Eli August and the Abandoned Buildings
by Mark Rossmore
One of steampunk's most distinctive voices talks truth, soap, and his new full-band album.
October
28
2012
ARTIST PROFILE

Eli August and the Abandoned Buildings
Official Site: Click Here

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Eli August and his band, the Abandoned Buildings, are masters of meaningful music. His poignant, gripping lyrics drift atop vibrant musical backdrops, like memories torn from a past life. 

This winter, he and the band are producing a new album, with the help of a major Indiegogo crowdfunding effort. While support pours in from all corners of the globe and the album recording commences, Eli took a moment to chat about his work and his band.

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So who is Eli August? And what are these Buildings, and why are they Abandoned?

You see Mark, I'm just a small town girl, living in a lonely world. As far as the band goes, you could say they're just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit. That would explain the abandoned part. (Sorry Detroit, I had to do it.) Seriously though, everyone in the band is a friend I've either had for years, or friends I've met through traveling and playing music.

Tell us about your new album, and the process going forward in writing and recording it with your full band.

Well, there's always a lot of trust that you have to have in the people you are playing with that they will write good parts for each song and be compatible as musicians. This is even more so the case with this particular band since half of us are in Baltimore, MD and half live in NYC. It does make the songwriting process a bit slower, because you don't have that luxury of practicing face to face each week. The pieces of the puzzle have to sometimes fit blindly together.


Click to donate to their cause!

Music can have a profound effect on the listener. What do you hope people experience when they listen to your songs?

That is an extraordinarily difficult question to answer without sounding pretentious. Nicely played, Rossmore. [Ed. note: You're welcome, August!]

I hope folks feel we are telling them the truth and that they are hearing something genuine and not just a bunch of songs wrapped up in shiny packaging that don't have some kind of substantive core. I would hope people get whisked away, and taken back to their own memories at the same time.

Your songs are more about the human condition than Victorian science fiction, showing another side of steampunk music that chooses metaphor and poetry over outright alt-history. Your EP The Bottom of the Sea, for instance, uses the ocean and nautical concepts as a metaphor for relationships. Have you felt any outside pressure to write about airships and such?

If by outside pressure you mean a listener or a reviewer asking why I don't write about the typical steampunk fare, then no. Sometimes I wonder if that's all it would take to expand the appeal of the act, but I usually come to my senses and realize that the skies are already too crowded.


"Steady" off of The Bottom of the Sea EP.

You clearly have a good time creating your art and have a solid sense of humor. Do you think that's a surprise to those who've listened to your music?

I guess that would be tough to say. In the current music environment one has to be pretty approachable to those who are interested in your music. People want to see more of who you are and they can do so with just a few clicks and "follows" on the internet. There's a bit of a wall that's broken down when it comes to some indie artists. You don't get to just play and then go backstage and wait while you rake in the merch sales. You have to be out there. If you don't have a sense of humor about yourself, then you're just Morrissey and nobody wants that. Nobody.

You've certainly played your share of instruments: guitar, ukulele, banjo, piano, organ, and more. What's your songwriting process?

That's a question that could use a diagram to answer! I have a bunch of little notebooks that I jot stuff down on, sometimes I write directly on the computer, sometimes little scraps of paper, sometimes as I'm playing the guitar. Songs start in all shapes and sizes. It's rare that they end up being what you thought they would be. On this album one of the songs is five years old. One of the other tunes went through roughly six rewrites, while others were finished in a day.

On the side, you've worked as a background actor--most notably in Steven Spielberg's upcoming Abraham Lincoln biopic. How did you get into that line of work?

Dumb luck and facial hair. A friend of mine in Richmond, VA told me about the casting call, and I hauled ass down there and waited in line for over an hour and got lucky.

Eli August in Spielberg's Lincoln

Speaking of Lincoln, it's fitting that you and your band will be playing Steampunk at Gettysburg event next year, the 150th anniversary of that Civil War turning point. Where else are you touring?

We are playing at a club in Jersey called Roxy and Dukes in January and we will be playing Wicked Faire this winter. There may be a few other shows peppered in there, but the album is going to take up a lot of time from here until spring. I've estimated over 130 hrs of recording, mixing and mastering that will need to be done.

Your most recent release, The Victorian Dead, was a collaborative piece with the Davenport sisters of Clockwork Cabaret. It's a moving ode to many historical figures such as Edgar Allen Poe, P.T. Barnum, and Florence Nightingale. What inspired all of you to create an album that, instead of changing history like many steampunk bands do, honors it and its rich, real characters?

Honestly, it's the source material that interests me most. I wanted to write about who these people were, not who or what I may have dreamed they could have been.

I also didn't want to just pander to people in the scene who might be chomping at the bit to hear a tune about a zombie P.T. Barnum devouring all those who veered down the wrong path in his museum, but I egress... :)

In tandem with the release of The Victorian Dead, you began crafting handmade soaps. The whole collection is available at Eli's Apothecary. I've had the pleasure of trying a few out in our household (my wife and I are particularly fond of Samuel (C)lemons and NiCloveLa Tesla). How did the soap-making venture start out?

I've wanted to make soap for years. It was a lucky decision to start making it around the time of the Victorian Dead CD. It was many an hour I spent in the car driving to gigs thinking over terrible terrible puns for the names of the soaps.

Eli August's Soaps
Once upon a soap dish dreary,
while I scrubbed up, weak and weary....

Okay, I'll stop as long you buy these soaps. They're amazing,
and would make great stocking stuffers and not-so-subtle
hints to unhygenic roommates. 
 Get yours at Eli's Apothecary.

Along with the new album and Gettysburg, what else is on the horizon for Eli August and the Abandoned Buildings?

The album is the main focus for the time being. Other than that, I've been knocking around some ideas on changing the model of how I promote/release music, etc. But at the moment everything is in the top secret discussion mode between me and my dog Zura, and she's pretty good at keeping things on the QT.

Listen to and purchase Eli August's music at his official web site http://www.eliaugust.com/. He can also be followed on:

 

  
Author Bio: Mark Rossmore
Mark Rossmore has released three atmospheric albums of steampunk-inspired music as Escape the Clouds. A multimedia artist who enjoys telling dramatic stories, he has self-produced three acclaimed music videos and is a published author of steampunk short fiction, aviation articles, and music-related non-fiction. Learn more about his music, videos, and writing at: http://www.EscapeTheClouds.com .
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