Elsinore had five days until they were going to start recording their new album “Push/Pull.” The Champaign-based band had prepared, written and rehearsed new material and had reached the five-day countdown until they would hit the studio with their producer, who was flying in from Portland, Ore.
That’s when drummer and vocalist Dave Pride and bassist and vocalist Chris Eitel left Elsinore.
The band (together for eight years) split in half, leaving guitarist, songwriter and singer Ryan Groff and keyboardist Mark Woolwine behind.
It was then that Groff and Woolwine recruited drummer James Treichler and bassist Brad Threlkeld.
“We had one drummer and one bass player in mind, and they were the only guys we wanted,” Groff said.
The new members quickly learned the material, and “Push/Pull” was recorded as planned.
“That was our sign that we kept going and needed to make a record … it was this affirmation … it turned out better for everyone. It was kind of crazy it went really smoothly,” the 32- year- old Groff said.
The band initially began as a quartet of friends and musicians from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. who started writing music that followed acoustic and folk styling. Since their inception, they’ve migrated toward more rock and roll and guitar-based territory.
“It was just a phase for me as a songwriter and for us as a band,” Groff said of his initial interest in folk music. The singer/songwriter is influenced by The Beatles and pop music from the 1960s and 1970s. He’s also inspired by Arcade Fire and Radiohead, both of which he sees as pioneers in their genres.
“I let my favorites inspire me. I make it a personal challenge to try to write a better song than what I’m listening to. You have to. You have to try to be the next big thing and be better than the last song. It’s fun and a frustrating way to be a musician, but I want to do this forever, and I want to be playing to as big of as audience as possible. It’s the perfect storm.”
It’s the bands he idolizes, Groff says, that inspire him and keep him going.
“I think I just decided to embrace the fact that I want to play for as many people as possible [and] to have the most the industry can offer. It’s a pretty interesting way to have career goals. Really my only templates are my bands that I respect that are higher than we are. It’s a funny way to have someone to look up to.”
One year since the band regrouped, Elsinore is celebrating the release of their new album and touring around the country, spending time on the East Coast throughout the next month.
And yet, the quartet still finds itself influenced by the Midwest.
The name itself is reflective of the band’s Midwestern roots. “Elsinore” originates from the name of a farm in Charleston, Ill. where Groff grew up. He knew he liked the name and liked the versatility of it as a band name.
“It’s kind of amazing that the name still feels right despite the lineup change and genre change, and it looks good on T-shirts. It’s just one of those names that you feel like you’ve heard of, and maybe you have. Maybe you’re just remembering wrong.”
The band similarly continues to stay true to their Midwestern roots and is now based in Champaign-Urbana, a city Groff says has a little of “this and that” while overall being “kind of charming.” Even after a national tour that took Elsinore through several major cities including Portland, Ore., Los Angeles, Calif., and New Orleans, La., the band still calls Champaign home.
“It’s full of enough culture and it’s great to live here and feel like our needs are met musically. It has a history of great music and it’s a community that we know the other bands and it has a history of being a respected Midwest city.”
It’s not too big and it’s not too small, and it’s the perfect place to write music, according to Groff.
“It’s easy to take your time to write good music and to record it, and if we lived in a big city out of the Midwest, it would be harder to take the time because everything’s so busy and rush, rush, rush. Champaign-Urbana to me is indicative of the Midwest overall. People are supportive and kind. There’s an obvious difference.”
The band appears to be enjoying its new formation, and is taking the changes in stride. It’s a new Elsinore, but the Elsinore that people have come to know and love.
“We feel like a unit and it feels like a new band, but it’s also nice to retain the history of the first eight years. The old lineup put in a lot of time and energy and sweat into what we did, but it built this little hill for the new band to work from.”
Overall, Groff, who teaches full-time music lessons on the side, is pretty content with the “new” Elsinore thus far.
“The new band is so functional and so excited and so collaborative and so efficient, and its fun to mess around for a few hours or get down to business and you feel satisfied either way. The collaboration is the best part to have found people who want to put all their time and energy into putting music in.”
The most difficult part of being in Elsinore, then, mirrors some of the best parts. Putting in so much time and energy and meanwhile staying patient is one of the biggest challenges.
“You put in so much time and so much energy you want everything to happen now … and when it doesn’t get the amount of attention we hoped, it’s a little heartbreaking, and you have to bounce back and persevere and maintain our course. Thankfully the worst part is just a learning experience.”
Still, Elsinore has experienced longevity and popularity and has seen the release of several albums. And Groff is still shooting high. An eastbound tour is upon them, and they already have six songs ready for a new album.
“I don’t think it’s out of reality to say that we could possibly release an album late next year. It’s a testament to how well the new lineup is working together, and songs are coming out quickly. Thankfully we’re all working in the same direction and having this unified vision for our music and our sound is great. That really was the testament to the longevity of the band and the musical willpower. [Regrouping] was the true test of any band.”
It’s also not out of reality that Elsinore would play at Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo this year.
“Our sights are set on playing outdoor festivals and to 1,000-person crowds. Once you play Bonnaroo and Lolla, your Facebook and Twitter start moving and it catches on with word of mouth. There’s a grassroots aspect there.”
Until then, Elsinore is practicing and playing, now entering their ninth year as a band. And they’re only getting better.
“We know what we want to do, and we’re just going to work hard to do that. We’re always trying to take the correct steps.”