The only folks in our god-blessed country not talking about Tim Tebow are a band from Fort Collins Colorado called Elway. They are more excited about vegetarian food and vodka than football. Though their name is snide, their music is irresistibly sincere. Elway released their first album, Delusions, earlier this year. It rocks, like stuff from Fort Collins tends to do. Singer/guitarist Tim Browne was cool enough to answer my clumsy email and talk to me about it. So, without further ado, learn yourself some things:
9B: Who plays What in the band? What possessed you all to make music, as opposed to opening a food cart or fighting crime or something?
Elway: My name is Tim and I play guitar and sing. Brian Van Proyen plays guitar and sings. Joe Henderer plays bass and sings. Garrett Carr plays drums. I can’t say for sure what spurred the other guys into playing music, but I can tell you that it was a general sense of discontent with almost everything else that my peers were into that got me started. I first started playing guitar at about 10 or 11 because it seemed like a better way to spend my time than playing sports or chasing girls. I later found out that playing guitar was actually a great way to meet girls, so in a roundabout way, I suppose I wasn’t really any different from my peers, except for the fact that no shits were given about sports, which is an attitude I still celebrate today. What keeps me from receding into the realm of the shitty, passionless non-muician is the people I am able to meet and the places I am able to see through playing this music.
9B: Elway is a great band to sing along to. Do you think about a song’s catchiness while you’re writing it? Would you even want to sing it yourself if it wasn’t catchy and fun to sing?
Elway: I don’t know that I specifically think about the catchiness of a tune when I am writing it. To be honest, the catchiness seems to be coincidential when it does arise. Above all, I try to be honest in the songs that I write, because if I’m not saying what I really mean, it seems truly pointless to play self-written music. I’ve written my share of songs that are not very catchy of particularly fun to sing, but they still mean something to me because they came from a place of honest intention.
9B: What are your favorite songs about Colorado?
Elway: “Me and Denver” by Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room is a fantastic little ditty, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little nostalgic for a good portion of John Denver’s catalogue. We ripped off a song called “Colorado” by a weird folk project from the 60s called Up With People. We didn’t do so because of any sort of reverence for the song though. Up With People put out records with the intention of ‘correcting’ the moral compass of the left-leaning 1960s folk movement. They were interested in re-instilling conservative christian values in the youth of America. We lifted part of the song and put it at the beginning of a song about drinking heavily.
9B: One of my favorite Simpsons moments is when Moe goes to LA to be a judge on American Idol, asks his limo driver to play a song about LA and the driver says “Ah, they all suck!” and plays “Sweet Home Alabama.” Consequently, what is your favorite song about Florida? Can you think of a song about LA that doesn’t suck?
Elway: The best song about Florida is either Tiltwheel’s “Fuck You, This Place is Dead Anyway” or Against Me!’s “Miami“. As far as LA songs, The Distillers’ “City of Angels,” Bad Religion’s “Land of Competition” or Big D and the Kids Table’s “LAX” are all pretty stellar.
9B: In a hypothetical situation with no legal repercussions, you met two people, and one says “I listen to everything but country and rap” and the other tells you he’s bewildered and offended by “this trend of punks going acoustic in the past five years.” What would you do or say to them?
Elway: I would tell the former to loosen up and realize that there is a wealth of great music out there of any and all genres, and to judge all hip hop and rap music on whatever is heard on clear channel radio stations and country by Toby Keith songs is ill advised and embarassing. To the latter I would say nothing and only provide him with a copy of Sundowner’s Four One Five Two. I do believe, however, that there are a lot of examples of punk singers playing acoustic songs that come off as hokey, uninspired bullshit, but you just can’t deny the greatness of Chris Wollard, Dave Hause, Dan Andriano, Joey Cape, or Chris McCaughan.
9B: You live in Fort Collins, play at Surfside Seven…what do Jon Snodgrass and his bands mean to Elway?
Elway: When I moved to Fort Collins to go to school at Colorado State University, one of the things that most excited me about my new hometown was that it was the place that ALL and Armchair Martian were from. Hang on Ted was a staple of my highschool punk lexicon, and it is still one of my favorite records ever. Drag the River’s You Can’t Live This Way and It’s Crazy are two of my favorite country records ever. I really admire Jon as a writer and musician. He’s a great dude and a good buddy. We’re extremely lucky that Kim (his wife, who owns Surfside 7) lets us get trashed and play in her bar.
9B: After Husker Du and the Replacements went down, I feel like a lot of attention on midwestern music was lost to the coasts–places like New Jersey and Berkley became critical in the 90’s. But bands such as Armchair Martian, the Lillingtons, and Dillinger Four stuck around in the midwest to carry that tradition. ALL actually moved in from the coast. Do you have an affinity for any midwestern bands that went under the radar the 80’s/90’s while the focus was elsewhere?
Elway: This is an incredibly broad question, but the answer is yes I do have an affinity for several bands from flyover country. The Broadways, Alkaline Trio, Cap’n Jazz, Cursive, The Promise Ring, Braid and so many others basically built the foundation for the type of music we play. Of course, the influence of bands from both coasts is equally present, but the midwest was largely overlooked for some unforgivable reason.
9B: What do you think of the midwestern scene now, with Cheap Girls, Failures’ Union, Lemuria, Tin Armor, Banner Pilot, Teenage Bottlerocket, and a host of others putting out lots of awesome music?
Elway: I think at this point, given the nature of the music industry (that is that the bulk of music is distributed independently via the internet), you can find an equal bounty of good bands from just about anywhere. Because the dissemination of information about independent music is through the internet rather than the very narrow pathways of the poorly-xeroxed zine of old, it is now a matter of course that kids in Laramie, Wyoming will eventually form bands just like kids in Philadelphia will. I think the chauvenisms apparent today toward the coasts is just a simple matter of population. More people, more bands. I don’t think about independent music today as a fragmented, divisible landscape. It’s more of a contour map.
9B: For those who may not know, who is Eric Solomon? And why did you title a song for him?
Elway: Eric Solomon was the dude behind the late, great O Pioneers!!! Aside from not ever having read Willa Cather, he is a good guy who makes good music and prints our t-shirts. We named the song after him because it is about our experience in the underground music scene, into which Eric’s old band was our first glimpse.
9B: What’s your drink? Do you have a favorite brewery in Colorado?
Elway: I am a vodka and ginger-ale with a lime kinda guy. I know that since this is an alt-country blog I should tell you that I drink two bottles of sour mash whiskey a day, but that’s not really my speed. I do enjoy a glass of good Scotch here and there, though. As far as breweries go, Fort Collins is something of a micro brewery mecca. My favorite is O’dell Brewing Company, who make 5 Barrel, 90 Schilling, a phenominal red ale and the best IPA around.
9B: How many drunk people at shows have offered you legal advice on the John Elway copyright infringement threat?
Elway: Jesus… More than I care to go into. Although I must say it was flattering when I was asked to provide some quotes for someone’s paper at Harvard law school, that was cool!
Elway: No. The reasons for which skirt the line between label insider gossip and negative sentiments that might read as alt-country heresy. I will only say that we opted not to go with Virgil for our LPs, though we still think he is a super rad, well-intentioned guy. We’ll be putting out the vinyl on Red Scare Industries sometime in early 2012.
9B: Even though Delusions shares some tracks with …Too Bad [the 2009 record by a previous incarnation of Elway known as 10-4 Eleanor], it plays like a cohesive record. Do you feel like you took a second shot at those songs and “got it right” this time around? How do you think that flow came about? Did you have something clear in mind when you were sequencing Delusions?
Elway: The idea behind re-recording some of the songs off of …Too Bad stemmed from the fact that we were at least partially unsatisfied with the quality of the recordings. We believe that the re-recorded versions of the songs do them justice. As far as sequencing goes, we were just looking to make a record that is easily listenable and engaging throughout, which I certainly hope we accomplished.
9B: What is the State of the Band right now? Are you Guys with Other Jobs focused on keeping those jobs, or has Delusions afforded you some touring/recording capital that you hadn’t had before?
Elway: Well, I am on the clock as I am answering these questions if that gives you any insight into how seriously I take working. We just returned from a 6 week long tour and we’re recording an EP in January. We also hope to have a full length out sometime next year as well. We garnered some pretty serious momentum in 2011 and we’d like to parlay that into another great year for both us and those who like us. We’ll see how bad we are able to fuck it all up!
9B: Most Elway fans outside of Colorado have come to know your music through punk channels such as the Fest, punknews.org, or your tours. Do you have anything specific to say to a readership like ninebullets’, which is coming to you, in general, from an interest in the country side of things?