A Few Minutes With… El Modernist

During the pandemic, Albany indie rockers, El Modernist, explored the relationship between their live show and their current album in the works. So much that recent experiments in their basement studio have inspired new twists for their live show.  

“2020 treated us very well. I just think these past two years the whole world has treated artists poorly,” the boys from El Modernist told me recently over the phone. 

All too often when bands try to translate their sound from the studio to the live stage something gets lost in translation, but gathering from my conversation with El Modernist, it seems that the Albany rockers will be translating ideas from the studio to the live stage, not only without compromising their sound but tailoring it for the live experience.

The band is Will Fredette (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Will Hahn (drums), Joe DeTillio (bass), and Taylor MacMillan (lead guitar). El Modernist, as the name suggests, are a ‘modern’ indie rock band, in that they champion the evolution of the genre while keeping all the past ingredients that helped make indie what it is today. 

Photo by A. Lewis – El Modernist

“We are a blend of many modern influences and styles, and even love taking some classic sounds like 80’s drum machines, or classic rock riffs, and giving them a bolt of new life,” Will Fredette said while explaining where the name is derived. Adding, “in the vein of classic artists like the Talking Heads and The Clash, or even more modern artists like Gorillaz and Beck, we have found it refreshing to change up our sound with each new release.”

“Like our Spanglish name, we are a blend of various styles that create our new upbeat new wave experience.” Imagine a happier Joy Division. The sound is happier in that they aren’t afraid to put in a few catchy riffs and some slick grooves while maintaining that post-punk/new wave backbeat. 

The band is a democracy; they write everything together. What’s their process like? “We all enter a room, we have a cage match and we ‘sock ’em’,” Will said before adding: “We write together; if somebody has a riff, we workshop it and play it over and over again. Then we come up with a second riff, then we fight over what that second riff will be, then we do the same thing with a third one and in the end, we’re all just sitting there, all heated up because we’ve been fighting for our parts and then we play the song again.”

El Modernist will be releasing a new single called ‘New Waves’ in December, along with a music video. “We’re really excited because we haven’t done a lot of them.”

Despite this, the band was nominated for an Eddies Award for ‘Best Music Video of the Year’ this same year – the song and video in question is ‘Modernist’, a zero-budget celebration of inclusivity and diversity. It is a montage of portraits emblematic of the melting pot of Albany; people of different shapes, colors, and sizes are presented in front of a flowery-plastered wall; it is simultaneously sweet, fun, but no less substantive. “What does that say about you?/What does that say about me?” Will Fredette delivers in the refrain of the track. The song puts all people on the same footing; without the facade of a societal lens, aren’t we all the same?

In this context, El Modernist conjures up more than just their affable blend of the various intersections of indie music, but also the idea that to be ‘modern’ is to progress beyond racism, xenophobia, and misunderstanding. El Modernist’s nomination was well-earned and it goes to show you that there’s a lot of value in the power of ‘less is more’. 

“It was a fun event and it was great to see everyone in the scene and to see talent celebrated,” Fredette said in regards to the band being invited to the Eddies Music Awards ceremony, held this year at the Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs. We were really fortunate to have something nominated that was made with a zero dollar budget in our basement against the wall behind our TV.”

‘Modernist’ – El Modernist – nominated for an Eddies ‘Music Video of the Year’.

The guys have been working on their first LP, due out in early 2022. 

“We spent a whole year writing, producing. We’re working on developing a new sound – keeping our old sound man though. We have a lot of New Wave influence, classic indie dance music influence, and mixing that within the rock vibe; we’re building a bigger sound.” Of course, any artist will always tell you that their next thing will be better, otherwise, wouldn’t it be a bit concerning?

What can we expect from their next batch of songs? 

“It’s definitely not the same. It is much larger, much more polished. Not in the actual sense of it sounding polished, but just the time taken into developing each song individually, and instead of just pumping out what we play live and calling it a record,” Joe assured me. 

In addition to their record, what else can we expect from the Albany rockers? 

“We’re getting ready for a bunch of shows now; we’ve added a new twist to our live set, so we need to rehearse a lot. We’ve got a bunch of shows coming up in December,” Taylor said. 

“One is on December 11th at the Linda featuring North by North, Haley Moley, and Erie. December 18th, we’re at Lark Hall, 8 pm, in Albany.”

Listen to their latest single, ‘Lines’, and if you like it, make sure you support them by throwing them a few bucks.

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