The Elevations
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The Elevations

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The best kept secret in music


"The Next Next Big Thing?"

by Shannon McCarthy

"The national dance of the Detroit scene is a beer in hand and a head nod. When we started playing out, people put down their drinks and started to dance. Once that happened, I knew this was going to be a fun band." Sean Ike is just one of (usually) nine members of Detroit's pre-eminent throwback soul revue, The Elevations - hell, they're the only throwback soul revue. He, like the rest of this mashed-together group, know how difficult it is for people in Detroit to put the cool posturing on hold and shake their asses without inhibition.

The Elevations are one of the most exciting bands playing in and around the city today, and if you haven't caught the act, you best prepare to get on board. They've brought something completely fresh to the Detroit rock scene: a sound reminiscent of that which ruled radio and clubs some 40 years ago. Striking up a pure '60s-soul attack, The Elevations deliver cuts and looks that are unabashedly retro, and the band (which includes a three- piece horn section) completes the package with two incredible vocalists: Erika Herron, a lovely young lady who belts out heart-torn-in-pieces ballads, and Ike, a skinny young man who pulls out all the James Brown- style dance moves he can muster while howlin' like he's going to explode. The sight of this ensemble onstage, dressed to the nines and sounding like 1963, is nothing if not invigorating.

The most fascinating thing about the band (or at least the hardest to believe) is that no one else is doing what they're doing - really, it's kind of shocking, especially when you think about how revival-centric the local scene has become. "The garage scene is so great," Ike says, "but I was like, 'What happened on the other side of the tracks in town at that time period?'" While the current heap of popular Detroit bands has found a rut paying homage to the heyday of garage and punk, The Elevations haven't forgotten the rich tapestry of soul and Motown, the other musical genres with strong Detroit associations. The idea of mining an untapped genre only made the band - Ike, Herron, Eric Stollsteimer (vibraphone/guitar), Jim Auge (bass), Joel Devonshire (drums), Jerry Berlongieri (keyboards), Jason Ledbetter (trumpet), Gabe Heiss (saxophone) and Ben Mancell (rhythm guitar/saxophone) - more excited and driven.

And people are already taking note. Greg Baise, talent buyer at the Magic Stick and Majestic, is one of those whose head has been turned by The Elevations' ingenuity. "They're doing something different - they're definitely capturing the spirit that kept the kids dancing all night in U.K. northern-soul clubs," he says. "They're undeniably catchy, upbeat and danceable. And there are so many of them - it always seems like such a feat when someone can orchestrate such a large rock group for a specialized purpose, and do such a good job at it."

When The Elevations were still a twinkle in Mancell's eye (he's the mastermind behind the ensemble and, ironically, is leaving the band to move to New York), he didn't exactly know which players would get his idea off the ground. He had Jim Auge, a former bandmate in the new-wave outfit Rael Rean and his friend Eric Stollsteimer (Freddy and the Fourgone Conclusions) as a core. But the group's signature - the double-vocal assault - would prove to be the piece de resistance.

The next recruit was Herron, who is also a go-go dancer in her brother esQuire's troupe. Her first stab at singing is with The Elevations, an astounding fact considering her vocal prowess.

The final addition to the roster was an instance of serendipity. Stollsteimer (the older brother of The Von Bondies' Jason Stollsteimer), met Ike through a friend of a friend one night and casually asked him to join the new group. No one could've known how deeply this decision would impact the band's sound and presentation.

Ike, a character in his own right, sticks out like a sore thumb in rock clubs - not only because of his outspoken personality, but his looks as well. Seeing him sweat through his suit, take hold of the microphone and belt through soul tunes - all the while slip sliding from the floor and back up with better moves than this city has scene in decades - well, it's simply something to behold. "I'm always dancing," he says. "Now that I'm in a band, it's specific to the type of music. I'm trying to pull off a James Brown-style, even though that's impossible!" Yet he comes closer to Brown's boogie than anyone else in these parts.

The Elevations are intent on turning this into the most exhilarating act Detroit has seen in decades. "The vision is essentially to revive the mid- '60s soul sound made popular by Motown and Stax," says Herron, the sole female in the group. "We wanted to combine the smoothness of the Detroit soul sound with the more aggressive southern soul sound and authentically revive it."

Based on looks and a brief description, The Elevations could easily be mistaken for any co - Real Detroit Magazine


by Liz Hill

The Lowdown: Whatever you do, don't call them the Commitments. While it's true the Elevations are a multimember soul band, and that they play the occasional Otis Redding cover, no cookie cutter could have created the sensual mishmash of Motown, punk, garage and ska that this Detroit/Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti-based band takes for granted. With two pure-voiced singers and a stage-crowding backing band, the Elevations end up sounding like the Standells fronted by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

8 Lads, 1 Lady: Eric Stollsteimer on guitar. Jim Augé on bass guitar. Joel Devonshire on drums. Gabe Heiss on tenor sax. Jason Ledbetter on trumpet. Jerry Berlongieri on keyboards. Sean Ike and Erika Herron on vocals. And founder Ben Mancell plays rhythm guitar, but will be leaving the band to attend college in New York City.

The Assembly Line: Mancell called Stollsteimer about a year ago and asked him, "You wanna join a soul band -- like a 10-piece, big, Motown-style band?" Stollsteimer said sure, but assumed it would never come to light. "How can you get 10 people to do anything?" he thought.

Well, a month later, Mancell called back, saying, "OK, I've got the band." So, from humble beginnings playing instrumental soul in Stollsteimer's living room to the double-throated current sound, the Elevations have kept busy adding members and establishing themselves as an authentic alternative to straight garage rock.

My Brother!: Stollsteimer's older brother Jason plays guitar and sings for the Von Bondies, one of the few Detroit bands to break the D-town mold and hit it big overseas. And it was Herron's big bro, local mod-rapper Esquire (for whom she is a go-go dancer), who got her into the Elevations -- her first band -- telling Stollsteimer, "My sister has an amazing voice and she would totally be into this."

And into it she is. Herron and Ike write the lyrics to all the Elevations' songs, and though she was a novice, Herron "was a natural," says Stollsteimer. "We gave her the songs and she put lyrics to them instantly."

The Soul Experience: Dark suits, skinny ties and a sound that will light a gas furnace underneath your dancing feet. They might throw in an obscure Florence Ballard tune, but the rest of the songs are original. "We're not your dad's oldies cover band," Heiss warns. Stollsteimer adds, "We're part of the rock 'n' roll scene, not the casino scene."

And though Ike calls the Elevations' music "soul through the lens of Iggy Pop and the Jackson 5," it's still soul. And thus, the musicians must be true to the, well, soul of the music. "The thing about soul," Ike says, "is that for it to work right, everyone has to be committed. You can't half-ass it."

The Record: The Elevations will soon be putting out a single on D.Wrecked Hit Records.

Gigs: The Elevations play at 9 p.m. Saturday at313.Jac, the venue above Jacoby's, 624 Brush, Detroit. 800-700-2437. On Aug. 1, see the band at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward, Detroit. 313-833-9700. With the Sights and Thee Shams. The band's Web site is - Detroit Free Press


Self Titled EP. released in August 2004


Feeling a bit camera shy


With hard-hitting rhythms accompanied by a powerhouse horn section, and soul-drenched female vocals, The Elevations have captured the essence of a lost Motor city art form. Yes, Detroit is now once again the home of sweet soul music. Inspired by the golden years of the 1960's, The Elevations have influences ranging from the gritty sound of Stax, to the pop sensibility of Motown, to the dance induced rhythms of Northern Soul. This is not your typical “revival” band that is often popularized by ageing jazz musicians that are confined to playing obvious cover songs at weddings and casinos. Members of The Elevations come from a punk/garage background helping define the band's energy and attitude; similar to the sound that was captured on so many great soul 45's from the 1960's.

The Elevations was conceived by guitarist/saxophonist Ben Mancell, who found it hard to believe that Detroit did not have an authentic soul band to call its own. After much searching for like-minded musicians, Ben recruited a variety of players who shared his vision and are now making it happen. Members include a who's who of Detroit musicians from former bands, such as MHz, Rael Rean, Pist-N-Broke, Mondo Mod, Freddy and the Four-Gone Conclusions, The Fathers of the Id, and even an esQuire go-go dancer! This collection has proven to put the soul back into Detroit's music scene and once again reclaim the name of the "Sound of Young America'