Former Huffamoose frontman Craig Elkins plays Silverlake Lounge and Taix
By Bliss Bowen 09/12/2012
“I like to make people angry,” Craig Elkins sings gently on the opening track of his deceptively titled album “I Love You.” A romantic Valentine it is not. The former Huffamoose frontman sang the song that spawned that provocative line, “Offin’ Myself,” at an anti-Valentine show at the Echo in February; it suited the prevailing mood of disappointment and despair.
Yet Elkins’ neatly constructed pop songs are beautifully melodic, and it is their contrasts — conversationally profane, poetically dour lyrics rubbing up against flowing melodies — that make them interesting. There’s more dark humor, and Elkins sounds freer, but they aren’t far removed from his work with Huffamoose, the critically acclaimed Philly alt-rock band that flirted with mainstream recognition during their brief stay at Interscope in the ’90s. “We had a song on modern rock radio for five seconds,” he recalls. “Some people have heard of us, but not a ton, and it was so long ago, back in ’98.”
“They were all songs I wrote in the same period of time, three or four years ago,” Elkins says of “I Love You” during a phone interview after dropping off his daughter at her Pasadena school. “I was just in that mindset, that place. I guess it was a song cycle even though I didn’t realize it at the time. For the most part, they’re relationship-based songs.”
But they’re not all about romantic relationships. “I Wanted to, But I Didn’t” painfully details the protagonist’s failings as a friend, while “I Can’t Stop Being a Dick” namedrops David and Goliath in reference to a meeting with a clueless music publishing honcho.
“I remember the guy telling me that nobody was really ever going to connect to these tunes, because I’m not the hero in them,” Elkins recalls.
That publishing veep was wrong. Elkins’ humorously self-deprecating Everyman perspective is what makes his songs relatable. It’s the kind of thing executives may find hard to package, but fans understand — as Elkins was reminded when he moved to LA in 2005 and struggled to establish himself as an independent artist.
“When I first moved here I went to my first Dodgers game with a friend of mine that I’d just met; he won an Academy Award for editing one of the ‘Bourne Identity’ movies. I met him through my daughter’s preschool. So we’re walking through the parking lot on the way to the game, and out of nowhere comes this woman screaming, ‘Oh, my God, it’s Craig Elkins from Huffamoose!’ [Laughs] I was just thrilled. The guy just looked at me like, ‘What?’ One in a million chances that that would happen.”
Craig Elkins plays Silverlake Lounge, 2906 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, 9 p.m. tonight; $6. Info: (323) 663-9636. Elkins follows Moris Tepper at Taix, 1911 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, 11:30 p.m. Friday; free admission. Info: (213) 484-1265. Craigelkinsmusic.com