Studio Session: Eleyet McConnell plays from their new album, Crazy World
This week, rock group Eleyet McConnell joined Kaleidoscope host Juliet Fromholt for a live studio performance and interview. Led by husband-and-wife duo Angie and Chris McConnell, Eleyet McConnell released a new album, Crazy World, on December 1. They performed several songs from Crazy World live on the show, including the lead single “Gettin’ By”. Angie and Chris talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to develop a more intimate, stripped-back sound, and about what they learned from producer J.D. Harris while working on Crazy World. The band also features drummer Kenny Barnett and guitarist Brandon Ullery.
Angie McConnell (née Eleyet) and Chris McConnell met in 2013, when Angie’s then-husband joined Chris’ band. Kenny was already installed as the band’s drummer, and Brandon often served as their sound tech. “Through the course of events and people moving to different places and all that sort of stuff happening, I ended up being in that band,” Angie told Juliet. “Before you know it, Brandon became the guitar player and I had a divorce. Chris and I got married several years later.”
Soon, COVID-19 forced the band to temporarily change its lineup yet again. “The pandemic really put a hurting on us,” Chris said. “We had a band at the time, and that just kind of fizzled out.” He and Angie decided to start playing small gigs together, without a backup band. Though paring down their shows was originally a matter of necessity, Angie said that the duo’s sound worked well for the the subdued atmosphere of the lockdown period;
“Because of the pandemic, I think a lot of places that have live music started looking for that kind of setup. They wanted the more acoustic stripped down, not so noisy, not so crazy… And the opportunities for that started coming in droves. In fact, they started asking, ‘we just want the duo.’”
Now that pandemic restrictions are gone, though, Chris and Angie are glad to have their bandmates back. Though they still perform occasional duo shows, they said, “whenever we have the opportunity to play as a band, we will play as a band.” With Brandon and Kenny back in the group, their songwriting has become more collaborative as well. Chis and Angie described their creative process in the interview:
Chris: “I throw a lot of grooves out there and [Angie] will pick up on it. Once the drums kick in on a little riff I’m doing, that really develops the song. Then you have a feel for it.”
Angie: “It takes on a whole new life when the whole band is here.”
Eleyet McConnell said they’ve also honed their sound by listening to feedback from J.D. Harris, who produced their new album, Crazy World. Angie said that taking constructive criticism from Harris required trust, but that having a set of “objective ears” to listen to the album was invaluable.
“We’d been playing some of these songs for a couple of years. You get to a point where you can’t really hear anything different. And somebody who doesn’t know us from anything came in and was like, ‘try this,’ or ‘try that.’ So we did it. I think we’ve always been open— if you got an idea, we want to hear it. We may hate it, and we’ll tell you that, but we still want to try.”
Text by Peter Day, adapted from a live studio interview recorded by Juliet Fromholt on December 6, 2023.