Psych Rockers Elder Transcend Time and Space | Westword

Psych Rockers Elder Transcend Time and Space

Spacey jams!
Elder is heavy on the psych and prog rock.
Elder is heavy on the psych and prog rock. Courtesy Anait Sagoyan

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Elder’s 2020 album Omens is 55 minutes of spacey, hard-driving prog rock with equal parts riffs and synths spread across the record’s five epic songs. Rooted in the sounds of prog originators King Crimson and Yes, the release is heady with a hard edge, thanks to frontman Nick DiSalvo’s knack for writing catchy guitar licks and placing them in just the right spot.

But DiSalvo considers Omens the band’s “lost record,” as it dropped in April 2020, the godforsaken plague year that put a moratorium on touring and in-person gigs, all but eliminating the ability to make a living in live entertainment.

More than two years later, DiSalvo and Elder have released a collaboration album with Kadavar, A Story of Darkness & Light, under the moniker ELDOVAR, and are preparing to put out another record in November. Touring the states for the first time since the release of Omens, which DiSalvo says feels “a little surreal” coupled with a “different sense of euphoria,” Elder isn’t necessarily stacking the setlist with the newer tunes.

“We’re not focusing super, super hard on that record just because we haven’t toured in so long, so we’ve got enough people who want to hear older material, too,” he explains, adding the band plays about seven or eight songs a set, given lengthy jams. “To me, [Omens] felt like it was dead in the water. We released it right when COVID became a thing and every country shut down. We really didn’t get to service it the way we’d like to. ... It’s nice to play that material live, but it’s always going to occupy a weird spot in our catalog — it’s the record that almost didn’t happen.”

Elder is at hi-dive with Belzebong and local favorite Dreadnought Wednesday, August 31.

While Omens may not have received the widespread attention the band was hoping for, the record is evidence of a sonic shift, particularly compared to 2017’s Reflections of a Floating World, which focused more on crunchy guitars and solos.

“I don’t want to say I’m spent on writing riffs, but in a weird way, it’s harder for me to write a riff I’m happy about than it is to work on spacier, more melodic, classic prog stuff nowadays. I think that just comes more naturally the past couple of years. Those are just the sounds that happened — we don’t really write a record with any particular intention in mind,” DiSalvo explains, “it’s just an itch that needed to be scratched. It’s nice to explore other material as our interests change. We appreciate the dynamics and interplay of the quieter, heavier parts. Where it used to be 90 percent heavy, 10 percent more psychedelic stuff, that balance has shifted more toward 50-50.”

Live DiSalvo, guitarist Mike Risberg, drummer Georg Edert and bassist Jack Donovan tend to go where the tune leads them, as songs can easily eclipse their respective record runtimes. That’s not necessarily as shock when you listen to the albums, but what may come as a surprise to listeners is that Elder doesn't jam through songs together while writing and recording. With members split between Massachusetts and Germany, DiSalvo typically demos compositions as the principal songwriter before sharing them with his fellow musicians.

“The music is very structured when it’s getting written,” he says of Elder’s multi-tracking recording process, which has been their modus operandi for the past few records. “ … First we recorded the songs, and then we learned them to play together as a band.”

The last time Elder recorded together as a band was in 2019 for its EP The Gold & Silver Sessions. “Weirdly, that got an insane amount of good feedback,” DiSalvo says. “It goes to show that there is something there that can be explored more deeply.”

He adds that he's been thinking about making the recording process “something a little bit more organic and more stripped." But for now, Elder is on the road bringing their stoner space jams to eager ears across the country.

“I think the band sounds better today than it ever has before,” DiSalvo says. “I pride myself on having a powerful, tight live show. We want people to walk away like they experienced something cool.”

Elder, plays hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, Wednesday, August 31, 9 p.m. Tickets are $20-$25.
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