Elk Creek are on the final couple of songs of their two-hour stint outside Findlay Market, which is located at Over the Rhine in Cincinnati, Ohio. The cool, summer evening has attracted a fairly decent crowd for the event “Findlay After Five”. The sweet, enticing aromas that local food restaurants Eli’s BBQ and Pho Lang Thang are serving have begun swirling all around the area. Children are running around the vicinity, laughing and smiling from ear to ear. Local breweries Rhinegeist & Christian Moerlein have beers being poured for the adults, as they gather around the small tent that the band is performing under.
On July 1st, Elk Creek released their first EP, titled Greenfield Project. Greenfield Project features a wide range of different musical compnents and multiple layers within each track. You truly get a little bit of everything when you are listening to Greenfield Project. This energetic EP brilliantly combines the best in blues, folk, and rock throughout the fast-paced seven songs.
During their high school days Aaron Price, Jeremy Brown, and Brad Smith made up the band Hector in their hometown of Trenton, Ohio. “We did alright, played in high school battle of the bands, and we thought we were cool,” Price recalls. Hector ended as soon as the trio all went off to college. Price went on to attend Ohio University and participated in some other bands that ended up fizzling out. Smith studied classical guitar at the University of Cincinnati’s College- Conservatory of Music. Brown got involved in education.
In 2012, Brown, Price, and Smith reconvened back in Cincinnati, and started talking about making music again. This time was different. “The three of us found each other out of a desire to build something better,” Price says. The band, now under the moniker Elk Creek (the name comes from when the band Hector were together and practiced in a house on Elk Creek Road) started to pen songs that they say were more mature. More seasoned. During the writing process, Price recruited drummer Travis Estell. The addition of Estell came with some resistance, however. “We all grew up together and the three of us just feel comfortable with each other”, explained Price.
“We just didn’t want some jerk to join the band (laughter),” Brown jokingly added.
Soon after Estell joined, the band added guitarist Nick Whittenburg. Whittenburg went to the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music at the same time as Estell and they became friends (Smith wasn’t enrolled at that time). When Whittenburg was added to the lineup, the band was going to have him play bass. “Aaron was pretty vocal about it and positive that Nick can play bass,” Brown says. “He said ‘Nick is going to come in, he’s going to bass, and it’s going to be fine.” The band was behind the decision, and felt great about it. One slight problem did present itself-Whittenburg didn’t know how to play bass. “I never picked up or owned a bass before showing up to my first practice,” Whittenburg stated. “We practiced three or four times before we played our first gig.”
At the beginning of this year, Elk Creek had constructed enough songs that they have practiced thoroughly each week. The group spent a large amount of time to not find their sound, but also to help everyone become more acquainted. The period of time doing this allowed them to nail down the songs perfectly.
In the beginning of February, Elk Creek went in and started Greenfield Project at Ultrasuede Studio in Cincinnati. The band worked with engineer Brian Niesz, who resume includes working with hometown darlings Heartless Bastards and Wussy. “The unsung hero of the album is Brian Niesz,” Price says. Whittenburg, who has worked with Niesz before and have become good friends, sold the other members of Elk Creek that the best option was to record the album at Ultrasuede. “It was a little bit of a hard sell at first,” Whittenburg explains. “I was still the new guy in the band, but I really made a push…I don’t know how I sold them on it, but I sold them on it.” Throughout the recording of Greenfield Project, Niesz not only engineered the EP, but he also helped produce it.
After the show at Findlay Market, the group traveled over to MOTR Pub, located still at Over the Rhine. The area surrounding MOTR Pub is celebrating “Final Friday”-the monthly event that celebrates artwork from established artists as well as younger artists from both Cincinnati and out-of-town.
The establishment holds a special place in the Elk Creek’s world. It was the place they all played as a band for the first time earlier this year. It marked the band’s turning point also. No longer did the original three feel the new direction wasn’t going to work. No longer did Whittenburg and Estell feel like the new guys. The show at MOTR Pub officially solidified Elk Creek as a whole.
And Elk Creek will be around for a long time to come.
Elk Creek will be playing at Oregon Express on August 2nd, along with The New Old-Fashioned and Starving in the Belly of the Whale. Doors open at 9pm.
For more info on the band, and to hear/purchase the EP Greenfield Project, click on the bands website www.elkcreekmusic.com.