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(Credit: Chris Casella)

Brand New Punks

The George Elliott Underground’s modern take on classic rock

By Adam Scoppa

Published June 1, 2011

The boys in the local outfit George Elliot Underground talk smack, play wrestling video games on autopilot and refer to each other with such terms of endearment as “this fine piece of meat over here.” If you’ve ever seen the band members out around town – and there’s a good chance these scene-devouring troubadours have made themselves known to you at one live music venue or another – it doesn’t take much imagination to deduce what they sound like when they pick up their instruments.

Simply put, if no one else in this damn town is going to make sweaty, boisterous pub rawk with a smart pop twist, then, by God, the George Elliot Underground has taken up the task. They even dreamed up their own genre: Swampternative.

“We’re still kind of adventuring with our sound,” explained guitarist Marlin Kornegay. The five-piece is rounded out by singer Matt Zaborniak, drummer Brian Mayes, guitarist Jeremy Browning and Derek Ultican on bass.

The band formed in 2005 from two other abandoned projects that had shared bills and forged friendships. All the members possessed a love for the mainstream rock sounds jumpstarted by The Strokes and The Hives, in addition to the sexy, classic cool of the likes of The MC5 and T. Rex.

“We pretty much just cut out the worst parts of each band,” joked Zaborniak. It’s this kind of carefree, self-deprecating attitude that peppers a typically hilarious conversation with the band, as well as their playful garage bangers.

The 14-song CD that the George Elliot Underground gives away for free at shows may seem scattershot, consisting of recordings from three separate studios in Columbus, but it serves as a fitting display of the band’s broad influences.

Cuts like “Attack of the Lightningbird pt. 11,” which shares its whiskey-blooded DNA with Motorhead, and the Irish drinking song revelry of “Thee O’Malleys” are flat-out fun. However, it’s the spacious brit-pop anthem “On Top” and its arena-ready cousin “Love in the Morning” that could usher the George Elliot Underground into the limelight outside of the outer belt. 

“There isn’t one main songwriter in the band, which is probably why we’ve lasted,” said Mayes. “Everyone has their own ideas to bring to the table.”

The back-alley tunefulness of “Man You Need” reveals their knack for giving a would-be love song a dirty leather jacket makeover, and the cooler-than-cool fuzz bass on “Mississippi Adultery” makes the track sound like a long-lost ’70s road-dog classic. Not to mention the album’s other awesome song titles, such as “Holy Mammoth” and “Welcome to Battlethorne Castle.”

“Yeah . . . we’re more interested in song titles,” Kornegay confirmed.

Compared to the George Elliot Underground, most bands look like they take themselves too seriously. These five lads seek to keep it loose and fun at all times, whether performing or supporting other Columbus bands.

“We’re the biggest fans of the Columbus music scene,” said Ultican. “On any given night, you might see us out.”

Unfortunately, the band’s momentum will be stunted when Zaborniak, who serves in the Air National Guard, ships off for deployment to Bagram Airforce Base in Afghanistan until the end of the year. A massive show, dubbed the Capital City Carousal, is set for June 4th at KOBO, where the George Elliot Underground will headline a bill of 10 acts. “It’s the last time Zab’s going to be here for six months, so we wanted to make it a huge, epic sendoff,” said Kornegay.

Expect nothing less.

The George Elliot Underground’s Capital City Carousal Show

June 4th @ KOBO (2590 N High St.)



russell @ 06/02/2011 07:22 pm

all of the tracks are also streaming and free for download at www.thegeorgeelliotunderground.bandcamp.com www.facebook.com/thegeorgeelliotunderground