It is not often that you listen to a band and wonder, where have these guys been all my life? Well, it turns out they’ve been in Durango this whole time. Improvisational jam band, Elder Grown, can do it all — and now they have completed an album. Their ability to flow from genre to genre seamlessly in one song is impressive. Elder Grown frequently will go from rock, to jazz, slip in a little bit of hip-hop and find their way back to the beginning, before you realize what just happened. The group — who have been playing together for over 10 years — has not put out an album since 2011 and their new self-titled album is worth the wait. We had a chance to chat with Elder Grown’s saxophone player, Sam Kelly about their new album and what the band is up to. Check out an advanced stream of the album below before its official release April 26.
303 Magazine: What are some goals you have for Elder Grown in 2018?
Sam Kelly: 2018, ya know I would say our main goal for the past couple of years has been to become as prevalent as we can in the Denver scene. So I think 2018’s goal is to increase our presence in Colorado specifically and to grow our online presence with this album that we’re coming out with.
303: Can you tell me a bit about the recording process for the album?
SK: This album, it’s been kind of a long time coming for us. The last full-length album that the group put out was a while ago and so this has been a long time coming in our process . We put out an EP and a single along the way. What we did [with this album] was we kind of took it in ourselves and we got a home studio and we were trying to produce it ourselves. Then finally after a couple of years, we used the home studio to write [in]. When you’re in the studio, you’re under the gun of having time constraints because the longer you’re in the studio the more money it costs. Being in a home studio allowed us to write everything and make it as perfect as we could until we went into an actual studio here in Durango. Everything was pretty quick. The process went really well.
303: Are there any drawbacks to a home studio? Did you ever get sick of each other?
SK: It wasn’t getting sick of each other. The drawback of the home studio is that you have all the time in the world to chase perfection and you don’t have a third party to say “hey no that was good, let’s move on.” So you know, when somebody is on the 26th take of the solo because they don’t like the first 25 you know and they want to keep going you don’t have that person saying “we can piece something together. You got something in there, it’s great.” So the biggest drawback was just having too much time on our hands.
303: Were you able to work your improvisational nature into the album or is it mostly strictly recorded and then you can save the improv for the shows?
SK: It was pretty strictly recorded. Save the improv for the shows really hit the nail on the head. We do have some solos in there. There were a couple where we just kind of recorded live in the studio. And so there are a couple jammy sections we just let happen. There are some improved elements in the CD but a lot of it is mostly studio.
303: What made you want to self-title this album?
SK: The main reason I guess is if you listen to the first CD it is so long ago and sounds pretty homogenous. Everything kind of got a theme in a way. But this CD, it’s just our first CD that we are putting out there that we feel pretty well represents the band because the groups kind of blends so many different genres throughout a set and can kind of sound like a mixtape. So this felt like the best representation that we will be putting out there of the group, so self-titling just made sense because it was just — ‘hey this is us, this is what we do.’ Because this is what it is, this is what the group will sound like when you come to hear us. We just wanted to send that home as much as we could.
303: How do you feel about the Denver and the Front Range music scene right now?
SK: I think it’s the place to be. Being in the Four Corners we get the opportunity to play Albuquerque, we get to go down to Arizona a lot. We get to go to a few other cities where they aren’t as easily accessed by other Denver groups. So we get a little more perception of what’s going on in these other towns. When we go to Denver we can see that it has a lot more going for it. We looked at Denver as like the ‘if we can make a name for ourselves in that town we’ll feel pretty good about it. Because we feel there’s so much coming out of Denver right now so we will feel like we earned our keep if we make a name for ourselves up there.