INTERVIEW: Elliott Turton talks about PORTAL, WAXEATER & more!
Elliott Turton is a busy dude. You’ve probably seen him at several shows running sound for several different venues over the years. OR, also probably know him as a cool musician that plays bass in noise rock mainstays Waxeater as well as guitar in instrumental post-rock band Work Shirt. Speaking of Waxeater, the band released a new record back in August of 2020 — smack dab in the middle of everyone’s favorite pandemic.
The album is called Extra Medium, and it is streaming now on Spotify, Bandcamp, and probably a lot of other places. Check out a song from the band’s latest effort called “I Love Your Body, Larry” below:
Sometime in the middle of the aforementioned pandemic, Elliott joined forces with a new venue in the Portland area called PORTAL. Located at 1535 Lytle Street, the new space serves as Louisville’s latest space for bands and artists to do their thing. I’d heard a few cool things about this new spot, but the more I was told, the more curious I became. So, I naturally reached out to Elliott to see if he’d be down to answer a few questions. Thankfully, he obliged. Read on as we discuss Portal, Waxeater, cool new records, and Wayne’s World 2…
Never Nervous: Tell us about Portal. I know that’s a vague request, but in general, how would you describe what the venue is all about?
Elliott Turton: For me, Portal is a dream venue come true. It’s a unique, 350 capacity venue in a giant unique building that treats bands and guests as equals. We wanted to create a venue where when bands and guest walk in, the first thing they say is “oh wow, this place is awesome!” Everywhere you look and every corner you turn in PORTAL, there is something cool to look at. From the resident artist installations hanging on the walls to the modern furniture built by Rockerbuilt, to the giant outdoor patio with hanging dreamcatcher swings and faux grass lawn; when you come to PORTAL, your senses are going to be overloaded with art and music.
We have many attractive perks for bands like multiple green rooms, a rehearsal room, plenty of room on the stage, a super loud PA, backline gear, and both indoor and outdoor stages. Also on our campus, we have Hidden Room studios operated by my dudes Pat Hume and Sam Scholten, where touring and local bands can use the studio for a pre-show video shoot, podcast interview and more. In the future, we will also be able to record the live audio from every show by using an ethernet cord from the PORTAL mixer over to the Hidden Room. Once we have archived a chunk of live shows, we want to put out a “Live From PORTAL” compilation of those recordings. We are all about making bands feel as comfortable as possible.
The venue might be a little off the beaten path for some as far as location goes but once you come out and check out everything the complex has to offer, the atmosphere and experience will hook you and it will become one of your favorite venues to see shows because of how loose and free spirited we are. To me it feels like going to a cool, underground, secluded, DIY warehouse show. I never liked the cattle-call style of going to shows where you herded through a long line of security and pat downs, you buy a $13 PBR tall boy, the bands are all hiding out in green rooms never to be seen or interacted with, you see the show, then you are herded out of the venue. To me, that kind of experience leaves me feeling grifted with a bad taste in mouth.
That’s why PORTAL and the fifteenTWELVE crew strive to do the opposite of that. We are all musicians and in bands so we “get it”. We want to treat bands that play PORTAL how our own bands would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. One of the greatest compliments I get from touring bands is “Even though the show wasn’t the biggest turn out, this show was our favorite of the tour because of how cool everyone is and how awesome the venue is” Of course we want as many people as possible to come to the shows but that’s the kind of attitude we want project. When you play with us, we are all equals so lets have the maximum amount of fun as we can while still taking care of business.
NN: Will adult beverages be available at shows at Portal? Or food?
Elliott Turton: Yes, select beers and spirits will be sold at shows. We want to do as many all ages shows as possible and still be able to serve alcohol so an ID gets you a wristband to drink. When we do all ages shows, there is no re-entry so we try and offer snacks for sale like bags of chips but food trucks have the ability to pull into our giant outdoor patio and serve food to guest for certain shows and fest.
NN: How did you feel about the “live streams” from bands playing shows live on the internet during the pandemic? Did you watch any?
ET: I think live stream shows scratched the itch for a lot of bands that where going stir-crazy from not being able to play out live for a year; my own bands included. Each one of my bands, WAXEATER and Work Shirt, participated in the awesome Late For Dinner streaming shows at Art Sanctuary and we had a blast. Believe it or not, it was nice to be heckled by our friends again after such a long hiatus. But from a viewers stand point, as good as most live streamed shows were that I saw, they all felt slightly empty, which obviously comes from a missing live audience.
My reaction after watching live stream shows was always “that was pretty cool…wish I was there to see it person” followed by sorrow that I didn’t get to see it in person and that we are all still stuck in the middle of this pandemic nightmare. All that said, major kudos and chill points awarded to the bands, venues, and crew that put on streaming shows. Y’all worked hard to keep the spirit of live music alive while often under thankless conditions without pay and we truly appreciate it
NN: How tough was it for Waxeater to release your Extra Medium record in the middle of a pandemic? Was there ever a consideration to wait until Covid-19 was “over and done with” to release the record?
ET: So we finished the album, got the album on the great Phratry Records, booked a local album release show, booked a mini tour around Chicago to support the record in April 2020 and then Covid shut it all down. We released the album digitally with very little fanfare just to get it out for people and reviewers to listen to. Not only was the wind that built up for the original release timeframe was being taken out of our sails, it also felt like a punch in the gut not being able to tour or play any supporting shows for a whole year. We have finally rescheduled a double album release show with our noise rock comrades Bad Wires for Sept 4th at PORTAL to give our album releases the proper party they deserve.
NN: Speaking of Waxeater, what’s new with the band? Any big plans for the Summer or Fall seasons?
ET: Besides the album release show on Sept 4th at Portal, we will be recording an EP in our old stomping grounds of Bloomington Indiana at Russian Recording with Mike Bridavsky. We are super stoked for that since the band was originally formed in Bloomington and Mike recorded the WAXEATER album Sleeper. We are crashing at the studio for a weekend so we are looking forward to getting out of town, recording riffs and chilling hard.
NN: What other bands are you in right now? You seem to always be up to two or three things at a time.
ET: The other band I’m in is called Work Shirt with Clayton Ray (Parlour, Future Fossils) on bass/baritone and Dave Wright (Twin Sister Radio, The Golden Whip, Starkiller) on drums and myself switching around on guitar, baritone guitar and bass. We have been a band for like 4 years now but have finally just finished recording our first album. We’re the first full band to be recorded at the brand new Hidden Room studio with Sam and Pat in the fifteenTWELVE Creative Compound that houses PORTAL. We are currently an instrumental band with heavy Lungfish, Duster, Pell Mell, The 19th Dye, early Trans Am, Come, Ativin, and A Minor Forest influences. We are currently entertaining the idea of adding a spoken word/ poet vocalist to the mix and should have a few shows in the fall.
NN: During the lockdown, what was your favorite food to over eat out of depression? For me, it was canned refried beans. Out of the can. The whole thing.
ET: For me it was probably either Trader Joe’s Salted Chocolate Covered Almonds or Trader Joe’s Chocolate Covered Cherries. Those were the drug of choice for my family during lockdown. They’re were plenty of times I’d feel down during lockdown and the only thing that would pull me through is stuffing my face with a giant meatball calzone from the Post or hoovering into a giant plate of pad see ew from Simply Thai.
NN: Is Wayne’s World 2 really better than the original Wayne’s World? Because I don’t think so.
ET: I don’t think so either BUT I do have a certain love for whacked out sequels. I like Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey way more than Excellent Adventure because its so whacked out and weird. Wayne’s World 2 does hold a special place in heart both as a concert producer and radio station employee. I can relate to trying to confirm a last minute headliner for your DIY festival and I can also relate to meeting your radio hero in real life, only to be disappointed because they look nothing like how you thought they would look based on their voice.
NN: What is the last album that you bought? Do you like it?
ET: The last album I bought was Trans Am’s first album on vinyl from Fat Rabbit and its one of my top 3 favorite albums of all time. It was one of those albums that completely pivoted my entire preception of indie music and totally influenced how I wrote/played music there after.
NN: Before you go, tell us about 2 or 3 records you discovered over the course of the pandemic that really blew your hair back, new or old.
ET: Wow, so many. I am just gonna rattle a bunch off:
Dry Cleaning: “New Long Leg”
Love 666: “American Revolution”
The Double U: “Absurd Fjord”
The Beans: “Crane Wars”
Night Lunch: “Table for Two”
Enablers: “Output Negative Space”
Amnesty: “Free Your Mind”