ZT interrogation: E-L-R

Hailing from Bern (CH), the Swiss trio E-L-R plays a mix of post metal and doom gaze that breathes the atmosphere and mysticism from their home country. The band will soon release their second album via Prophecy Productions, so it was time for Zero Tolerance to catch up with guitarist S. and drummer M.

ZT: For those who are unfamiliar with E-L-R, your style is often described as doom gaze / post metal. What inspired you to start creating this style of music?
S.M: It evolved naturally I would say. We just tried out different amps, different effects, different everything, different settings and we just came up with this kind of sound.
M.K: I think you already had an idea of how you wanted to sound when I joined the band. I wasn’t in it from the beginning; there were a lot of layers and a huge sound with only three instruments.
S.M: It’s kind of difficult to sound huge when you’re only with three people. So we have to come up with some extra stuff. For example: I’m using two amps. So it sounds like we have two guitar players. We have our technique to sound bigger than we are.

ZT: Were there certain artists that influenced you in your musical upbringing?
M.K: The style that E-L-R plays is a new thing for me. I played in hardcore bands: so faster and with a lot of drum fills and a lot of overplaying. I had to learn a new method of playing when starting with E-L-R because I play very minimal but with the right strokes at the right time. In the beginning, I always had to restrain myself and try to not overdo it. I never had the intention of wanting to stick out with my drumming but you automatically want to show off your skills and I really had to learn how to show these skills, but in a more restrained way.

ZT: Looking at your artwork, songtitles and such; there are certain romantic / nature aspects visible. What draws you to this and how does this relate to your music?
S.M: I think growing up in Switzerland; it’s just natural that you feel connection to nature because we’re really blessed with mountains and rivers. This is just a huge identity of our style and music.
M.K: We don’t even have to leave the city to be in the nature. We have nature in the city. A lot of people do not really appreciate how close nature is and how good it is for you to be out in the woods and just have trees around you and no buildings. And we really love to be in this scenery. Also when I listen to our sound and when I play, I always have pictures of nature inside my head. I try to play nature sounds. It sounds stupid but I think you know what I mean.

And how does this relate to the artwork? On the first album, Maenad, you could see a sort of nymph / forest creature and on your new album Vexier, you can see someone’s feet on a forest floor. How does that connect into everything?
S.M: The artwork of Vexier has a connection to the first one. It’s the focus of the previous cover.
M.K: For me it shows how the band and the sound got more grounded. On the first record you saw the whole person and now it goes down and focuses on the connection between the body and the ground and the elements.
M.K: I think it’s a really interesting mix that when you go to a record store and see the cover from a distance, you can already see some things and hopefully get attracted to it and take a closer look at it. And an LP is a piece of art. You can just dive into everything while you’re listening to the music or just when you’re in the record shop and looking at stuff. You can see so many things on it, but it also works on first sight.

Vexier album cover

Z.T: Your second album will be out in March via Prophecy. To me, it sounds a bit heavier and more straightforward compared to your debut. Does it feel like that to you?
M.K: I think so, especially when it comes to the the weight of the music. It’s definitely heavier. I don’t think it’s heavier in the sense of heavy metal or more metal.
S.M: I guess it’s a bit heavier because I also play harder and I have more confidence now. You can hear this. So it feels a bit heavier. We also had to process the last one and a half years. So I guess this energy is also in the new songs – and also a lot of life experience.
M.K: When we recorded the first album, we weren’t even a real band or I wasn’t in the band. And then we played a lot of shows in 2019 and learned what works live and what is difficult to do right for us. And the new songs are definitely going to work in a live setting. It is going to sound huge and touch people immediately, but you can still take your time and get lost in the songs. The tracks are quite long and we won’t change this. I think we just need this time for the songs to evolve.

Z.T: The album title Vexier can mean a number of things. What does it mean to you?
We really like the sound of the album title and for me it was important that there aren’t a lot of albums that have the same name. So we were looking for a unique name or something that you can type into Spotify and get no results. We really like the sound of the name. It has something elegant but also a bit dangerous, something crushing.
M.K: And for the meaning, I think it’s for us to take time for something now. Take time for our music, for the long songs, and to really get into it. To lose yourself in it and discover elements that might or might not be there and hear new sounds after the 10th time of listening to it. To think ‘now I get it why they’re doing this there’ or maybe there isn’t a reason why it’s done. Everybody hears it differently just like how everybody listens to music differently.

Z.T: On your debut album you had Raven van Dorst (DOOL) and Colin H. van Eeckhout (Amenra) as guest vocalists. On Vexier, you’ve invited a Swiss rapper BAZE. How did this cooperation come about?
M.K: We had the chance to play a show together in the summer of 2020. It was the only show in our hometown after the first lockdown, before the second one. And it worked out really well. We have the same ideas about how music that we like works, and minimalism and sounding huge at the same time. He’s just a really cool guy and his lyrics are all in Swiss German and they are really deep and dark. It was a perfect fit.  I think first we joked about it. Let’s ask BAZE. But then after some months we were like, yeah, let’s do this. Nobody will expect that from a metal band. That’s maybe also a reason. It doesn’t even have to be a song that we are going to play live a lot, especially not with him, maybe just in our hometown, but we can’t just pay him to come on a tour for ten lines of vocals.

Z.T: So he wrote his own text for the song?
S.M: Exactly. We gave him some ideas for a topic and then he came up with this really well written text. It’s difficult to translate also from Swiss German into another language. When you hear this in your mother language, then you really get goose bumps because it’s very poetic and dark.

Z.T: What did BAZE think of E-L-R?
M.K: The thing is that I used to play in a hardcore band before E-L-R and our singer is also his manager. BAZE once asked him: “Hey, do you know this band E-L-R? I think they are from Bern, they sound crazy. Do you know them?” And he was like: “Yeah, that’s the drummer of my band. It’s his other band.” BAZE said: “I would love to do a show with them”. He doesn’t create the typical kind of hip hop. It’s more poetic with a piano player and low end beats. He suggested to do a show: “let’s try this and maybe people are interested in checking out a combination of our music. You guys play first, destroy everything, and I’m going to the aftermath, the dark, shady part. People really enjoyed it and we enjoyed it, and he did. And then asked if we couldn’t do something together.
M.K: Funnily enough, the first thing he told us was: “Do you know what comes into my mind when I hear your sound? People walking through forests.”
S.M: When he recorded the vocals, the band wasn’t present because he didn’t feel so comfortable with us being there and listening to him. He was also bit insecure, asking if it was really good. We listened to it and thought it worked way better than expected.
M.K: We were open to try out something new and we were surprised about the result. It’s really connecting and enhancing each other. It’s really cool.

Z.T: What are the plans for this year? Are you going to tour?
S.M: We would love to. We have a lot of plans to play shows, and we are still optimistic, sometimes more, sometimes less. But overall, we’re really optimistic to play and promote the new album, especially in Switzerland, because that’s at the moment really safe.
M.K: The next thing we’re looking forward is the release of the album and we’re really happy that it’s finally coming closer because the album was finished almost a year ago, and we had to wait so long because there is so much waiting time for the vinyl production. Until two months ago, we didn’t even know what the official release date was going to be. We’re happy that we know now and I think everything looks great.

Vexier is out via Prophecy Productions in March. Orders are available here. Follow E-L-R here.

Thanks for dropping in!

If you’re here maybe you should think of adding Zero Tolerance Magazine to your arsenal of regular reading? We offer a 3-issue trial subscription to whet your appetite. http://store.ztmag.com