Though it was started as a solo project for frontman and songwriter Jonathan Rogers, Toronto dream pop group Elsa soon evolved into a quartet. After the release of a stand-alone cassette, Rogers expanded the lineup with guitarist Matthew Goldman, bassist Jesse Mirsky and drummer Angie Wong. Though the dynamic changed slightly (“Elsa is definitely not a solo project,” Rogers insists), it was certainly for the better. “Matt and I have played together since high school so, there was already a strong bond between us,” Rogers says. “Jesse and Angie are in a solid, long-term relationship and operate more as a single person. We all happen to be best friends and whereas some bands get pretty sick of each other, we seem to stick together.”
Their first full-band statement was I Do, a four-song EP that emerged in 2013. Now, nearly two years later, they’ll finally return with its followup, Never Come Down. Though it’s only five more songs, it took them a while to get things moving — the release was originally announced in July of last year, and will finally see the light of day on March 31.
“Unfortunately, it was a break-down of communication,” Rogers said, explaining that pressing plant confusion forced them to start the whole process over again once the release was already in production. “We never intended to only release four songs in a year and a half. But now, we’re just happy to finally have some new music out and be back on track with recording and releasing with a little more consistency.”
Perhaps a monument to the timeless nature of their music, Never Come Down sees Elsa picking up right where they left off — here, breezy vocals, a soft-as-fuck rhythm section and a warm blanket of gently plucked guitar leads propel the expertly arranged songs forward. And while the gentle distortion of “Go Fever” suggests an ever-so-slight layer of grit to their sound, this is dreamy pop music that could’ve come from any era.
While it was recorded in the same studio as I Do, however, Never Come Down is slightly different thematically. “Writing the music, I was coming from more of a detached place,” Rogers admits. “The I Do EP has a fairly light, straight-forward, pouring-my-heart-out vibe, whereas Never Come Down is more layered and vague at times. It sounds very different in my opinion, a little-more seasick, a little heavier than the first. The songs reflect a very strange albeit beautiful time in my life.”
If anything, Never Come Down proves that Elsa are masters of the EP format, offering another impeccable short burst of music. Rogers says that they do intend to eventually tackle a full-length album, but they’re taking inspiration from their One Big Silence label owner Mike Haliechuk. “His band Fucked Up released many singles and EPs before tackling an album,” Rogers says. “A lot of smaller bands who release albums early on are sometimes wasting their music because nobody will listen if you don’t build an audience first. We’re trying to build slowly and develop along the way before releasing an album.”
Haliechuk’s not the only one having an impact on Elsa. As Rogers explains, their hometown music community has been a constant source of strength. “Toronto has been wonderful to us,” he says. “We have a supportive community of like-minded people here who go to each other’s shows listen to — and even play in — each other’s bands. Some of our friends are starting to find real success and it’s inspiring to be here and feel like you’re part of something.”
With a strong, singular identity and songs as sturdy as these, we have a feeling it won’t take long for Elsa to build an audience and find some success of their own.