the pathetic caverns - music by artist - Elizabeth Elmore
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3500 Miles in 10 Days with a Half-Stack
(How Elizabeth Elmore Spent Spring Break)
by Doug Mayo-Wells (March 2000)
This feature originally appeared in Snap Pop! magazine.
Sarge fell together like an indie-rock dream come true. Scarcely a year after the first rehearsals, they released their first album, Charcoal. The blend of punky energy, catchy tunes, Elizabeth Elmore's deceptively sweet voice, and her frank, uncompromising lyrics overcame the lo-fi production and won the band almost immediate critical acclaim. Follow up The Glass Intact, more crisply recorded, with equally sharp songs, added more rhapsodies to the band's press file. They toured extensively, going through several line-up changes, and early this year, it was announced that Sarge was disbanding. The label (Parasol's Mud Records) released a final odds-and-ends record, Distant, with a handful of live tracks, a couple of b-sides (including the band's nearly transcendent reworking of Cyndi Lauper's "Time after Time") and three new tunes with typically scary lines referencing addictions of one sort and another: "It's been since the 6th of last October that I've kept my arms clean / But if I thought this was starting over I should have known I'd be the same." It's always dangerous to assume too much about the connections between a singer and a song, but it was the sort of record that could make you hope that its singer is okay; and also the sort of record that could make you hope there was going to be a post-Sarge record someday.
So it was reassuring to hear about Elmore's whirlwind solo spring tour. I caught up with her in the Black Cat's Red Room bar shortly before her March 24th show. She was sitting alone at a table, sipping a beer, methodically striping a huge law text with highlighter. She looked a bit tired after ten days on the road, but seemed in good spirits. She talked fast, with as much energy as she plays, dancing from topic to topic.
SP: So this is a spring break tour?
EE: Yeah, that's the deal. I'm so stupid, I'm literally 400 pages behind in one class, not caught up in my other classes, and I have a paper to write when I get back and I haven't gotten any work done over break at all. Actually, my last show is Sunday night and class starts Monday, but I have to drive home from New York Monday, so I'm gonna miss a whole day of class, too which sucks.
SP: What kind of law are you doing?
EE: Well, I'm first year, so I'm taking all the standard courses, common law, things like that ... but I want to do child welfare, things like advocacy in the foster care system, eventually, somewhere far down the road.
SP: This may be the kind of question you don't want, but, are you going to keep doing music?
EE: I'm sure I will always do music. I've been, playing music pretty much since I was born. But, in this capacity? I have no idea, I wish I knew. That's the question everyone's asking me, and I'm like, "your guess is good as mine," 'cause, I don't know, I think I kind of lost faith somewhere along the way. I've lost that drive, it's hard to think about starting all over again. It's nothing like being 19 and starting a band, when it's so, "like, fuck yeah!" ...there's law school, do I quit law school for a while to do it? If I do it, I [have to] do it now. Once I graduate I'll have $80,000 worth of debt.
SP: In your lyrics, you have a lot of place names, and times of things, that give things a very confessional, kind of autobiographical --
EE: That's new! It's definitely new on the last CD -- y'know, I always made fun of my other friends' bands, they went on tour for too long, and every song they ever wrote after that had a town name in it, and I was like, "that's so lame!" and then I did the same thing, we spent so much time touring that last album, we were on the road for like, 8 months on that album... so, yeah I fucking made fun of all my friends and then I did it too. Sorry, I interrupted your question. I do that.
SP: Well, do people tend to think that your songs are more autobiographical than they really are?
EE: Oh no, they're all autobiographical! I mean, people tend to project their own lives into how they interpret the songs. Some of them are written in strange ways, sometimes they're written where I'm part of the story, but I'm a different character than me. Like in the story, I'm not the pathetic narrator, I'm the older girl that told her she should know better.
SP: It doesn't seem like if you were to try to make one consistent persona out of the narrator of a lot of the songs, going to law school and doing child welfare law, doesn't seem like a choice that that character would necessarily make.
EE: (laughs) Yeah, I definitely have very different sides of my personality and it seems like I tend to have groups of friends that are very one-dimensional, not in a bad way, but their lives revolve around one specific part of that, so I live that part of my life with them, and the other part of my life with other people, and music isn't a part of my life that my academic goals tend to play into, it's not really relevant to that. So my life is very split. I need about four different personalities, I think.
SP: What's this tour like, are you a solo acoustic artist now?
EE: No, not acoustic! I'm not a folk artist, I'm not a singer-songwriter -- no, no, I'm totally overcompensating, I brought a half-stack, I'm loud, I'm trying to pretend like I'm still in a rock band but I'm not. That's my denial! I drive by myself, right now I've driven about 3400 miles in the past ten days ... I drove 800 miles just on Monday, drove about 650 or 700 yesterday, but it's good, it's a lot less stressful, there's no contentiousness. There's no everybody, there's just me. So it's a lot less stressful, nobody's mad, nobody's moody or crabby, but it's not as much fun to play by myself -- to not have camaraderie.
SP: Are you playing mostly Sarge stuff? Writing new material?
EE: Yeah, there'll be a couple of new things. I actually have a few things that are really new that I haven't finished yet, I was really hoping I'd have them done by this tour, but I didn't. There's a song, it was the last one Sarge ever wrote, that never was recorded, so I do that, I do a song by my friend John [Davis] who's in Q and not U, but it's totally different from Q and Not U stuff, it's like a pop song he wrote. We might be able to do an EP or something. Anything I do, like solo, I might try to do a 7-inch or an EP. There's nothing definite, it's just me, it's hard. I just don't know what I'm doing right now. I change my mind every half hour.
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