What happens when you combine influences like The Doors and the Velvet Underground with Radiohead, then stir the concoction with soulful singer-songwriter’s Jose Gonzalez and Leonard Cohen, and then top it off with a taste of modern electronica. Well you certainly get an intriguing blend of experimental folk, and Elijah Behar, a 22-year-old Californian musician now living in Los Angeles, has proven that such a blend of influences can not only work but also flourish.
Elijah released a solo EP entitled Hollow Body in April (which can be downloaded for free on his bandcamp page), and I do not hesitate in saying that this five-track release is fresh and exciting. His deep, lush voice invokes the engaging baritone of The National’s lead singer, folk powerhorse Matt Berninger, and it also features a sensual quality like Jim Morrison himself. The voice suits the music perfectly as expressed in the first track on Hollow Body, “Black Sage.”
I had the opportunity to interview Elijah through e-mail where I asked him about his influences, music, and future. Before I post our conversation, I want to pull out one apt comment he made when asked about the creation of “Black Sage”
My aim for a track like Black Sage and the whole EP in general was to do only as much production as the song needed to deliver its full impact. I have been involved with projects that get produced and “perfected” to the point where the songs turn sterile and lifeless. On this EP I wanted to start with an acoustic guitar and a voice and build elements around those two instruments that simply compliment the original intention of the song.
Here is “Black Sage”
I would stress to Elijah that what he is doing here is what he should continue doing. The haunting piece features this dark acoustic riff that mixes with his slippery voice that is almost surreptitious and devilish. The song shifts at 1:30 into a Radiohead-like keyboard riff that purposefully lags with the percussion. The following echo is just a total mindscrew. The effects are well done. It is a treat to listen to Elijah manipulate the music and I think this has a shot to be the title track on full LP.
Here is the rest of the interview:
1) When did you first start writing and recording tunes?
I started playing music at 14 and by the end of high school I was writing, recording and playing with a handful of bands in my hometown, Ojai, CA.
2.) When you were growing up who were some of your biggest influences and how did those musicians shape you?
Growing up my biggest influences were The White Stripes, The Doors, and The Velvet Underground; pretty much the basic rock and roll package. Over the last few years I have become a diehard Radiohead fanatic (post OK computer), and have been loving more direct singer-songwriters like Jose Gonzalez, Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, and Elliot Smith. I also love electronic musicians like Modeselektor and Aphex Twin. These musicians continue to shape how I approach songwriting and performance.
3.) Is Hollow Body your first release? What were you trying to accomplish with the songs?
Hollow Body is my first solo release but definitely not my first project. I put out an album with the rock band I fronted, Marquee (www.marquee.bandcamp.com) a year ago, and have released a few other projects before that.
With Hollow Body, my goal was to define myself as a musician who combined the raw intensity of rock with the emotional honesty and directness of a more stripped down form, like folk music. I would define my genre as Experimental Folk.
4.) What is your favorite part about recording music?
My favorite part of recording music is towards the end of mixing where I feel like I can finally let go of the material that has bouncing around my skull for months. It’s a relief to have the music exist outside of me.
5.) I always ask this and it is often the most difficult question. If you had a chance to have record a session with three musicians (alive or dead) who would they be and why?
If I could have a recording session with anyone live or dead it would be with any members of Radiohead and Nigel, their producer. Actually I would be happy just bringing them coffee and cooking for them while they recorded new material.
6.) What is in the future for Elijah Behar?
In the immediate future, I will continue playing shows in and around LA, make some music videos, and record some demos of new material I have written since Hollow Body was released. Beyond that, I hope to tour the west coast as soon as possible, and I have been meeting with some heavy hitters in the music industry (can’t mention names) who want to help me expand.
One more song for you and then I urge you to check out his Facebook for more details.
A pretty standard folk tune that accentuates Elijah’s killer voice. Good luck to him!