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Familiarity Breeds Harmony For Good Morning Bedlam

Sophia Mae, Isaak Gill Elker, and Victoria Elker of Good Morning Bedlam
Good Morning Bedlam
Sophia Mae , Isaak Gill Elker, and Victoria Elker are Good Morning Bedlam

The Minneapolis-based Americana-folk outfit Good Morning Bedlam is tight — personally and professionally.

The trio consists of husband and wife Isaak Elker (guitar/vocals) and Victoria (Tori) Elker (bass/vocals), and Sophia Mae (violin/vocals) who has been friends with Isaak since childhood.

They spoke with WGLT's Jon Norton a month ahead of their Aug. 27 show at Nightshop in Bloomington.

NORTON: Two GMB members are married to each other, and Sophia and Isaak have been friends since childhood. How does that dynamic play out in the music?

ISAAK: Having a secondary place the relationship comes from means that all the little piece of trust you build over years and years throughout a relationship, those have been able to be built outside of just the band. So, when we're writing together, and we're putting ourselves in places where we have to be vulnerable together, or we have to be on the same wavelength, it's nice to bring in all those different things. It really helps us to connect in that way. Because being on the road as musicians, it's really hard to be around the same people day-in and day-out. I think having something that's come from outside of the band is one of the reasons that we've been able to do as much travel and write as much together and do all these aspects together well.

SOPHIA: We get asked every single day if we're a family band … if we're all related. The reason they give most of the time is that our harmonies sound like family harmonies. I think that comes from being tight and kind of having a long history.

Sophia, what you said made me think of how someone once described the Louvin Brothers years ago. They were literally brothers. And there's this thing, I don't know if it's a real or not, called blood harmony, where you are always around someone and always have been, that there's a different kind of harmony that goes on with people who have been together that long,

ISAAK: Mastering any skill they say takes a certain amount of hours. And the amount that we've sung together, even just since starting Good Morning Bedroom six years ago, we've sung together a lot.

TORI: Some of my favorite shows are the ones where things are a little different. But we're all listening to each other really well, because like Isaac said, we’ve done it so many times, it's easy to listen to each other.

You've got a Kickstarter campaign for a new album underway. And the song we're playing right now is “Hold Me” which you can also hear on Highway 309. Is this song destined for the new album? Or is this a separate entity?

ISAAK: It is destined for the new album. We're releasing a bunch of singles for this upcoming record. In 2019 we released one, in 2020 we released one, and we've released two so far this year. Four of the 10 are already out.

Sophia I’ll go to you. What have you guys learned … two weeks into the campaign … about using Kickstarter?

SOPHIA: One thing we've learned is we've been reaching out to a lot of people about Kickstarter, which is a scary thing to do. But really, it's been a pleasure to actually connect with those people and say, “how's your life,” and they're like, “I'm doing great, It's so good to hear from you” and, actually see the support on a broad individual basis of people saying “I'm so excited for you guys. I'd love to check this out.”

On an emotional level does doing this campaign … and it sounds like you're being somewhat successful at it right now … an affirmation of what you're doing that maybe you wouldn't have got otherwise or you weren't getting during the pandemic?

TORI: I think that with Kickstarter, it is what you make of it. And I think for us right now, what we've made of it has been very affirming. There's been so many times when we were making this record … the three of us love it … or I can't wait for this record to come out. I'm so excited about every song … and you don't know how it's gonna land on people. And you don't know what they're going to think of it. It's exciting and very gratifying to hear from people in here that a) they really want to hear the new record and b) that they love what we do.

The four songs that you have released so far seem to have an extra little spark … like you guys have upped your game a little bit. I don't know if it's the songwriting itself, if it's the production value or a little bit of both.

ISAAK: I think it's a mix of all those things, especially when you think that many of the songs that were written for “Kings” … even though that album came out three years ago, they were probably written four years ago. Even our practical abilities on our instruments and with our vocals (has gotten better). And since that record came out, we've been full-time for two years. So, we had experienced so much more music on the road. I think we got a lot better as songwriters and musicians, and then also finding the right producer in the right studio that really understood the sound. We are very excited about these songs.

SOPHIA: We've always had a lot of ideas, and I think we learned how to craft them, especially for me on my like violin lines, I'm really excited about how they accompany what's going on in the song better. I think we all kind of learn to do that in different ways.

Isaak, when we talked a couple of years ago it was just you and me solo. And we talked about (the 2019 single) “The Haunting” Does anyone want to tackle another single? Like maybe “Enough?” Can you give us a little bit of background on that song?

TORI: It was interesting, because I feel there's a lot of things that can divide people and make us feel like someone doesn't understand us. But what we have come to terms with through touring and traveling and meeting so many people is that everyone feels like they aren't enough. And everyone has moments where they don't feel loved. This song, for me at least, is allowing you to say “sometimes I don't feel that way. But I am loved.” And “sometimes I don't feel like I'm enough, but I am.” In the chorus we get to sing that to each other … like one person saying, “sometimes I don't know if I'm enough” and the other person sings “you are.” I feel there are so many points in it that are extremely vulnerable. These points in time in our lives … sometimes in our childhood … that we use as markers to try to tell us like oh, well, because that person said that to me, I internalize that and I hold on to it. And it proves that I'm not enough and it proves that I am not loved. I love how that song kind of exposes those things.

One more question that everyone around the station wanted to have the answer to and I didn't have it. Where does the name Good Morning Bedlam come from?

ISAAK: Bedlam was the insane asylum in old England, right? Way back in the day. And so, it's kind of become a synonym for the word craziness, wildness, or chaos. I’ve just always loved that word. So, I always want to put it in a band name. But since we've kind of just given it meaning in saying “Good Morning Bedlam,” or “Good Morning Chaos,” which is what it would mean … would be kind of coming to terms with the fact that you're not waking up every day and being OK with the chaos of life, and knowing that you're not always in control of what's happening.

SOPHIA: And, Isaak’s dad pointed that out. We were all hanging out around the fire and Isaak's dad was like, “yeah, I love your band name so much. I love that it means greeting the chaos of every day. Good Morning Bedlam.” And we were like, “whoa, that's awesome.”

Good Morning Bedlam plays Nightshop in Bloomington August 27 as part of WGLT’s Summer Concert Satellite Series presented by CEFCU.

The Kickstarter Campaign for GMB’s new album is here.

Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.
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