Interview With: Jorge Elbrecht of Violens

New York-based, Florida-bred Violens is fairly new to the music scene in its current incarnation, the quartet having come about as they are now in late summer 2007. There’s not much to be found if you Google the psychedelic indie pop rock band, and currently, they don’t even have 250 MySpace friends, but rest assured, it won’t be this way for long.

Jorge Elbrecht, Violens’ lead vocals and guitarist, talked with me as he strolled around Virginia following Thursday night’s sound check. Check it out!

Jessica, PopWreckoning: Thanks for calling back, I’m sure you could be doing other stuff before you have to play.
Jorge Elbrecht: Oh, we’re just gonna walk around and stuff. Can you hold on for one sec? I’m just gonna put a coat on. [zips up coat] Hello?

PW: Yeah, hey. You guys, formed only a short time ago, just last summer?
JE: Yeah, we’ve been playing for less than a year…it’s kinda gone through a couple incarnations. There were other people in the band before that had to leave and we shifted around a little bit. Like our keyboardist Iddo was playing guitar first but switched to keys. And now Jay’s been doing some auxiliary percussion and keys too. We’ve been pretty much as we are for, like, five or six months. Something like that.
PW: Still very new. That’s how the website for me, that you’re giving the interview for, is.
JE: Oh, cool.
PW: We can grow up together in this music industry. You played your first live show, as you currently are, back in October in New York. You guys are from New York, but you came from Miami?
JE: Yeah, 3 of us grew up in Florida. Two of us in Miami and one of us in Fort Lauderdale. Ben is from Louisville.
PW: So why did you come up here? It gets really cold up here.
JE: I came to NY because the humidity in Miami is pretty oppressive and would actually put me in a bad mood 24 hours a day. I’m not much for the sun and the heat. Also, as I’m from Costa Rica and all my family lives there, I grew up in these quote-unquote paradise zones, which have basically screwed me for being interested in vacationing. I was psyched to go to a place where it snowed. On top of that I came up for school.
PW: Where’d you go to school?
JE: I went to Cooper Union and then Columbia.
PW: Nice. I lived in New York for several years; I went to Fordham.
JE: Oh, cool.
PW: I love New York.
JE: [laughs] Yeah, it’s my favorite for sure.
PW: It’s a good place. What was the inspiration for Violens? I know you were Lansing-Dreiden prior to this project.
JE: Well, it’s complicated. I don’t think that it would be correct to say that we were Lansing-Dreiden. Some of the guys that are playing in the band now played the Lansing-Dreiden stuff live. That’s sort of the connection. It’s really sort of foggy—everyone’s interaction and how the collaborative thing works–because everyone is pretty open-minded. We respect each other enough to kind of let things flow. During the Lansing-Dreiden rehearsals we’d be playing something or the band would be learning something and they’d make a suggestion and then all of a sudden the song would take different turn live. It’s just hard to determine what everyone’s roles are, they sort of form themselves organically and we prefer it that way.
Lansing-Dreiden is primarily three people; I’m one of those people. Most of the guys in the L-D Section bands we had known forever, or had been in other bands/projects with here and there. They were kind enough to help us play the L-D stuff live when we came out with those two records (The Dividing Island and The Incomplete Triangle).
I started Violens ’cause L-D had been wanting to focus more on our art but I personally had an excess of songs that I wanted to get out and have a vehicle for. I asked Ben Iddo and Kris to help me record and play them out live and thankfully they were all game to do it. Now it’s just sort of turned into this band where we’re all creating and recording things as a unit. And Lansing-Dreiden has plans to record some more stuff and put an EP or full-length out within the next year or so. There are a lot of really cool ideas floating around for that too.

PW: I really like the stuff I’ve heard. A lot of people have called it psychedelic pop, but some of it’s pretty dark and a lot of it is really poppy. Who were your influences growing up in music and what got you started playing?
JE: I would definitely consider myself part of the generation that grew up listening to music that was bending all sorts of genres within one record, doing eight different styles of music.
I think the best example of that is Ween. Other bands that were doing that at the time, when I was in high school, were Mr. Bungle and – not to say that these are really direct influences for Violens, but just the whole mindset of being open to many different styles as a point of departure.
Now, being a little bit older I think I’m honing in on a few different areas of interest–rhythms or sounds that I find exciting at the moment or that get people moving in a crowd or in a club. Honing in on three or four of those and trying to really develop and fuck with those and what people expect from them, as opposed to just being all over the place.
PW: More cohesive.

JE: Yeah. In terms of bands I grew up listening to, I’d have to say it really started with punk rock. I remember skateboarding to the Dead Milkmen and Minor Threat, a lot of these hard punk bands. The Pixies, Crass, All, but also weird glam shit like Cinderella, haha. Then I got into more indie music in the 90s like Unrest, The Swirlies, Stereolab, Saint Etienne, and really liked My Bloody Valentine. As a band, we really like The Monochrome Set. I think that’s a pretty amazing band. That is a pretty big influence for the Violens stuff now but it’s funny that I had never heard about them until about a month or two ago! But yeah, especially the cleaner, jumpier stuff, is obviously influenced by The Smiths and The Jam, Style Council, etc. I think that probably covers that part of it. But then there are huge influences like The Nazz and Prefab Sprout, The Byrds, The Zombies.
PW: You released a three song EP on the New York label Static Recital, how did you get involved with them?
JE: To be perfectly accurate with that, it’s a split release. Cantora Records is one of the imprints and Static Recital is the other.
PW: You’re also involved with RCRD LBL, a website that gives away a lot of music from up and coming artists. Do you think that record industry is moving more and more in that direction despite what the major labels want? How do you feel about that kind of thing?
JE: I feel confused. I think I have hopes more than definite opinions on it.
My hope is that it will go back to the single days where an artist will periodically release one single and that will be promoted and warrant a review and some attention. I just think that matches the creative flow a lot better. I think albums are a beautiful statement and obviously there are amazing examples of that in the history of recorded music, but fuck ’em for the most part! If an artist doesn’t think in terms of albums, then it might just feel totally wrong if you spend 6 months or a year recording a record and then by the time you’re ready to put it out you’re in a completely different zone. I like working song by song.
In terms of the way labels work, I don’t really keep up with it too much. I just feel like it’s too cloudy right now. It would just take a lot of time and energy to really be on top of what’s happening. I’ve read and heard people talking about it turning in a subscription-based sort of thing, like a monthly bill for music. I have no idea what’s gonna happen. It’s hard to tell.
PW: Absolutely. The internet has screwed a ton of stuff up. I like it, though. It’s been moving in some good directions. You just said you want it to go back to singles, but have you started writing a full-length album, or do you expect to have one out within the year?
JE: We have a lot of songs. We have enough for a couple of albums, I would say. They’re all in different stages.
PW: How’s the tour with Handsome Furs been going?
JE: They’re amazing, amazing people! And their show is pretty fucking awesome. It’s been really great. There have been some ups and downs on the tour, you know. Like, I lost my wallet which sucked, but in general we’ve been having a lot of fun.
PW: You end the tour Sunday playing Bowery at home in New York. I love the Bowery, it’s an awesome venue. What are you guys gonna do after tour? What does the rest of the year hold for Violens?
JE: Lots of stuff? I know we have some shows booked. I know there’s one towards the end of April at Wesleyan and then we have another show in late May in New York. Then we’re trying to hit Boston and there’s some talk of going to Chicago for a show; someone’s interested over there. But there’s just sparse things here and there. We’re definitely interested in going on some other kind of tour soon, but nothing planned.
PW: If you could tour with any band out now, who would you want tour with?
JE: My Bloody Valentine, Frank Black, Cinderella. There are more I’m sure…
PW: You can tell me tomorrow night. [laughs] Think about it and tell me tomorrow.
JE: Yeah!
PW: So then who have you recently been listening to? Who have you gotten recommendations for?
JE: Like new bands?
PW: Any band; whatever you’ve been listening to recently. On the road, or, you know…at all?

JE: I really like this amazing band from Brooklyn, Chairlift. CHECK IT OUT! And we’re all fans of MGMT who we played with a little while back at Bowery.
Um, what else? Our mixes have been pretty crazy: playlists of things from every different time zone and genre. We just listen to them all. You’ll be able to meet the other guys and I’m sure they’ll have a million. [laughs]
PW: Well cool, thanks for taking time before the show to chat.
JE: Alright, Jessica, thanks!

Word to the wise, get in on the ground floor for being a Violens fan so you call tell your friends that you’ve been listening to them “for ages!” by the time their inevitable SPIN cover hits newsstands.

Check for a live review and photos of Violens’ set from North Star Bar last night. It was a great time and the guys are totally rad. If you live in the NYC area, be sure to catch them tomorrow night at the Bowery Ballroom!

myspace | rcrd lbl

3 Responses

  1. That’s awesome!!1!

  2. […] 80’s-influenced three-piece Chairlift (recommended to us months ago by Violens front man Jorge Elbrecht) is excited to announce the release of its forthcoming debut full-length, Does You Inspire You on […]

  3. […] Violens: myspace | watch “Trace-Like Turn” | Green Owl comp | live review | interview with […]

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