Attention creatures of the night: it's time to boogie. Last month, Say Hi (the brainchild of Eric Elbogen) released its ninth album, Bleeders Digest, a collection of indie rock-meets-synth pop songs about vampires with fun-loving vibe that's more "Monster Mash" than watch-the-movie-screen-through-the-slits-in-your-fingers horror (it would make the perfect Halloween party soundtrack, FYI). It's actually Say Hi's second vampire concept record, a spiritual sequel to 2006's Impeccable Blahs. While Elbogen can craft a great songs about things other than Dracula's cronies (see: last year's Endless Wonder), it's clear that the immortal bloodsuckers have their fangs deep in his psyche.
Over the past few years, Elbogen has also been honing his reinvented live persona as a hip-shaking one-man synth band dressed in a decidedly ungoth blazer and tie ensemble. For the past month, Say Hi has been touring across the country with fellow hip-shaking one-man indie rock-turned-synth pop outfit Telekinesis (Michael Lerner). The pair wraps up its road trip in Seattle next Saturday, November 7 with a co-headlining homecoming show at Neumos.
For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Elbogen about the allure of vampires, playing for unsuspecting crowds, and superstitions regarding his on-stage outfit.
What is your favorite thing about Bleeders Digest?
I feel like it’s the most fun record I’ve made in a little while, and that was sort of the intention going in. I approach the production and a lot of the lyrics from the standpoint of making it lighthearted and fun, and it’s hard for it not to be that way since it is a vampire concept record. But still I feel like that even tough the last record had a bit of a sense of humor and there were some upbeat songs on it, I’m really happy this one has a big giant sense of humor.
This isn't the first time you’ve touched on the subject of vampires. What made you want to dive back into that realm?
In 2006 I put out a record called Impeccable Blahs that ended up being the last Say Hi to Your Mom record—cause I changed the name after that—and that was actually a whole concept record about vampires. And pretty much immediately after I put out that record, I thought alright someday I need to make a sequel. And every time between then and now that I sat down to make a record I was like is it time for me to make that sequel? I always sort of decided against it. I think because the last record, Endless Wonder, took me so long to make and put out that this time it popped into my head. It seemed like it was something I would be excited to do, and something I could get done more quickly and not hate myself as much as I did when I was trying to finish the last record.
From a songwriter perspective, what draws you in and makes you enjoy the subject of vampires enough to go back a revisit that territory with a sequel album?
It’s such a fun metaphor to play around with because it’s serious and it’s absurd. You look at some of the old vampire movies or novels and it’s like really heavy evil thing that is robbing the young maiden of her purity, and then you look at the Count Chocula cereal and it’s like just a wacky “Blah! Blah! Blah!” When it was running on television, I was a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, and I loved how that really turned the seriousness of vampire media into something that didn’t have to take itself so seriously. So that was sort of the intention the first time I made a vampire record. Off-hand I don’t remember how many songs talk about immortality or how many songs talk about the physical aspect of having fangs, but I tried to play around with a bunch of different parts of the myth.
Do you have an pre-show routines or superstitions?
The first time I tried the one-man synthesizer/drum machine set was for the Barsuk 15 anniversary shows, and it happened by accident because I was really trying to finish a record and I didn’t have a live band at the time. And Josh [Rosenfeld], who’s one of the owners of Barsuk, asked me if I wanted to participate. And I was like I do because this is such a big deal and there’re such amazing bands playing, but I just don’t know if I have it in me right now. I have kind of an idea, let me see if I can do this. So I ended up doing this thing, and it’s a very, very last minute I was like, you know what I’ve never done? Pay attention to my wardrobe. So I bought a blazer, and a tie, and a money clip for a tie clip. And I wore it for that first show, and that was the first show I played in a really, really long time that I didn’t hate myself after I played it. So now the money clip has become a superstition. I’ve actually worn the exact same tie and that money clip at every show since.
I was just in Australia playing a bunch of shows with Death Cab for Cutie, and there was a moment when the money clip fell off into the dark while I was getting my stuff off stage. And I super, super panicked. [Laughs] Cause I was like, noooooo! That’s like my magic! Without that I won’t be able to perform!
I ended up finding it.
How do you feel like Seattle has influenced your music?
That’s always a strange question because I tend to write from an imagination instead of an inspiration. So, for me, creativity is about cooping up and hiding from the world and the city I live in. That said, when I first moved here in 2006, it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. And you end up seeing that… I have a song called “Northwestern Girls” that I wrote shortly after moving here, and that’s the obvious thing to bring up.
But honestly, I just turned 39, and so I don’t actually go out a ton. My girlfriend and I go eat dinner every once in a while, but most of the time I’m home trying to make records, and so the city itself doesn’t end up having as much of an influence on me as when I was a bit younger. Like when I lived in New York I had energy to be out at all hours until the sun came up. And I was constantly thinking about the architecture and the people of New York. When I first moved here it was new, and the vegetation was something I had never seen before, and obviously the overcastness. Even the politeness/passive aggressiveness of the people was very interesting, especially after living in New York City for almost seven years, because that is not a passive aggressive place at all; that’s just an aggressive place. I think that’s a good thing, actually.
I’ve seen you perform both in front of your own fans and for an audience that have no idea what to expect, like when you opened for Death Cab for Cutie at the Crocodile this year. Both audiences have very fun but starkly different reactions. Do you prefer playing for crowds that know what they’re in for or having an audience that’s slowly processing what they’re seeing that you have try and win over?
I’ll be honest, I get more a kick out of watching peoples expressions when they don’t know what they’re getting. I started doing a set like this a couple years ago, and so people are coming out who have seen it a bunch of times. But it’s really fun to get up there and start doing it when people expect something very, very different. The problem is that it’s not for everyone. I’ve toured with a full rock and roll band and people come up to be and are like, “You know, we really miss the synthesizer.” And then when I tour with just a synth thing people are like, “Oh yeah, you know, we really miss the rock and roll.” But I think that deep down fans who get what I’m doing and know the songs very well have fun with it, and those people always end up making their way to the front of the stage. We have a good time entertaining each other. People will sing lyrics at me and show me their best dance moves, and I try to do the same.
Telekinesis and Say Hi
Nov 7 at 9, Neumos, $15