Smile Politely

New members of Elsinore ready for first hometown shows

There are not many people left in this corner of east central Illinois that have not heard of Elsinore. The audience at an Elsinore concert is a conglomeration of former students of lead singer Ryan Groff or pianist Mark Woolwine and their parents, a few young women swooning over Groff’s equally lovely voice and hair, some hip members older set, and the traditional 20- or 30-something concert attendee.

Gaining this kind of age diversity among the audience has not been an easy task. It is the product of everyone who has played with Elsinore over the years putting in a lot of heart, soul, and sweat into the musical endeavor. It is a result of more than eight years of collaborating and honing skills to put forward something that can be enjoyed by all.

Yet, all the hard work that has built Elsinore’s presence in the local music scene to grand proportions has also presented the band with a unique challenge: Replacing two of their core members.

In October of last year, shortly after the Pygmalion Music Festival, drummer Dave Pride and bassist Chris Eitel made the difficult decision to walk away from Elsinore and pursue other interests. The band announced their departure via a blog post, thanking them for sharing their “passions, aesthetics, and expectations” to create something “truly beautiful.”

Their departure left a hole in the band at an inopportune time; Elsinore had committed to record a new album at Pogo Studios in Champaign with producer Beau Sorensen (Death Cab for Cutie, Chris Walla, Bob Mould) just weeks later. In a bind, Groff and Woolwine turned to friends for help and recruited James Treichler (the Dirty Feathers) and Brad Threlkeld (Broken Light) to fill the void.

Several months after the fact, Threlkeld still seemed surprised by how sudden his joining the band occurred:

I remember reading on Facebook the post about Dave [Pride] and Chris [Eitel] leaving the band, I thought it was super weird because Pygmalion was the weekend before and I had seen all the guys and hung out with them all. So I texted Ryan and I got a phone call, like, thirty seconds later from him. We ended up talking for about half an hour about the whole thing, and I didn’t think anything of it, and then Ryan was like, ‘Oh yeah, do you want to play bass for us?’ I was like, of course, I was pretty shocked though.

Joining the band on short notice left little time for either new member to prepare to play on the new record. The problem was compounded for Treichler, who happened to be leaving to tour with the Dirty Feathers the day after Sorenson arrived:

Right when they asked me to join the group it seemed like panic mode — they needed drums right then. They knew Beau was flying in; they had committed to a budget with Pogo and Beau. Every night [on tour] I’d get an email from the guys back at the studio sending me updated tracks so I could listen to where they were.

When he returned to Champaign about ten days later, Treichler jumped right in to the recording process. He said that studio work is a passion of his, but nonetheless called the process “a little stressful,” which might have been an understatement. Treichler laid down drums for all of the songs, but, because Groff was able to play bass for some songs, Threlkeld was able to learn a smaller sample for the album, making his role in the studio a little less hectic:

I was going to come to the studio and just listen to the new songs, but then Ryan called me on a Sunday and asked if I wanted to play on three songs on the album. I was at work, but I said definitely, then tried to figure out my schedule for the rest of the week. That night he sent me the songs; I had Monday to learn them, and on Tuesday we rehearsed them in the studio.

Those three songs, which were recorded about a week after the first rehearsal (to Threlkeld’s relief), ended up being among the most representative of the new Elsinore lineup according the Threlkeld and Treichler. “The Art of Pulling” and “Mislocation,” in particular, underwent some serious changes.

The chorus on “Pulling” was altered and “Mislocation” was sped up and shortened by nearly a minute and a half. These changes helped the new members feel more like a part of the band, but a lot of the existing framework for Elsinore’s new album went unchanged. Treichler said:

I have a lot of respect for Dave [Pride]; he’s still a good friend. He had really good parts already in place, so it’s really hard to hear a song with a good drum part and then go out and change it.

While the material for the album was not tampered with much, the band has had ample time since to gel and create a sense of togetherness as the new Elsinore. Since January, the four members have been gathering roughly twice a week (only interrupted by a trip to Portland by Groff to mix the record or a bad case of bronchitis for Threlkeld) to rehearse and become comfortable playing together.

Though all four men in Elsinore have known each other and been friends for many years, Threlkeld and Treichler said the time spent practicing has also helped them become closer as people and bandmates — no doubt lubricated by Jodi Groff’s cooking, which both new members raved about. As well as gaining a sense of ease playing together, in the time they’ve spent at Groff’s studio playing together, the band has refreshed old material and polished new material to make everything sound cohesive. Threlkeld said:

It was nice for us to be involved in taking songs I’ve known for five-plus years, that I’ve seen performed the same way for five years or more, and working as a band to make a few changes. It’s definitely been fun. Ryan and Mark are not afraid to try some fairly bizarre ideas, even if they don’t land.

In rehearsal, the band has also been able to work out a few songs that did not make the cut in the studio and work collaboratively to create something different, perhaps even something better. “It’s nice to have a couple from the new lineup,” Treichler added.

The test for the new Elsinore lineup, though, has yet to occur. So far, the band’s work has occurred behind closed doors, away from the public eye. But, as they set out for a small Midwestern tour on Thursday in St. Louis, the pressure increases.  

And this weekend the band has to face the unique challenge it has created for itself, as they play a pair of dates here in Champaign — Friday at Cowboy Monkey (with Grandkids and Minor Characters) and Saturday at Mike ‘N Molly’s (with Common Loon and KO). Here, at home, Elsinore has the weight of all their diverse fans upon them, the questioning eyes of those who have supported the band for years, wondering what this new iteration will be like in a live setting.

However, if that pressure exists, it has not affected Threlkeld or Treichler yet. When asked their feelings about the upcoming show and playing for the hometown crowd, the new members shared a laugh. “You’re bringing up these thoughts … I haven’t had them yet,” Treichler said. “It will be fun; I am just excited for the new opportunity in general.”

“I’m really just excited about the upcoming live shows. I’ve seen a couple in Champaign, and the way the crowd reacts — it’s going to be interesting,” Threlkeld added.

Part of what has eased the tension for Elsinore’s new members is the level of commitment Groff and Woolwine have for the band and the level of support that has resulted in locally. Both Threlkeld and Treichler could not speak highly enough of their new bandmates and what they have done to make Elsinore into something special here in Champaign. “The support they have and the team they’ve built … it’s been cool to see,” Treichler said. “I’ve always been around it, but seeing the whole thing in action makes me take a step back. Those years of work they’ve put in have gotten them some serious support.”

That support has already manifested itself in many ways for the new members. Specifically, at the band’s listening party for the new album, they were able to see how much community members really care for and enjoy the band’s music. “It was great to see so many people and Mark Rubel, who opened up the studio to us, that was his first listen … to see his reaction to the finished project was really, really cool,” Treichler said.

So, the newest members of Elsinore can take the stage this weekend without fear of a negative reception. Because Champaign is home for Elsinore, and from young to old, everyone is cheering the band on.


Friday’s show at Cowboy Monkey is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m., Saturday’s show at Mike ‘N Molly’s is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.

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