He, himself, and Hi

Eric Elbogen's Say Hi comes into its own
By MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG  |  October 19, 2009

DEBATABLE: "I do think that four talented dudes in a room are capable of producing a way better record than one dude in his bedroom."
“I was always the kid who hated to do group projects at school because I always thought I could work better on my own.”

That kid, Eric Elbogen, grew up to be the 32-year-old singer and multi-instrumentalist behind Say Hi (formerly Say Hi to Your Mom). Although he comes to T.T. the Bear’s Place this Tuesday behind recently released Oohs & Aahs (Barsuk) with a proper band, Say Hi is essentially a one-man deal, with Elbogen writing and recording everything by himself in the bedroom of his Seattle pad.

It’s been that way since he started making the music under the moniker in 2002. And since he moved to the Pacific Northwest from Brooklyn three years ago, he’s become even more of a musical hermit. Whereas most bands will play a local show at least once or twice a month between national tours or while recording a new album, Say Hi vanishes for long periods of time while Elbogen spends as many as 12 hours a day working on new material.

“I was in a bunch of bands in high school and college, and I didn’t think one could do it any other way than four dudes playing music together,” he says over the phone from a tour stop in Texas. “I was lucky at the time I started thinking about doing this band that technology and audio software had started to get good enough and cheap enough to where I could actually make a record by myself.

“There are definitely pros and cons to it. I can work at my own pace and not have to worry about the clock — which equals dollars when you’re in the commercial studio. And I don’t have to worry about a bunch of musicians fighting for certain parts that they want on an album. But the major con is that I do think that four talented dudes in a room are capable of producing a way better record than one dude in his bedroom.”

That’s debatable, given the quality of his efforts and his prolific streak. Say Hi has issued six albums since 2002, and Oohs & Aahs (Elbogen’s debut for Barsuk) is the best. It’s engaging, charming indie pop with plenty of sonic treats spread out among its 10 structurally ambitious tracks. Take the chewy shoegaze guitars that rub up against the loping bass line and drum-machine fills of opener “Elouise,” an ode to a female radio DJ. Or the symphonic bleat that initiates the anxious “Dramatic Irony,” with jazzy vibraphones and surf guitars emerging later. Or the jumpy beats, sinewy guitar, and retro-futuristic synths that propel the standout “One, Two . . . One.” And with his dreamy, half-whispered vocals, Elbogen steers clear of past sci-fi and undead lyrical obsessions (2006’s Impeccable Blahs was almost entirely about vampires) to focus on girls: liking them, loving them, losing them, being confused by them.

“I think every Say Hi record serves its purpose. I don’t necessarily enjoy singing about robots or spaceships or vampires anymore. I did at the time. But I’m still proud of those records, and I still think they were a necessary step in the evolution of things.”

SAY HI + DAVID BAZAN + TW WALSH | T.T. the Bear’s Place, 10 Brookline St, Cambridge | October 20 at 9 pm | $12 | 18+ | 617.492.BEAR or www.ttthebears.com

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