Good Morning Bedlam is another young string band more inspired by — than tethered to — traditional bluegrass.
Band leader Isaak Elker says an Avett Brothers concert he attended 15 years ago was a seminal moment for him ... after a few years playing in a metal band.
He told WGLT that like peer bands Trampled by Turtles, Way Down Wanderers, and Old Salt Union, Good Morning Bedlam draws from many influences.
Including pop music.
“I listen to a lot of Billie Eilish,” said Elker of the pop American singer/songwriter. “I listen to different pop bands as well and I just love the idea of bringing this tradition of playing string music and American folk music to the table. And bringing something very catchy you find in mainstream and pop music or indie-rock music. Putting those two things together is really exciting for us.”
The group's new single “The Haunting” is a perfect representation of that pop influence. Unlike many GMB songs that either evolve or dive straight into a foot-stomping romp, “The Haunting” is mostly Elker and wife (and fellow band-mate/bassist) Victoria Elker singing lightly over a soft ukulele and banjo. At least in the first half of the song. The melody is haunting, and gorgeous. Elker said the song is their first real foray into indie-pop/rock.
“When I started writing the song, what I really wanted to do was to write a pop or indie-rock song and to use the banjo and fiddle just as you would for an electric guitar and transpose them into string music,” said Elker.
He said he also wanted to take a stab at a more simplistic song, something he said the band hadn’t done a lot of on their now two albums and one EP.
“Something that didn’t have a tempo change or time signature change. Something a little simpler but still something you could bob your head and really just groove to,’ said Elker.
You might think writing a “simpler song” might be easier, but Elker said there are challenges, including more time and drafts to complete the song.
“There is so much music out there I sometimes feel my biggest fear is being boring. Not that simplicity equals boring at all, but when I’m not trusting myself and the other band members to just be vulnerable and write music that is inspiring us, I start getting worried and think ‘oh we have to make it more complicated to keep things interesting, because I hate being bored,” said Elker.
The lyrics to “The Haunting” convey a love song between two people trying to reconcile how to fit into each other’s world. Elker said the song is about the relationship with Victoria, who he said he loves being able to write and play songs with.
“It’s so, so fun to have a co-writer that is not just part of your life, but is usually the person you’re writing about,” said Elker. “Because they then get to turn around and respond as a co-writer. So in ‘The Haunting’ I get to say like, ‘This is how I’m feeling,’ and my wife as a writer gets to turn around and say, ‘This is how I’m responding to that.’”
Good things are happening to this four-piece band Elker laughed has maybe “half a foot in bluegrass.” Winning the John Hartford Festival band contest earlier this year was certainly a notch in their belt. Elker said they have seen more, and varied gigs come their way from the win, but knowing John Hartford was a forward thinking folk, country, and bluegrass musician and that the festival celebrates the blending of different styles of music made the win especially validating.
“As a group even farther out of the folk world, that we’re not even Newgrass or Jamgrass, we went in wondering ‘do we belong here because we’re so different than most of the bands we play with and the festivals we play?’ And coming out, we can say ‘yes we do belong here,’” said Elker.
It has given the Minneapolis based quartet more freedom to enjoy being around other bands in their orbit.
“We’re just going to show up and do our thing and people are going to respond to it. And we don’t have to worry about conforming to what other people are doing,” said Elker.
Good Morning Bedlam plays Nightshop in downtown Bloomington on Thursday night. Stone & Snow open the show.
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