Ontario alt-rock band Ellevator dive into the depths of their dynamic debut album ‘The Words You Spoke Still Move Me’, an inspiring record full of cinematic passion, feverish energy, and heartfelt intimacy.
for fans of Soda Blonde, Tennis, The Killers, Stars
Stream: “Easy” – Ellevator
Certain songs grow on you slowly over time: The more you listen, the more you’re enthralled. Others hit hard and fast all at once, leaving an immediate and lasting impression that hooks the head and the heart all at once. Ellevator’s debut album is an enchanting set of the latter kind of songs: Dramatic and invigorating, the Ontario-based band’s first full-length is an inspiring rock record full of cinematic passion, feverish energy, and heartfelt intimacy. Vast yet insular, dreamy yet grounded all at once, The Words You Spoke Still Move Me moves the heart as it stuns the soul. As catchy as it is cathartic, as poetic as it is propulsive, this album all but ensures its listeners come away with a new favorite rock band.
Leave a piece of yourself in each churchyard gymnasium
Like songs you wrote to God then gave away to everyone
The powers, that be predicted you to me
A flood, relief
It shifts this one-way street
Took a page from your book
and curbed my doubts with miracles
The firing squad’s ruled out
but there was still some push and pull
My thoughts, beliefs
Get caught between the sheets
My prize, my thief
Gives peace of mind for free
Released May 6, 2022 via Arts & Crafts, The Words You Spoke Still Move Me is utterly enchanting. Produced by ex-Death Cab for Cutie band member Chris Walla (Tegan and Sara, Foxing, Braids), Ellevator’s debut sets a high bar as the Hamilton, Ontario-based trio of frontwoman Nabi Sue Bersche, guitarist Tyler Bersche, and bassist/keyboardist Elliott Gwynne come to life with visceral warmth and arena-sized drive. Over 48 dazzling minutes, the pop-savvy alt-rock band sweep low and soar high, crafting a captivating aural journey for the ears as Nabi Sue Bersche opens up her own world through lyrics of hope and connection, self-discovery and personal ambition, romance and intimacy, exasperation at the world, and so much more.
It’s an evocative, stirring, and smoldering introduction to band who have given their all to the music.
“This record has long been living in our collective womb, growing and changing into what it is today,” Nabi Sue Bersche tells Atwood Magazine. “We’ve carried it across state lines, whispered it into our phones in the back of the van, shredded it out of a wall of guitar amps so loud it made us afraid. It feels like the prize at the end of a long journey, and we are so excited to release it into the world. It’s made up of songs that we’ve been writing and rewriting for years as well as some that came to us as we were making the album. Chris Walla produced for us and his hand can be heard throughout. We are so proud.”
“When we started writing this thing we thought we were making something dark,” she adds. “The first songs to come out were the angry, lean (most of our early attempts didn’t make the grade, but notably Easy and The City both came from these sessions). Nabi was experimenting with a more narrative lyricism, writing about cults and greek tragedies. Everything was dark synth hooks and brooding rhythmic pulses and angular guitars. The earliest writing sessions for what would become TWYSSMM were broken up by a bunch of touring. Maybe it was that Golden Hour came out in the middle of that first tour, maybe it was the loneliness and dissociation of the road, but we all hit on a months-long Pop Country kick. We learned the comfort and power of idioms and listing nostalgia.”
It was around this time that we banished the word “cheesy” from our vocabulary, opting instead for “sincere.”
“We made a choice to start honing every inch of this new material for Maximum Emotional Impact. We consciously exorcised ironic detachment. We started mainlining Hounds of Love and So, drawing on the bold new timbres we found there. Talk Talk entered the room. We reached into our own past and found the cinematic post-rock of our early teens alongside the post-U2-evangelical-worship-crescendos from our childhoods. The common thread in all this music is an unyielding commitment to sincerity. Its power comes from banishing the cool shit in favour of emotional resonance. We kept these ideas front-of-mind as we continued to write, and they brought out something we didn’t expect: this record certainly has moments of darkness, but when we listened back to the demos we were surprised by the joy we found. When Walla got involved he was so encouraging of that ethos and brought everything to a whole other level.”
Ellevator held nothing back in their writing or their instrumental work; as a result of that dedication, each of their album’s twelve songs feels like a world unto itself, and the entire record runs as a cohesive, yet consistently alluring effort.
“We put everything we have into our work,” Nabi Sue Bersche admits. “We take every good idea and wring it til it’s bone dry. Whatever artistry is in this band, we crammed it into TWYSSMM. Here’s a quote about art making from Annie Dillard that we live by: ‘One of the things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.’“
As for the album’s poetic title, the phrase “The Words You Spoke Still Move Me” is taken from a lyric in the chorus of Ellevator’s song, “Mother.”
“[It] really pinpoints a theme throughout the entire album: Power. The words others have spoken to us hold power over us, whether in an uplifting or destructive way. We are moved by each other. That idea is woven through all these songs: the power to uplift, to exalt, to inspire, to tear down, to manipulate, to destroy. It’s taken on new meaning after the past couple years. I think a lot of us have gotten in the habit of trying to numb ourselves so we don’t have to feel as deeply, and I think the title is maybe about art and its power to make you feel, to produce some kind of visceral reaction: Joy, hate, fear, horniness, whatever. Despite the litany of more important things in the world, art still moves me. It’s also a nod to the long album titles from our post-rock youth.”
With a smile, the frontwoman proudly describes their album as “World’s Hardest Soft Rock”: A record that’s “quiet, then loud.”
This quality absolutely holds true for the album’s sweetly immersive opener “Claws,” a song full of heart and hope, urgency and undeniable verve. “It’s not a straight line, but you and I were drawn together,” Nabi Sue Bersche in a moment of unfiltered honesty:
You can watch me crumble
Make me humble
I’m breaking, I’m breaking
You can shut me down
Run my walls into the ground
Or you can lift me up
In your claws of love
So begins a record that radiates with refreshing intensity and authenticity. Ellevator’s inspirations include the art rock of Kate Bush and progressive pop of Peter Gabriel, and yet their sound fits seamlessly into the modern alternative/indie canon. Album singles like the seductive “Easy” and the tender, grooving “Charlie IO” showcase the band’s stylistic range, whilst the driving, dynamic “Sacred Heart” is an undeniable standout moment of both musical and emotional impact. Bersche surrenders herself in a high-octane overhaul of feeling:
One speed made our moves too quickly
Two hearts took it so seriously
Young love I let you get the best of me
Your hands are covering the rest of me
We don’t leave room to breathe
It’s suffocating, you’re suffocating
You and I hang to dry
And now we’re fading, now we’re fading
“This one’s a love song about how intimacy and deep knowing can make it feel like there’s nothing left to discover, and choosing to push on anyway in search of new depths,” she says. “Ty (guitar) and I got married on a cold spring morning when I was 22 and he was 19. There wasn’t much chance to sell each other on our own myths, to be the mysterious stranger from outta town: We wrote our origin story together. Learning to love each other better has been a strange journey and the great gift of my life.”
Truth be told, there’s something to love and a golden egg to uncover in every track on this album:
From the pop and pulse of “Slip” to the radiant wash of guitars and utter upheaval of “Creatures” (“Don’t let the world pass you by while you suffer in silence,” Bersche sings. “It can’t comfort you while you cry when you’re keeping your distance.”), Ellevator make it all too easy to fall for their music.
Even the band members themselves don’t have a definitive highlight. “It changes week to week, but ‘STAR’ is very precious to us,” Bersche says on the topic of favorites, citing the album’s penultimate track. “We got to play it live for the first time on a US run last month and it’s such a gift to see folks respond to it.” As far as lyrics are concerned, “the second verse of our song ‘Creatures’ is a favourite of mine – I can feel how early in the morning it is and that bit of chill in the air:
“You rise with the sun
You leave before everyone
Dirt under your shoes
Packing earth as you run
You mark your path just like an expert
Twigs adorned with scraps of tshirts”.
“The bridge of ‘Claws’ is another favourite, though pretty simple. It would be great on a Valentine:
“It’s not a straight line
But you and I were drawn together”
“And the bridge of ‘Easy’ sums up my feelings on faith:”
“The fistful of flowers we were handed on the day that we were saved
Are blue and gold and they smell like honey
They’ve all dried out but they were once so lovely”
Ellevator’s LP isn’t an escape from reality: It’s a headfirst nosedive into the thick of things.
The band embrace life’s weight, welcoming the wealth of what we can feel if we open ourselves up and accept that this roller-coaster ride we’re on is a journey, and every moment, good or bad, counts for something. Keep this in mind as you strap yourself in and take off into The Words You Spoke Still Move Me.
“I hope this record can pierce the numb death spiral of social media and rattle something elemental in you,” Bersche shares. “I hope it can be a salve when shit’s too much. I hope it hums out of your little phone speaker, sitting on the counter while you do the dishes and remember the meal. I hope it whispers in your earbuds and puts you to sleep on the last bus home. I hope it gives you what you want and maybe something you didn’t know you needed. This record is made of everything we’ve got, and when you let it into your life it moves us.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Ellevator’s The Words You Spoke Still Move Me with Atwood Magazine as Nabi Sue Bersche goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of the band’s debut album!
Stream: ‘The Words You Spoke Still Move Me’ – Ellevator
:: Inside The Words You Spoke Still Move Me ::
Claws is about The Power of Love™. Loving something means giving it power over you. That vulnerability is rarefied and scary. For me, this song is about a long-term romantic relationship. The power struggle almost intensifies over time, needing to constantly redefine who we are as individuals in the midst of being “one”. The tendency to lean on each other can turn into relying too heavily – which, over time, has weakened us individually. I’ve learned that sometimes weakness is a part of surrender, and that love requires a certain amount of surrender. Without surrender you can’t have trust. And if you don’t trust each other, you can’t sharpen each other. Aside from comfort, I think the purpose of a romantic partnership is to better one another. To fill in the gaps. That kind of love is terrifying and very, very good. These are the Claws of Love: sharp and reliable. They can carry you to places you couldn’t go on your own.
I was raised in the world of charismatic Christianity – an offshoot of Pentecostalism. God was magic and prophetic ecstasies happened every Sunday. As a child I spoke in tongues and prayed until my body swayed with a gentle force like wind knocking me backwards. A deep and abiding love of the natural world took hold of me. I witnessed first hand the wild power of music – how it could uplift, ensnare, console, inspire. When I was 17 I moved to the other side of the world and joined what would most accurately be described as a cult. I prayed for strangers I met in parking lots. I shut my eyes and read the dappled light between my lashes like tea leaves that could divine the future. Vulnerability was a badge in that community so I learned to overshare. Teachings were given in the language of freedom while the stiff hand of purity reduced my body to a shameful temptation. Growing up like that gave me a love of music, a nose for bullshit, and a lot to unravel. This song is about the good and evil things we are raised to believe. I was held captive by an ideology that severely limited my life and my perspective of the world around me. It’s a process I’m still in the middle of, this work of extraction. It’s not ‘Easy’.
This one’s about a woman escaping her hyper-conservative religious community. It’s an amalgam of several stories told by women who have fled abusive Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints sects and similar communities. It’s directly inspired by Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven along with a lot of my own experiences and stories I heard growing up in the world of charismatic Christianity.
Charlie is a friend who’s seeking self-discovery through psychedelics and other pseudo-religious escapisms without doing the hard and un-sexy work of real self-reflection and owning your shit. I’ve tried to find myself in all sorts of funny ways, and in a world full of brands exploiting our unending well of vanity it’s easy to make that “journey” the center of your life. I imagine that when you finally find yourself or find god or reach nirvana or tap into universal knowledge, you’ll realize you’ve been there all along and you still have to do the dishes. Sonically, Walla’s mark is felt so strongly on this tune. It’s a true collaboration: I don’t think we could have come close to making this without each other. It’s especially sentimental for me because of that.
This one’s a love song about how intimacy and deep knowing can make it feel like there’s nothing left to discover, and choosing to push on anyway in search of new depths. Ty (guitar) and I got married on a cold spring morning when I was 22 and he was 19. There wasn’t much chance to sell each other on our own myths, to be the mysterious stranger from outta town: we wrote our origin story together. Learning to love each other better has been a strange journey and the great gift of my life.
We went full prog-rock on this one and tapped into some mythological nerdery. A Selkie (seal/woman from Scottish mythology) is captured by a charismatic religious leader and held against her will on land. There are many myths in which a Selkie has her skin stolen and hidden by a man after removing it to spend time on land as a woman. Without their skin they are unable to return home to the ocean. Our Selkie returns to the water after drowning the man who held her captive. It’s easy to imbue elemental stories like this with all sorts of meanings. I think this one is about killing the things that hold us captive and returning to the water, wherever that is for you.
This song’s about drowning in the baptismal tub of True Love™, recovering from the harmful descriptions others gave about love that I had come to believe, and finally emerging to recognize it for what it really is. An epic song for an epic romance.
The weight of grief doesn’t fit neatly into a poem or eulogy or a 4 minute rock song. It’s a wild squall that rips right through the house you built so carefully. It’s ugly and raw. I thought this song was about grief, but it might be about denial. The verses are so repetitive, even childish; yearning for covers to pull over my head. The album title is taken from this song. The Words You Spoke Still Move Me can mean a lot of things, but in this song it’s about missing someone.
The house I grew up in backed onto a forest. I’ve probably spent more time there than any other one place in my life. Unlike the kid in Creatures I never ran away from home, but I ran to those woods a lot. As an arty kid growing up in the country I spent a lot of time in my head. I am so thankful for that solitude – it formed everything about me, but looking back I think I carried a deep sadness along with my creative spirit, and I learned to keep it to myself. The older I get the more kids are in my life, and sometimes I think I see them carrying the same weight I had to learn to drop. This song implores you to speak your mind and get involved. The world can’t love you back if you don’t let it in.
This song’s about a friendship deteriorating. It’s about me acknowledging that the time had come to let go, and allowing myself to be angry about how it all went down. I was vulnerable in a friendship and had my secrets and tenderness turned over and poked at. My pal turned out not to be a safe person to share myself with. I tried to give what I wanted to receive, but eventually had to recognise the natural progression of things begging to wind down.
There are so many ways to disguise ourselves I don’t think we even notice we’re dressing up anymore. Good art has a human point of view, which is to say it’s nuanced, complicated. It often doesn’t have a clear agenda that’s easily distilled, packaged, and sold. Flattening that perspective into something that fits neatly between the clean lines of social media has been difficult for me. Learning how to do it has changed the way I see the world, brought out ugly instincts, magnified my vanity and insecurity. The wildest part is that this sort of curation and performance is no longer reserved for people like me: Artists who pay people lots of money to convince you to listen to our music. Any fourteen-year-old on TikTok has given at least as much careful attention to their brand as I have. But the neurochemical trick these platforms play is just the latest version of a very old phenomenon. We’ve always built our identities carefully: Showing the world our good side is an intrinsic part of evolution, whether it’s holding our arms high to make the bear think we’re bigger than we are or an instagram story of our eight-car-garage. I started writing this song about Sable Starr and the baby groupie scene from the ’70s in West Hollywood. Writing about licked lips, hey sweethearts, and other abstractions of crude men is a natural place for me to write from. Like a lot of people there’s a deep well of rage to draw from there. But it morphed into a song about me, how the fucked up aspects of my industry have shaped me, how I’ve bent to the wills of people and entities I don’t trust. When the road runs out, will I be waiting around? Will I still be pretending?
A friend said to me that being in a band means never growing up. It’s easy to feel like Peter Pan on tour, all the trappings of adulthood a hundred truck stops and a thousand miles in the rearview. I started writing this song to my teenage self: a flighty, insecure kid posturing confidence. I’d jump around to all the different cliques like a self-styled Ferris Bueller, leaving just before friendships could settle in. Being on the road brought out those same old tendencies: keep it all on the level, don’t go too deep. Driving down the highway, floating through the hall/Everything is different, nothing’s changed at all.
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? © Stephanie Montani
:: Stream Ellevator ::