The veteran Athens, Georgia indie band Elf Power will be releasing its 10th album next month, simply titled, after all this time, Elf Power. Making music together since 1994, the band has its origins in and around the now-legendary Elephant Six musical collective, which likewise gave birth to Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, and Neutral Milk Hotel. In recent years, the band had begun collaborating with singer/songwriter Vic Chestnutt, who, sadly, took his own life last year. The band dedicates its new album to him.
Because the band has had such a long run—arising in the heyday of the CD age, continuing on into the MP3 era—I figured front man Andrew Rieger (pictured front and center in the photo) might have some interesting thoughts on the state of music here in the digital age. Turns out he’s the pithy sort, so it’s a quick read. Elf Power was featured on Fingertips back in March 2004, but the song reviewed back then, “Never Believe,” remains available via the band’s site as a free and legal MP3.
Q: Let’s begin by cutting right to the chase. Should MP3s be free across the board? Why or why not?
A: I like it when a band gives away a song or two as mp3s to let people hear a little bit of an album. I also like when a band streams their album online for a week or two, so people can hear the whole thing, and if they like it then maybe they’ll buy it.
Q: There’s a lot of talk these days that says that music in the near future will exist in the so-called “cloud”– that is, on large computer networks — and that music fans will not need to “own” the music they like any longer, since they will be able to simply listen to everything on demand when they want to. How do you feel about this?
A: I like the idea. I love vinyl records, but all of these CDs are eventually ending up in the landfill, it’s very wasteful, so I like the idea of the cloud, and digital music in general as there’s no waste involved if you’re not manufacturing anything!
Q: How has your life as a musician been affected–or not–by the existence of music blogs?
A: I like that people can now have music out there in the world much quicker, get the word out faster.
Q: What are your thoughts about the album as a musical entity–does it still strike you as a legitimate means of expression?
A: I think the album is great, 30 to 60 minutes is a perfect length to pay attention and become immersed in a piece of music. Any longer than that attention in the average human starts to wane.
Q: What is your personal preferred way of listening to music at this point?
A: I listen to vinyl records in my living room, CDs on a boombox, music on my laptop in my bedroom, and cassette tapes and radio in my car.