The Elms Biography
Once upon a time, in the age of power/pop rock n' roll (the mid-60's through the end of the 70's, to be exact), memorable bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Byrds, The Who, Badfinger made hundreds of powerful three-and-a-half minute recordings that were both infectious and compelling. They were classic songs destined to be heard everywhere from Swinging London to Haight Asbury. The kept us going during our Summer of Love and through the nightmare of The Tet Offensive. Eventually, this music would launch a generation and change the world.
But that was then. And they just don't make records like they used to.
...Scratch that last thought.
Enter The Elms.
With the release of TRUTH, SOUL, ROCK & ROLL, The Elms have finally emerged as the new champions of the intelligent rock song. This, the group's sophomore effort on EMI/Sparrow Records, is destined to touch your heart and get you on your feet.
From the powerful opening strains of "Speaking In Tongues", through the emotionally-charged introspective rock ballad, "You Saved Me", past the jingle/jangle guitars heard prominently on "Let Love In", TRUTH, SOUL, ROCK & ROLL is 52 minutes of thought-provoking, soulful rock built upon irresistible hooks. Lyrically, the songs' premises range from modern love to life when you're down and out, and how hope endures...
With TRUTH, SOUL, ROCK & ROLL, The Elms have made a spiritual album for a secular world, without even really trying.
"It's a very hopeful record," says Owen Thomas, lead singer, rhythm guitarist and songwriter for The Elms. "If you listen to the collective body of work, you'll find that we're a band that's very much aware of spiritual matters, always considering those things. I really feel like the only truth I have known through relationships and triumph and heartbreak is the hope that has been faithful to me...
"'Let Love In,' 'Smile At Life Again,' or 'You Saved Me' - these are songs that scream hope," adds Owen. "I have been down. I have been lied to, I have been disheartened. Yet, the one constant is that tomorrow is another day and God will be there."
"There is something about how you engage your audience and put them right into the moment with you," explains Owen. "I don't feel like that's a common factor amongst modern bands. I love the the idea of four guys getting in a room and starting to band out chords and singing about the dirt they went through yesterday," he adds. "We still enjoy, after driving as hard at this as we have over the last few years, getting onstage and the vibe of all that. Guitars and hands swinging, we enjoy playing music. Too many bands get consumed with business and career and they lose the essence of what I think a band should be all about. There is a spirit and soul when four guys get together and make it happen."
Make it happen is an understatement. TRUTH, SOUL, ROCK & ROLL never lets go of that eternal power chord and the sound of melodic voices blended together in harmonies directly out of the school of the Fab Four and the Everly Brothers. Although never derivative, The Elms openly pay tribute to the great pop rock recordings of the 60's and 70's, while never losing its own musical identity.
The four members were all brought up with a steady diet od rock n' roll, which ultimately, made a powerful impact on their musical development. "MY dad is a huge fan of rock n' roll," says lead guitarist Thom Daugherty. "I grew up listening to all the classic records of the 60's and 70's. I don't feel like I had a chance. I always knew I was going to play guitar in a rock band. It was in my blood."
Owen adds, "I think the 1960's had something really magical about it. The music was incredible. It just seems like the pretenses weren't there as much as they are now. I can look at an era that gave me Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles and The Kinks and just a few years later you had ABBA, you know what I'm saying? But with ABBA, they just unashamedly made pure pop music. They did it and they did it well. So, the point is: just do what you do and do it well. Sincerity in the long run is what it is all about. Doing what you do with inspiration, going for it. That's rock 'n' roll."
In addition to Owen Thomas and Thom Daugherty (both age 24), The Elms feature Owen’s younger brother, Chris (age 21) on drums, and bassist Nathan Bennett. Formed in 1997 by the two Thomas brothers, the band went through several resurrections and formations before changing its name to The Elms (named after a restored coach house owned by the Thomas' uncle in England) and signing with Sparrow in 1999. Shortly thereafter, Daugherty (a childhood friend of the Thomas brothers) and Bennett joined to form the current line-up. In 2001, the band released The Big Surprise, received two distinguished Dove award nominations, and began a cycle of touring that was interrupted only to record TRUTH, SOUL, ROCK & ROLL.
For the new album, the band brought back producer Brent Milligan (who also worked on The Big Surprise) and added engineers Richard Dodd (Sheryl Crow, Wilco) and David Bianco (The Black Crowes, Tom Petty). "We're not 35 years old, and haven't been making records for 20 years," says Owen. "We are young guys, with fresh views on life. I still want the spit and the fire. I don't want to add polish to the whole thing. We want to make a record that is all about good tape sound, where less is more, and the soul of it all just shines.
"We called the album TRUTH, SOUL, ROCK & ROLL because these are the three most important things to me and the band, in that order," admits Owen. "Truth is the one thing that everyone on the planet has as a common denominator. Among every person is our desire for truth. There are language barriers and cultural differences, but everyone has that desire... The way we play music and present it is designed to tell people that that truth is attainable and you can find it. You just have to know where to look for it.
"Soul has a double meaning. It represents one's spiritual inner core, his or her soul, and it is also meant to represent the intangible, uncontrollable movement that takes place when we connect with each other, with our audience. And rock and roll...well," he says, laughing, "that speaks for itself."
The first single released off TRUTH, SOUL, ROCK & ROLL will be the unabashed rocker, "Speaking In Tongues," which begs the world to begin "speaking in love." The song will no doubt attract both classic and contemporary rock ’n’ roll fans, as will the melodic pop gem, "Burn & Shine". This song is likely to establish The Elms on a number of different radio formats.
"'Burn & Shine' is really about getting up and making it happen every day," continues Owen. "Burning and shining for the sake of truth, no turning back, no regrets."
Many listeners and fans, however, are likely to attach themselves with the soulful and introspective ballad, "You Saved Me," which is Owen's personal memoir of thanks to God for saving his life (and the lives those of in the band) after a near fatal driving accident on an icy road in Memphis last February.
"With that song, people will consider the words, "...this road..." to be a metaphor of life as a road we walk. But to me, it refers to God but in a very literal way. When I look at the pictures and videos of the accident, and I look at the facts... God was very much in our company that night in Memphis. We weren't alone on that interstate."
Fans and music industry insiders alike are amazed at the maturity of Owen’s songwriting. Though only 24, he is capable of writing and singing through the eyes of someone who has lived through a remarkable life.
"I think I am at my best when I am most vulnerable. Whenever I feel transparent, totally uninhibited. It makes for the best performance, and for the most resonant song."
The Elms, though clearly just a rock 'n' roll band, have not lost sight of who they really are and why they are here: "My faith tells me to 'Go.'"says Owen. "There is nothing uncool about my relationship with God. It's not about me writing songs that I know will hit hard in certain music markets. It's just a very experience-driven song writing process. I don't want it to be generally vague. It's not a blur of metaphor, and is very focused.
"From a Christian standpoint, truth is something that I think the general public really wants, something they wanna get into, really dig. It's a matter of faith being exemplified rather than heard of, given more than spoken."
With the release of TRUTH, SOUL, ROCK & ROLL, The Elms are quickly gaining full acceptance in the contemporary mainstream music scene. They have recently signed with The William Morris Agency, and have been invited to tour with Jars Of Clay and rock icon Peter Frampton.
"I think our glory days may be 10 or 15 years from now," says Owen. "It should be about the lives of four guys who found truth and know that everyone is looking for it."
For The Elms, and TRUTH, SOUL, ROCK & ROLL, maybe once upon a time is now...
THE ELMS ARE STILL:
Owen Thomas: Lead vocals, guitar.
Christopher Thomas: Drums, vocals.
Thomas Daugherty: Lead guitar, vocals.
Nathan W. Bennett: Bass guitar, vocals.
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