The full-length debut from alt-rock band Ellevator, The Words You Spoke Still Move Me inhabits an emotional landscape both breathtakingly intimate and impossibly vast. Over the course of 12 incandescent songs, the Ontario-based trio document experiences at turns universal (existential longing, romantic power struggles, the neverending work of true self-discovery) and highly specific (e.g., frontwoman Nabi Sue Bersche’s journey in extracting herself from a cult). When met with their warm yet mercurial sound and transportive storytelling, the result is a truly hypnotic body of work, giving rise to the kind of radiant open-heartedness that radically transforms our own perspective.
Produced by indie-rock luminary Chris Walla—former guitarist and founding member of Death Cab for Cutie and a major creative force in that band as well as critically revered, genre-defining acts like The Long Winters—The Words You Spoke Still Move Me bears a stunning effervescence that startled even Ellevator itself. “When we started writing we were making a lot of dark, angry music with these very heavy lyrics about Greek tragedies,” notes guitarist Tyler Bersche, whose bandmates also include bassist/keyboardist Elliott Gwynne (a childhood friend of both Tyler and Nabi, a married couple). Longtime collaborators originally from the town of Guelph, the three musicians had initially leaned into certain moodier sensibilities largely influenced by their post-rock pedigree, but soon found themselves revisiting the exultant art-pop of artists like Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel. Along with introducing bold new textures and timbres into their sonic vocabulary, Ellevator chose to expunge any ironic detachment from their songwriting, fiercely committing to an all-encompassing sincerity that leaves plenty of room for gentle irreverence, self-aware humour, and unbridled joy.
“It was a tricky sort of situation with the pandemic too,” admits Bersche during our Zoom call. “We were almost wrapped up with recording when the pandemic began. So it was really just making the call of like, when would be the right time to release it. And we really gave it our all this time around. We just really wanted to make sure we were doing it justice waiting for the right time. And that at this point in our careers pretty much means being able to tour it. So without being able to play shows it just wouldn’t have felt right releasing the whole album. So I’m really glad that we’re able to release it, that we’re going to be able to start playing music, playing it live.“
The band bring their live show to Montreal this week to play Bar Le Ritz on Thursday 19 May. TICKETS HERE
Nabi says they’re excited to see how the songs on the album take on a new life in front of an audience.
“There’s a few we haven’t played live yet because we didn’t want to start playing the full album until we had it all released. But each song we’ve been adding in, it’s felt like a bit of a relief because it does feel kind of strange to have made something that feels like the greatest thing I’ve done and to not be sharing it yet. It makes me feel pretty conceited if I’m being honest, it makes you feel a little like you’re blowing things out of proportion because you need to keep yourself excited. It would be like, it’s worthwhile. You got to get it out there. People got to hear this. So every song that we’ve released has been really relieving and playing them live has been super fulfilling.”
For Ellevator, the unfettered and wildly expansive imagination of The Words You Spoke Still Move Me stems in part from the charmed camaraderie of their recording sessions. Although the band worked in a number of different studios (including Walla’s own Hall of Justice in Seattle), much of the album took shape during the nine days they spent living together at The Bathouse (a Kingston-area facility owned by Canadian alt-rock legends The Tragically Hip).
“First of all, really cool that it’s an actual house. So we hadn’t had the experience before of living in a place that we were recording for the most part. Our recording in the past has been trying to cram it all into a weekend, you know, after our day jobs and just feeling super, like making the most of every moment. And not that we didn’t do that with this album, but there was a lot more free time and a lot more freedom to experiment, which I think was super beneficial for having a nice time and for creating something beyond what we went in there prepared to make. It became something else, but the house was super conducive for that because we were living there. So we kind of went in and out of recording, someone would hone in on one part and then there was a pool and I’d go for a swim or a little walk or took turns cooking for each other. Chris included. He’s a very good cook = excellent pasta sauce. But that the space itself is super special. And that there’s memories in there beyond even the legacy of that band, which is powerful too. All the instruments that they’ve used are hanging on the walls and you can actually play some of them. They’re not in glass display cases or anything. It didn’t feel like the space was being made precious and that it didn’t feel breakable. It felt accessible and you were able to be a part of it, which was really special to not feel like you were working in a museum.
One of my most profound experiences there was having kind of a hard day and going on a little exploration to their garage. It’s like a little barn that’s attached to the house and I went up a ladder into the back room. And there’s this big, just what you’d sort of imagine of the upstairs of a barn. It’s like very thin wood. You can like see through the walls a little bit. And there’s a big couch up there and a coffee table with an ashtray with a whole bunch of cigarette butts, and then there’s a microphone that was still set up that had a piece of paper with a setlist. And then it also just said like this is where we’re at Gord stood for their rehearsals and their writing sessions. And I started going up there every day and warming up my voice and sometimes just like lying on the floor and trying to get in the moment. So it was a powerful place to be. And for sure that makes a difference.”
Watch the full interview with Nabi below:
The Words You Spoke Still Move Me is out now via Arts & Crafts.
It’s a great one for fans of widescreen indie rock: Pumarosa, Stars, Arcade Fire, Metric, etc.
Interview – Steve Gerrard
Photo credit – © Stephanie Montani