Anyone who has ever seen a band perform live knows how important cultivating a strong, authentic bond between members is, both for the band itself and for its fans. Fans can usually tell when the dynamic between members is off or isn’t where it should be, and a failed dynamic can often be the reason bands don’t end up working out.
For Ryan Groff of the Champaign-Urbana based band Elsinore, fostering and maintaining that strong bond between band members is one of the keys to Elsinore’s success.
“Everyone in the band has great input, a really good perspective and works together well,” said Groff. “So far, there hasn’t been even the hint of a heated moment because everyone doesn’t want to waste time being in a band that fights and doesn’t give constructive feedback and criticism. None of us are interested in doing that. We’re only doing it because it feels good to make music together.”
Elsinore was formed in 2004 when Groff and Mark Woolwine were students at Eastern Illinois University. They were all both music majors, which Groff said made the band forming process happen fairly naturally.
“I have since seen and figured out that any music department is bound to have a few bands that start up just because we’re all kind of around each other all the time and people are going to find common interests.”
Elsinore’s current membership now consists of Groff, Woolwine, James Treichler, Adam Wayne and Andy Masters, who all have rich musical backgrounds. Groff said that the change in members since 2004 is one of the contributing factors to the band’s change of sound, which, in the band’s earlier years, had more folkish tones. Now, Elsinore has taken on a more pop/alternative sound, which is especially apparent in Elsinore’s new album, “A Life in the 21st Century,” which was released on Nov 16.
Groff said that, unlike with Elsinore’s previous album, “PUSH/PULL,” the band really took its time creating “A Life in the 21st Century” since the end of touring and promo for “PUSH/PULL” in 2014.
“We have been working on a no-deadline timeline with no zero pressure to finish it by a certain date,” said Groff. “I think that we just stretched in the exact opposite direction of the last record and we just took our time.”
Elsinore’s brief break in releasing any music was necessary to make “A Life in the 21st Century,” which is not only full of fresh sounds and creative musical styles but also lyrics with political undertones and critiques of the human condition.
“When you’re a songwriter, you have this outlet that potentially will be seen and heard by hundreds or thousands or millions of people,” said Groff. “I try more and more not to shy away from that. I’m just trying to put both my moral money and my artistic money where my mouth is.”
Groff also said this album was a way for him to express his thoughts and feelings about how life looks to him in a way that other people can connect with. He said that he thinks this type of connection with listeners is the biggest way artists can be involved with their audiences.
“I don’t shy away from the responsibility songwriters and artists have when they do speak their mind and when they do say things that are either politically charged or that are taboo,” said Groff.
Groff does not have a problem speaking his mind through his lyrics and is more concerned with expressing his thoughts in a smart, artistic way rather than with worrying about what people think about his opinions.
“I’m going to be an independent, free American citizen who can say anything I want,” said Groff. “But I’m also going to use my brain and my heart at the same time.”