The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir
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The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir

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The best kept secret in music


"Jim Derogatis Interview"

The Scotland Yard Builds Sound Bit by Brit

May 28, 2004

Plenty of Midwestern bands sport British affectations in their music and demeanor -- Anglophilia runs deep here, especially among sensitive singer-songwriter types in the lush genre known as "ork" (for "orchestrated") pop. But Chicago's Scotland Yard Gospel Choir comes by its roots naturally.
Elia Einhorn, the band's leader, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, was born to a British mother and an American father in a hospital set in a sheep field outside a rural village in northern Wales. His mother immigrated here to work as a nanny, and while Einhorn spent most of the year attending Chicago public schools, summers were spent in Wales, soaking up the culture of the British Isles.
"That's where I picked up a lot of my musical taste, as you can probably tell," Einhorn says, laughing. "Where I'm from in Wales is the northern section, just over the border from Manchester and Liverpool, so that's how I got into Stone Roses and Happy Mondays and all that stuff when I was a kid."
Einhorn started playing music when he was 17. "My dad played folk music and jazz," he says. "As soon as I kicked drugs in high school, that's when I picked up the guitar. It's funny -- I know for most people it's exactly the opposite!"
The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir first came together in 2001, when he was studying music at Columbia College and looking for a side project to another local band called the Snowbank Seven.
"At that point, it was just me and Boston," Einhorn said, referring to fellow guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Matthew Kerstein. "Boston was in a three-piece band called the Union, which was like meat-and-potatoes rock 'n' roll. We got together because we were the two people who were into the Smithsonian's 'American Anthology of Folk Music' and we wanted to play those songs together as an acoustic folk duo.
"Really, it was just about the songs in the beginning for us," Einhorn continues. "Neither of us liked that kind of jam-band music that was out. His band was all right, but they really weren't writing very good songs, and my band was full of musicians who were drifting in and out, and I kind of became disenchanted with it. What happened was I went over to Scotland when Belle and Sebastian came out of hiding to tour, and I followed their British tour. Then I came back and I told Boston that we had to go see them, so we drove to the West Coast to see them play a couple of times, and we decided then and there that we needed a big band to get our vision across."
The connection to cult-favorite Scottish chamber-popsters Belle and Sebastian has been both a blessing and a curse for the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. On the one hand, it has enabled the Chicago group to tap into a natural fan base for that sort of exquisitely crafted, unapologetically smart and emotional ork pop. On the other, it has prompted some critics to write off the group as a mere clone band.
"Our first single, 'Jenny That Cries,' was literally modeled on Belle and Sebastian," Einhorn confesses. "I used to sit and obsessively study their music. I'd say, 'When is this instrument coming in, at what second in the song and at what part of the verse?' I drew up tons of these charts of how they did arranging, and I emulated that. And the character is kind of like one that [Belle and Sebastian leader Stuart] Murdoch would create -- Jenny is this kind of character who's kind of lost and kind of found and kind of all over the board."
And in any event, the group has grown far beyond mere mimicry with its self-released debut album, "I Bet You Say That to All the Boys" (www. The album is a wonderfully beguiling set of extremely winning and well-written folk-rock, adorned with a small orchestra's worth of instruments, from cello to melodica, and from tasteful Fender Rhodes piano to a divine horn section. Onstage, the core quartet of Einhorn, Kerstein, drummer Sam Koentopp and cellist Ellen O'Hayer is often augmented by two trombones, trumpet and acoustic bass. If there's a problem in rock today, it isn't that there's too much trombone or standup bass.
- Chicago Sun-Times

"Pop Matters Review"

One look at the debut album by The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, and you'll know immediately that this young band adores Scottish orchestral pop icons Belle and Sebastian to the point of near-fanaticism. You've got the soft-focus cover photo of a young indie girl, a tediously long band name that just happens to have Scotland in the title, and, of course, an ironic-sounding album title. If that's not enough, turn the CD over, and you'll see a host of song titles that smack of artsy preciousness: "Ellen's Telling Me What I Want to Hear", "Would You Still Love Me if I Was in a Knife Fight?", "I Say the Stupidest Things Sometimes". If you can't stand Belle and Sebastian, you probably hate Belle and Sebastian wannabes even more, and a two-second peek at this album will be enough to send you away in disgust. However, if you're a total sucker for gentle, thoughtful music like that, then you just might want to look give this one a try.

The thing is, The Scotland Yard Gospel choir hail from Chicago, not Glasgow, but their love of orch-pop runs so deep, they might as well hail from Scotland. The music on their new album, I Bet You Say That to All the Boys, is typically acoustic-based, as they combine folky male vocals (think Nick Drake) with pretty, breathy female singing (think Camera Obscura). There's lots of cello, violin, flute, and flugelhorn peppering each song, with plenty of dry humor in the lyrics. The songs by singer/guitarist/keyboardist Elia Einhorn are unapologetically shameless in their worshipping of all things Belle and Sebastian, so much so, in fact, that Stuart Murdoch is name-dropped twice on the album (once in a song, and again in the liner notes), but despite the immense lack of originality in his compositions, they possess a soft, unassuming charm that's impossible to deny.

Einhorn has admitted to modeling the band's first single "Jennie That Cries" after the work of Mr. Murdoch, and it's clear that the guy has done his homework, because it's so similar to Belle and Sebastian, it's stunning. Over a gently shuffling drum brush beat and lush strings and flutes, Einhorn sings, with perfectly-executed Murdochian phrasing, about the classic orch-pop subject, the sullen female art student: "So Jennie keeps her pain in the art on her canvas, in her paintbrush strokes, boy, the way that she'll brandish her pencil like a knife." The charmingly honest "Fan Club" has Einhorn admitting, "I'm joining a fan club/ And I'm not ashamed," before confessing, "I wish I could sound the same." Meanwhile, singer/cellist Ellen O'Hayer adds hew sweet vocals on the aforementioned cute songs "Would You Still Love Me if I Was in a Knife Fight?", "I Say the Stupidest Things Sometimes".

It's the band's second songwriter, however, who proves to be their greatest asset. Singer/guitarist Matthew "Boston" Kerstein possesses a terrific, ragged, punk-like voice, not to mention some great lyric writing skill, as his songs range from the beautifully tender (the romantic "All the Heart You Wear on Your Sleeve"), to surprisingly energetic and passionate. Kerstein and O'Hayer pull off an absolutely gorgeous duet on "Bet You Never Thought it Would Be Like This", the pair trading verses, O'Hayer's gentle voice contrasting with Kerstein's drunken howl, bringing to mind the 1995 duet "Haunted", by Shane MacGowan and Sinead O'Connor. Kerstein's voice takes on a bit of a Joe Strummer quality on the propulsive "She Just Wants to Move" and the melancholy, Neil Young style combination of acoustic guitar and harmonica on "Mother's Son" works well with his touching, confessional style lyrics. The darkly tinged "Along the Way", which features his best lines, "I'm naïve but I think we are what we set out to find/ But no one set out to be a drunken driver/ No one set out to be an unwed mother/ No one set out to be a lying lover/ We just pick it up along the way."

Despite the large number of cookie cutter orch-pop songs, there's a surprising amount of musical depth on several tracks. "Tear Down the Opera House" is a raucous, punk-fueled, Clash style tune, the poppy "I Know a Girl" features Gospel vocals, and "Topsy Turvy" employs a drum machine, adding a light electronic touch. It's moments like these, as well as Kerstein's songwriting skill, that makes I Bet You Say That to All the Boys marginally pleasant, and you get the feeling that this whole Belle and Sebastian obsession, which borders dangerously on overkill, will be merely a stepping stone towards a sound The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir can call their own.

— 7 July 2004
- Pop Matters

"Top Ten from Sun-Times"

"I Bet You Say That to All the Boys"
***1/2 Jim Derogatis
(Sun-Times) 1.15.04

I've been a fan of this genteel, lulling, chamber-pop quartet since its impressive first single, "Jennie That Cries." That track returns on the group's first full-length album, which is even stronger than I'd hoped it would be. A small orchestra's worth of instruments come and go through the rich musical tapestry, from cello to melodica to the odd burst of wonderfully '60s-sounding keyboard, but the vocals are always the center of the attention, and primary singer-songwriter Elia Einhorn thankfully avoids the ultra-breathy, twee and childlike style of singing that has occasionally marred recordings by fellow travelers such as Belle and Sebastian and Chicago's late, lamented Yum-Yum. - Sun-Times

"Top Ten from Chicago Tribune"

A Diverse gem, other indie delights
Greg Kot picks his favorites from Chicago's 2003 independent music scene.
By Greg Kot (Chicago Tribune) Each year, this column enumerates at least 10 reasons why Chicago's independent music scene is second to none. I had to expand to a dozen indie albums to accommodate all my local favorites from the last year. Several of these artists will be playing in the next few weeks (consult individual entries for details). Here are the Chicago 12 for 2003:

6. The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, "I Bet You Say That to All the Boys" (Fashion Brigade Recordings, The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir makes no attempt to disguise its adoration for wispy chamber-pop avatars Belle and Sebastian, right down to bookish couplets that rhyme "cuticles" with "pharmaceuticals." But that doesn't diminish the plaintive beauty of the group's unfailingly melodic, unabashedly compassionate orchestral-pop songs.
- Chicago Tribune

"Top Ten from Illinois Entertainer"

Illinois Entertainer (Joseph Niemczyk) [Back]
January, 2004
It would be easy to write off The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir as twee pop imitators if their songs weren't quite so endearing. Following two successful singles, their full-length debut, I Bet You Say That To All The Boys, finds their sparse, reserved chamber pop bolstered by raucous rave-ups that should help them shake those pesky Belle And Sebastian comparisons. That's not to say they've abandoned youthful sentimentalism; their songs play like love letters to the listener, with enough measured sincerity and humor to hook both ardent anglophiles and emo exiles.

- Illinois Entertainer


i bet you say that to all the boys-Debut Album

Released in Chicago in Nov. of 2003 and nationally on August 13th of 2004. It has recieved airplay on WFMU New York, all Major indie stations throughout the midwest, and Q101 Chicago, and WXRT Chicago.

I Never Thought I Could Feel This Way For A Boy
Single, Available online at
Recieved three stars from Illinois Entertainer

Jennie That Cries
Single, Available online at
Recieved three stars from Illinois Entertainer and the Chicago Sun-Times.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Since its inception in the fall of 2002, the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir has quickly worked its way onto the Chicago music scene. In under two years, the band has moved from playing elite smaller capacity venues like Schuba's (capacity 150) to consistently appearing at larger venues of similar stature like the Metro (capacity 1,300). SYGC music has been heard on premier Chicago radio stations like Q101, the city's most popular alternative rock station and WXRT, a progressive rock station. The band was profiled on Chicago Public Radio and was also featured on the show “Sound Opinions”—a WXRT program co-hosted by music critics Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune and Jim DeRogotis of the Chicago Sun-Times. Mr. DeRogotis, arguably the city's most influential rock critic, recently chose to feature the band for a full-page color spread in the Weekend Plus section of Chicago Sun-Times. In the profile, Mr. DeRogotis wrote that the band “hasn't taken a wrong turn yet, and that they're well on their way to becoming one of the most ambitious and rewarding bands in Chicago.”

Fans have echoed Mr. DeRogitis' sentiment, as SYGC has played to enthusiastic crowds at popular venues in Chicago, New York, Cleveland, Madison, Wisconsin, and Detroit. The band has appeared on bills with The Walkmen, The Handsome Family, Of Montreal, Mates of State, Camera Obscura, Califone, The Aluminum Group and Jay Bennett (formerly of Wilco). SYGC is thrilled to be embarking on its first East Coast tour, and to be unveiling its CD in cities accross the country. Their 14-track debut album I bet you say that to all the boys of orchestrated pop and rock songs will be available at the show, at local independent record stores, and on the web at