A Weekend in the Cornfield (Reflections on Elsinore and Pygmalion)

Last weekend, I was able to spend a few of the last warm nights of the year at the Pygmalion Festival in Champaign-Urbana. Though I was only present for the Friday and Saturday events, I did get to see many of the larger acts as well as take in the MADE Fest, a craft fair that takes place just outside the festival grounds. The event itself boasted the usual smattering of national acts (in this case CHVRCHES and Panda Bear) supplemented by smaller, local, and regional bands such as Miniature Tigers, Twin Peaks (with whom I also sat down) and of course Elsinore. I sat down with the band (consisting of Ryan Groff- guitar/vocals, Mark Woolwine- piano/vocals, James Treicher- drums, and Brad Threlkeld- bass guitar) at Café Kopi on Walnut Street in Champaign.

Zach Ezer: A good place to start would be the music scene here [in Champaign-Urbana] and your place in it.
Elsinore: We were sort of inserted into the scene by some friends before we moved here. Mark and I, and the original drummer and bass player were in music school at the Eastern Illinois University... and we got that assist from some buddies in the scene...

ZE: Anyone you want to name check?
E: Larry Gates, goes under Curb Service, paved the way for bands like us at the time in the scene, and it's taken off from there, now we've been together ten years.

ZE: What project did you [speaking to the non-original members] come in on?
E: It was [latest album] PUSH/PULL.

ZE: And how did that end up happening?
E: The story is that like five days before we were to go to the studio... and we had a producer coming in from Portland, Beau Sorenson, who had just finished working with Death Cab [for Cutie] on their latest record, and the original drummer and bass player [quit].... But it was great timing because James and Brad were able to come in... and it was at the prefect time, because we couldn't have started any later... and they were the only two guys we even wanted to join the band, and luckily they said yes.

ZE: The album that almost didn't happen then? So what was it like working with Beau Sorenson?
E: It was great, and the coolest part was that he found us. A friend in Chicago sent him our first record Yes Yes Yes... And six months later I got a random email saying he loved the record and wanted to work with us... and the best thing was that he compared hearing our first record to hearing the first Bon Iver record, the happiness he felt listening to our songs reminded him of that, and it was a great feeling... He's a super down to Earth guy and when we told him half the band had quit, he was still like "Okay, ask those guys and we'll make a great record, and if they say no, we'll make a great record..."

ZE: The story of the record gets deeper. So how long have you guys been playing Pygmalion?
E: All ten years. Right after we formed as a band was when it started and we got plugged right into the scene.

ZE: How has it changed since you started?
E: It's gotten bigger... CHVRCHES was huge. Mates of State was the big band the first year. There's more venues, the MADE fest is newer, and it's been outdoors for only about four years... I like that I don't recognize half the band on the bill. It exposes us all to new music from across the industry.

ZE: Anything on the horizon?
E: ...We've become a bit more of a studio-based band. We're really deciding what we love about music as much as we are bashing on our instruments. Our next record we plan to take in some interesting directions... We've basically hibernated for the winter, the record came out in October, we went on tour, and now we have a healthy list of songs and we need to go in on those, get some of the new ones down and... we need to continue to build our pile. It turned into the hibernation that blossomed into a new record. We'll still be touring, but we won't just be going because it's time again. It feels good to be making music right now.

ZE: So, record coming out anytime soon?
E: It's hard to say. We're going to hibernate on it for the winter, it could be super soon or we could see what happens in the spring. But probably sooner than later.

ZE: Okay, new topic if there is someone you haven't worked with that you want to?
E: [The band gave a series of answers, including Kanye West, Nigel Godrich and Brian Eno but the most unanimous was John Congleton] What he can get out of her [St. Vincent] was amazing. We played with Murder by Death and hearing the transformation between their amazing live show and the record which was this other beautiful thing. And now that we've worked with Beau, we feel like John Congleton is very, very possible.

ZE: Okay, last question If all the oxygen in the Earth turned to wood, what would you do?
E: (Without missing a beat) Sharpen my teeth.

The band, at least to me, was a perfect representation of the festival. Neither were huge, but both were happy where they were and growing steadily. I'd also like to take the time to thank the festival who treated me with nothing short of absolute respect. You can check out Elsinore at and their latest Beau Sorenson-Produced record is available on iTunes.