Interview with guitarist / vocalist / keyboardist Nicholas DiSalvo
By Marika Zorzi
Following 2017’s Reflections of a Floating World, and the 2019 experimental EP The Gold & Silver Sessions, Elder’s fifth full-length record, Omens(out on Armageddon Label), is the latest pillar in the construction of their own musical universe.
“I definitely really liked this return to a more natural sound from the EP, which was we just recorded live and did a very basic mix,”Nicholas DiSalvoadmits.“We wanted to come work with a producer and at a studiothat really doesn’t work a lot in the metal world,because we just kind of wanted to set up the equipment as we sound as a band,and make a record that sounds full and warm and natural, almost like a ’70s-flavored record,but in a modern sense. The production doesn’t have to be so huge and washed out and so metal-sounding. I feel like after the last couple records, we got really into this hyper-compressed, everything is blasting-loud, we just want to dial it back and make things a little more dynamic-sounding, a little more clear, a little more classic. That was pretty much the only idea we really had.”
Elder recorded Omens at Black Box Studios in France, with engineer Peter Deimel (Shellac, dEUS, Motorpsycho).
“It was a cool experience,” DiSalvosays.“We had a lot more collaboration than we have in recent years. I’ve become a bit of a control freak, especially since we all split up,and I’ve been living in Berlinand took on the main roleof writing the music. It’s become a little less than democratic. It was nice to have a record where we all had – I think we took three months in total – everyone just being over here together,and revising the songs and rehearsing and stuff. That was really cool, and the whole experience of recording the record, too. We did it out in western France at this studio that’s like a converted farmhouse,and we consciously chose a place that was kind of far away, outside of a city, that would kind of take us on a little adventure together. It sounds cheesy when you put it that way, but it’s a team-building exercise or something, a couple weeks together in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in France.”
Omens is out through Armageddon Label, the legendary punk label from Providence, Rhode Island, that doesn’t usually deal in the genre that we know Elder for.
“Those guys are like old friends of ours. I was not even a teenager – I was having my parents drive me like 45 minutes to where the Armageddon shop has an actual store in Providence, Rhode Island. They didn’t have their Boston shop yet at that time. Those guys were always so fucking cool. There were like my personal scene heroes, these really sweet older – I mean ‘older’– dudes that were just a little older that I was looking up to, just super kind. There are a lot of gatekeepers in the metal and punk world,and they were just absolutely nothing like it. As I got older, we started Elder. We became friends. They asked us to do a record one time for Record Store Day and that turned into a collaboration of releasing records. We just decided that this is what we want to do, releasing music with your friends and keep giving back to the community that supported us when we were growing up. Our one way of doing that is working with Armageddon. I don’t know, they’re just cool dudes that put out our records and we never really looked for anything bigger.”
“I love Dropdead,” he continues, “I used to go to their shows when they were playing around Providence or Boston. I thought it was so cool to meet that dude, those were like local heroes for me. You know there’s a lot of shitty people, a lot of labels that are in it for the wrong reasons and I think if you can do it on a smaller scale, why the hell not? We have the internet, it’s not like we need fucking Virgin Records at this point.”
Omens came out on April 24, and the title sounds like a prediction of the current situation in the world today.
“The thing with the pandemic, it’s actually just a crazy coincidence because this is kind of exactly the topic of the record,” DiSalvo says.“I’ve been very preoccupied with environmental problems and our climate disaster specifically and this keeps becoming more and more of a topic in the music. And especially this record was written to kind of tell a story of – obviously, it’s a very cheap metaphor for the times we’re living in today – a civilization that is based on the principles of progress and somehow can’t stop progressing even when we see it’s killing us. It’s a heavy time to live in and I think there’s a reason a lot of bands are writing albums about these exacts problems because the world does feel like it’s on fire. But at the same time, that’s why I wanted this to be a record that’s a concept record because we live in such a stressful time, it’s important to just kind of have an escape from all the shit that’s going on. So,it’s purposely about this fantastic civilization because we want to give people some relief too, to put on your headphones and kind of take a journey and maybe tune out all of the bad news for at least 55 minutes or something. So that was kind of the concept of the whole record, if you will.”
“I think it’s important to use your voice,if you have one in a public space,for the greater good,” he continues.“I think it’s a shame when artists waste their voice on something completely trivial or something really banal. It’s up to everyone individually,and I think we do need music for entertainment value as well, so I don’t think everyone should necessarily make a super serious piece of art every time they do make a song,but I find it hard to not be thinking about these things. So that’s just what kind of comes out on our end. Maybe I’m a little pessimistic.”
“It would be great if people took away something positive, a feeling of hope or something about being proactive, taking up a cause people believe in,” DiSalvo concludes. “But again, that’s the other reason why this is about a fantastical society because we’re not really preaching to anyone,and I don’t believe that people would believe bands have anything to convince them of anyhow, people will believe what they want to believe no matter what facts are presented to them. At the very least, if people can come together through listening to music and enjoying it together, that’s something nice, a sense of community. But I don’t have any illusions about changing the world.”