Subterranean Desire: In Conversation With NY Art Rocker Jorge Elbrecht


Subterranean Desire: In Conversation With NY Art Rocker Jorge Elbrecht


My name is Tyler Thacker, a veteran musician and portrait painter currently residing in NYC.  Subterranean Desire is a column devoted to the most cutting edge and aesthetically provocative music the DIY and independent musical landscape has to offer.  From dodgy basement shows, to suburban bedroom projects, to the deep corners of the internet, Subterranean Desire aims to investigate happenings amongst the Wild West-styled shenanigans of contemporary up-n-comers and hanger-ons. 

Jorge Elbrecht, a seasoned fixture in the NY art rock and electronic music scene, is best known as one of the minds behind Lansing-Dreiden and Violens, most recently joining up with Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti to contribute what he does best in the realm of guitar, synthesizers, production, and vocals. Last month, Mexican Summer released a collaborative 7″ between Elbrecht and Mr. Pink: two tracks “No Real Friends” and “Hang on to Life”, both seeped in dreamy, unconscionably smooth swag. Last month also sees the reissuing of Lansing-Dreiden’s first 3 albums, 2003’s The Incomplete Triangle, 2004’s A Sectioned Beam, and 2006’s The Divided Island, all sounding as relevant and fresh as when they first hit the ears of deep music heads.

From my perspective, Jorge’s work has garnered respect from music lovers largely for his ornate ability to raise the bar on independently recorded music. When I first heard Lansing-Dreiden, I was initially captivated by L-D’s M.O. to separate their artistic ambitions from your run-of-the-mill indie rock band with a synthesizer. They did this by proclaiming allegiance to curatorial ambitions with an art gallery, cryptic web presence, abstract album artwork, and music videos, as well as the eventual foray into live performance, briefly even subbing out the recorded front men for two handsome and hygienic looking black gentlemen a la Fun Boy Three or a post-modern Milli Vanilli. The one thing that was undeniable, was they made some of the most hauntingly elegant synth-pop recordings I’ve heard since Tears for Fears. Combining a broad spectrum of musical reference from new age, to black metal, to paisley underground—with lyrical allusions to geometric abstraction, grandiose production, and a self awareness to boot—L-D rapidly became one of my favorite ‘new’ new wave bands of the 2000s. Violens sounds like an effective passing of the torch into a realm of the more acoustic, and judging from his recent 7″ with Ariel Pink, served as a platform to thoroughly hone in on Jorge’s unique application of smooth drums, guitars, and vocals.

This past year has seen two collaborative releases with artists Tamaryn and Ariel Pink, with rumors of a 3rd with Caroline Polachek (of Chairlift). How do these more narrow channels of recording compare to prior trajectories within ‘band’ environments like Lansing-Dreiden or Violens?
I’d say it’s a pretty similar creative process, but there is never enough time to get sick of or feel stagnant with someone when you work this way. I’m not saying I feel like that’s happened in my past projects necessarily, but it’s a common problem. Many bands have one or two primary songwriters in them. The fact that none of this is really meant to be played live makes it different, I guess. But the way I plan to unfold my personal work from now on will avoid all the problems I have with being in a band as well as the issues I see with solo careers. I think the format shift will prove to be exciting.

Where is your preferred destination for recording currently?
My home studio is my favorite. Close second is Gary’s Electric in Brooklyn.

What’s your favorite instrument to write on?
I don’t really have one, unless you wanna call a DAW/ multi-timbral sequencer like Ableton or Protools an instrument. For the most part, melodies, progressions and musical “scenes” come to me in multiple instrument form. I imagine everything together: rhythm, bass line, melody, harmonies all in my head. Then I try to capture it all at once.

What are some contemporary musical acts you derive inspiration from?
I don’t really get to listen to music besides the stuff I’m making and  theprojects I’m producing/mixing. For me inspiration doesn’t usually come from other bands. If I’m listening to music for pure enjoyment, 95% of the time it’s some kind of thrashy metal from the ’80s or ’90s.

Not a lot of time has passed between the initial release of Lansing-Dreiden records and their current re-release.  How do you feel those records hold up against the current state of popular (and perhaps not so popular) music?
I don’t know what people are thinking 9/10 times I hear new music, or, I know what they’re thinking and I’m sorry they think it. I see L-D as something that could have flourished and been really special/rich/layered had it been supported more early on and had our gallery not closed.

As of late you’ve been performing with Haunted Graffiti. How does this compare to past experiences in the live arena?
Meeting and playing with those guys really changed a lot for me. It’s probably the best experience/most fun I’ve had playing shows, I hope to keep playing with them. The last Violens tour (for our album True) was my favorite tour experience before that, but this beats it for me because I don’t have to be the lead singer. I’m super proud to be onstage with Ariel and the HG guys. They’re a rare example of success achieved without compromise. Pretty amazing to jump into something that’s set up like that.

With a long history of aesthetic anonymity in LD and into Violens, why do you feel it is important to obscure identity? Do you still crave anonymity?
Yes I do. I don’t think it’s important per se, I just find fiction WAY more interesting than reality. Like if I were making totally out there stuff up in this interview but everyone believed it, I think it would be more interesting than the reality, what I actually think.

If you had to pick one noun as a primary inspiration for your making of music, what would it be?
Sounds hokey but definitely “dream.” That’s where the most potent imagery is.

Your reputation has often been disassociated with your atypical indie rock band through a loose connection to the fine arts. How has that difference in environment informed your music, and do you have a history with any other mediums of visual art outside of music?
Yeah, quite a lot of history. I consider myself a sculptor and I made a lot of sculpture in school and with Lansing-Dreiden. When I mix or produce, which is what I’ve been doing for a living the past 5 years, I think in terms of 3-D. I grew up painting band drawings but never liked it as much as writing songs. I also did quite a bit of 3D modeling/animation, 2D animation, and video making in the past decade-and-a-half. I know that language pretty well.

What do you imagine the next year will look like for you?
It’s shaping up to be a pretty busy and productive one. More touring on the horizon, collaboration plans I’m really excited about, recording projects, and a few albums I’ve worked on for a long time are finally being released.