Hamilton, Ontario-based indie rock outfit Ellevator — Nabi Sue Bersche (vocals), Tyler Bersche (guitar) and Elliott Gwynne (bass, synths) — have received attention nationally and elsewhere for a sound and approach that draws equally from late-aughts guitar music, post-rock, U2, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Feist, Spoon and Death Cab for Cutie and paired with lean, razor sharp hooksand Bersche’s earnest, pop star-like lyrics. Thematically their work touches upon power, love and loss from lived-in, personal reflections and experiences.
The Hamilton-based outfit’s self-titled EP amassed over a million streams across all of the digital streaming platforms. Adding to a growing profile, the members of Ellevator toured across North America with Our Lady Peace, Matthew Good, BANNERS, Cold War Kids, JOVM mainstay Rich Aucoin, Dear Rouge, Bishop Briggs, Arkells and Amber Run.
The Hamilton-based outfit’s long-awaited, full-length debut, the Chris Walla-produced The Words You Spoke Still Move Me is slated for a May 6, 2022 release through Arts & Crafts. The 12-song album reportedly sees the band documenting universal experiences like existential longing, romantic power struggles, the never-ending work of true self-discovery and the deeply personal and highly specific — i.e., Nabi Sue Bersche’s experiences entering into and leaving a religious cult.
In the lead-up to the album’s release next month, I’ve managed to write about two of the album’s released singles:
“Easy,” a song that revealed a band that not only making a bold decided step forward in their sound and approach, but a band embracing that they’re a rock band with a balance of deliberate craftsmanship, earnest and lived-in lyrics, enormous hooks and raw, passionate performances with a slick studio polish that reminded me of 80s pop and deDeep Sea Diver‘s impressive Impossible Weight.
“Easy” draws directly from Nabi Sue Bershe’s life: For a period of her life, the Ellevator frontwoman was a member of a religious cult, and the song is a rumination on the good and evil things we are raised to believe without question. “I was raised in the world of charismatic Christianity – an offshoot of Pentecostalism,” Ellevator’s Nabi Sue Bersche explained. “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 backward. A deep and abiding love of the natural world took hold of me. I witnessed firsthand 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.”
“Sacred Heart” continued a run of slickly produced yet dramatic, radio rock with enormous, arena rock-like hooks, earnest and lived-in lyrics that to my ears reminds me of John Mellencamp, Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks” and Stevie Nicks, thank sin part to an expansive arrangement featuring slashing power chords, twinkling keys and Nabi Sue Bersche’s yearning vocals. “Sacred Heart” details swooning and urgent young love in its gutlessness, passion, fearlessness and uncertainty.
“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, “Ellevator’s Nabi Sue Bersche explains. “Ty [Tyler Bersche] (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.”
The Words You Spoke Still Move Me‘s latest single “Party Trick” is a slow-burning and atmospheric ballad that manages to accurately captures the insecurity, anxiety and flightiness of a young person still figuring out who they are and what they are; so they spend their time adopting and discarding identities, interests and beliefs until they maybe find something that suits them. While drawing from personal experience, the song captures a universal experience.
“A friend said to me that being in a band means never growing up,” Ellevator’s Nabi Sue Bersche says in press notes. “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.”