Drawn to the communicative and bonding qualities of ‘folk’ but explorative beyond its stylistic connotations; enough of a pack member to want a band yet also keen to imbue a sense of solitude through her music, Elle Mary is an artist who operates best when balancing conflicting instincts. It’s what lies beneath the subtle tension that slightly tugs at the heart of her and The Bad Men’s acoustically-webbed slowcore minimalism.
With a vocal perhaps reminiscent of Sharon Van Etten and backed with a prickling calm that sits in the same atmosphere as Low, Elle Mary has actually found her influences a lot closer to home. “My brother Mike Rossiter got me into folk music and his album is still one of my favourites,” Mary reveals. “I also started a duo with a University friend of mine who would influence me more than he knows. He got me to appreciate rhymes, using unexpected words to marry lines together.” An initially shy singer, known to stare timidly at the floor during early performances, Elle Mary nevertheless cut her teeth in the contrastingly social Manchester folk scene, blossoming enough to ultimately host her own monthly night at hideaway Deansgate basement bar The Gaslamp.
However, through meeting guesting musicians from all backgrounds, Mary sought to broaden her limits to beyond just a voice and guitar. Three-piece The Bad Men (guitarist Chris Wood, bassist Mike Dubec and drummer Pete Sitch) came in to add dynamical dexterity to her wistful half-hidden lyrical recollections and cryptic narratives. Scrapping all of her old music – “I left folk” she declares – Elle Mary has started afresh, exploring alternate, more tangential routes of communication than her first love of solo songs strummed in cafes and bars gave her. “Lyrics were always most important to me, always what I focused on in a song and how they fit to melody,” she says, “but with the Bad Men I can look at songs as entire pieces, each layer as important as each other. I take the initial framework to them and they do incredible things with it.”
The group’s first track on Tru Luv, Angels, is a perfectly realised result of Elle Mary’s increased focus on depth of sound and trickery of word. A sense of patient searching is suggested but never made explicit, while motifs are quietly ushered in on-by-one, stretching out into the tranquil openness of the space that surrounds her vocal. It makes for a quietly breath taking first track from an artist enjoying a new beginning in tipping the scales.
TL001 – Angels by Elle Mary & The Bad Men
Words: Simon Jay Catling