Club d’Elf releases new single “Level Up Your Soul” featuring Hayley Jane; tribute to Morphine frontman Mark Sandman on 20th anniversary of his death
New digital-only single featuring singer Hayley Jane and guitarist Reeves Gabrels (The Cure, ex-Bowie)
Boston-based, Moroccan-dosed dub-jazz collective Club d’Elf celebrates the release of the single “Level Up Your Soul”, the band’s first studio collaboration with singer Hayley Jane. The July 3 release date is timed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Morphine singer and two-string slide bassist, Mark Sandman, who suffered a heart attack onstage in Palestrina, Italy on July 3, 1999.
The track has it origins in the band Hypnosonics, Sandman’s “secret band”, which pre-dated Morphine and was a local Boston/Cambridge favorite from 1985-1999. Club d’Elf leader Mike Rivard was the bassist for the band, and together with the drummer, J Hilt, wrote a song that became part of the band’s repertoire. “Mark gave it the title ‘Out Of The House’, as its a four-on-the-floor, House kind of groove, and Mark often had a hard time leaving the house”, Rivard laughs. “In the early days of Club d’Elf we recorded a version of the song with Reeves Gabrels (The Cure), who was playing with David Bowie at the time, and had a few days off the road in Boston. After Mark died I worked on it a bit, but it seemed to lack something and I eventually shelved it.”
Fast forward twenty years, and as the anniversary of Sandman’s passing approached, Rivard turned his attention back to the track, with an idea for what might bring the song to life. “The band is primarily instrumental, but on special occasions we’ll have singers sit in”, Rivard explains. “Hayley is one of those rare singers who is so strong and fearless that she can spontaneously step in when we’re playing a Moroccan Berber song – that she’s never heard before, and can be pretty tricky for the uninitiated – and just command the groove and really make it her own. When I first thought about putting a vocal on the track – which had always been instrumental – she was the first person I thought of. I knew she was a Morphine fan, and when I presented the idea to her she was into it. I had no doubt that her vocal would be great, but I had no idea what she’d come up for lyrically, and that kind of scared me”, Rivard admits. “But what she wrote is so amazing, and I know Mark would have approved.”
“I was already so jazzed when Mike asked me to collaborate with Club d’Elf, but when he explained the history of the tune my heart erupted”, Hayley relates. “I decided to go to a few of Sandman’s old hang-outs and listen to the track on my headphones with pen and notebook in hand. I was at the Plough and Stars when it all poured out, starting with a subtle melodic quote from the beginning of the Morphine song, “Super Sex”. It’s beautiful what can happen when you put your antenna up and open yourself to someone’s frequency. Mark has inspired me so much. I was honored to record this track.”
“Mark was actually the inspiration for me starting D’Elf, as he got tired of me bugging him about booking Hypnos gigs”, Rivard continues. “When I was trying out different names he liked ‘Club d’Elf’, so I went with that. Around ’96 he introduced me to the Hassan Hakmoun album ‘Gift of the Gnawa’, which got me interested in the Moroccan sintir, which is a bass instrument and has only three strings, so of course Mark loved it. When I eventually got one and taught myself to play it, I dedicated the first song I wrote on it to him – ‘Sand’. He had a huge influence on my bass playing, showing me how the bass line could be the melody – the thing that people would go away humming – and also to keep things simple, and avoid playing ‘fills’, because they break the trance quality of the music. While ‘Level Up’ perhaps isn’t the sort of sound that people would associate with Mark, for me it has his vibe all over it, and finishing it helped me process the strangeness of him being gone twenty years now.”
Over its 21 year existence, spanning thirteen albums and seeing the band traveling as far afield from its Lizard Lounge home base as Japan and Ecuador, a mind-boggling array of special guests have joined the “club”, including John Medeski, Hassan Hakmoun, Dana Colley (Morphine), DJ Logic, Ryan Montbleau and Marco Benevento among many others. Surrounding bassist/composer Rivard and drummer Dean Johnston is an ever-changing constellation of creative improvisors from the jazz, DJ, rock & world music scenes of Boston and NYC, as well as international guests. Each Club d’Elf performance features a different line-up, creating a unique experience for audience and musicians alike. The band’s music draws from a startlingly wide spectrum of styles, including jazz, Moroccan Gnawa, hip hop, psychedelia, electronica, avant garde and dub, with the Boston Globe calling it “the music of dreams”. The band is currently in the studio working on its next full-length album, recording on an analog, 2″ tape machine.
Hayley Jane pulls inspiration from a variety of styles, including 60s/70s rock + pop, musical theater, folk, blues, soul, reggae, psychedelic, funk, bluegrass + country. Her music has been praised by a wide range of musicians, producers, music lovers + the like, for successfully combining a diverse sound with clever, over-the-top lyrics + Vaudevillian style storytelling. Hayley’s on-stage energy + theatrics draw her crowds into a vivid landscape of emotion. She reawakens her audiences to the wild parts of the soul – medicine so needed in these modern times.
“Level Up Your Soul” feat. Hayley Jane (vocals), Mike Rivard (upright bass, tamboura), Reeves Gabrels (guitar), Sam Gilman (wurly, Moog), Neil G Larson aka Dr Nigel (Rhodes, synth, beats), Mister Rourke (turntables), J Hilt & Dave Mattacks (drums)
Produced and arranged by Mike Rivard. Recorded by Tom Dube & Will Holland. Mixed by Will Holland. Mastered by Scott Craggs at Old Colony Mastering. Cover art by Doug Sirois.