The Ellie Badge released a surprise album today, Friday, September 4th. The album, LIVE at Growlers in 2019!, marks the band’s first release of a live recording. When, on a phone call with frontman Jeremiah Matthews, I suggested all the band needs to do now is release a double-length concept album, Matthews laughs and says he has a rock opera in the works.
“It was about a year ago, when we opened for Listener and ’68,” Matthews says of the recording, noting that the band pushed themselves into “heavier,” more bombastic sonic territory — Listener and ’68 are both on the more face-melting side of the music spectrum. So fans of Matthews’ solo shows, defined by his proficiency with guitar and keyboard loops and his clear, angelic vocal delivery, might be in for something of a surprise. To help achieve the desired sonic intensity, the setlist was taken primarily from The Ellie Badge’s newest full-length release, Horse Stories + Personal Fables. “It’s four songs from the newest record and two from the record before that,” Matthews says.
LIVE at Growlers was recorded by Josh “Baby J” McKemey. It was mixed by Jim Gray and mastered by Joel Mariani of Endless Bummer Records out of Boston, Massachusetts. Endless Bummer has put out two of Matthews’ earlier releases, but that’s not the only reason he picked Gray and Mariani to mix and master the record: “Any money they raise off of any of their music stuff, they donate to BLM.”
The album is available via the band’s Bandcamp page, and Matthews hopes proceeds from the sales will help fund his next recording project, a pair of dual EPs. “The first Friday of every month, they waive their fee,” Matthews says of Bandcamp. “Hopefully we can raise a little money to record when everything’s calmed down.”
LIVE at Growlers serves another purpose: It’s something of a placeholder for The Ellie Badge, who have been dormant during the coronavirus pandemic. “I haven’t really seen any of them,” the songwriter says of his bandmates. “I’ve been writing a ton, I’ve been demoing at home. I have my drums set up, and I’m recording live drums. I’m just writing as much as I can so [we’ll be ready] when we can safely be together again.”
The players on the live record are Matthews on guitar and vocals, Eli Wilson on guitar and backing vocals, Wyatt Braden on bass and backing vocals, and Patrick Curran on drums. Matthews says the album represents an end of an era, in a way. It marks the last recording with Wilson, who has since moved to Knoxville. “This is the only live stuff we’ve ever released.”