Humour me! Ira likes to laugh at his background
Jewish Telegraph, September 2002
ROCK drummer Ira Elliot describes his most Jewish attribute as his sense of humour.
The 39-year-old will be in Britain next week when his group Nada Surf tour to promote new album Let’s Go (Heavenly).
‘‘My grandparents were immigrants from Russia and Romania,’’ New York-born Ira said. ‘‘I was only barmitzvah for their sake. My parents didn’t really care either way; they weren’t practising Jews.
‘‘My mother converted to Judaism to marry my father, so some people probably wouldn’t class me as Jewish. I think my barmitzvah was the last time I saw the inside of a synagogue.’’
He added: ‘‘But my sense of humour is very Jewish. I grew up listening to Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. My humour is definitely borscht belt.’’
Ira started playing the drums at the age of 10. He dropped out of college in his late teens to play in bands ‘‘much to my parents’ horror,’’ he said.
While playing with garage rock band The Fuzztones, he regularly crossed paths with Nada Surf founders Matthew Caws and Daniel Lorca. He was asked to join the band when the original drummer left.
‘‘They sent me a tape and I fell in love with their songs,’’ Ira said. ‘‘It was a very unusual experience because they were both so polite and they have remained that way.’’
In 1995, the trio released the Karmic EP and were then signed by major label Elektra. Their debut album High/Low was produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars. Nada Surf also had a hit with the quirky single Popular.
But problems started with their next album, The Proximity Effect.
‘‘Elektra were not enthusiastic about it,’’ Ira said. ‘‘We knew the relationship was not going to work so we asked to be released from our contract.’’
Eventually, they released the album on their own label MarDev Records.
‘‘Elektra recognised Popular as a possible single quite early on and I think they signed us because of that one song,’’ Ira added. ‘‘They just wanted us to record more songs like that. But we weren’t prepared to do that. We don’t mind writing a song that will work on radio but we aren’t going to be told what to write.’’
Ira says the best thing about recording Let’s Go was that the band was under no pressure. He said: ‘‘We recorded the first album very quickly with Ric. We were really excited to have him producing. The second album was marked by a post-Popular desire to prove ourselves; to show that we could be other things too.
‘‘When we started recording Let’s Go, we didn’t even know if we had a record company. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback so far and we are very happy with it.’’
Ira is looking forward to Nada Surf’s mini-UK tour which starts at the Nottingham Social on Wednesday, followed by the London Borderline, Manchester’s Roadhouse and King Tuts in Glasgow.
The following month they go out on the road supporting the much-hyped The Vines.
‘‘It’s the British music press who create the hype,’’ Ira said. ‘‘In America it’s a much slower process. When we signed with Elektra we avoided the bidding war. It happened to other bands, like Veruca Salt, but they found it hard to live up to the hype.
‘‘Opening for a band with the kind of media attention that The Vines have had will make it feel a bit like a circus, but we are excited about opening for them.
‘‘And it can’t be any worse than when The Fuzztones opened for The Damned in England in 1984. Their fans definitely did not want us on the bill and made sure we knew that.’’