Ell V Gore is a Toronto goth-rock band who’ve been churning out rockabilly and no wave-inflected tunes for about three years now. Starting off as Brides, a sprawling multi-instrumental project combining brass instruments with more conventional rock instrumentation, the group, led by Elliot Jones, has since become a more stripped down affair, and has started to gain recognition since the release of the EP Sex Static over the summer.
When I was living in Toronto, I saw different versions of Brides play in a number of different settings, from crowded basements to concert halls. The newest incarnation of the band has distilled the best aspects of the live show and added crisper production and more formalized song structures. The resulting tracks have helped draw attention to a heretofore under-reported industrial/noise/punk scene in Toronto that has been germinating for quite some time in relative obscurity.
I caught up with Elliot after his set at Bowery Ballroom on September 6th. We chatted about our shared hometown, his latest EP and the importance of not taking yourself seriously.
How are you doing?
What’s Ell V Gore been up to?
We just finished touring. Our EP just came out a couple of months ago, so we’re just trying to promote it. Unfortunately we couldn’t get our merch, and our records over the fucking border, so I’m pissed off about that.
Where else are you guys going to be playing?
We’re on tour right now. It’s our second show in New York. We’re doing ten dates with Dirty Beaches and our last show is in Atlanta. We’re also playing a party in Brooklyn at the end of October.
How long has Ell V Gore been going under that name?
I’ve had an alternating cast for the past three years. And it hasn’t been until recently that people started giving a shit (laughs)! So I’m glad I got offered this tour!
When did your last group Brides, which I liked a lot, start being Ell V Gore?
Uh, probably around 2010.
It seems like you guys have developed your songs.
Yeah, they’ve got verses and choruses now, instead of just noise (laughs).
Is a lot of it reworked older material?
No, not at all, actually. I’ve never reworked anything at all. I just sit at home and bang on my guitar all day until something comes out that sounds kind of interesting.
What’s your latest song “Her Vicious” about, and is there a narrative or a theme or anything?
It’s kind of loosely based on myself and a past relationship I had where I was kind of a devil.
Do you find you write from the perspective of a heightened version of yourself?
Yeah. A lot of the songs are about personal experiences or just fantasies I have, usually to do with women. All my songs are secretly love songs. Every song I’ve ever written has to do with love. It’s actually quite fuzzy and warm.
What are you reading right now?
At the moment, nothing. My life is kind of ridiculous right now.
You know, just jumping from city to city, not working. Just going along, seeing what’s going to happen . . .
Are you making any money?
Thankfully now, yes, a little bit. Not at all, before.
I like to talk to people a little bit about the weird business of music nowadays. You have to make your own distribution network, you have to make your own audience. How do you go about doing that in the post-label, unstructured music industry that exists today?
That’s something I’ve been trying to work on actually. I have a lot of people helping me out with that now, and doing that for me. So I have PR people and all that, so . . . all of this is kind of new to me too. Our PR company is called Tell All Your Friends, they’re actually great, they got some good premieres for us. I’ve never really cared to promote my stuff before.
But you have to.
Yeah, I’ve learned that. So if I actually want to survive off this . . . But yeah, I’m slowly getting there, getting able to promote myself.
You had Kevin doing a pretty sweet starring role in that video “Lobot0my,” which got some attention. What’s your approach to making videos?
Again, I don’t want it to be so serious, I like to have fun, and be goofy. With that video I just gave Kevin a bunch of drugs and some makeup and just waited to see what the fuck would happen. I don’t go into videos with a huge vision. It doesn’t matter as much anymore. I guess they do give you something to focus on.
I’ve found it interesting watching Toronto’s music scene but not living there anymore and watching how things bubble up from there. How does it feel from the inside when you’re living there and making stuff there?
Well I’m kind of clueless about it. It’s weird. This is our second show and at each one, there’ve been a good number of people who really dig us and I’m completely oblivious to all that. I have no idea who’s listening to what out there.
There are some great Toronto bands right now, like Odonis Odonis and Metz . . .
Yeah Odonis Odonis are awesome, and Metz . . . are kind of like the godfathers right now for all of the bands. The city’s music scene has completely changed in the last three or four years. Not even, maybe two years. It’s a different approach. I feel like a lot of aggressive, dark bands are coming out of Toronto right now. In the past two years it’s been bands like Trust, Metz, Kontravoid, all these bands. There’s a certain aesthetic and sound there that I like.
Kontravoid is great. It’s my friend Cam, he used to drum for Crystal Castles. He’s been doing electronic music for a while. He’s been working on a new record. The last thing he put out was fucking amazing. Check him out. I think he’s Toronto’s best kept secret.
We put out our album with Bad Actors Inc. It’s a new label that Ben Cook from Fucked Up put together. I think their next release is a U.S. Girls seven-inch. Buzz Records is also releasing good shit. They’re putting out a HSY record, which is one of my favorite bands in the city right now.
What are you listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Colin Stetson. I kind of missed the boat on him a couple of years ago. I’ve always seen him around. I’ve always been a huge fan of straight-up avant-garde noise, jazz and stuff. I checked out his record and I’ve just been fucking obsessed with it. I don’t listen to a lot of music that sounds like the music I make.
That’s pretty normal. I hear that all the time.
I listen to a lot of jazz and classical. A lot of Steve Reich. And some minimalist stuff.
How do you like playing New York?
I’m really happy to be here because I had a run-in at the border before and haven’t been able to come here for the past three or four years. Finally everything is taken care of, so yeah. This is my first show in New York in five years and we got to play the Bowery Ballroom so it’s great. And people in the audience like to move here, they don’t just stand around!
Ell V Gore’s new EP Sex Static is available now from Bad Actors Inc.