‘We always search for clarity & not obscurity’

Vancouver three-piece Elias took some time to talk to the Journal about crowds, classes, the CASBYs and Coldplay before embarking on their latest Canadian tour

Elias cite bands like Muse and Radiohead as unyielding sources of inspiration for their reverberating grooves.
Elias cite bands like Muse and Radiohead as unyielding sources of inspiration for their reverberating grooves.

Upon asking Robert Turnroos, the lead guitarist of Vancouver-based indie rock group Elias, about the origins of their band name, he replied “Well, I don’t want to spoil the film for you, but he dies at the end.” Their unique moniker comes from the character Elias, the passionate sergeant in the 1986 Academy Award winning war film Platoon. Sadly the character is shot multiple times to the chest and left for dead.

“The message is sometimes the good guys don’t always win,” Turnroos said.

Elias formed in 2005, recording their first self-titled EP in 2006. The band consists of Turnroos, lead singer and pianist Brian Healy and drummer Stefan Tavares.

Despite only being on the music scene for a few years, they have already established themselves as an up-and-coming band to watch. Their single “I Hear Drums” has been heard on the hit television show Degrassi and their new single “Thousand Pieces” is already getting repeated plays on the airwaves. Their most popular single “All We Want” is a dark, Muse-like anthem with unique riffs.

Turnroos resides in Langley, Vancouver and has been playing guitar since his early teens.

“I was always known as the guy who was really good at guitar,” Turnroos said.

He said he took a few music classes in high school, but was mostly self-taught. Finding that classes were mostly theory-based, he decided not to pursue post-secondary education.

“I wasn’t very good at anything else,” Turnroos said with a laugh. “With guitar, it fell into place. I hope everyone can find that thing that they’re good at.”

Elias broke up for a short period and during that hiatus received an offer for a record deal with Wax Labels. Unlike Sergeant Elias, the band was resuscitated and quickly signed the deal.

An upcoming show on Sept. 30 at the Kool Haus is a defining one for the band as they’ve been nominated for two CASBY (Canadian Artists Selected By You) Awards. Shortly after nominations were announced in August, the band took to their myspace to share their excitement gushing, “These are a big deal and mean a lot to us.” The nomination is a huge accomplishment as they’ve been placed in the same category as already established acts Broken Social Scene, Hot Hot Heat and Tokyo Police Club.

Musically, their biggest influences are the Beatles, Coldplay, Muse and Radiohead. Upon hearing Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin singing on Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, Tornroos said he “could almost cry, it was such a beautiful sound.” The exciting, lyrical and expressive message they seek to convey in their music is out in full force in their new album, Lasting Distraction, especially in songs like “All We Want,” a reverberating track that earned Elias heavy rotation on top Toronto rock station 102.1 The Edge this summer.

When it comes to writing lyrics, Turnroos explained that one of them will bring something they wrote on their own to the table or they will play around with raw sounds. If they find something unique or interesting, they will devote time to exploring and developing it.

“We always search for clarity and not obscurity,” Turnroos said of their songs, which can be difficult to grapple with as the band explores themes of love, passion, death and the afterlife.

Despite extensive touring across Canada, they still get butterflies before each show. Once they’re on stage though, Tornroos said their nerves disappear.

“I look past the crowd and to the back and just start playing,” he said.

Elias may have got their start in Canada, but they are getting international attention in places like Scotland and Germany. As for the future of the band, they eagerly await the opportunity to play in the United States and eventually overseas in Britain.

“We have a long way to go,” Turnroos said, but hopes are high and Elias certainly holds a lot of promise.

Elias play the Merchant Tap House on Oct. 8 at 9 p.m.

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