If you witnessed Erasure’s legendary theatrics during their sold-out 10-show run at Irving Plaza this month, your appetite was surely whet by opening act Elkland, a cute synthpop quartet from upstate New York. Created using only vintage synthesizers and drum machines, Elkland’s hooky album Golden — and its club-friendly first single “Apart” — is earning the band comparisons to Joy Electric, New Order and The Smiths. A week into the tour, frontman Jon Pierce, the group’s eldest at 23, spoke to me candidly about Erasureheads, pop passion and the price of being so damn pretty.
By Brandon Voss
HX: Tell me about your infatuation with synthpop.
Jonny Pierce: I discovered synthpop when I was 12 years old, and it’s been this huge love affair ever since. It just grabs my heart. All my favorite songs are pop songs. They’re all really simple — none of them go too deep lyrically. That is what a great pop song should be: simple lyrics, simple chord changes and a simple but memorable melody. That’s what we’re all about.
Growing up, did you take a lot of shit from friends for digging synthpop when it wasn’t exactly “cool?”
Absolutely. The whole band met at this private school and we actually divided the school. It was like the Nirvana-heads versus the Yaz-heads. We would do everything we could to piss the other side off. God bless Kurt Cobain or whatever, but I’ll side with Morrissey.
Describe Elkland’s fashion style.
Right now we’re sort of going for this vintage athletic-slash-military thing. It doesn’t even make sense, but it looks really good — kind of sporty and sexy.
Have your pretty-boy good looks caused some to dismiss you?
A lot of people automatically think “boyband” or “assembled.” It helps, though, when you want to do your thing!
’Fess up: Is there plenty of backstage preening?
[Laughs] You know, I was just talking to my manager about this face cream, La Mer — he swears by it. If I am going to be fronting this band — and hopefully it will be a long career — I want to look great. [Laughs] Yeah, we are obsessed with how we look, but we’re obsessed with pleasing ourselves more than anything. Oh my God, we went on this shopping spree this week — the label gave us the money — and they said, “We want you to be show-like, so we’re sending the stylist with you.” It just turned into this huge disaster. They wanted us to wear all of this makeup and neon green silk pants. For some people? Great. But we’re the pickiest people you’ll ever meet.
Were you an Erasure fan before the tour?
To be honest, Erasure is one band that I just never got interested in. I had never bought a CD or seen a live show until someone recently lent me a video of the Wild! tour. So we’re just watching it, looking at each other like, “Oh my God, this is a huge production. I hope we’re not dwarfed by this.” I mean, the tour had spaceships and astronauts and all of this crazy shit! But we want to be who we are and let the music speak for itself.
How have Irving Plaza audiences been responding?
Oh, man, above and beyond expectation. We thought we’d be okay, but we’re getting encores! If you’re an Erasure fan, usually you’re hardcore — there’s a lot out there. We were seeing on the Internet, “I hope there’s no opening band. I don’t want to sit through anyone to get to Erasure.” That was the overwhelming response online.
Yeah! But after the first night, all of that changed. People were freaking out — which had us freaking out. Even Andy Bell and Vince Clarke came up to us after the first show and said that we’re the best band that they’ve ever toured with in the history of Erasure. They’re really sweet guys — a lot of fun to watch. They just have a way of captivating the audience.
See many gay boys out there?
[Laughs] There are a lot! They’ve been really good to us. From day one we’ve had huge, huge gay support, and it has had a lot to do with our success. We’re definitely excited about that audience.
HX, April 2005.