Tales From The Old Mill by Elbows
‘Tales From The Old Mill’ is the long-awaited debut album from Bay Area-born songwriter and producer, Elbows, AKA Max Schieble. The expansive body of work explores the concept of “home” as a place, a memory, and a desire, across music, video, and visual art.
Across twelve songs Elbows chronicles his return to the Bay Area in 2013 through tales of missing parents, debauchery in the upper middle class, and a fateful train trip up north, all soundtracked by a nocturnal collage of warped synth pads, string orchestras, lo-fi jazz piano, foggy vocal harmonies, and cricket-filled field recordings. Musical styles swerve between songs, as a 70’s funk groove gives way to a leering 808-filled beat, followed by a dusty samba loop, all united by Schieble’s keen pop sensibilities and a unified atmosphere across the record, simultaneously spooky and whimsical. Inspiration for ‘Tales’ came equally from Twin Peaks (the show), Goodnight Moon (the book), and Harris Tweed (the fabric), as it did from the music of Flying Lotus, Miles Davis, and Dr. Dog.
The road to ‘The Old Mill’ began with a literal journey home, as a group of core-collaborators, including producer/engineer Alex Pyle, drummer Dillon Treacy, pianist DanMichael Reyes, and violinist Danny Lentz traveled with Elbows back to the Bay Area, where they recorded at Studio P, the home studio of Schieble’s childhood neighbor, Joe Paulino. The benefits of this destination-recording manifested in the form of spontaneous synth patches from ancient devices, late-night woodland field recordings, and a buffet of percussion collected by Paulino through the years. “When I finished writing ‘Tales,’ an album all about returning home, and the search for ‘home,’ I knew that I had to make it in Joe’s studio, a place where I grew up playing with mics, and instruments, and drum machines.” Elbows explains. “I wanted my friends who were making the album with me to experience the places and landmarks that inspired the songs. For instance, before recording the title track, we went down to Old Mill Park to see the looming, decrepit old mill at dusk, where I told my friends the stories contained in the lyrics of the song. When we got to the studio at midnight that night a connected, special feeling had come over us.”
Recording was completed in New York with other frequent collaborators, including bassist/producer Jachary, guitarist/producer Gray Hall, synth wizards Jordy Carrington, and trumpeter Linton Smith. Simultaneously Elbows created ‘Winterlude,’ a companion short film of vignettes and music videos inspired by the same themes of going home, family, and time, but in the scope of a fictionalized story.
“The old mill represents where I’m from, it’s tales from home. But at the same time, the old mill is not quite where I’m from,” Elbows recounts, “it was the next town over, the town where I went to school, where my friends lived, where tales were written and told, but never where I physically lived. So it’s both a journey home and a journey back to that feeling of not belonging.”