. We Do Nothing

3. C-C (You Set The Fire In Me)

4. World of Doubt

5. If You Want

6. Someone Loves You

7. Nothing But Green Lights

8. Aroused

9. I Ain’t Saying My Goodbyes

10. Seizemic

11. A Chore

12. A.P.O.L.O.G.Y.

Meet Conversion Party!

Conversion Party only just released their “proper debut EP” (as they refer to it on their bandcamp page), but they have quite a bit of history behind them. Although split between New London, CT, and Brooklyn, NY, the five members of this band still managed to out out a self-released first LP, More No More, in 2008, but their musical style needed some focusing. When it came time to write new material, they set out to “bring the different stylistic strands together into something that was cohesive,” as their guitarist Alex Waxman explains. From the new sessions came a whole new LP, produced by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Sean Greenhalgh. No label came forward to release it, but that wasn’t going to stop them. Out of the ten songs they recorded, they chose four and that is how we got the EP Favors, which was released on April 19th. The songs on the EP have a real pop flair but maintain just enough off-kilter elements in the vocals and arrangements to keep our attention. Hopefully the rest of the recordings will make their way into our music libraries soon.

To honor the release of Favors, Conversion Party will be playing two shows as part of the EP Release Weekend: they will be at Bruar Falls TONIGHT, Friday May 6th, with Hsi Chang Li, In Buenos Aires and Natural Fathers, and at Cakeshop tomorrow night, Saturday May 7th, for the venue’s 6th Anniversary Party, where they will share the stage with Surf City and the Beets. But most importantly, two members of Conversion Party took some time to speak to Modern Mystery about music, Favors and the band’s history in a slightly unusual way… I asked Ben and Alex the same questions, and they answered them according to what they thought the other would answer. How well do these answers match up with what their own answers and opinions are? We’re not counting points, of course, this is a friendly game.

 Full name, Birthday and Place of Birth

Alex’s guess: Benjamin Brock Johnson, I believe is Colorado somewhere… A hippie town… Boulder? But I don’t think that’s right. I’m really bad at remembering people’s birthdays I think his is sometime in September? Say September 12th.The real answer was: Benjamin Brock Johnson. My birth place is Montpelier, VT and my birth date is July 28th, 1980. Ben’s guess: Alexander Isaac Waxman. This is going to be hard… He was born somewhere in Massachusetts… In the Boston area, I’m going to guess. And his birthday… [laughs] I’m pretty sure his birthday is somewhere in May, I’m going to guess May 8th.The real answer was:  Alexander Isaac Waxman. My birth date is May 11th 1982 and Boston, MA is my birth town or city.

 When did the two of you first met?

Ben’s memory: I was definitely during college and I want to say we both were  in search or some sort of trouble and found each other as we were trying to find it. I feel like the first time we met was near a bench… But we might have also have met in his roommate’s dorm room Alex’s memory: That would be in college, in my dorm room, after this orientation thing where Ben stood up and talked in front of the whole school. And then he came over and we smoked pot in my dorm room with my pot dealer roommate. 

Unfortunately, I’m not sure we have the technology to have an objective and definitive answer on this one, although Ben did say he thought Alex would say their first meeting would involve pot in Alex’s dorm room… However they met, it led to good things. That’s all that matters, right?

Since the band’s time has been split between New London, CT and Brooklyn, NY, I wanted to know, what are each other’s biggest driving faults?

Alex’s guess: Ah, Everything! [chuckles]  I would say getting distracted. Ben’s answer: Everything? [chuckles] I’m actually a very good driver but none of my friends would admit that. I’m probably the scariest driver, I drive too fast and seem like I’m out of control and I follow people too closely and I slam the breaks too much and come too close to hitting people. But I never actually hit people. Ben’s guess: Inconsistency of speed. Alex’s answer: I’m pretty flawless   [smiles].

Drink of Choice during the recording of Favors?

Alex’s guess:  We sort of drink the same thing. I would have to say beer. Budweiser as well. Ben’s answer: Do smoothies count? I would say smoothies and/or whisky, like Maker’s Mark. Ben’s guess Either Jim Beam or tall boy Budweisers or a combination of both. Alex’s answer: It was pretty much beer down the line… Budweiser.


Biggest Musical Inspiration?

Alex’s guess: Radiohead. Ben’s answer: Thelonious Monk. Ben’s guess: He’s going to try to say something so cool… His answer might be Neutral Milk Hotel, or Jeff Mangum. Alex’s answer: Our drummer’s other band Fatal Film.

Oddest songwriting ritual or routine?

Alex’s guess: We all do our songwriting separately so I always picture Ben in his slippers at home… He has this pair of Himalayan slippers that he brings with him whenever we do these bad getaways. They’re blue and have thread… He knows what slippers they are. Ben’s answer: I don’t know if this is the strangest thing but when I write and record demos, I play things and work on things incessantly, and I’m very exacting so if I’m demoing something by myself,  I’ll play it more times than anyone in  their right mind would play something in order to get it exactly right. Ben’s guess: I want to say it’s something physical. He would be trying to get the strangest sound out of what he was doing. Whatever he would be playing with, he would be trying to get the absolutely weirdest sound that could not be duplicated. Alex’s answer: I make really messy demos that sort of fall apart because I’m just trying to get the idea down. So sometimes they’re kind of indecipherable. The other guys have to listen to them with faith… They sort of know that there’s the grain of a good idea there and they listen for that. It’s not necessarily a song when I first present it.


Favorite song on Favors and Why?

Alex’s guess: I think he’ll say  “Let Us All” because he wrote it. Ben’s answer: I would say “Let Us All” because I wrote it. Ha, no, I think that song is an incomplete spot in some  ways: it never developed really specific lyrics and it’s not like the rest of our material in a lot of ways. But I think that it has a wild quality to it that I really like. And it’s a bit more experimental than our stuff so it’s ambitious in that way. It reminds me of long, drawn-out noisy guitar rock that we all listen to but don’t necessarily always sound like. Ben’s guess: “Birds of Paradise Lost” because he would really like Matt Potter’s vocal. Alex’s answer: My favorite track on Favors is “Let Us All” because it’s the last track on the record and I love the way it came together. We were really unsure of what it was going to be and during the last couple of weeks of recording, it turned into an awesome song. It’s cool and points for more stuff for us that we can do.

Which producer/musician would he like to work with in the future?

Alex’s guess: I’m sure it would be Radiohead related, like Nigel Godrich or Thom Yorke. Ben’s answer: I’d like to work with somebody who has really interesting drum programming and rhythmic ideas and is also willing to spend a lot of time getting weird sounds and trying really weird things. I think  Scott Walker is somebody whose recordings are…  I’m  in awe of the ideas that he has about making sounds physically and recording them. My impression is that someone like Nigel Godrich spends a lot of time doing interesting things with sound and also really stripping songs down and re-imagining them in new ways. I’d like to work with somebody who is very free-thinking in that way. Ben’s guess: Maybe Panda Bear? Or Jay Reatard or No Age. Alex’s answer: I would like to see what would happen if we didn’t have a producer, if we recorded ourselves and let the process sprawl in a way that it doesn’t with a producer.  But I like James Murphy a lot so… I think we would get along really well with him. I feel there’s a similar sensibility there.







Most embarrassing moment on stage?

Alex’s guess: I really wouldn’t be able  to guess… I don’t know… I mean he’s been on stage a lot more than I have with   many other bands. I would assume it’s not Conversion Party-related.Ben’s answer: I’m never embarrassed, because I always do what I’m supposed to do [laughs]. Usually my most embarrassing moments on stage are when my bandmates announce songs that I’ve written and how they’re about   my girlfriend. Which is totally fine, I’m not embarrassed about writing songs about my girlfriend, but I always feel it’s a betrayal of the mystery of the art form being presented purely. Ben’s guess:  Alex’s most embarrassing stage moment I think was a show we played at Lit lounge earlier this year. During the second to last song, Matt Potter fell into a wall during a really intense solo and somehow inadvertently killed the power on the whole bottom floor of the club–sparks flew and there was a huge loud sound and the lights went out. It was on the last chord of our fastest loudest song “Awake,” and it was kind of perfect how it ended, but everyone was like “whaaaa?” Alex got pretty mad about that I think because it was this sort of epic example of a performance blowing up in our faces, literally.Alex’s answer: I have two off the top of my head. Once we played an all ages show on a Wednesday in Hamden, CT and there was just one person there and I don’t even think they were there to see us and it was just the worse night. The other was almost prior to this band, the college had offered us a hundred bucks to play on a tennis court. Nobody else could do it except for me and Matt Allen, who is in the band now. It was just the two of us on drums and guitar and it was kind of disaster. But it didn’t really matter; we still got a hundred bucks.



First CD/Record/Tape you bought?

Alex’s guess: It would probably Nirvana   or Pearl Jam or something like that.Ben’s Answer: The first one that I was given (my preferred answer) was a tape. My father is a jazz pianist and he gave me a tape that was one side the soundtrack of the movie Top Gun and on the other side it was greatest hits Beach Boys mix. And then the first record I bought, either it was Nirvana’s Nevermind or Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream. Ben’s guess: I’m going to guess an Otis Redding tape. But it could be A Tribe Called Quest, or G-Love and Special Sauce? I’m going to say A Tribe Called Quest.Alex’s answer: That’s an embarrassing question. I’m pretty sure I bought a couple CDs at once: one was Aerosmith, and the other one was Jimi Hendrix’s Greatest Hits. But I was listening to much worse shit, I’m sure.



Regina Spektor Releases First Live CD And Concert Film

Regina Spektor is releasing her first live CD and live concert film this Monday November 22nd, LIVE IN LONDON, on Sire/Warner Bros Records. Directed by Adria Petty, the 64-minute film captures the energy of Ms. Spektor’s concerts and is dedicated to Regina’s cellist and band leader Daniel Cho, who passed away this summer in Switzerland.

Spektor will be promoting the concert film/live CD combo this Tuesday, November 23rd by performing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, but if you want a larger than life experience of the film, you can see it in select U.S. theaters over the weekend, starting November 19th! Check if a theater near you is screening it after the jump and grab your tickets HERE, they are bound to run out fast!

And here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll see, with the LIVE IN LONDON performance of “Dance Anthem Of The 80s:”

November 19 – Doris Duke Theatre – Honolulu, HI
November 19 – Hollywood Theatre – Portland, OR
November 19 – 25 – Village East Cinema – New York, NY
November 20 – Zeitgeist – New Orleans, LA
November 20 – Downtown Independent – Los Angeles, CA
November 21 – Northwest Film Forum – Seattle, WA
November 21 – Palace Theatre – Syracuse, NY
November 21 – Roxie – San Francisco, CA
November 21 – Zinema 2 – Duluth, MN
November 21 – Studio Movie Grill Atlanta – Alpharetta, GA
November 21 – Studio Movie Grill Houston – Houston, TX
November 21 – Studio Movie Grill Royal – Dallas, TX
November 21 – Middle East Downstairs – Boston, MA
November 21 – Alamo Drafthouse @ The Ritz – Austin, TX
November 22 – Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL

Listen To The New Single From The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, “Heart In Your Heartbreak”

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is continuing to ride the wave of success they had with their self-titled first album for not only did they just release a new single, “Heart In Your Heartbreak,” but they are also hitting up the concert halls of the West Coast! The new single will drop on 7″ vinyl on December 14th, and their new LP will drop in March 2011 on Slumberland Records.

On tour they will be joined for these dates by Weekend, Stars, Sonny and the Sunsets and Glasser, so if you are in the general area of California, Oregon and Washington this coming week, be sure to check them out! Details are below.

Here are their remaining upcoming tour dates:

Nov 9 – The Independent San Francisco, CA (with Weekend)
Nov 10 – SoHo Santa Barbara, CA (with Weekend)
Nov 11 – The Loft UCSD La Jolla, CA (with Weekend)
Nov 12 – Echoplex Los Angeles, CA (with Weekend and Sonny and the Sunsets)
Nov 14 – Glasshouse Pomona CA  (with Stars)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Heart In Your Heartbreak by forcefieldpr