… and reviving at the Sinclair
Boston’s Los Elk are a bit enigmatic. They’re not an alternative rock band, they’re not a funk band, they’re not a soul band, and they’re not a jam band either.
At the same time, they combine these styles to create a groovy, rhythmic sound that gets people moving. It’s a purely original and organically refreshing take on music that consistently brings them outside the box.
With fellow Bostonians the Q-Tip Bandits and Juniper, Los Elk will take the stage at the Sinclair in Cambridge on July 31. Ahead of that, I spoke with guitarist and vocalist Amir Rivera, bassist Gabriel Follettie, and drummer Ryan “Bondi” Bondell about a recent performance they posted on YouTube, a summer single, playing a drive-in show in the cold, and getting amped about the upcoming gig.
Back in April, Los Elk filmed a full studio set and posted it as a free gift to fans. It was recorded at Ghost Hit Studio in West Springfield with Ryan Lecours and Alyssa Pascucci handling the filming. Who had the idea to do this video and how were you able to link up with the studio and everyone else to make it happen?
Gabriel Follettie: We saw a lot of other bands responding to the pandemic in a similar fashion. They found somewhere to do a live set with a group of people so we wanted to do the same. Ryan is an old friend of ours from back in college and he’s done a lot of work with us, we love him. It was natural that we got him to film it and we did the set, it was a great thing to get out to people while we were all kind of stuck in limbo.
Did you approach the video as a regular recording session or did the experience feel a bit more unique due to the circumstances of it?
GF: It was definitely unique. We’ve done one-off songs in a video format but never a full set before this one and it’s definitely a challenge to capture that live energy without an audience. We live and breathe for that live moment, everything is going towards that. I think it was an amazing experience and we’re all happy with how it came out.
This past August you guys released the single “Revival.” Was the song recorded during the pandemic last year? Or is this something that you had sitting on the shelf and you decided to put it out to give people new music to listen to?
Amir Rivera: With a name like “Revival” it almost suggests that it’s about the reopening but it’s totally unrelated actually. It’s more of a coincidence but we wrote it a while ago and we’ve been playing it for a while, we wanted to get some new music out. It’s one of those songs where we’ve all had a blast writing so it’s an easy pick to put out to the people. We tried some new recording styles for it, some of it was done in the studio and some of it was done from our living rooms. We really had to adapt and become more resourceful and self-reliant for a lot of our recording stuff now but it’s also opened up the floodgates for longer timelines just to make sure that everything is awesome and that every note sounds great. We had a blast recording “Revival.” We wanted to give people a feel good song to lift their spirits a bit and it’s fun to interpret live.
GF: Shoutout to Ghost Hit Studios for being such a great place. I recommend for anybody to go there, they keep on adding things and it keeps on getting better and better with every session.
One of the major things that kept live music alive last year in the midst of COVID-19 was drive-in shows and you guys got to be part of a Halloween themed one with the Cape Cod alternative rock act Crooked Coast last October in Falmouth. What was it like playing at a drive-in? Was it different from any other show you’ve played? Was it weird hearing car horns rather than hearing people clapping?
Ryan “Bondi” Bondell: That was a really great experience because it was our first time doing something like that. I’m sure in some capacity drive-in shows existed before the pandemic but they became a staple concert variation once everything played out like it did. It was really, really bizarre to be in this huge field and looking out at 150 cars just kind of like honking at you. Honestly, what was also really cool about it was that people were really making the best of it and they were almost tailgating it by setting up chili cookers outside their car with folding chairs, blankets, snacks, drinks, wine, and that kind of stuff. Even though it was a lot more separated than what we’re used to with everybody being in their own little bubble, it was still really nice to see people coming out on a relatively cold night, it was actually freezing.
We’ve played some cold outdoor shows before but that might have taken the cake. People came in full force, bundled up and ready to enjoy some music, it was great. Little did we know that it was going to be our last show of that magnitude for literally the rest of the pandemic so in hindsight it was a really wonderful time.
AR: Big thanks to Crooked Coast for putting that all together and making that happen. Their fans are really, really sweet and it’s always fun playing shows with those guys because they’re really sweet dudes. I’m so grateful for the people who drove from Boston and Connecticut to stand in the cold and rock out and drive back, that’s true dedication. It helped so much during a dark time and that level of commitment means the world to us.
Speaking of shows, the upcoming one at the Sinclair will be Los Elk’s first legit one in the Boston area in quite some time. What are your feelings going into it?
GF: Over the past month or so we’ve had some shows leading up to this one but we’re very excited. We got some stuff prepared and it’s going to be the first big Boston blowout since the pandemic so we’re going to come in guns blazin’, we’re pumped.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.