A nice selection of our Euro-friends make up today’s Headline Act. Elmar takes us through the formation and music of the eclectic act eloaħ…
Simple things first – where are you guys from?
Greetings, I’m Elmar, an Austrian currently residing in the Netherlands. Likewise, our band comprises both Austrian and Dutch musicians. Orion (electric guitar), Peter (bass guitar), and Johan (drums) are Dutch, while Lila (vocals) and Dominik (saxophone and violin) hail from Austria.
How did you meet?
Dominik is one of my dearest friends and the sole remaining founding member in the band. Our musical journey began in 1994 in Graz. When I relocated to the Netherlands in 2008, I initially feared that this might mark the end of the band or at the very least a prolonged hiatus. I didn’t know any musicians in my new surroundings. However, it seemed fate had other plans, as a series of remarkable coincidences quickly brought me together with my new bandmates. At that time, we, the “original band”, had just released “Ode to Brother Horn”, and I eagerly shared these CDs with my new colleagues at work and fellow members of my kendo dojo in Groningen. The reception was exceptionally positive. One day, a fellow kendoka, who is no longer active in kendo, asked if I was in search of a talented guitarist, as she knew someone who would appreciate our music. This is how I crossed paths with Orion. Simultaneously, at my workplace, one of my superiors inquired if I was on the lookout for a skilled drummer, as he happened to know one. And thus, I was introduced to Johan van der Meer. Orion later introduced me to Peter, and Lila, who is my spiritual teacher’s spouse, also expressed interest in collaborating. So, in a sense, the band almost assembled itself, and it has proven to be the most extraordinary musical ensemble I’ve had the privilege to be a part of.
How long have you been playing as a band?
I have been playing with Orion and Johan since 2008; Lila and Peter joined a few years later, and the line-up has remained the same since 2016.
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
No worries at all, I don’t mind discussing it. In a way, I’d describe this story as typically Austrian. Back in 1995, during the recording of my first demo, my late friend and mentor, Bernd Felsberger, who had a home studio, asked for a name for the recordings. I suggested to think it over, as I couldn’t make up my mind regarding what to call both him, Dominik, and me (essentially, “the band” in 1995). Bernd had a suggestion, something along the lines of “Project Elmar,” but I wasn’t keen on that idea because I didn’t want it to revolve solely around me; it needed to be a collaborative effort. So, I proposed “eloah”. I had come across this term while reading about the Old Testament, where God was often referred to in the plural as “Elohim”, which could loosely translate to “the ones coming from above”. The singular form, which isn’t used in the Bible as far as I know, would theoretically be “eloah”.
On a different level, the way I wrote (and still write) songs felt like they were “coming” to me, as if they were originating from somewhere beyond me. So, “comes from above”, a loose translation of “eloah”, seemed to fit well with the band, especially since we primarily played songs I had written, and, at least in my experience, they seemed to come from, well, somewhere—so why not “above”? I suggested to Bernd that we use “eloah” as a temporary name.
Later, during the recording sessions of our first album, Just Blood, Bernd recommended that we make the name somewhat distinctive, like adding dots on the ‘e,’ for instance. I pondered this idea while I was studying for a physics exam at the university, which involved learning about the reduced Planck constant, ħ, something I found quite fascinating. So, I replaced the ‘h’ in “eloah” with “ħ”, and that’s how it became what it is today. The quintessentially Austrian aspect of this whole story is that I made a preliminary choice wholeheartedly, and it ended up becoming the permanent solution.
What are your influences?
This is indeed an intriguing question, and the response varies significantly for each of us because we each hail from diverse corners of the musical universe. If I were to provide you with a list of our favorite bands, it would illustrate the breadth of influences that you might discern in our music. Here are some of our favorites: Savatage, Walela, Clannad, Winger, Frank Zappa, Etienne Mbappe, Deacon Blue, and Prince (formerly known as TAFKAP).
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
Any band that writes their own music is somewhat unique, in my opinion. In our case, our music may be unique because it’s a fusion of the various genres and influences that reflect our diverse backgrounds and individual experiences. Furthermore, we’re constantly pushing the boundaries of what our music can be. Our lyrics are deeply personal, and they touch on universal themes that often resonate with people from all walks of life. Ultimately, what might set our music apart is our willingness to take risks in order to create something that’s truly our own.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
Honestly, it’s anything that stirs my emotions. So, naturally, you’ll often encounter songs that touch on themes like love, personal struggles, spirituality, and occasionally even political issues, though those are in the minority. It’s always an enjoyable journey for me to discover the meaning of a new song because when I begin writing the first line of new lyrics, I often have no inkling about what the song will eventually convey. Take, for instance, the song “Caterpillar.” When I penned the line “If I were a caterpillar crawling up an apple tree,” I had no idea that it would evolve into a spiritual song centered around inner transformation through love. But it did, and it was a thrilling experience to witness the song taking shape.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
During the band’s early days in the late 90s through the early 2000s, we performed at various bars in Austria, often in front of audiences numbering in the hundreds, and I found that experience highly enjoyable. With the new lineup, we haven’t had the opportunity to perform live yet, as our focus has been primarily on recording. This is partly due to the fact that everyone in the band also maintains at least one other day job or participates in other musical projects, and composing and recording serves as a creative outlet for me. Furthermore, each member of the band is actively involved in live performances with other groups. On occasion, I do engage in solo live performances. For instance, I played an improvised piano piece during the presentation of a video featuring a total solar eclipse at a science and art fusion event held at the planetarium in The Hague last year.
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
I play a Samick classical semi-acoustic guitar, a Yamaha semi-acoustic western guitar, and a Schimmel piano, and for live shows I still use my old Shure SM-58 microphone. Orion’s primary electric guitar is a 1981 Gibson Les Paul Custom (Black Beauty), which he has customized for his style of playing rock and metal music, his amplifier of choice is a Marshall JCM 800 2205 50-Watt head from the early ’80s. Occasionally, he uses a Rocktron Tri-wah pedal and a Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner for on-stage tuning. Peter plays a Yamaha RBX bass guitar, and Johan plays Tama drums, Paiste cymbals, Evans drumheads and Promark Sticks.
What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?
At the moment, we are promoting our latest album Proud to Love You, a collection of soft rock and love songs, with our latest single “Caterpillar”. You can find them on any major platforms, including Spotify.
What are your plans for the next 6 months or so?
We are currently hard at work in the studio on two upcoming albums. Firstly, we’re in the midst of recording bass guitar and electric guitar parts for our forthcoming album, The Book of Pain. This album promises to be our most intense, heavy, and fastest release to date, featuring a collection of rock songs that delve into various aspects of pain and how to confront it. In addition, I’m collaborating with our drummer, Johan, on the drum tracks for our subsequent album, which is yet to be titled. This album will offer a diverse range of musical styles, including gospel-inspired songs, hymns, and even some rap elements.
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
Haha, well, I’m fully aware that asking any of my band members to perform two sets with two different bands is quite a demanding proposition, and I would not ask them to do that. However, I am happy to indeed use this opportunity to promote some exceptional musical acts: For instance, it would be a dream to share the stage with the remarkable melodic rock band Maestro, featuring Orion and Peter. Another exciting prospect would be opening for LiLa y Geckos, the fantastic Spanish/South American style band led by Lila. Additionally, performing alongside Metalbats (formerly known as Vortex), which also features Orion, would be a tremendous experience.
If you want to check out more new music, then fire up our Headline Act playlists on Spotify and YouTube!