Elk and Boar

24 Jul

“We didn’t actually mean to start a band. It’s amazing and surprising to us that Elk and Boar is propelling us both forward.”

Captivating people and holding their attention are not two easy feats to accomplish, but Kirsten Wenlock and Travis Barker are able to succeed in doing so. Making music together has solidified their friendship, which in turn has given many people the gift of hearing their music. The music they have made so far has grabbed many people’s attentions, giving the two the chance to show just how much talent each of them possess. I recently interviewed the two and learned that although they’re new on the scene, they have accomplished so much in such a short time.

Q. How did you all get your start in music and come together to form Elk and Boar?

A. Kirsten – The first 17 years of my life were filled with musical adventures. My sister and I traveled all over singing the anthem in our childhood and in our early teens we were signed to a pop gospel label and toured the country. Things settled down for me about the time I graduated high school which was good. My tastes had changed dramatically and I think I needed the time to develop musical friendships with peers rather than people twice my age. I also grew a beautiful family. I continued to write and collaborate with friends over the next several years. Travis and I met because of a big New Year’s show in downtown Tacoma a couple years ago. I remember the first time I heard his voice in a little trailer on a Christmas tree lot, I was floored. And then, when we really sang together, I got this particularly warm feeling, like we should probably sing together all the time. We started a side project last year. We didn’t actually mean to start a band. It’s amazing and surprising to us that Elk and Boar is propelling us both forward.

Travis – I just started out as a guitar player. I was never supposed to end up singing. I was a terrible singer. So I just played guitar for years. Then after high school there were no bands to be formed. I tried to start singing and focused all my energy on writing songs and not so much on playing. 7 years passed and I started a band called The Black Sails. We started booking shows and became a house band for a two-year series of music showcases. I got the hankering to reach out into something new, and that’s when I called Kirsten to ask about starting a side project. The rest is history…

Q. You just released your full-length CD, Room to Start. What was it like recording the album and what was one of the best memories during the process?

A. Kirsten – Recording Room To Start was a whirlwind. We had already recorded 4 songs for our first EP. Rather than record another 4 song EP, we decided to record 6 songs and release a full length in time for SXSW. Our friend, Luke Stevens (artist and producer) helped us make it all happen in short order in the cottage studio behind my house. I love that there was a great deal of snow and whisky involved in the three week recording frenzy. Also, I love that we have Paul Buck on bass and Matt Badger, of Ravenna Woods, on drums. It’s too perfect that Elk and Boar get to play with Buck and Badger often. The CD is a good representation of what we do live.

Travis – I had a really hard time in the studio. I feel like I am a performance musician far more than a studio musician. I got very frustrated and struggled through it. I didn’t have the best attitude, but we worked really hard through it and Kirsten put up with me and we ended up with something that we both feel is beautiful. My best memory is wearing sunglasses inside because I thought that if I looked cool, I would play better.

Kirsten – I think it worked.

Q. You two had the opportunity to play SXSW. What was the experience like getting to play in front of so many people from all over?

A. Kirsten – SXSW was incredible. We are really thankful to the folks at 1band1brand for inviting us out. We got to play two great shows and meet so many wonderful people and make new connections.

Travis – SXSW felt like what Willie must have felt like when he jumped over that young boy, over the rocks, and was free. That’s what it felt like.

Q. What would you has been your biggest accomplishment so far?

A. Kirsten – I am proud that we were able to finish our CD in time for SXSW and that because of the amazing support of family and friends and the sale of those CD’s, we were able to get to Austin. It also was really cool being featured on 1brand1brand as emerging artists.

Travis – I think SXSW was my biggest accomplishment. I had never traveled to play music before.

Q. By reading your biography, I’m assuming you got your band name from two shot glasses. What is the full story of this and did you have other names in mind before coming up with Elk and Boar?

A. Kirsten – We did have other names on the table… one night we were working in my attic and Travis was wearing a wig, a moth landed on the wig, and I said, “Oh, let’s call ourselves the wig and the moth.” Travis said, “Hmm…sounds like an indie band from Portland.” I don’t remember if it was the same night we scanned the room for inspiration and said out loud- how about Elk and Boar? But Elk and Boar had a ring and a goodness to it and was the clear winner. During the recording of the song “Alright”, Travis accidentally broke my elk glass. He replaced it with a steel elk, which did make it alright. Last week, an empty bottle of tequila crushed his boar glass on my watch. I will find him a new boar, but it’s funny, since naming the band, we’ve broken each other’s glasses. Poetically we celebrate this- we are no longer in a state of fragility with each other, what we have together now feels solid and durable.

Q. In your opinion, what do you think the major difference between today’s music compared to music fifty years ago (1960’s)?

A. Travis – Today’s music is listened to in headphones or laptop speakers. 50 years ago you sat down on that old orange bean-bag chair, right between your big wooden speakers, and you dropped vinyl. You started on track one side one, and then you flipped it to track one side two. And you listened to the whole album. There were no skipping tracks, not like today. Albums were designed for that. An album was a full experience. There were no downloading single tracks. No one had ever heard anything like the Beach Boys, and then the Beatles, and then Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, or Joe Cocker, or Cream or Credence. It is so much harder today to move music that has never been heard before. Thanks a lot interwebs. I do not believe that I live in a golden age of music. I do believe that my father did. He does too.

Kirsten – Older music is impressive to me because of the performance aspect. You had to be considered great to have an opportunity to be recorded back then. You had to be blowing audiences away. That isn’t true anymore. I am thankful to the interwebs though because you can now listen to anything you want and be inspired by so much. There is more genre fusing which is exciting. I love when it’s hard to track influence.

Q. Who would you dream of opening a show for?

A. Kirsten – Well, we are thrilled to be playing the Doe Bay festival this year and so many musicians we love will be there including Head and the Heart and Damien Jurado. In my dreams we open for Bon Iver, every night, for the rest of forever.

Travis – Most of my heroes died in the 60s. So,I am going to go with Ray LaMontagne or Ryan Adams. Maybe Ryan Adams 4 years ago.

Q. I love the feel of your music video, Room to Start. What was the inspiration behind the video?

A. Kirsten – We were doing a photo shoot and my friend Dee started clicking through the pictures she took of us. We started giggling like- whoa! This is a little movie! It should be a video for Room to Start! So I took the 700 pictures and made a story with them. I remember laying in bed and I imagined us holding a sign up that said the beginning at the end. As soon as that came to me, I knew how to put it together.

Q. If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which one would it be and why?

A. Kirsten – Probably Moonlight. It is set on an island and there’s lots of space to make up new verses and make noise, which would give me something to do while being stranded. Seadust/shine down would be good too because it has three different movements and it is uplifting and prayerful. When you are stuck somewhere those kinds of songs are comforting.

Travis – 10,000 Angels, because if I am on a desert island, and my iPod somehow survived the crash, but only kept one song, I would probably have a few hours of playback before the battery died. I would listen to this song over and over and sing it really loud, because I don’t know if I really have what it takes to make it on an island all by myself, and this is a song about preparedness for death.

Here is their video, Room to Start. Enjoy.

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One Response to “Elk and Boar”

  1. Valerie July 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    Fab interview-LOVE the video!!

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