Phil Elverum is a unique kind of shy. The artist, who began his musical project as The Microphones and has since switched to the moniker Mount Eerie, lets his emotions fly when he writes and performs songs, yet keeps his distance from the audience by closing his eyes through most of the set and singing as if he were in the room completely alone.
“It’s a weird thing to do,” Elverum tells SFR. “I guess there is something about being on stage that I like. But it’s also just sort of the momentum. I never set out to do this with my life. I always dreaded the idea of having to become something. It’s convenient that I’ve been able to put it off.”
Despite Elverum’s reluctance to become something, he has. His projects are heaped with praise from critics, and his simple yet poignant lyrics are catalogued on numerous online fan sites.
“There’s this weird mythology built up about me and I wonder why,” he says. “But then I remember all these things I’ve done over the years that either consciously or unconsciously contributed to it.”
That mythology leaves his fans devoted to his every word. “It’s something I can never really wrap my head around. People tell me intense things sometimes like, ‘Your music changed my life [in this way].’ I can only take it in, in such a shallow way because it’s too much to comprehend and it would prevent me from living my life if I really took it all on.”
That his music affects listeners so profoundly is no surprise. Musically, both The Microphones and Mount Eerie are simple: guitar, drums, the occasional saxophone (the only instrument on the latest album Lost Wisdom that Elverum didn’t play himself) and vocals that are neither finessed nor totally raw. His voice is natural and strong, though it breaks often in conjunction with his emotional lyrics, a stark contrast to the soft near whisper in which he speaks. It’s a constant challenge for Elverum when he tours how easily the audience connects with the emotions of his songs.
“Some of [my older songs] I love playing and there are some of them I don’t love playing, but I play them because it seems to make people happy. When I can get through it,” he sighs. “It’s emotional, but emotions from eight or 10 years ago, so it’s not me. I feel like to perform, I want to be sincere about the emotions I’m expressing and I just don’t feel that way anymore. My songs have a short lifespan and I move on from feelings or emotions very quickly. ”
But, for Elverum, the mission of touring and performing is about more than sharing himself. It’s a basic human need to connect. Elverum wants people to come “if only to leave the house and be around other people. Even if you don’t talk to anyone you don’t know. There’s something about a bunch of strangers standing around being in the same room together, being in the same mental world of listening to music—or even going to the movies—everyone entering a world together, there’s something amazing and revolutionary about that.”
Elverum is joined in the revolution by New York electronica band The Mathematicians, Canadian indie act Calm Down It’s Monday, whose Julie Doiron also plays a solo set (and sang on Lost Wisdom) and local folk orchestra The Apple Miner Colony. Save for The Mathematicians, which makes things all better with up-tempo beats to end the night, it’s a night of letting go of old emotions, for audience members and performers alike. Don’t be shy. Bring some tissues, let it out and dance the rest away
The Mathematicians, Mount Eerie, Calm Down it's Monday, Julie Doiron and The Apple Miner Colony
7 pm, Monday, Oct. 27
1614 Paseo de Peralta