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Crooked Elm Creeping to Morgantown Scene

By Staff | Jul 15, 2008

When people think of West Virginia music, often they usually think of country and bluegrass. Little do they know there is a thriving punk rock scene happening in their own backyard. One of the best up and coming bands hailing from Morgantown is Crooked Elm. Starting as a traditional punk band playing covers of their favorite artists, Crooked Elm has transformed into a very original and refreshing psychobilly sound. I had the chance to sit down with these ruffians and talk about punk, image, stand up basses and the music scene in general. 

Graffiti: How long have you guys been playing seriously as a band?

Fish: We’ve been a band since January of 2006 or 2007.

Graffiti:  How did the band form?

Fish: Dylan, our lead singer and Josh, our guitar player had written two or three songs together that past winter in our hometown of Elkins. They were these gnarled creepy punk rock songs that I effin’ loved the first time I had heard them. We all eventually ended up in Morgantown so of course we all wanted to play music together. Dylan, Josh and I have always had amazing band chemistry together, so of course we went straight for the guitars and started just jamming out. Geoff Wells was my roommate at the time and a badass bass player so we all just started jamming together on the three gnarly punk rock songs and then Crooked Elm was born.

Graffiti: Tell us about the song writing process, lyrics and music.

Fish: Josh Lang is a riff master. He’s always coming up with stuff that always blows our minds the first time we hear it. We usually go from there to adding Dylan or Josh’s lyrics, whatever works better with the feel of the song. Sometimes they let me throw together a song or two. Our styles are all really different but they flow along the same lines as the psychobilly and punk vibes. Dylan writes more from a horror-movie perspective, like bats and vampires and cool stuff like that. Josh is the soul of Crooked Elm, so he writes more from his personal life experiences and all the hardships we can all relate to. Myself, I try to take from both their styles and whip up something with a different flavor. We all contribute to the whole process and it works out pretty well.

Graffiti:  You guys used to play with a regular electric bass and now you have an upright. How has that changed your sound?

Fish: The electric bass was more of a “convenience for now” sort of thing. Dylan pretty much knew from the get-go that he wanted an upright bass in the band. To be totally honest I was the only one in the band who had doubts about adding a stand up bass. I just didn’t want people to pigeon hole our music into just another psychobilly band. I didn’t want them to think we were using it as a gimmick to or some cheap way of getting attention. As far as sound, it has its own percussion element to it and the bass has a whole different feel to it and people love watching Geoff rock out on the bass. So it worked out just fine and now I think it’s pretty cool too.

Graffiti: You guys are obviously a punk band, but that covers a wide spectrum of music. How would you describe your take on punk?

Fish: We’ve all been listening to Bad Religion, NOFX, Rancid, Pennywise and Social Distortion, all the good healthy staples of a good punk kid’s repertoire, since we were teenagers. In about late 2000, 2001 I discovered a band, Tiger Army, and the crazy style that they were playing called psychobilly. The back of the Epitaph catalog described it as searing punk rock mixed with old school rockabilly, so I just had to hear it. The other guys discovered the psychobilly sound a few years later and it kind of just sucked us all in. We take from awesome punk bands like Rancid and Social Distortion and mix in a little psychobilly flavor and try to come up with something completely different but still stand out with that Crooked Elm edge. Basically we just want to make music that a skater punk can listen to and appreciate just as much as an Elvis fan.

Graffiti: When can we expect a full CD and release party?

Fish: We’re going into BeBop Studios this summer, right here in town to record three or four brand new songs and maybe re-record some older tunes. We rushed ourselves on our first recording and you can definitely tell when you listen to it. It was rushed for financial reasons and time constraints due to us being flat broke all the time. Jimmy and Tommy, from BeBop studios, are really great guys to work with and they put up with a lot from us. So expect something in Fall 2008. Our good friends in The Revisionists are talking of doing a Split EP and covering each other’s songs; sounds like a lot of fun, looking forward to that too.

Graffiti: What do you think about the Morgantown music scene in terms of venues and camaraderie with other bands?

Fish: Ya knowÉ we haven’t gotten a chance to play with half the local bands that we want to so I’m not sure how I can really sum this one up. We’ve played multiple shows with The Flying Hellfish, The Revisionists and Hogblast — all some quality dudes and fun to play shows with. Joe Dio and Tim Buckman from STDio are always involved in some crazy metal project — always entertaining and brutal. So Morgantown does have some juicy tidbits to offer. Crooked Elm is looking forward to playing more shows with different bands. Just contact us!

Graffiti: You guys have played all ages shows at 123; how do they differ from a late night alcohol-fueled type of show?

Fish: The all ages shows are always great because when 70 kids show up to a bar and they know they can’t drink that means they’re only there for one thing, and that’s to get down and mosh their asses off. And that’s awesome. And then there are the ones who come to get hammered drunk and listen to ANY live music. Drunk people are always fun to play for because they’re so pumped and ready to go insane. Even a straight edge band would have to admit that. So I guess you try to focus on both elements and have fun that way.

Graffiti: Where can people get info on you guys as far as news and upcoming shows?

Fish: Definitely hit us up on myspace, www.myspace.com/crookedelm.  All shows and news are always up there. Stop by and leave us a comment or a message or whatever tickles your pickle. We always want to know what’s on your mind.

Thanks to everyone who has given our music a chance, came to the shows, sang along and had a good sense of humor over the past year! Thanks guys.

Contact Julie at jgoldberg@graffitiwv.com