The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir
Chicago-based chamber pop collective The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir aren’t your typical debauched rock stars reveling in a pastiche of self-destructive clichés. Leading a band that’s shared the stage with both the Arcade Fire and Ira Glass, Spoon and Dave Eggers, it’s clear that lead singer, guitarist, and keyboard player Elia and his scrappy group are comfortable straddling the divide between the debased rock ‘n’ roll world and the high-minded literati. As it turns out, both shoes fit. Not content with merely performing with some of the most notable names in independent music, the band has explored their connections with the literary and theatrical worlds, performing with Eggers, DeRogatis, This American Life’s Glass, author Joe Meno, and Saturday Night Live regular Fred Armisen.
On the group’s self-titled sophomore album (their first for Bloodshot) they deliver songs that crackle with the sweeping intensity of life in its totality—songs that evoke the jubilance of an early spring as effortlessly as the desolation of a Chicago winter. Yet these are not precious mash notes from the Choir—Elia might be armed with a pea coat of pop smarts and impeccable songcraft, but the lyrics come from a deceptively dark place. A drug dealer in his formative years, Elia experienced profound lows yet emerged with a set of songs that fearlessly and directly address his personal turmoil. Clear-eyed and self-aware, the lyrics portray the trauma of a youth spent recklessly. The songs on The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir are disarmingly honest, with Elia examining issues of drug abuse, mental illness and sexual identity in a songwriting voice uniquely his own.
With Welsh-born Elia as the ringleader, The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir is a free-spirited collective of musical visionaries who turn out exuberant and rough-hewn chamber pop. Over 50 musicians appear on The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, including core players Ellen O’Hayer (the band’s cellist and vocalist who moonlights in Bright Eyes’ touring band,) bassist and recording engineer Mark Yoshizumi, drummer Jay Santana, violin player Ethan Adelsman and Sam Johnson of Mucca Pazza and Head of Femur on trumpet. The extended Scotland Yard family is comprised of a who’s-who of the Chicago underground music community, boasting the likes of Sally Timms, Nora O’Connor and Kelly Hogan, who sing backup on the album, and Nate Walcott (Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley), Matt Priest and Megan O’Conner (Canasta), and Brett Whitacre (Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers.)
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