On first impressions, EL VY, the new collaborative project between The National’s Matt Berninger and Brent Knopf of Menomena and Ramona Falls, seems pretty impenetrable. There’s that name for starters – they say it’s pronounced like the plural of ‘Elvis’ and should rhyme with “hell pie”. Then there’s ‘Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, With Crescendo)’, the title of the first track taken from the pair’s upcoming 4AD debut. Berninger’s lyrics are just as confusing. “Scratched a ticket with the leg of a cricket/ And I got triple Jesus/ Cashed it in for a Siamese twin at the family firing range”, he growls in the first verse. A few lines later he’s buying “a saltwater fish from a colourblind witch”.
The music underneath is somewhat surprising too. Far friskier than we’ve been used to from The National, ‘Return To The Moon…’ struts and skips, teasing its chorus with funky guitars, bass and crisp drums. There’s a hint of melancholy when Berninger namechecks Eden Park and the Serpentine Wall (landmarks in his home city Cincinnati) but when the chorus hits, it does so with a flamboyance that suggests EL VY is about fun and little else. And no wonder: the pair’s obvious chemistry is based on nearly 10 years of exchanging song ideas, a process that began when their bands toured America’s west coast together. Their partnership isn’t the first between the two bands either (last year National drummer Bryan Devendorf formed Pfarmers with Menomena’s Danny Seim). Seems those early tours were fruitful indeed.