Possibly 4th Street: Say Hi (f/k/a Say Hi To Your Mom)

This is #10 of Rob Trucks's "Possibly 4th Street" expositions, a regular column in which he invites musicians he likes to perform live and impromptu somewhere in New York City. Peruse the rest of them here.

Say Hi play the Bowery Ballroom this Sunday, March 2, with Illinois, Meowskers, and the Postelles. Tickets still available here.


Yes, that is a bandmate holding an amp in front of his face; photo by Rob Trucks

Possibly 4th Street

Episode 10, Part One
Say Hi
Text and photos by Rob Trucks

In a way, of course, every album is a fresh start, a new beginning, a chance to break open the seal on a figurative carton of milk without worrying exactly why it turns bad three days earlier in New York City.

And so it is for Say Hi’s Eric Elbogen.

On the first Saturday in November, approximately seven days after the initial advances of his upcoming disc The Wishes and the Glitch are first placed in the mail, a new supporting cast—drummer Westin Glass and bassist Sam Collins—accompany Elbogen on his current tour stop through the land of early expirated dairy.

An even bigger shift is the name of Elbogen’s band. Terribly tired of stale mother jokes, Elbogen recently shortened the somewhat breathy moniker Say Hi to Your Mom to just Say Hi.

“The whole band name to begin with,” he says, “was somewhat of an experiment. It was a poor choice on my part. “I considered, actually, starting an entirely new band name, but I wasn’t brave enough to do that. As DIY and indie rock as people like to think bands are, I do this for a living and I was too scared to take that leap.”

But one immensely major move Elbogen was not afraid to make was a move all the way cross country. The former Brooklyn resident now calls Seattle home, and Wishes is the first Say Hi album recorded west of the Mississippi River. In a very real sense it is Eric Elbogen’s first album born outside of New York.

Whereas its’ predecessor, the delightfully charming Impeccable Blahs, concerned itself with the plight of “everyday vampires” (not a huge leap for a songwriter whose favorite television show is “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Wishes, definitely, does not. As in the liner notes explicitly state, “This record is not about vampires.” But if not vampires . . .

“A lot of it,” Elbogen says of his latest work, “is about my move and my sort of changing a lot of things in my life and starting afresh in a different city with different people and different ideas and goals.”

Yes, I see. An explanation unmistakably murky enough as to hint at a story of hurt and heartbreak.

“Well,” Elbogen says, “there’s a heartbreak story in every piece of art. “But yeah, there’s a relationship that sort of was about to end before I moved.”

But just about seven years ago, Elbogen’s situation was just about reversed. A year and a half after graduating from UCLA, Elbogen, a West Coast native, visited New York and made a decision.

“I just absolutely fell in love with the city,” he says, “and within two months I had sold my car and a bunch of my music equipment and bought a plane ticket and just moved. Which was probably the most important thing I’ve done. And it was after that move that I sort of figured out what kind of songs I wanted to write and made the first Say Hi record.”

Three more albums, including Impeccable Blahs, all conceived in New York, followed.

“After seven years,” he says, “I don’t know . . . there was a lot going on. I just felt like I needed to change the pace of my life a little bit.

“New York is amazing. I think it’s probably the most amazing city in the world, but it’s very hectic to live here and I was just sort of tired of not being able to park my van on the street and living in close quarters, and the Pacific Northwest was sort of always a breath of fresh air when we would tour there, and so I was just starting to think about moving. My discomfort with the quality of life and some other stuff, some relationship stuff, sort of all of that hit at once and it just made sense for me to move. For a while. Indefinitely.

“I still love this city. I wish I could afford to have homes on both coasts and come here when I wanted to and leave when I wanted to. I may move back at some point, but for the time being I’m actually very, very happy in Seattle.”

Even if, for now at least, it’s a city that’s vampire free.

"NORTHWESTERN GIRLS"

Possibly 4th Street
Episode 10, Part 2
Say Hi
by Rob Trucks

Who:
Drummer Westin Glass (shyly holding the amp in front of his face), bassist Sam Collins (taking respite on the bench behind) and keyboardist/singer Nouela Johnston. Plus Eric Elbogen, who is pretty much the mastermind behind the musical idea called Say Hi.

When:
Late afternoon, November 3, 2007

Where:
Columbus Park in Chinatown

Songs performed:
“Northwestern Girls,” the single from Say Hi’s recently released Wishes and Glitches disc, and “These Fangs” from Impeccable Blahs.

Something Eric Elbogen has never ever done:
“Skydiving.”

Something Elbogen has once and once time only:
“Running with the bulls.”

A book he’s read at least twice:
“I don’t think I’ve actually read a book twice. I’m not a book kind of guy. I have been thinking about reading Infinite Jest again because it’s been a few years and that’s probably my favorite novel.”

A movie he’s seen at least three times:
The Big Lebowski.

Do you own a rake?
“I inherited one when I moved into my duplex.”

Was there an occasion in your career where you might’ve taken a guitar or even a little Casio and played outside in order obtain either money or the attention of young women?
“Um, that was very much me in college. I used to, to the dismay of many of the other residents of my dorm building, stand outside of a building most days playing guitar. Mostly for the latter, to attain the attention of young women. But, you know, I think moreso in high school I went through that phase where we would be at a house party and there would be a guitar laying around and some of us who played songs would trade off and play songs for everyone.

“And that’s very, very much not me anymore. I have become more shy in certain senses. I’m comfortable being at home making the music, and occasionally comfortable up on a stage if the moon is right and there are people there and they seem into it and the band is playing well and the mix onstage is good. Then it’s a lot easier for me to not be shy, but most times the stars aren’t quite aligned like that and it can range anywhere from discomfort to excruciating pain.”

Was Wishes at least a fun record to make?
“It was fun to make. Making a record is always insanely frustrating as well, but the overall feeling I get once I get the final mastered version back brings me more joy than anything else.”

What do you miss most about Brooklyn?
“Not needing a car to get around.”

Say Hi play the Bowery Ballroom this Sunday, March 2, with Illinois, Meowskers, and the Postelles. Tickets still available here.



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