Around this time last year, Joel Elliott quit the day job he’d been working at for ten years and dove into music full time. You might have heard his songs in Brett Kelly’s Phantom of the Opry, the twangy comedy spin-off that played The Gladstone. Either way, you’ll want to take a listen to Jumpin’ Joel Flash and the Magic Machine, a charming mash-up of country twang, big rock-opera vocals, pop hooks and silly theatrics brought to life by an eight-piece band.
The band recently released their debut single and music video “The Rain” and, to celebrate, they’re throwing a release mega-party at Live! On Elgin this February 15. Emceed by local legend China Doll and featuring comedy duo Rhythm and Burgundy as well as a surprise opener.
“The Rain” is a catchy country heartbreak tune put to a video where things fall apart in spite of good intentions. “The original plan was to put together an OKGO treadmill type video, one where it’s all one shot and super choreographed and it’s unbelievable,” Joel says.
“But we got together and said ‘wow, that’s going to be really difficult’ so instead we came up with this idea ‘like ok what if we pretend it’s going to be the best thing you’ve ever seen in your life and it almost immediately blazes into fire and complete chaos?” The result is much more adorable than if everything had been perfect and much closer to the unabashed silliness the band revels in.
If you like what you hear on “The Rain” you’ll probably like Joel’s weekly Flash Cam Friday videos featuring his twangy, rock opera take on everything from Willie Nelson and Randy Newman to make out classics by Barry White and Marvin Gaye to Shania Twain. At this point he’s done more than fifty of them and the plan is to keep going though with more collaborations in the future.
Joel is a true believer in the local music scene who’s also started working with the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition and their Love Local Music initiative in the past year.
As he puts it, “Local music doesn’t happen without local love. We need to get bands out of this mindset that we’re all in competition with one other, this idea that liking my act precludes somebody form liking your act. I’m trying to get across to people that promoting another band you like can do nothing but benefit everybody. If you keep it close to your chest and you don’t tell other people… and everyone does that… then no one is talking about local music.”
And it’s not just talk. When asked about Rhythm and Burgundy who will play at the single release, he’s genuinely enthusiastic. “They’re like Flight of the Conchords or Garfunkel and Oates but I would put them right in between as far as Flight of the Conchords is very peachy; Garfunkel and Oates can be really crass and these guys are right in the middle,” he says. “They are an absolute spectacular delight. The first time I saw them I knew they would be a perfect fit with the songs and the atmosphere.”
Apt613 got in touch with Joel to learn more about the life changes, the band and giving the green light for silliness.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: What was it like making the jump to do music full-time?
Joel Elliott: I realized I was having more joy in my life with my hobby than with my job and I was in a position where I could change lanes mid-stream. I decided that life was too short to be unhappy so I made a change.
How did you become Jumpin’ Joel Flash?
It was a conglomeration ‘cause I’ve been playing around town in various projects for about fifteen years. The sound of the band has a lot of influences. The first band I was in played a lot of Allman Brothers for example so I love that Southern twang sound but we also played a lot of Steely Dan so who knows? (laughs) and then the musical theatre I was doing like Phantom of the Opry in particular I just got addicted to musical theatre vocals, this idea of the big, big, big vocal sound like layers upon layers, using voices as instruments and writing those specifically for the country, folk wish songs I was writing. The songs themselves, I had most of them already. They’re all songs I wrote when I should have been working but I had songs floating around in my head so I have an album or two or three of material.
Do you have an elevator pitch for the band?
I tell people that we’re absolutely everything they’re looking for. I tell them we’re wow in a bottle. I’ll say things like hey, we know that your time and money is valuable and we have nothing but total thanks for anyone who takes time to come see us and we will thank you in the only way we know how, with pure, unadulterated awesome.
Was there a key influence on your theatrical approach in this band or were you already going down that road?
I’ve always leaned on the theatrical. The first band I was in as between eight and ten members at any given time so I’ve always been used to an ensemble and I’ve been used to this idea of a group on stage where everyone has a chance to shine. I’ve also always thought of shows as an actual performance that people have taken the time to come on out for so you should give them something to remember and then when I started getting involved in musical theatre – I had no exposure to it until about three years ago – that threw the door open further like ‘Oh my God, yeah, we could just toss skits in between songs, oh yeah, we could just dance around like fools while we’re singing these love songs because why not? If we’re having fun, everyone’s having fun so that’s always been my philosophy on it.
Is that one of the advantages of having vocalists with a background in theatre in the band?
For sure. Zoe and Robin haven’t been in a band before but I heard them harmonize and saw that they have no stage fright whatsoever and they were all for it so I love having them there. I’ll tell you the spirit of those two really bleeds into the rest of the band. Everybody in the band – Ashley our bass player, Jason our drummer, Carolina on keys, my friend Brad on guitar and my wife Kim on ukulele – all of us have been musicians for x number of years so the stage is not an alien place and once there’s this sort of green light for silliness and fun everybody just gets in on it and theres no hesitation. Our practices are mostly smiles. It’s wonderful.
At the end of the day why do you make music?
I want to share art with people. I’m having more and more instances of being surrounded by incredible talent and I want to live my life in that way and I want share everything currently in my brain with other people ‘cause there’s a lot in there and it’s been swimming around for a long time. I feel like it needs a home and that home is the internet I assume.
Jumpin’ Joel Flash and The Magic Machine are performing at Live on Elgin! (220 Elgin St) this Thursday February 15 at 8pm. Tickets cost $15 online and $20 at the door. The venue is on the second floor and only accessible by a flight of stairs.
Note: As of now the February 15 single release show is sold out – but you can catch Jumpin’ Joel Flash and the Magic Machine on St. Patrick’s Day at The Rainbow. In the meantime be sure to download “The Rain” and check out Joel’s Flash Cam Friday videos on YouTube.