Elk Walking are a Chicago band who released their full length album Between Us in August of 2017. We caught up with the band to learn more about their sound and experience. If you like what you hear, check them out at Schubas on November 15th alongside The Lighthouse and the Whaler.
How did you all meet?
Julian (lead singer, songwriter, guitar, percussion): Savanna and I met at Columbia College in songwriting class. Tyler and Jeff went to Columbia College as well, and Tyler and I had the same drum teacher. Tyler has been wth us since the beginning and has put up with all of our learning things the hard way over the years, like when we first started Savanna and I never played the electric guitar and it took a good few months to get acclimated to that I’d say. David I met though a friend at a jam session, and he was playing guitar and I was playing drums and something made me decide to ask him if he was interested in playing bass in our group. I think it was the way he was playing guitar, more like a bass player, and I really liked his vibe.
David (bass): I met Julian through a psychedelic improv jam night on Sundays right after I moved to Chicago in January and he very randomly asked me to audition to play bass in his band. At this time, I didn’t know Julian really well, but I was always impressed with his playing so I jumped at the chance. Actually, my audition was my first or second day of my office job, and I learned the songs playing bass in the backseat of my car in the Popeye’s parking lot on my lunch break haha. I think I didn’t expect to get chosen because I had a really lofty view–and rightfully so–of these guys as musicians.
What has been the coolest experience you’ve had so far as a band?
Savanna (lead singer, songwriter, guitar): The coolest experience so far has been the most recent, our record release show for our new album Between Us at the Virgin Hotel in August.
David: Hopping on tour with our pals in Moonrise Nation and getting to play on the road. That was a life goal for me. Also, without sounding cheesy, every time I get to play with these guys is the coolest thing we’ve done, to me. I have been in so many bands, and they all have their pitfalls, but in Elk Walking there is very little arguing, there’s clear direction, it is so organic, it is just a joy to be in a drama-free band where the music we play brings us joy. That is almost a unicorn.
What is it like being a musician in Chicago? What do you think differentiates the music scene in Chicago/the Midwest from the rest of the country?
David: From my perspective, it is the perfect time to be making music in Chicago. I grew up in New Orleans, and I lived in NYC for a while, and the scene in Chicago puts both those cities to shame. The DIY scene is booming here. All my friends go to shows every week, and it is just really fertile ground for music right now. Part of that, I think, is the urban environment coupled with low prices and lots of space that lets bands have places to practice and perform etc, which is what a place like NYC suffers from. There was just nowhere to practice because everyone lives on top of each other.
How would you describe your sound? What are some of your biggest musical influences?
Savanna: Tambourine-Rock. I grew up listening to a lot of singer-songwriters and folk music because of my dad–Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Natalie Merchant. Even though my dad did listen to rock and roll too, I kind of came upon that myself when I was much older. In my early twenties, I started getting into the Rolling Stones, Joan Jett, Fleetwood Mac. I’ve always loved pop music as well and I think that that element–the “pop” element–definitely comes through more in our music because of my taste and listening background. Verite, BANKS, Maggie Rogers, Angel Olsen, The Wild Reeds, MUNA, Alabama Shakes, just to name a few have been some recent bands I have been listening to heavily.
Julian: I would say we sound sort of like a modern version of one of the old 60s duet groups. We like the two singers approach of Jefferson airplane and Fleetwood Mac, but our songwriting is more pop-oriented, and the music is more layered like indie rock. What I love about our sound is that every part serves a purpose in the delivery of the song, its not like one person shining and the others backing them up. I’ve always respected songwriters like Bob Dylan, Bill Withers, the Beatles, people who write classic songs, songs that don’t exist in a trend of a time, they’re timeless and classic. That’s the kind of song I aspire to write.
You’ve recorded your music on analog equipment and released it on vinyl. There has been a growing movement back to analog equipment the past few years among independent musicians. What sets the analog experience apart from digital?
Jeff (lead guitar): I think both techniques have their merits. Analog was just better suited to our style. I think that analog tends to work better with live bands. If we were making EDM or hip hop, it probably would have been better for us to record digitally.
Savanna: Yes, we have. With this new record, it was just so apparent, without us even knowing at first that we were going to record to tape, that we wanted that “kind of sound.” Julian and I toured a few different studios, but as soon as we heard what it sounded like at Treehouse Records (all analog studio), we were sold. I think technology is moving so rapidly these days, and it’s refreshing that vinyl has made such a comeback. I’ve always preferred it myself.