Andrew Elstner interview

Tits with an L; riffs with a capital R

Thursday, January 10th, 2013 | interviewZ, musiX, vinylZ | 1 Comment

I begin 2013 by going back to the year 2012. It was a simpler time, filled with hope and promise … OK, it was a great year for rock music, filled with some terrific records from The Men, King Tuff, Ty Segall, Ty Segall … Ty Segall, and a lesser-known band out of Saint Louie (Go Cards!) called Tilts, whose self-titled debut made numero uno on TDoL’s Best of 2012 list.

I bring them up again in these early days of 2013 because a) their album is pure rock and roll fun, and b) it was criminally overlooked last year. I discovered Tilts over at cranky pants Everett True’s Collapse Board blog, and immediately bought it on vinyl (which you, too, can order here). The record rocks in the spirit of Van Halen, Sabbath and Zep—big, dumb and fun, harkening back to the glory days when riffs were painstakingly forged in fire and could slice through your gray matter like a hot knife through gray matter (the song “Hot For Pizza” has more in common with Van Halen than just its title). The record was pulled together from a string of 7-inches, and finally released with the help of a Kickstarted campaign on Robotic Empire.

The man behind Tilts is guitarist-vocalist Andrew Elstner, who in 2012 also began slinging ax for Torche and contributed to the Miami metal quartet’s good-timin’ Harmonicraft album. Needless to say it was an eventful year for Elstner, even more so if you count that little situation when a bat pissed directly into his eye. But that’s sooo 2012. This year looks to be even bigger, even better. Torche will tour and start writing material for the follow-up to Harmonicraft, and Elstner says there’s a new Tilts album already in the works.

After a busy and blurry holiday season, The Days of Lore finally caught up with Elstner to discuss rock and roll, defunct metal magazines and why David Lee Roth is hot for pizza.

TDoL: 2012 turned out to be a pretty good year for you: You joined Torche, Tilts released their first full-length and got No. 1 on The Days of Lore Best of list … I mean, come on!
Andrew Elstner: Dude, you said it. 2012 has been a blast! Really and truly, I have no complaints. This year’s been a dream. I mean, it’s not like I’m doing anything I haven’t done before, it’s just that I’m doing it better and more often.

How long has Tilts been kicking around?
Unofficially, I’d like to say since I was about 18 when I first met Ken [McCray] and Shawn [Hart]; we hadn’t written any Tilts music of course, but the friendships started there. I met Andy White around 2001 if I remember correctly. We officially started jamming, I think, around spring or summer of 2009 and began recording EPs a while after.

I hear loads of great rock influences—ZZ Top, Sabbath, Van Halen. Was your upbringing with classic rock radio?
Absolutely. I began at the same place most kids did at that time. The first song I learned was “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith, then “Black Dog” by Zeppelin followed by a blizzard of Ozzy and Sabbath. Van Halen was everywhere as well.

Tell me more about the song “Hot For Pizza” …
Oh dude, it’s such a long story, but all true. Ultra quick breakdown: A good friend of mine befriended David Lee Roth within the last decade or so. During their initial encounter, the two of them were partying and Dave wanted a slice. On the walk to the neighborhood pizza joint Diamond Dave allegedly sang the line, “I’ve got it bad, got it bad, got it baaad, I’m hot for pizzaaa!” Now, if this story came from anyone else I wouldn’t believe it, but the shit is real. The song is very obviously a deep nod to Van Halen style wise, so the title couldn’t have been anything else really. It’s a good time.

What I love about the Tilts album is that it’s a fun party record, but I also get the feeling you take rock and roll dead serious.
Tilts set out to be that kind of a band on purpose. I mean, the band is Tits with an “L.” For real. You can’t take yourself too seriously. On the other hand, yeah, we wanna write solid tunes. We honestly don’t think about it too hard. Spinal Tap’s Viv Savage said it best, “Have a good time, all the time.”

I’ve read that you were an avid Circus magazine reader. I used to love that mag. Were you a metalhead growing up?
Yeah man—Circus, Rip, Hit Parader, all the usual pharmacy titles. Pretty hilarious to look at them now. It’s like poodles with guitars. Metalhead for sure, though, maybe not as intense as some. Some stuff was definitely lost on me at the time. I was all Anthrax, Metallica, Ozzy, Megadeth and whatever was playing on Headbanger’s Ball at the time. Between that and our local rock station’s “Monday Night Metal,” there were no other avenues to discover different bands. It wasn’t until high school that I finally branched out when a buddy would drive me home and we’d listen to Fugazi, Shellac, Drive Like Jehu. Blew my mind.

You are a riff machine, too. Who are your guitar heroes?
Aww man, I hold my own I suppose. Heroes aplenty. The usual—Eddie Van Halen, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, Angus/Malcolm Young, Andy Summers; and some slightly unusual—Billy Dolan, Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch. But really as a guitar player you end up picking up so much you aren’t consciously aware of. Somewhere in there is probably the Manhattan Transfer album my parents used to play when I was a kid.

OK, it’s 1974. KISS, Zeppelin and Sabbath are playing separate shows on the same night: KISS in a small club, Sabbath in a theater, and Zep in an arena. Who do you go see?
Oh, Zeppelin. Easy. Well, don’t get me wrong, I had to think about it and though I love KISS, I’m a bit of a tourist there. Black Sabbath, yeah, that’s tough to pass up, and such a killer year for those bands. I’d buy tickets to Sabbath and Zeppelin, go to Sabbath first, then see the latter half of Zeppelin’s set.

Has the fact that you’re now in Torche brought more attention to Tilts?
Without a doubt. We’ve been awfully lucky there as the Torche connection has greatly extended our reach.

The bat piss incident probably didn’t hurt …
Man, yeah, the story’s been told a jillion times now, but for sure the press helped. So crazy.

You moved to Atlanta from St. Louis. Was that to be closer to the Torche guys without actually having to live in Florida?
Yeah, I moved here just about two years ago to join Torche. Steve [Brooks] lives here as well as does our sound engineer Rob. Jon [Nuñez] and Rick [Smith] are still down in Miami and Gainesville respectively. And, yes, no Florida for me please and thank you. Atlanta is really an amazing city—vastly underrated and comfortably under the radar for the moment.

Are you a Redbirds fan?
It’s hard to live in or be from St. Louis and not be a Cardinals fan, though there again, I could barely tell you a single player’s name from last season, to my father’s sincere disappointment.

I assume Torche is going to keep you plenty busy this year. What’s in store for 2013, and how does Tilts factor into the plans?
Torche has gobs more touring to do this year, as well as write a new album—so yes, we’ll be busy for sure. Us Tilts dudes are currently chipping away at a new full-length. Still in the demo stages, but the songs, instrumentally at least, are pretty much written. Likely a few tweaks here and there, but we’re pleased so far. We’ll be recording this one ourselves again, fitting in recording time where we can among our thoroughly wily schedules. Fingers crossed we can finally do a small bit of touring. Zeus knows we’ve had plenty of requests.

“Mexiqo”Tilts

Photo by Todd Morgan

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