Cult of personality
Check that musical snobbery at the door—Eli and the Sound Cult's music is unapologetically, refreshingly pop
Whether it’s Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, or David Bowie, the king of goblins, the pop genre encompasses a variety of sounds.
The term holds different meanings for different people: Indeed, it often sends shivers down the spines of some underground-music snobs, even as it serves as a beckoning call for dance-club patrons.
For Eli and the Sound Cult, the genre’s not a bad thing. The duo, which describes its sound as “unapologetically pop,” crafts music that draws influence from the likes of Prince, Bowie and even Morrissey.
Elijah Jenkins says his band’s debut album Best of Pop was fueled by a longtime desire to make an entire record consisting of hook-laden pop singles. But to achieve that goal, Jenkins, who sings, plays guitar and produces beats with music software and an old Casiotone keyboard, knew he needed to find just the right partner.
Bandmate Jason Bove, who plays bass, says his laid-back demeanor meshed perfectly with Jenkins’ thorough approach.
“I’m hands-off. Once he goes into that mode, I just let him do his thing. I feel as if I’m the quiet influence—Elijah is the up-front guy and very in tune with what he wants out of the performance,” says Bove, who is also a visual artist.
So in tune, in fact, that both Jenkins and Bove take it upon themselves to oversee every live show with meticulous care, calling venues ahead of time to check on electronic specifications, such as how many outlets a club has—and where they’re located.
The two-piece even trucks in its own sound system and lights during its travels.
Think of it as planned chaos, Jenkins says.
“I want it to be spontaneously perfect. Control everything that’s controllable,” he says. “We want it to be a good experience. There’s no reason that you can’t have the same visual and sound quality that you would get at a major festival or concert from a local show.”
The two musicians say they’re both night owls and, accordingly, spent evenings recording tracks in Jenkins’ basement studio.
The songs reflect myriad inspirations.
On “Worst Thing,” for example, the music radiates with an upbeat, distorted guitar sound comparable to the Strokes, with vocals that are reminiscent of Interpol or She Wants Revenge. Skip to the album’s last track, “On the Run,” and the Sound Cult completely changes directions, morphing from a pop-based garage-rock feel, to sexy, Prince-inspired slow jams, replete with blues and gospelesque vocals.
Or take “Prelude,” a slower, electronic beat-driven track on which Jenkins sings in a melancholy Morrissey-worthy croon.
In short, each song on the album possesses a distinct identity.
Each also serves an introduction of sorts to the band’s onstage performances, Jenkins adds.
“The album is really just a doorway to the live show, which is more of a theatrical art piece,” he says.
The pair often hosts intimate shows at Sacramento Space, a venue that also doubles as Bove’s art studio. Here, the band’s live setup includes a 3-D video installation featuring random imagery and multiple flashing lights.
This mix of art and sound is no accident. Whether it’s an elaborately planned show or a thoughtfully crafted record, Jenkins credits his father’s theater background as a major influence.
“My dad took me to my first show. He said, ’You can be an artist, but when you’re on stage, you’re an entertainer,’” Jenkins remembers. “And that’s all there is to it. It does not matter what else is going on. The moment you’re on stage, you’re an entertainer, and if you don’t think that’s true, then you shouldn’t be on a stage.”