The long walk home

After receiving the unfortunate “this band sounds like…” moniker, Black Elk have been spending years trying to come out from behind it.

After receiving the unfortunate “this band sounds like…” moniker, Black Elk have been spending years trying to come out from behind it. Granted, the title compares them to a band they have great admiration for—the Jesus Lizard—but it’s still a bummer to be compared to a band that has a drunk, old singer who gallivants about the stage like a llama.

The band doesn’t mind it, though. They do their thing and the world will catch up. Apparently the Jesus Lizard caught up with the band, liked their stuff and asked them to open for them on their reunion tour.

As the band prepares to open on the Jesus Lizard reunion tour and a month-long European stint, practices are becoming more frequent and free time is becoming a cherished commodity. Band members are frantically trying to get time off work, with one member reluctant to tour in the first place for fear of losing his job. Unfortunately, the age of the “well paid, pampered rock star” is long gone and labels are cutting every corner they can to lower costs and maximize sales, at any expense.

Black Elk haven’t had an easy time winning over critics since their 2006 self-titled debut.
“It’s funny, ’cause I don’t think we’re similar to them, but we keep getting compared,” said guitarist Erik Trammell. “Since we have an old guy that runs around, people say, ‘they must be like the Jesus Lizard since their singer does the same thing.'”

But with a new album in the works, and some high-profile producers eyeing the band, Black Elk is looking forward and not giving a crap about the naysayers. They have enough to worry about, pissing off other bands for beating them out to get on the prestigious Jesus Lizard tour. Even though the group had an in, it took more than a connection to get on.

“Our drummer has known Dwayne (from Jesus Lizard) for a while. We played a show with his side project, U.S.S.A. We kept in contact, gave them a CD—next thing, we get this e-mail to do the Jesus Lizard reunion tour…obviously there’s a lot of bands pissed off at us for getting highly coveted shows. But it‘s not like we are some low-on-the-totem band. We do deserve it.”

As with most touring bands (and, to an extent, their fans) nowadays, you’re judged more by your reputation than how well you play.

“No one cares about lifestyles unless someone tells them they’re supposed to. ‘Oh you’re touring with them! You’re good now,'” said Trammell.

This upcoming tour will give fans and critics a side-by-side comparison to their heroes, which makes this tour not so much a chance at redemption or an attempt at success, but more so a middle finger to the critics that continually compare them to a band they sound nothing like—and a chance to show that they can stand on their own merit as an established group.

So the band gears up for two warm-up shows, a four-day reunion tour with the Jesus Lizard, a Portland Halloween show and then a month-long European tour where they will be headlining a string of dates with some special shows peppered in (including one with the sludge-metal spacey Isis). Upon return, the band hopes to still have their jobs and get back to work before planning and writing their 2010 release.