The Gateway – October 2006

Elected as world’s busiest musical touring caravan.

The Elected’s Blake Sennett talks about his musical double life, leading a band and David Bowie.

Ryan Heise

The Elected
With Margot, and the Nuclear So and So’s
Friday, 20 October at 8pm
The Powerplant

To call The Elected front man Blake Sennett busy is a bit of an understatement.

As a member of both Rilo Kiley and The Elected, Sennett is accustomed to balancing his time between different projects. The two LA-based bands consist of members that are almost constantly working on multiple enterprises—a fact that Sennett admits can be demanding.

“Right now, we’re trying to get the van fixed up so we can go on tour,” Sennett says of his latest project, one that leaves him sounding a bit rushed as he answers his phone. But after a few minutes of discussing payment options for the repairs with his colleague in Los Angeles, he comes down from being a businessman and back to the world of a musician—one he’s all too familiar with.

“We’ve been recording an album with Kiley and trying to rehearse for this Elected tour, and it’s been kind of difficult,” Sennett concedes.

With The Elected’s members taking on so many extracurricular activities, it’s easy to give them the label of a super group, but Sennett is quick to dispel this notion.

“God no, not really at all,” he says. “I think it’s just some friends making some music.”

The Elected—a band started by Sennett and Rilo Kiley drummer Jason Boesel—released their second album Sun, Sun, Sun in January of this year, and have been touring almost non-stop ever since.

The band’s most recent North American exploits saw them wandering the US with Toronto-based Stars, as well as opening a few shows here in Canada with Metric. They were pleased to share stages and audiences with both of these bands, but as Sennett recalls, Rilo Kiley’s experience was a bit more eventful when they had to open for Coldplay during a 2005 US tour.

“[The Elected] is a band that’s accustomed to seeing really passionate, awesome fans every night who really care about you and really care about your music,” Sennett says. “In terms of opening for a band like Coldplay, you’re going to see mostly apathetic people, so it wasn’t the best experience. It’s probably not something we’d do again anytime soon.”

Rilo Kiley may get to tour with Coldplay, and The Elected might have to get by, for now, with smaller shows, but the two contrasting projects allow Sennett to reiterate where the priorities of his busy life lie.

“[The Elected] is a side project and was intended to be and continues to be,” Sennett says. “It’s impossible to put your energy into both bands. There’s just not enough time in the day or in your life to have two bands that you can devote equal time to. But in my heart, and in terms of the music, it doesn’t feel to me like a side project.”

Ultimately, though, the biggest difference between his two bands is where Sennett places himself in each. As a co-founder of Rilo Kiley, his role in the band is mainly that of a musician, but fronting The Elected with his own songs poses it’s own set of challenges.

“If you’re not feeling well, you’ve got to step up and you can’t really ever take a night off,” Sennet says of The Elected. “As a guitar player you can zone out a little bit more, but as a singer you’ve got to always be present. I think there’s a lot more pressure. They’re your songs, so if they suck, it’s on you.”

But suck they don’t. With an eclectic sound that ranges from folk-and-blues-inspired harmonies to fast guitar solos accompanied by prevalent horn sections and melodic piano runs, The Elected’s music is often as busy as Sennett himself.

However, their musical complexity doesn’t deter the band from performing its songs in a live setting. While they’re used to putting pressure on themselves to be as true to their albums as possible, they’ve now realized that the songs stand on their own, even with the most minimal instrumentation.

“If it’s a choice between seeing David Bowie play ‘Life on Mars’ with the whole orchestra or just an acoustic guitar or piano and his voice, I think I would come away with a similar experience,” Sennett says. “It’s okay to not to sound like the record, and I think I’m starting to realize that.”