About Elk City & Steve Rizzo
Thoughtful New York art pop combo Elk City is the ongoing music project of vocalist and sometimes bassist Renee LoBue and drummer and producer Ray Ketchem. The group began in 1997 as a spin-off of Ketchem and LoBue's previous act, the Melting Hopefuls. The Hopefuls had a flexible lineup and Ketchem and LoBue were looking for new members when guitarist and vocalist Peter Langland-Hassan auditioned for them. Langland-Hassan's abilities prompted the pair to explore different musical directions, and they chose to relaunch the Melting Hopefuls as Elk City to reflect a new, rootsy approach. With two singers, Elk City initially focused on harmonies and duets, and the group reflected a more collaborative outlook than the Melting Hopefuls.
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 its 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 indie rock singer/songwriter approach.
Elk City took a break for several years after the release of House of Tongues. Ketchem opened a recording studio in Montclair, New Jersey that attracted clients including Guided by Voices, Versus, and Luna, while LoBue became a frequent presence at the studio, lending vocals to a number of recording projects. Ketchem and LoBue reconvened Elk City with a lineup that included Sean Eden on guitar, Carl Baggeley on keyboards, and Martin Olson on bass. The new edition of the group released a cover of the Motels' "Suddenly Last Summer" as a single in November 2017, while a full-length album, Everybody's Insecure, followed in March 2018. ~ Stewart Mason
- New York, NY