Holy hell!

Sam at Eleven releases sophomore album at Oregon Express

By Zach Rogers 

Photo: Sam at Eleven guitarist/vocalist Jeff Rudolph; photo: Bobby Leonard
Rising from the ashes of pop-punkers HQAX (pronounced “hoax”), Sam at Eleven came out in 2011 with their debut album, The Year We Won. Throughout the release, the trio – which consists of guitarist/vocalist Jeff Rudolf, bassist Adam Bryant and drummer Brad Gilbert, who all played together in HQAX – weaved together intricate patterns of indie pop exuberance with the kind of ’90s alternative/pop-punk that made HQAX a local standout. With catchy rhythms, stellar harmonies and lyrics that mixed humor with brutal honesty, Sam at Eleven was quickly established as a completely different entity. Now the band is back with their second full-length Holy Hell, and from opener “Lights Out” it’s clear the group is taking the foundation they laid out on their debut and elevating it to greater heights.The band is set to play the Oregon Express for their official CD release show on Friday, July 18, and Dayton City Paper got the chance to talk with the trio about the new album, the show and maturing with a smile.

You guys are playing at Oregon Express for the Holy Hell release show. What do you guys have planned for the night? 

We love the Oregon Express and we’ve been playing there for years. Our good friend and amazing musician Todd the Fox will be kicking off the evening, followed by us. Along with playing our originals, we’re also hoping to debut a few new cover songs, too. Closing out the night will be our friends Sidekick Complex, who we’re really excited to see play. Oh, and our new album will be available for sale! – Jeff Rudolf

The band took to Kickstarter to help record the new album. What made you decide to take that route? 

There are multiple reasons we decided to go with Kickstarter. The most obvious being since we can’t play live as often as we want due to busy personal lives, we didn’t have a lot of money saved up. But I think the biggest reason we chose to do it was to connect more with the people who have supported us for so long. We have also been able to make some new friends and fans during the process, and hopefully that continues! It’s a great feeling to know all of these people have your back and you’re not just recording an album to listen to alone in your car. – JR

What can you tell me about the recording process behind Holy Hell? 

I think the title of the album sums up the last few months and years pretty nicely. The years between our last album, The Year We Won, and this one were a rollercoaster ride for the three of us in many ways. Many different events in our personal lives helped shape what the album has become. There were times when we took months off because we just had too much going on, and I secretly wondered if we would even ever make a new album. Luckily, the three of us are great friends and whenever we get the chance to jam together, we write new songs very quickly. We recorded the whole album in about 40 hours over the span of two months at Paper Tiger Studios in Columbus. The day we did all the vocals was particularly taxing, as Adam had just returned from a business trip and drove back from Chicago that morning. He hadn’t slept for 24 hours. I would record my part as he napped, then he would record his part and then we would repeat this process for all 12 of the songs. Good times! – JR

How has your music grown and evolved over the years? 

It’s not as fast as it was on No Less Impressive, our last album as HQAX. I think the writing is probably better. We’re still doing cool harmonies and finding interesting ways to make Jeff and my voices go together, but if you listen to this album, we have a lot more of a live feel to it. I like playing shows and entertaining, and I think this album is a lot more accessible to an audience that wants to hear a rocking live show. – Adam Bryant

I feel like I’ve calmed down a lot as old age begins to set in. I used to try and play fast and loud all the time. Lately, my style has been a lot more groove oriented. I’ll still rock out every once in a while, but it’s nice not being completely exhausted after playing a show. – Brad Gilbert

What other plans does the band have lined up for 2014?

We’ll have more shows lined up, as well as some “Guest Bartending” at Fifth Street Brewpub on July 7. Our tips there will benefit the Humane Society of Greater Dayton. We’ll also be on “Kaleidoscope” on WYSO July 9 and on WUDR Radio July 15. All of this information and more is available at samateleven.com and you can find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The new album is available for download pretty much anywhere you can think of (iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc.) and can also be purchased at our shows! – JR

Sam at Eleven will perform on Friday, July 18 at the Oregon Express, 336 E. Fifth St. Also on the bill are Sidekick Complex and Todd the Fox. Doors at 9 p.m. For more information, please visit samateleven.com. 


Reach DCP freelance writer Zach Rogers at ZachRogers@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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