Eli Mardock- leadvocals
J.J. Idt – guitar and banjo
Mike Overfield – bass
Carrie Butler- violin and keyboards
Austin Skiles – guitar
Britt Hayes – drums
Art pop a la Blonde Redhead. The bitter-sweet sublime of David Bowie in something like “Hunky Dory”. The eccentricity of The Arcade Fire, the moods of Interpol, the casualness of Pavement. Eagle*Seagull have been compared to many artists and bands, yet they sound like none of them. This US underground season’s must-have record comes from five oddballs plus a lady, straight from Lincoln, Nebraska.
Lincoln, Nebraska? Never heard of it. Sounds like a musical wasteland, doesn’t it? Wrong: “Actually, Lincoln’s scene and that of Omaha are one and the same,” explains Eli Mardock, the band’s founder, songwriter, singer, booker, and so on and so on. Listen up: after all, Omaha, Nebraska, has become a household name across the globe with its Saddle Creek Label and numerous acts from Bright Eyes to The Faint, and counts as THE scene in America’s heartland. Neighbouring Lincoln must have just been overlooked up to now. “Admittedly, Omaha is quite a lot bigger, but Lincoln is a more liberal city. A college town where students make sure there’s a healthy scene. There are lots of venues for gigs and, with its 25,000 college kids in the city, it’s not so difficult to play at a sold-out club.”
So, it is a good place to find like-minded people. A band whose ideas do not stop at the usual reference points. “We started as a threesome: with JJ Idt (guitar, banjo), Mikey O (=Mick Overfield, bass), and me on the guitar. Our first songs still had an old-school country feel to them a la Wilco.” In the meantime, there are six people in the band, and old-school country has become just one of many starting points that eagle*seagull’s music heads out from in all sorts of different directions. Eli: “When I switched from the guitar to the piano, it completely changed our sound.”
Eagle*Seagull played their first shows in Lincoln and Omaha in October 2004. They soon started playing concerts regularly and caused quite a lot of hype in the Nebraskan scene. This, in turn, caught the attention of a certain Brian Vaughan: the former Sup Pop and Saddle Creek trainee was on the verge of founding his own label, Paper Garden Records, and chose eagle*seagull to be catalogue number 001. The occasional recordings they had made in his bedroom were compiled for the album and in October ‘05, one year after their first concert, eagle*seagull’s debut album was released on the new mini-label.
What happened next can only be likened to a buzz of almost Clap Your Hands proportions. Capital reactions in online forums, euphoric reviews in the underground press, listings in various “Best Of 2005” and “Bands to watch 2006” polls – there were too many to name all of them here. In the months that followed, our boys (and girl) from Lincoln progressed from just being a “hip name to drop”, and Paper Garden – although still without a national distributor – had to / was able to re-press the debut CD for the umpteenth time.
And all this turmoil – this has to be said – was caused by a band that doesn’t even fit into any existing genres – and that is precisely where parallels can be drawn to The Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands. They created a world of their own. And their songs are so chart-hostile that they rarely stay under the 5-minute mark, preferring to reveal their secrets bit by bit. A sailor’s lullaby waltz “Death Could Be At The Door” provides the missing link between the Decemberists and “Disintegration” by The Cure. On the other hand, “Your Beauty Is A Knife I Turn On My Throat” features a music-hall piano, “Hello, Never” welcomes the lost cousin of Pavement’s “Range Life”, while the frantic “Photograph” chases The Arcade Fire through a New Order disco at fast forward.
Yet this too is just another mass of reference points that merely hint at what eagle*seagull really sound like. The question of direction has never been crucial for Eli anyway: “We love the songs and love each other. It’s great fun and that’s our main priority.” You wanna bet? We too will have lots of fun with eagle*seagull this season.
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