Wednesday, October 24, 2007

But the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir attempt to make it all worthwhile

by Cory Robertson

"The story behind this album is literally the story of the first 27 years of my life," says Elia Einhorn, mastermind of local chamber-pop collective the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. The group's new self-titled record addresses every topic implied by the term "coming of age"—and then some—from kicking an early drug habit to lamenting feelings of alienation and discovering a complex sexuality.

After a well-received debut album in 2003, the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir opened for bands like Arcade Fire and Spoon and gained mainstream exposure when their songs were played on The O.C. and What About Brian. It wasn't long, however, before co-founder Matt Kerstein left to begin a new band, Chicago's Brighton, MA. That left the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir's future up to Einhorn.

"Our sounds had sharply diverged in the two years following the release of our first record," Einhorn explains. "Matt wanted to explore more roots music, more Springsteen and Van Morrison, music that I have no interest in. I wanted two and a half minute chamber punk songs doled out on 45s, so that's what I've done." Einhorn is quick to add that he and Kerstein remain avid supporters of one another's music.

The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir's personnel varies from song to song, with Einhorn the only constant. "I write all of the songs and then produce them with our engineer Mark Yoshizumi," Einhorn says. "But each musician or singer I use is chosen for what they can bring to the table." Key contributors include vocalist and cellist Ellen O'Hayer, violinist Ethan Adelsman, trumpet player Sam Johnson and drummer Jay Santana.

The new album, set for release Oct. 23, balances folk, pop and punk influences, as evidenced by sonic similarities to the likes of Woody Guthrie, Belle and Sebastian and the Clash. The Smiths' gentle, persistent rhythmic beats, sparkling instrumentals, and airy vocals resound time and again throughout the album. But Einhorn's most consistent quality is his fearless candor.

"It's all I know how to do," he says when asked why he writes with such honesty. "It saves me. Others have told me it helps save them. I need it. I can't live with these feelingsthoughtsfears all stuck inside."

It's a good thing, then, that Einhorn has the musical know-how to sublimate the roiling emotions of early adulthood into an accessible yet personally authentic work of art. If only we could all claim as much.

Scotland Yard Gospel Party celebrate the release of their new album at the Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western, 773/276-3600) Oct. 26;