“Hopeful, Sad, & Reminiscent”: Inside the Warm Wonder of elkyn’s Debut Album ‘holy spirit social club’

elkyn © Stewart Baxter
elkyn © Stewart Baxter
A vulnerable and radiantly raw experience, elkyn’s debut album ‘holy spirit social club’ sees the Leeds singer/songwriter shining like never before as he dwells in the depths of reflection, reverie, and connection.
Stream: “talon” – elkyn

Leeds singer/songwriter elkyn has long been a purveyor of intimate indie folk warmth and wonder: His achingly honest songwriting and soothing sound can’t help but feel like a tender caress of the soul – and while his debut album is irrefutably true to form, it’s also an undeniable evolution. A vulnerable and radiantly raw experience, holy spirit social club sees elkyn shining like never before as he dwells in the depths of reflection, reverie, and connection. Blending the dark and the light, this album is a multicolored haze: A welcome blanket of rich emotion and contemplative music ready to soundtrack our daydreams and rainy nights.

holy spirit social club - elkyn
holy spirit social club – elkyn
Come complaining to me
Say I don’t feel this week
Feel meaningless but least
We can stay here till we sleep
Lost figuring it out
I miss being a kid
All of it, my years feel arid
Why now? Dreams so lucid
’cause God, your bruise now livid

Released March 18, 2022 via Tambourine Machine Records / Curation Records, holy spirit social club arrives this spring as elkyn’s soothing debut album. The project by York-born artist Joseph Donnelly, elkyn has made a quick name for himself over the past year. The artist debuted in 2020 with an EP that continues to sweep listeners off their feet.

In a feature published last year, Atwood Magazine described elkyn’s Beech EP as refined, yet unadulterated – a subtle and understated indie folk record of the times replete with scenes of loneliness and longing, wonder and wandering. “Stripped-down yet so full of life, Beech is an honest outpouring of honesty in one of its most humbling, sincerest forms. elkyn is laid bare in songs that take our breath away through their sheer fragility and gut-wrenching humility – a product of soft singing, soothing finger-picking, dulcet piano work, a willingness to live with imperfections, and more. This music is human.”

“elkyn’s uniquely visceral and vulnerable performances have a special way of packing emotion into small and vast spaces,” we wrote in naming him one of Atwood Magazine’s 2021 Artists to WatchAtwood further lauded the artist’s followup single “if only it was alright now” as not only a gorgeous and swift return, but also a “dramatic slow-burning song that once again knocks us off balance, only to steady us anew.” A year later, holy spirit social club sees Donnelly making good on the promise of his earlier work with a sweeping twelve-track record brimming with introspective charm and exposed, uncompromising intimacy. Teaming up with producer Mark Gustafson at Nave Studios, his new songs are more dressed-up than ever before, incorporating a greater range of colors and timbres while remaining true to elkyn’s acoustic folk core.

elkyn © Stewart Baxter
elkyn © Stewart Baxter

“It’s been a massive rollercoaster doing this record but at the end of it, it’s one of the best things I’ve done,” elkyn tells Atwood Magazine. “It’s the first time I’ve worked with a producer before and I thought I’d really struggle with it. Everything I write feels so personal to me and bringing someone into my own head and own little world of writing was kinda scary but working with Mark has been an absolute dream. We’ve clicked musically straight away and he’s taken my music and blown it up into something so much more beautiful than I ever thought it could be.”

“Pretty much all of the album was made over lockdown and over zoom calls, until we got into the studio to record everything, and it was real hard. I don’t want to make the whole process sound really glamorous because I feel like it’ll detract from how wonderful the album is to me now. We worked on old songs I’d been sitting on for a while and fleshed them out. We wrote some from the ground up from little ideas I hadn’t done anything with and one we left most of it to write in the studio. I honestly didn’t have a vision going into it. I didn’t know what to expect writing with someone else, but the vision came together quite quickly. Mark’s done this a lot before so his guidance through all the pre-production really helped create what ‘holy spirit social club’ is now. I think Mark’s involvement in the spacial audio / Dolby Atmos stuff definitely set up the vision for how the album would be consumed, ’cause it really is something else in Atmos.”

“I think it’s just pretty straight forward to where I’m at, what I think, some of the things I’ve struggled with,” he adds. “And all the work I’ve done with Mark in fleshing out the tracks and making them sound 100 times bigger than they were originally just kinda hits those feelings home I think.”

elkyn © Stewart Baxter
elkyn © Stewart Baxter

elkyn’s album title is a nod to the space in which it was conceived. “We recorded the album at The Nave in Leeds, which used to be an old church where they hosted the ‘holy spirit social club.’ They had pictures up of the old building before it was renovated, and one of the pictures was the old door – and that’s the picture we’ve used for the album cover. The back of the record was the inside of The Nave. I just thought it was a pretty cool album name; I liked the idea of people talking about the album as a club and a community kinda thing.”

Highlights abound throughout this tender tempest: Elkyn captures our attention from the second his album starts with opening track “change,” a seductive gust of lyrical longing and atmospheric enchantment. “‘change’ was the biggest highlight for me,” the artist says. “Everything about it just felt right. Writing it, bringing it to Mark, recording it in the studio, it was just a lovely experience hearing that go from me and a guitar to the ethereal, folky, big orchestral track it is now. I felt the same for all the tracks but ‘change’ is just a favorite.”

Other notable tracks include the driving rock song “talon,” the beautifully captivating “last night,” the cinematic outpouring “this is the end” (which gives off strong Parachutes-era Coldplay vibes), and the album’s lead single “found the back of the tv remote.”

Wistful, soft, and lost in reflection, “found the back of the tv remote” dwells in the intimate depths of loss and longing: Reckoning with feelings of distance and longing, loss and imbalance, elkyn sounds more self-assured than ever on a particularly full-bodied arrangement that adds a fresh splash of color, depth, and emotional nuance to his inner outpouring. He shines upon a bed of pulsing drums, tender guitars, and glistening piano chords, singing an impassioned, heart-on-sleeve chorus:

I was close, we were living it
Something caught on
Why’d i have to quit
Now I know you were everything
Dial it all back and i’ll fix it
Caught up waitin when
I had then, had it then
Wasted failing, dead again
Dead again

As for his own favorite lyrics, elkyn cites four lines that resonate particularly strong with him:

Don’t say it’s the end yet. Thought this weight could waste away, was it worth it?” – verse 1, “this is the end”
wish i’d stayed late, seen this ending. Thrown away my days sedate that caught me bleeding” – verse 2, “this is the end”
wasted, alone, found the back of the tv remote. Not faded, but close, still remember the little jokes. Missin’, i know, watched back all those videos” – verse 1, “found the back of the tv remote”
Roll a cigarette, crack a beer, am i man yet?” – “change”
elkyn © Stewart Baxter
elkyn © Stewart Baxter

holy spirit social club is vast, yet insular: It’s an immersive world unto itself that will soak you up and spit you out, inevitably leaving you better than you were before.

From end to end, elkyn’s debut is the kind of magical album you can get lost in, while losing yourself in the process: Seeing him process everything from love and loss to growth and gain, these songs prove an enriching, absorptive, and cathartic journey of the soul.

“I hope people can relate, enjoy it, use it, whatever really,” elkyn shares. “I think because it is quite personal I’d like it to help. As long as it makes someone happy I’m all good. I honestly just want to go out and play it, I want to go and record again then play that and keep going as long as I can.” Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside elkyn’s holy spirit social club EP with Atwood Magazine as Joey Donnelly goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his debut album!

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:: stream/purchase holy spirit social club here ::
Stream: ‘holy spirit social club’ – elkyn

:: Inside holy spirit social club ::

holy spirit social club - elkyn

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Change is about my old house (which the first EP is named after) where I grew up. It’s about the times I’ve walked past to remind myself of it, feeling lost, looking at myself now and not liking who I am. Ultimately it’s about not knowing what it means to be a “man”.


I started writing TV remote after a break up which left me not knowing what to do with myself. I wanted to juxtapose the pretty defeating moments next to the little wins even though they seem pretty small in comparison, like “wasted, alone. Found the back of the TV remote”. There’s a lot about regretting pushing the people away that have been good to me running through the song.


Big ole cheesy love song.


            I honestly can’t remember what I wrote this about. (i’ll keep thinking)


Talon’s about being thrown a bit more into adulthood and trying to form different relationships. It’s from a perspective from me now after finishing uni and the years before feeling pretty meaningless now. The song starts off from a place of feeling comfortable with someone whilst being pretty uncomfortable with everythings else going on. Then moves onto losing that from not being able to speak or communicate anything and doing the classic of just pushing everything away instead.


This is about a rainy gig i played in manchester as elk (when i used to be called elk). I invited someone and didn’t expect them to show up and when they did i shied away from them for most of it. We had a big catch up outside over a cigarette outside but when i left i realised how much i’d missed them.


I wrote this for a friend who moved to Switzerland a few years ago, and I still miss him dearly.


            This is about the last night i spent with an old friend where everything felt like it was right for the first time in a long time. I knew it’d be kinda pointless because i wouldn’t see them again and would probably just be more difficult for me but I did it anyway.


I’ve been sat on this song for a long time, but it was nice to revisit it last year and change it up because it ended up with a new verse. The first verse is an oldie I wrote a good few years ago. It was when someone got in touch with me when I thought I’d finally got over some things, and them bringing all those big feelies back by reaching out. Then that instant feeling of being completely lost again. The second verse was the new one i wrote when we were writing the album. It’s kind of a fast forward to recent times looking back on it. The third was right back to an old verse about being confused and hurt.


I wrote this in third year around the same time as something. It shares a lot of meaning with found the back of a tv remote with the pushing people away part. “Listen, you’re speaking full of it” is an inner dialogue kinda thing about not thinking things through, then saying and making decisions I regret.


            Just about a lotta mental health things.

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:: stream/purchase holy spirit social club here ::

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holy spirit social club - elkyn

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? © Stewart Baxter 

Leeds’ elkyn Debuts with Tender, Bittersweet Indie Folk on Beautiful ‘Beech’ EP


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