El Tee is the musical pseudonym of Lauren Tarver, previously known as a member of Parisian post-punk band Gomme and most recently in jangly grungers, Club Med.
Although now accompanied by a backing band when playing live, the El Tee sound is often pretty minimal, just Lauren’s soaring vocal, country-tinged vocal and gently, strummed electric guitar.
Although originally from Northern California, El Tee now calls Melbourne home. Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne is the state capital of Victoria and home to 4.7 million residents. Although habited in some form for an estimated 40,000 years, Melbourne’s growth can largely be traced back to the Victorian gold-rush of the 1850’s, the population doubled in a matter of months and it soon overtook Sydney as Australia’s largest settlement, only losing that title again in the twentieth century, although good news Victorians, estimates suggested Melbourne will reclaim the mantle of Australia’s largest city by around 2030. While the population battle is fierce, the cultural battle is a non-event, Melbourne well established as the countries cultural capital, and one of the world’s finest musical cities, with more music venues per head than even Austin, Texas. Arguably the city’s most famous musical offspring is the irrefutably brilliant Nick Cave, although Kylie Minogue has probably sold more records. In recent years the city has seen something of a boom with acts like Gabriella Cohen, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard and Alex Lahey all making waves both in Australia and overseas.
Lauren has been performing solo since around 2013, but only released the first El Tee offering, Rough Light, in February this year, a collection of demos of songs written throughout 2017. Lauren recently showcased something more polished sounding in the shape of new two track EP, Radio Silence, which was released at the back end of March.
The latest in a string of excellent, alt-country indebted songwriters emerging from Australia in recent years, El Tee wouldn’t sound out of place alongside the likes of Julia Jacklin, Gabriella Cohen or Jen Cloher. Thankfully though, all easy comparisons aside there’s plenty about Lauren’s songwriting to make her stand out, even from that impressive crowd.
Take Radio Silence’s lead track, Hold On; a throb of bass and gentle, barely there drum beat aside, it’s just Lauren to the fore. Her lightly strummed, warm electric guitar meanders gently around the fret board, as her vocal, distant and echoing carries much of the melodic weight. The quiet simplicity of the music allows the track to ebb and flow with the passion of the voice, and allows the lyrics to shine out, as Lauren spells out a story of finding failure through freezing in the face of possible success, as she sings, “are you here? Are you waiting for the moment to arise?”
Although in terms of instrumentation it is even more stripped bare than Hold On, the EP’s other track, Inside, is a darker, more brooding beast. Recalling the same over-driven guitar meets soaring vocal combination Magana used so memorably, Inside is an emotional and almost insular piece of songwriting. Lauren has suggested it is a study of loneliness even in the presence of others, how we can all at times become engulfed by the safety-net that our internal monologue can provide.
Radio Silence is a hugely promising introduction, but it is just that an introduction. The next step, a debut album is already in the works, will be the moment of truth. If Radio Silence is anything to go by, it could be spectacular.
Radio Silence is out now. Click HERE for more information on El Tee.