New York art pop trio Elk City spun off from the alternative rock-era group the Melting Hopefuls in late 1997. Both groups feature drummer Ray Ketchem and singer/bassist Renee LoBue, but the addition of singer/guitarist Peter Langland-Hassan truly makes Elk City a different (and better) group.
Indeed, Elk City (no connection to the western Oklahoma town of the same name should be inferred) began when Langland-Hassan auditioned for a new lineup of the Melting Hopefuls, an ever-shifting unit LoBue and Ketchem had led since 1990. His songwriting and singing gifts were such, however, that the trio decided to make a fresh start under a new name, with a new musical aesthetic that gave the two singer/songwriters equal weight. LoBue had been the Melting Hopefuls' sole lead singer, but Elk City quickly became a much more collaborative effort, with the pair sharing the lead vocals. (Most Elk City songs are actually duets.)
The group, as yet unnamed, began recording its debut album in early 1998, but it wasn't until the following year that one of the most characteristic elements in their sound was discovered. For their earliest shows, LoBue played no instruments, and the musical background consisted solely of Ketchem's drums and Langland-Hassan's guitar. Later, the trio discovered a vintage Novation Bass-Station analog bass synthesizer, which LoBue adopted as her new primary instrument. The first song to feature the new instrument, "Judori" (written for the wedding of two friends of the band, Jude and Midori), became Elk City's first single, released in early 2000. It was followed by their first album, Status, released in the U.S. on Hidden Agenda in June 2000; a slightly revised European edition, with the 11-minute "Trapped" tucked on the end, was released by the French label Talitres in early 2001. It wasn't until 2002 that their second full-length release, Hold Tight the Ropes, would be released on WARM Records.
Langland-Hassan left soon after the second album came out, leaving only LoBue and Ketchem to keep the band going. Undaunted, LoBue penned an album's worth of new songs over the next few years, most of them influenced by Langland-Hassan's not-so-pleasant departure. She and Ketchem decided to go forward with a new album, and they started laying down tracks for New Believers in 2004. After temporarily recruiting Drag City's Brother JT to fill in on guitar, Elk City went on to welcome ex-Luna guitarist Sean Eden and ex-Lovelies bassist Barbara Endes into the fold in 2005. Released two years later, New Believers marked the beginning of a new era for Elk City; the album found the band abandoning the country-rock sensibilities of their earlier work and embracing a punchy indie rock sound that harked back to artists like Patti Smith, the Pretenders, and David Bowie. House of Tongues followed in 2010 and once again featured a melodic singer-songwriter/indie rock approach. ~ Stewart Mason
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