Into the Groove — Berninger Embraces Funky Side with EL VY’s ‘Return to the Moon’

I quickly grabbed a pen and scribbled down “The National” on a piece of scrap paper in my grape purple music room.

I looked at the name with a quizzical expression and said to my brother, “Who are they?”

“You just need to check them out. They’re an awesome band,” he said.

Five years ago, my brother affectionately dubbed me his musical “Padawan” since he was a “Jedi Master” teaching me in the ways of indie music.

It was part of his mission to convert me to an indie music fan, and it was working. After three Bonnaroos and two Lollapaloozas, I was getting closer to becoming an indie music “Jedi Master.”

My musical curiosity grew exponentially in 2010, and that’s when I first picked up The National’s “High Violet” album. With the songs, “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” “Terrible Love,” “Anyone’s Ghost” and “Afraid of Everyone,” the album quickly became one of my favorites.

Matt Berninger’s haunting vocals and lyrics coupled with the Dessner twins’ and Devendorf brothers’ musical mastery is an idyllic combination in the indie rocker world.

Whether they’re singing about secret meetings in their brains, being half awake in fake empires or being held in the arms of cheerleaders, their music whetted my appetite for experiencing a more “intellectual” sound.

What I love about The National is that they’re well known enough to headline festivals (think St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival in Rochester Hills, Mich. in 2013), but they maintain just enough independence to fly under the musical radar.

Matt Berninger still soars under the radar with The National, but takes his talent to new heights with EL VY, a new side project with Brent Knofp from Menomena and Ramona Falls.

The duo released a new track last week called, “Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, With Crescendo),” which features funky guitars, disco beats and handclaps.

It’s quite a departure from Berninger’s dark, dreary approach on most of his National songs. I’m proud to welcome the groovier side of Berninger with EL VY.

The song opens with a National-esque lyric and Berninger singing in his signature baritone:

“Scratched a ticket with a leg of a cricket and I got a triple Jesus.”

Those lyrics make me laugh and instantly dance in my car to the song.

Two of my other favorite lines in the song reference parks in his hometown of Cincinnati:

“Don’t make me wait for you at the corner of Eden Park/Don’t make me wait for you at the Serpentine wall.”

It makes me wonder why Berninger shudders at the thought be being left at these two spots in the song.

Berninger mentioned in a recorded interview on SiriusXMU that he traded bits of music with Knopf and called the project “The Moon.” Hence, the reference stuck with the album’s name and title track.

EL VY’s new album, Return to the Moon, will be released on Oct. 30 on 4AD, and their tour will kick off Nov. 2 at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Ore.

I picked up a pair of tickets to EL VY’s Nov. 20 show at the Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee last week. I can’t wait to pick up the new album and check out their upcoming live show.

We’ll see if Berninger can get his groove on with EL VY.

10 thoughts on “Into the Groove — Berninger Embraces Funky Side with EL VY’s ‘Return to the Moon’

  1. Some of the best music these days is coming from independents outside of the music industry and reality pop shows. I think it has to do with the fact they are free to write and play to their own tune, not someone esle’s.
    Love your Star wars phrasing. 😉

    1. Most of my favorite music comes from independent artists. Their insightful lyrics and innovative instrumentation is refreshing in an era of repetitive, money-making pop hits.

    1. Thanks for your nice comments. My brother and I grew up loving Star Wars, so that’s why we use the Jedi Master-Padawan reference. As for The National, I would recommend checking out their latest album, “Trouble Will Find Me.” Great stuff. Happy listening!

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