AS LEGENDARY POP/ROCKERS OF ‘90s KEEP THE DECADE’S
ENERGY FRESH ON TODAY’S CHARTS, THEY’RE
PAVING THE WAY FOR BANDS LIKE LAS VEGAS BASED INDIE ROCKERS
SZABO WHO MAKE THE ‘90s ALT ROCK A FOUNDATION OF
THEIR CONTEMPORARY SOUND
Frontman Elliot Szabo Joined Forces with the Group’s Bassist
Gary Coveney to Open Griffin Entertainment, a Local Rehearsal Facility
Whose Services Include Event Design and Production, AV
and Lighting, Audio Recording and Video Production
Emerging as a powerhouse live band rooted in Las Vegas over the past few years, Szabo’s (www.szaboband.com) high-octane raw indie sound is emerging at a time when ‘90s rock resurgence is on an upswing, regaining an important foothold in the alternative music market.
Led by charismatic frontman Elliot Szabo, their songs are driven by a fiery mix of distorted guitars reminiscent of ‘90s alt-rock and keyboard and electronic textures synonymous with classic new wave.
Last year, Entertainment Weekly made note of ‘90s pop/rockers who were hitting the pop charts in 2012: Fiona Apple, Garbage, Soul Asylum, No Doubt, the Offspring, Everclear, Alanis Morissette, Melissa Etheridge and Matchbox Twenty.
Perhaps it’s just cyclical or generational, but mostly they’re still out there rocking because their sound, like decade itself, never stopped being cool.
Szabo—whose founding core includes Elliot, bassist Gary Coveney and drummer Austin Perry—recorded and mixed their highly anticipated debut EP Get Wasted, available Summer 2013 on their website for a download price of your choosing, at Battle Born Studios, owned by Vegas-based superstars The Killers.
Their good timing also extends to the new opportunities for performing and touring in support of the forthcoming EP with their first ever L.A. show slated for April 11 at the legendary Roxy Theatre on Sunset Boulevard. After surviving a slew of management changes, the latest one led to the end of the group’s longtime residency at Aliante Casino in North Las Vegas. Evolving through several lineup changes these past few years, Szabo—whose current lineup includes keyboardist Andy Vieluf—has also performed in such prestige spots as the Hard Rock Café on the Vegas Strip and opened for alt-rockers Hoobastank at The Rio.
A native of Columbus, Indiana (pop. 44,000), which he likes to call “the Athens of the Prairie,” Elliot isn’t shy about calling cultural oddities as he sees them in his adopted hometown. “The song that is the title track, ‘Get Wasted’ is really an observation about the crazy party mentality people who come to Vegas have, which seems to only exist here,” says Elliot, who moved to the city in 2008. “The song is not a call for people to get wasted, but knocking those who feel they have a right to act obnoxious as they get drunk or high. We’re telling them to go waste their own time. It’s our pop rock anti-party song.”
The concept of Szabo the band grew out of the evolving chemistry shared by the supporting musicians who accompanied Elliot as he performed local shows and toured throughout California in support of his 2009 solo EP Between Two Points on a Map—a collection Elliot calls his “super lonely, depressed singer/songwriter EP.
“It had that Elliot Smith and Neil Young kind of vibe and I liked the songs,” he says, “but I’m very social and outgoing and ultimately what I was writing and playing at the time wasn’t reflective of who I really am. I’ve run one triathlon and am training for another, another example of that energy and drive. Get Wasted draws on all of my rock influences, including Foo Fighters, the newer Coldplay stuff and yes, The Killers, and this is a more mature, developed sound, written by the band in a more grown up space. It’s the difference between thinking about the music we wanted to make and putting together our best songs versus(ed?) just throwing whatever I had there and releasing it, as I did with the first EP. Really, we’ve just done anything we can do musically to survive, and that hunger to get to the next level really motivates every song we record and every show we do.”
The creative seeds of the Get Wasted EP were planted months before when Elliot took up a wild challenge to enter songs in a contest sponsored by an indie magazine. Over the course of two weeks as the contest specified, he, Gary and Austin holed up in their studio and wrote 12 songs in only two weeks. One of those tunes, “Minnesota,” was a story song about a hipster chick that (ed) eases from a bossa nova beginning into a high-octane rock chorus. It fit the vibe of the new EP perfectly.
“It was the craziest contest because it put out this challenge to up and coming bands, but offered no prizes,” says Elliot. “But we like a lot of those songs, worked well under pressure, and the learning experience resulted in my favorite song on the Get Wasted project.”
Elliot and Gary’s disenchantment with the lack of quality, low cost rehearsal space in Vegas inspired the launch several years ago of their multi-faceted company Griffin Entertainment. Originally specializing in rehearsal facilities in the Downtown area, Griffin soon expanded to include recording and mixing (mostly for demos and small projects), event design and production, AV and lighting, audio recording and video production. They do stage and lighting for special events, corporate meetings, trade shows and conventions.
To describe Elliot’s unexpected, often bizarre journey to being the front man of emerging indie rockers and owning a successful studio and events company, it might be too easy to reach for flying metaphors. After leaving his studies at Purdue after a year, the singer/songwriter worked at a transmission parts factory for a few months before hightailing it to Chicago, where he was based as a flight attendant for ATA for five years. Once he got to Vegas, Elliot considered investing the $4,000 he had into flight lessons, but he opted to use it for recording instead.
During his time on the ground in Chicago, he formed and was lead singer of Khaos Theory, a Godsmack-esque group mostly comprised of older guys. They played numerous clubs and were a popular attraction at biker bars. When the airline folded, Elliot moved with his wife to her parents’ town of Lafayette, Indiana to regroup. While doing open mic nights with his acoustic songs, he had a series of funky day jobs, from working in corporate for a hospital and selling copiers to valuing claims for an insurance company. During this time, he honed his chops doing small tours as a solo acoustic artist—playing gigs in Chicago, Lafayette, Louisville, Indianapolis, Champaign and other cities.
“I didn’t like all of those day jobs,” he says, “but that was a great time for me musically, because the club circuit in the Midwest had a lot of opportunities for solo acoustic performers to play. The extra money was good and I was even invited to do interviews and play on some local radio stations. That kind of thing rarely happens in a city like Las Vegas, where there are so many great artists and bands vying for that exposure and tourists come more often for the big shows on the Strip.”
While Vegas is a challenging place for indie bands to make their mark, Elliot is grateful that his wife was transferred there because meeting the musicians who ultimately became core players in Szabo proved to be a life changing experience musically and otherwise. They helped him realize that there was more to his artistry than being a solo acoustic artist—and now he can’t imagine things working out any other way.
“To make a splash in a city like Vegas or L.A., being good doesn’t cut it,” he says, “so all of us are constantly inspired to up our game with every new song we write and record and every show we do. I wasn’t sure how it would go here at first, but I’ve come to really enjoy my life because I know how hard I have worked to get to this point and how much I have to look forward to if I keep working just as hard. There’s nothing greater than performing for people and we are hoping that Get Wasted will lead to touring opportunities.”