Music Interview: Elvana, O2 Academy, Liverpool

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What do you get when you mix Elvis with Nirvana? You get Elvana, of course! This is a tribute band with a difference, bringing two very different styles together as one unique blend of musical entertainment, and they are coming to Liverpool’s O2 Academy on Saturday January 11 2020. Before then, though, we spoke to their front man Elvis about the band, their UK tour so far, and something we may not know about the band …

First of all, how is the current UK tour going?

Amazing, really amazing. Everything that we’re doing right now … the whole Elvana thing is like a joke that has gotten out of hand! We did a couple of shows for friends at a fancy dress party a few years back and it was just for a laugh. We started out doing Nirvana covers, and we’d been in bands for years. We’d pretty much stopped doing the whole band to get on with being dads and doing jobs. Then, when a mate of ours was doing a fancy dress party, he said “would you lads come and play some music?” We decided we’d do Nirvana covers because everyone our age was into Nirvana. But none of us looked like Nirvana, so we had this stupid drunken idea that we’d look out for an Elvis costume, with the rest of the band being dressed as Elvis, so we said we’d be Elvana, and that was the joke. So, it was a tribute mash-up. It went really well, surprisingly well; there was something about it that people really enjoyed. So we did another show for friends, then we did another show where people started turning up that we didn’t know. Then, we got invited to play at Newcastle Academy, and it sold out in the small room. So, we were asked if we would do a tour of the other Academies, and we were like “woah, where did this come from? Of course we will!” We’d wanted to do a tour for years. We started doing the smaller academy venues, and Liverpool was one of those. We started singing to a few hundred people, and the word started to spread for people to come to see it and enjoy it. I think the strange mash-up of Elvis and Nirvana just seems to put a smile on people’s faces, but if they loved Nirvana, they get to enjoy those tunes live that they haven’t necessarily heard before, or haven’t heard in a long time. Word of mouth kicked in, and all of a sudden, we started getting offered festivals and bigger venues, and selling 600 tickets instead of 300 in Liverpool, then 1,500 tickets, and just moving up. We even got to do Glastonbury and Download. It’s all just magic for us; it’s stuff that we never ever thought we’d get the chance to do. We’re just ticking the bucket list every day. Every big show like the main stage academy at Liverpool is just a dream come true. The tour is going really well, the crowds are really into it, and we thought that Elvana would be a one-trick pony, where people would come and see it once, and think it was funny, but not necessarily come back to see it again. But people are coming back again and again to see us. You just have to look on Facebook at the posts people are putting. This upcoming show will be our biggest show yet in Liverpool, with people seeing it for the second or third time. The crowd in Liverpool is always absolutely amazing. They are always so up for it. Different cities vary, so London might be different to Newcastle or Sheffield with a few songs needing the crowd to get going, but in Liverpool, we can hear the crowd before we even go out on stage. They’re chanting and ready to go, so we’re excited for the Liverpool show definitely.

How did the Elvis and Nirvana fans react to the group initially, and is your general audience a mix of those two fanbases?

Well, it was weird because we are still predominantly a Nirvana tribute act, so we play the Nirvana songs with a little bit of Elvis peppered in, but when we started, it was just Nirvana. When we did add the Elvis bits, the crowd were enjoying the Nirvana songs, but from that point, you could really hear the crowd cheering, screaming and singing along, so we were like “let’s do more of Elvis”. Adding more Elvis all the time. We get a mix with our fans, so it’s mostly Nirvana fans but there are Elvis fans as well. For the people who see a lot of Elvis tribute acts, what we do is fresh and different. If you want to see a straight-up Nirvana tribute act or a straight-up Elvis tribute act, there are plenty out there, especially for Elvis. But we bring a fresh show; it’s something different for Elvis fans, and for Nirvana fans, the music seemed to go down after Kurt Cobain died, so what we do is to bring the music back. And because I’m dressed as Elvis, people are laughing at that, so they’re not feeling the hurt of the loss of Kurt, so before you know it, people are enjoying the Nirvana songs in a way that they haven’t done since the mid-1990s. It brings really good vibes. We do get some hardcore haters, on the Nirvana side really, as they sometimes struggle with it, but it’s mostly the usual online trolls. I honestly believe that 99.9% of those who come to see the show go away with massive smiles on their faces. Those who have an issue with us as an Elvis-fronted Nirvana think that we’re taking the mick, but we absolutely love Nirvana and do those songs justice as good as any other tribute act. They’re missing that aspect, as they still think it’s a joke, but they just have to come along and see it, and to see the evidence of all the people scrambling to see the shows and posting about what a good time they’ve had. People are travelling all over the country to see it; we played an unplugged show in Newcastle, and people had come from all over the UK to see it, so it’s really nice to think that people are willing to travel that far to see your show.

What are the group’s aspirations for the future?

We just keep ticking off the bucket list. We’ve just announced that we’re going to Australia in May 2020 for the first time, which is mind-blowing to think that we are being paid to go to Australia to do this. We’ve been to the United States a couple of times to date. We haven’t been to California, which we’d love to do; we’d love to do a Seattle-to-Vegas tour, starting at the home of Nirvana and finishing at the home of Elvis. And for festivals, we’d love to do Reading and Leeds, as Nirvana played a famous headline set at Reading. If we could do that in the future, that would be amazing. We always used to think that these things were impossible, but now all of a sudden, they’ve become a possible reality. We’ve managed to avoid the standard tribute circuit; a lot of tribute bands would play the theatres or the working men’s clubs, and they wouldn’t get asked to do Download or other major festivals. We’ve somehow made ourselves stand apart from other tribute bands.

Finally, tell us an interesting fact that fans may not know about Elvana?

Well, two of the band members – the drummer and the guitarist – are brothers, and myself and the guitar are brother-in-law’s. It’s a bit of a family affair! Three of us are related, so that’s a pretty cool fact. It’s not very rock ‘n’ roll, though! (Laughs)

Elvana perform at O2 Academy Liverpool on Saturday January 11 2020. To buy tickets, click here or call 0844 477 2000.

Find out more about Elvana by clicking here.