Transilvia reunited at Pino's this August

Transilivia is a metal-industrial band started by Rutgers students in the late 1980’s. They made the Roxy club on French Street their home base through 1994 before signing a spec deal with a Los Angeles producer and giving it a run there. Bassist Jeremy Moss and guitarist/vocalist Eric Elliott reunited this year, releasing the EP “Hz” in July and playing an August show at Pino’s in Highland Park, joined by former members Roderick Craven and John Russello. A live album from that night is expected in late 2023. Music reporter Bennett Kelly spoke with Moss and Elliott via video call in October. 

Bennett Kelly: The first question I’m asking the participants for this project, is just when and where was your first show in New Brunswick? First performance?

Eric Elliott: So, Jeremy, correct me if I’m wrong because it’s been a while. That first show was probably in ‘88 or early ‘89. And I want to say I think it was at the Roxy, opening up for The Raging Lamos. I’m almost positive that that was the first show we played.

Jeremy Moss: I think you’re right.

The original Transilvia trio in 1989; Jeremy Moss (left) and Eric Elliott (right), in the basement/practice space of drummer Rod Craven’s parents’ house in Hillsborough, NJ. Courtesy of Eric Elliott

Eric Elliott: Yeah, it was either that, or there was an early show that we played under a different band name.

Jeremy Moss: Yeah, we don’t need to include that one.

Eric Elliott: I think that was after, so that first show was Roxy opening up for The Raging Lamos.

BK: The Roxy. You’ve got that song “Night at the Roxy” on the new EP. I feel like the Court Tavern and the Melody get most of the attention of clubs from that era. And I hear more that the Roxy was a biker bar, but you described it as more of a gothic, industrial club. So I’m curious overall why that one was more of the home base for you, or why it resonates enough to write a song about it years later.

Jeremy Moss: Well, I think the aesthetic that we came to embody in New Brunswick was kind of springing from that scene, the gothic-industrial scene, if we want to call it that. Our drummer, he had some of the S&M, bondage-style visuals. We had a friend, DJ Denard, who was the main DJ at the Roxy, and he was playing early Ministry, KMFDM, Front 242, Young Gods.

And so we kind of bonded with that vibe, and then started to include samples in our music. I wouldn’t say we were emulating Ministry or Nine Inch Nails or anything like that, but we definitely came to incorporate some of those sounds. And that club seemed to be our home base.

Eric Elliott: There was a back bar, Bennett, at the Roxy that I don’t know if when we first started going there, if it was open. They had the main room, which was like dance music. But there were certain nights that were industrial. 

Then later on, they opened a small, side, back bar, and there was a real little tight scene in that back bar, of kind of the goth people in town I would say, or a good contingent of them. That was really a place where we would just go to hang out. 

We played the Roxy a lot, the main room and the back room. But our time in New Brunswick, if we had a bar that was like our place where we hung out, it was probably that back bar at the Roxy. And then later on, it was also probably McCormick’s. But early on, that’s kind of where we started. DJ Denard there, he helped us get some exposure. I think he did a little thing on us on maybe WFMU at the time. So there was a real connect there for us, definitely.

Jeremy Moss: Yeah, that was the haunt. And just on a side note, Buzzkill, who used to be called Butthead, were the house band in that back bar. They played weekly there, and I was there, I’d say I missed maybe one Sunday out of the entire run. 

Eric Elliott: Yeah [laughing].

Transilvia performed at Pino’s in Highland Park this August. L-R: Eric Elliott, Roderick Craven, Jeremy Moss and John Russello. Photo by John Tranchina; full concert uploaded to YouTube on October 25.

Jeremy Moss: Those guys were incredible.

BK: Yeah. I actually saw them last year, too. They played at Pino’s last July, with Jhon Thumb and Boss Jim Gettys. That was a good show.

Jeremy Moss: Mmhmm. That’s a good lineup.

Eric Elliott: Awesome show. 

BK: As far as the Transilvia timeline, the newspaper references and show listings in the local Home News, they stopped after December ‘93. I didn’t find anything for a while. Did you guys just break up, or stop playing? Or did you move somewhere too?

Jeremy Moss: We moved to L.A. We signed a production deal with a producer who knew our drummer from graduate school. And we basically signed a deal that he would record our first two albums, if he got us a record deal. 

Eric Elliott: It was a spec deal, you know? Basically he would front the money to record, and do that sort of thing. Go ahead, Jer.

Jeremy Moss: He just paid our way. He basically brought us out there, he set us up in a house and was recording us in Hollywood for a couple of years. And so we kind of… I always have the what-if around if we’d stayed in New Brunswick, or stayed on the East Coast. But we took a chance and we jumped into the Hollywood life.

Eric Elliott: That was what, ‘94? I think we went out there fall of ‘94. That’s kind of when we left New Brunswick. And so that might make sense that at least locally, stuff sort of tapered off.

BK: I know you also had, I think it was 1993, you had a Single of the Month with Alternative Press. What single was that? I couldn’t find it.

Eric Elliott: Was it ‘93? I thought it would have been a little bit earlier than that. But I think it was probably for something off of “Screaming in the Basement,” right? [It actually was 1991.]

Jeremy Moss: Yeah. Alternative Press did the video shoot with us or the article write-up. It’s a good question because, well, Frank [Bridges] put out our first 7-inch, and that got a good review in Alternative Press. And then they did, maybe they did do the photo shoot for that review. I don’t remember.

Eric Elliott: I think that was for our 7-inch, “Screaming in the Basement, Strapped to a Leather Spiderweb.” We had put out two cassette-only, sort of like demo releases before that, and then worked with Frank and Well Primed [Records] and put that 7-inch out, and it was really well received. We got a fair bit of radio play. 

At that point the band was getting a little bit popular, I would say. And we might have started to play a few shows where there might have been some labels there, that sort of thing. But I think that was for “Screaming.” And was it Michelle Taylor, the person who came out to take photos, Jer, I think?

Jeremy Moss: I don’t remember.

Eric Elliott: Yeah, we met her in the city. There’s actually, Bennett, there’s a YouTube video that we took of that day, just like footage of that day, taking the photos and stuff with her. But that was for “Screaming,” which came out I think in ‘91. But maybe it took Frank two years to break it [laughs].

BK: Maybe I have it mixed up. And actually I saw Frank this past Saturday, also at Pino’s. He was there watching some of the bands. I told him I was going to be… Actually, I emailed you from Pino’s. So that’s the connection.

Jeremy Moss: Frank is the man.

Eric Elliott: Yeah, we love him. He did so much for us. When he had that record label going, it was fantastic. We thank him for a lot.

Jeremy Moss: He gave us some real sense of pride in the local scene back in those days. I wouldn’t say he necessarily legitimized it, but he definitely wanted it to be something more cohesive than it was.

BK: And what was it like being on the Well Primed Records label? Kind of a badge of local respect, to be one of those bands?

Flyers courtesy of Eric Elliott

Jeremy Moss: Yeah. It was really cool because we had a guy recording us. This guy Dave Moss, no relation to me, but he was just, I don’t know if he was even a sound engineer, but he had an eight-track tape recorder and he recorded, did he record our original demo?

Eric Elliott: No, I think we recorded that one ourselves, the first one. But he did “Screaming” and “Blackmail” [EP]. He recorded those.

Jeremy Moss: That’s right. Yeah so he deserves some real credit in helping us get the sounds we got for that 7-inch. Frank, I think he saw us live and really liked it. I don’t know if he heard our music recorded before he put the 7-inch out, but that 7-inch was a springboard to label interest and to getting more shows locally and getting more press, which was great. So we feel like Frank, really it may have been the first release on Well Primed, or the first or second. Maybe [Frank’s band] kiaro skuro came first.

Eric Elliott: Yeah. I think “The Thorazine Stretch Factor” was pretty early. Right?

Jeremy Moss: Oh, that’s true.

BK: The compilation record. 

[The Thorazine Stretch Factor was a 16-song New Brunswick compilation by Well Primed Records, featuring Transilvia, kiaro skuro, Jive Bible, Seigobillies, Catharsis, Bigger Thomas, Bouncing Souls, Green Lion Burning, Loose, All God’s Children, Wooden Soldiers, Scott Byrne & I Buried Paul, Shakin’ the Pumpkin, The Breathers, Acid Kitchen and Shadows of Dreams].

Jeremy Moss: Yeah. But I really feel like Frank is responsible for us taking things to the next level in terms of getting better shows, more press. It was a big boost for us.

BK: There was another piece of press, a Channel X interview with Darryl Lamont Jenkins.

Jeremy Moss: Yeah, yeah.

BK: And actually I want to read a quote. I forget if it was Jeremy or if it was another bandmate, John [Russello]. This would have been ‘92. The quote was, “We’re riding a wave right now that’s fairly popular, or will be fairly popular very soon, and that’s to our advantage. But it’s still a matter of money, right place at the right time, and connections, the age old equation.” 

And then the next quote was, “But us, we’re relying a lot more, I guess, on sheer musical integrity and perseverance. We’re just going to work at it until we get there.” 

In the still frame, Moss at left and Elliott at right

I feel like that’s pretty prescient for 1992. You guys are probably early, mid-twenties or so. But from there, I didn’t know the L.A. portion. So how did all that come up, and how did that turn out too? I think Jeremy, you’re still out on the West Coast?

Jeremy Moss: Yeah, I’m in Seattle now. I’ve been back and forth between New York and Seattle over the past 15 years or so. I think I was the one who said that in the interview [laughs], I’m pretty sure, I don’t remember exactly. But I think we were kind of happening when Helmet, and then grunge hit. 

I just remember hearing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on WRSU [released August/September 1991], driving in my car around New Brunswick and thinking like, Wow, this is great. Hearing Soundgarden “Ultramega Okay” at Tower Records. And it felt like we were clicking with something. The grungy, sort of distorted music was starting to come up. So I felt like the timing was good in that sense. 

I felt like things kind of fell apart when we moved to L.A. Because the producer we were working with was really wanting to mold us into more of, like I mean, Eric, what would you say? I thought he wanted us to be like Tool, more of a commercialized… 

Eric Elliott: Yeah, I think he was moving in a commercial direction that we weren’t necessarily aligned with at that time, in different ways.

Jeremy Moss: Yeah. I just didn’t like the way he was recording us and he was wanting to edit our songs down from say, seven minutes to four minutes. 

And so I quit the band in ‘96 and moved to Seattle. And that was pretty much it. That was it for my involvement. The guys kept it going a little bit longer in L.A.

Eric Elliott: Yeah, that whole thing was just kind of an opportunity. I think around that time, in the early 90s, you know, weird rock bands were able to get record deals. 

Jeremy Moss: Yeah [laughs].

Eric Elliott: And that environment was why we were able to get interest from a guy like Dave Way, who we worked with. Who was an immensely successful, still to this day, mostly mixing engineer by trade, but is a heavyweight in the music industry. That was just that environment in the early 90s, where weird bands were getting deals and people were buying records. And we were kind of right in that niche. 

And I think he was interested in maybe doing that, you probably remember that, like late 80s, early 90s, there were guys who would basically kind of do everything for a band. They’d take a new band and like, be their manager, they’d maybe help record the record, they’d shop it. And I think Dave saw us as maybe an opportunity to do that, which was different from what he had been doing to that point, which he’d been killing it as the mixing engineer. And so that was the environment. And he had gone to Berklee with our drummer [Roderick Craven] at that time. And so it was just kind of a set of circumstances. So that’s when we moved out. 

And you know, I think we were a little out of our element. We wound up with really bad sort of conflicting schedules, where two guys worked at night and two guys worked during the day, and we didn’t get a lot done except we did do a fair bit of drinking and other stuff. 

And you just kind of put those together and it’s the same old sad story, [laughing] you know? It lasted about two years. I mean, we recorded [our LP] “Slugchuckles Insanely.” We played a lot of great shows. I mean, we played awesome places that I’m so thrilled we got to play. But it flamed out.

Jeremy Moss: That was the really cool part, was playing the Troubadour, the Whiskey. Getting to play some iconic spots out there was really cool. 

But just to piggyback on what Eric was saying, this guy, he mixed Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” album. He mixed the Spice Girls album. He wasn’t, we weren’t in his wheelhouse, like, he was not a metal producer.

Eric Elliott: I mean, he’s got great music, but it was just a different thing.

Jeremy Moss: Right. So I feel like it was a mismatch in terms of vibe and style.

BK: Gotcha. Hey speaking of Michael Jackson, there was a write up in the Home News. If you remember, Kelly-Jane Cotter was one of the main music reporters in town. 

Eric Elliott: Yep, I remember that name.

BK: She wrote about, oh which album was it? I think it was “Screaming in the Basement Strapped to a Leather Spiderweb” was her write up. And the Michael Jackson part was, she wrote about Michael Jackson and Madonna in the column above it, the little side column. And then it was you guys. So it was Michael Jackson, Madonna and Transilvia.

Jeremy Moss: Good combo [laughs]. 

Eric Elliott: Yeah, in ‘91 or ‘92 that made sense! That’s kind of how the world was, it was really cool.

BK: And it was a good review. She had some funny lines in there. She described the music as, “heavy percussion with strangled rabbit vocals.” 

Jeremy Moss: Hah, that was good.

Two Home News writeups by Kelly-Jane Cotter, from November 1991 (“Screaming”) and May 1991 (“Thorazine”)

BK: That was the key, I thought. But it was a good review, it was a good review.

Jeremy Moss: I love it. Yeah, I mean, our favorite band, I think each of our favorite bands is Rush. So it’s like, talk about vocalists who it’s either love them or hate them. 

Eric Elliott: Do you like Rush, Bennett? Are you a Rush fan?

BK: I’m not a big Rush guy, no.

Eric Elliott: That’s good because it’s really hard to be a Rush fan. You have no idea how people treat you and just what it’s like day to day. It’s a real struggle, man. Jeremy and I have a Rush bond, for sure. The high pitched, strangled rabbit vocals probably comes right from them [laughs].

BK: It made me think of two other songs, or one other song and a band. But Nirvana’s “Nevermind” came out in September ‘91, and then Rage Against the Machine debuted in late ‘92, and then Beastie Boys “Sabotage” was in January ‘94. So I was wondering if, while you were a band, and I wasn’t keeping up with Transilvia then because I was like three, but I was wondering if those songs made an impact. As in Wow, there’s bands that are singing like this and they have the hardcore sound plus the higher vocals. If those resonated with you as a We can do this kind of thing, gave you some momentum or something.

Jeremy Moss: Eric.

Eric Elliott: I mean, I think probably all those bands in that universe would certainly be inspiring along the way. But where we started from was a few years before that. 

For us, a lot more of the influences were, I would say definitely 80s metal, for sure. And some progressive music like Rush and things like that. I know that Rick [Roderick] and myself have a pretty strong love of AC/DC, so a little bit of boogie rock or that kind of metal. 

And then a lot of it comes from that underground scene of the 80s. The SST stuff, Alternative Tentacles, Touch and Go. I think that’s probably what had at least me and Rick really fired up, probably coming into the 90s, was just being exposed to that stuff. 

So I almost feel in a way, we started doing some of that stuff maybe a little before those other bands did. For sure to see that stuff be popular would sort of give you the sense of like, Oh, people like this. So I think timing wise, we were right in there, for sure.

Jeremy Moss: Before I met those guys [in Transilvia], I’d say the album that had the biggest impact on me was Jane’s Addiction, “Nothing’s Shocking.” And then once I met these guys, two albums stand out. Slayer, “South of Heaven,” and NWA, “Straight Outta Compton.” We had those on like constant repeat when we were driving around New Brunswick. I mean, we’d be sitting in Eric’s car, driving the streets of New Brunswick, just blasting those albums. 

And an interesting tidbit is we came up with the band’s name at a triple bill in New York at the Ritz. It was Voivod headlining, Soundgarden in the middle and Faith No More opening up. 

Eric Elliott: Yup.

Jeremy Moss: So that’s an example of the mixture, I guess, incubator we were exposed to. But Voivod’s huge, I think hugely influential for for my bass playing. I love the distorted bass in that.

BK: You all met at Rutgers, did you know going into it that there was going to be this music scene at your fingertips? Or what did you expect? In bands before then at all, anything like that?

Eric Elliott: I was in a band probably the last two or three years of high school, so it was definitely something I was getting into at that time. I was in a band in Monmouth County. We were called Black Rose, and it was just me and two of my friends, we played a couple originals, some covers we do know, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Megadeth [Moss laughs] and some original songs. And we played out, you know. Actually the place we played a few times was a club called Mingles, which is not around anymore, but I think it was on 35 in Jersey. 

So I was definitely getting into the band thing going into Rutgers, but I didn’t know anything about the scene, or anything there at all. Had no clue. And really didn’t know that I was going to have a band with these guys. Really it wasn’t something that was necessarily on my radar. I strongly suspect that Roderick was probably well aware of the scene in New Brunswick.

Jeremy Moss: Yeah, I think he was.

Eric Elliott: Because he took us to the Court Tavern to see some bands. One of the first shows I remember going to see in New Brunswick, was Leather Studded Diaphragm was playing at the Court and Rick knew of the band. Like, Oh, we should go check this band out. So I’m pretty sure he knew that scene a little. 

He grew up with a lot of people who are still in the scene. I think he kind of knew or was growing up close to Ray Kubian, who was in a bunch of different bands, a drummer. A guy named Ted Lesinski was a bass player who was in Mars Needs Women, and was in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the band for the film. So those were guys who were kind of already in music in that area-ish, and he knew a lot of those folks, so I think he knew about the club. 

So we would go see them. I remember we saw Catharsis early on and were really blown away by them at the Court. We probably saw Bad Karma a few times. Kind of that early stuff, and then you would become aware of the scene. 

…When we were getting ready for this thing, I was kind of thinking about New Brunswick, and Jer – it was almost like a video game for eighteen-year-olds coming into Rutgers, where you would go around town and meet the bosses in a video game, right?

You’d wind up meeting Ethan Stein at Captain Video, and how many weird freshmen met him? It was almost like he was a gatekeeper or something. Or, you know, people at the Court who booked the shows at the Court, or people at the Roxy. And there were just so many characters, so many characters who were in the music scene.

It was the kind of thing where it was almost… what’s the word I want? Not in the sense that you were doing an internship or something like that at a company, but there was a thing there, and you could kind of, if you got introduced to it, meet these people and learn about where to play and learn about cool bands. And maybe they would come and see your band. And that was really cool. There was a real infrastructure and culture there that we came into, pretty much as complete newbies.

Jeremy Moss: Mmhmm, yeah. And I was even more removed from that. I grew up in the Bronx and wound up going to Rutgers, lived on Busch campus, and happened to see a flyer that Eric and Rick had put up with subliminal messages in it. They had purposely put subliminal messaging in. 

Eric Elliott: It worked!

Jeremy Moss: It worked. I responded to it. I auditioned, got in, and, like Eric was saying, as we wrote music and began sort of exploring what we could do, the one thing you left out was Gamma Sig. That was the house that used to throw the backyard parties. Gamma Sigma. I don’t know if it’s still as radical as it was back then, but it was pretty radical compared to other fraternities. So they would host bands. 

The scene was so vibrant. I mean, Nudeswirl blew my mind. We played with those guys a few times at the Court Tavern. I don’t know if you’re a fan of them, Bennett, but that’s, like, probably my favorite New Brunswick or New Jersey rock band ever. Awesome, awesome band. Lucy Brown. There were bands getting major label deals. Bouncing Souls, hung around with them. 

And it just felt really alive. And so these days, to go back and see the lack of live music venues is, in my mind, just tragic. It’s sort of like, why? I mean I know why… DJ culture, the music industry has changed a lot. But it’s kind of sad that they don’t have as many options in New Brunswick anymore.

BK: Yeah, definitely. It’s kind of all either in the basements or underground places. There’s a few bars and restaurants that’ll have gigs, but it’s not like a club that you would repeat. Pino’s obviously is a good spot for bands to come in and do their thing.

But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Jeremy Moss: Right [laughs].

The “Hz” EP

BK: [And you can read about it here, here and here!] Let me ask about the EP. It’s called “Hz.” Pronounced “hertz,” right? 

Jeremy Moss: Mmhmm.

BK: First I’ll ask about “Smug Boys,” which I really think is a great song. You know, I had never, honestly never heard any Transilvia until this album. So when I first heard this, I was really kind of blown away by it. And I threw it atop the playlist that I’m using to track all the stuff from this year. 

But my question is who, who are the smug m—–f—–s that you’re calling out in this song? Who is it directed at? 

Eric Elliott: [Laughs] Well, it’s actually us, believe it or not. Because the title for the song, you know…It’s so funny. I mean, we’re much older now, we were much younger then. But Jeremy, correct me if you disagree with this assessment, but when we were starting out our band, we thought we were awesome and we were pretty competitive. And I remember someone wrote a review or someone called us “Smug Boys.” Because we had kind of come across with some kind of attitude, which we probably did.

Jeremy Moss: It was accurate.

Eric Elliott: Yeah, totally accurate. And I also remember, another nickname we got was the Haircut Boys because there was one time where we all shaved our heads. So we were having fun and doing our thing as 18, 19, 20 year olds. So the Smug Boys originally was us. It’s really calling us out. 

And originally the song was going to be about Transilvia blowing away everybody else’s band at a battle of the bands [laughs]. It was going to be like a kind of tongue-in-cheek, funny song, humorous poking fun at us. But it transformed and really more became, just some general musings on AI [artificial intelligence]. And so the song really is kind of about AI that go off the rails and decide that they’re going to run the show because they know better than we do. So that’s kind of what the “Smug Boys” is all about.

Jeremy Moss: And I really like the way Eric wrote the lyrics to kind of match both. It kind of bookends what he was just saying. Because back then, if you imagine, we’re living on Oak Street in New Brunswick, we got a freezer full of Jagermeister. One of our roommates’ dad worked for the distributor or something. Like, literally a box of Jagermeister. So, we’re getting some notoriety. We’re drinking a lot, doing ecstasy and wandering at weird Goth parties around New Brunswick. 

Remember Club 357? Ben, I don’t know if you’re familiar with this place. It was up the block from the Old Bay, I want to say, on whatever street that is [Old Bay is now the Blackthorn Pub, still at the corner of Church and Neilson streets]. It was almost like you had to walk through a garage to get to it. 

Anyway, there’s some live footage of us playing there. But yeah, just a weird underground scene. And I think the people who weren’t in that scene, who weren’t in more of the Gothic-industrial scene, just looked at us and were like, who the hell are these weirdos just wandering around New Brunswick?

Transilvia inside Club 357

Eric Elliott: Yeah, something that occurred to me is, I do feel like we were kind of an outsider band even in New Brunswick a little bit. I don’t know if Jer you agree with that. Because we weren’t really, like our really close friends were kind of this Roxy crew, which is not as glorified or as publicly present as the Court Tavern or the Melody.

Jeremy Moss: Exactly.

Eric Elliott: And so that was a little bit of a sub-scene, I would say. We were friends with a lot of the other bands, but I wouldn’t say we were really part of the Court Tavern scene as far as knowing… A band like Buzkill, they know probably everybody who ever bartended at the Court Tavern. And probably see them regularly or whatever, just to get the general idea. But I feel like we were a little bit of outsiders from that, in a sense. 

And also, I think we just had enough kind of metal, or prog stuff that we brought into our music that always just made it a little bit different than a garage band or a hardcore band. And so it was kind of fun to be and feel a little bit separate from those other scenes. Be a part of them, but be a little bit separate from them too.

Jeremy Moss: Yeah. Other bands were wanting to go play CBGB. We were wanting to play the Limelight. That was sort of the way it broke out in Manhattan. The Limelight was more of our home, kind of like the Roxy was more of our home in New Brunswick. So, yeah, “Smug Boys” was really fitting because we did have an attitude about what we were doing.

Eric Elliott: Yep.

BK: And you’re singing it from your perspective now, calling out your younger selves.

Eric Elliott: That was the original kind of kernel. The song is overtly, wound up being about AI taking over the world. But there’s a lot of inside jokes in the song that are actually for us in the band, that are about us that probably we would only get.

Jeremy Moss: Well, and on a side note, the interpersonal dimension of the band fractured over time, and we fragmented. I was in Seattle, Eric was in L.A. John, where did John move back to? New York, right?

Eric Elliott: Yeah, he was in L.A. for a while and then moved back to New York.

Jeremy Moss: Yeah. And now we’re all friends again. So there is that kind of piece, we are kind of looking back on younger selves a little wiser and noticing, Hey, it was kind of fun in our early, mid-twenties to have this time where we thought we were going to be rock stars.

Eric Elliott: Yeah, totally. It was great [laughs].

BK: There’s certain lyrics like “Smug boy attack, cyber attack,” some of the lyrics. I thought “There’s only ones and zeros,” that’s binary code language, is that like saying there’s only ones and zeros, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words could never hurt me? Something like that. About online losers. I don’t know, maybe I’m reading too much into it [gets laughed at]. 

Eric Elliott: It could be Ben, and I don’t know if I want to read too much into it. I should let you have your own experience with the song, you know what I mean? 

But yeah, there’s definitely that binary reference. And then there’s also I mean, if you really want to drill down on it, for me, that’s also referencing, I think, a lot of toxic masculinity in culture these days, around winners and losers and the sad state where people feel like the world has to be a zero-sum game. I think that’s really spiked up a lot. So it’s also kind of playing on that idea a little bit too.

Jeremy Moss: Kind of like capitalism as well. Like better than best, everything has to just keep getting bigger, better stock market, keep going on.

Eric Elliott: It does, that’s the only thing capitalism can do.

BK: Yeah. I thought it was maybe about online trolls or something. So that sounds good. But that’s what it’s all about, music is personal in the end. 

Jeremy Moss: Totally, totally.

BK: I’ll ask about two other songs. “Electrics.” So this one I’m pretty sure was unreleased from ‘91 ish. There’s footage of it from that Darryl Lamont Jenkins video from the Roxy. Is that the case, “Electrics” was never released and you brought it back?

Eric Elliott: Yeah, “Electrics” was, we’ve had a few different incarnations of the band. Version one was the trio, which was me and Jeremy and Roderick. And that’s a song that was written by that trio and we played a few times. So the footage that you see is what I would call version 2.0 or maybe even version three. But yeah, that one goes back quite a ways, but we never actually recorded it. Played it live a bunch of times, but never recorded it.

BK: That one I felt was very Rage Against the Machine. I could picture them going off on that one.

Eric Elliott: Yeah, I’ve definitely heard that. I guess maybe my vocals on it are touching on that a little bit. 

But again, I guess as a “Smug Boy” should, I’ll say we wrote that before Rage existed. 

Jeremy Moss: [Laughs] Right, right.

Eric Elliott: So that would make it my style, not the other way around.

BK: And then we touched on it before, but “Night at the Roxy,” which, I don’t know, the title made me think of “Night at the Roxbury,” that movie from the 90s, I don’t know if that was a thing-

Jeremy Moss: [Laughs] 

Eric Elliott: Of course, we played at the Roxbury many times in L.A.

Jeremy Moss: Yeah, the Roxbury was a cool place to play.

BK: Nice. But- you didn’t write a song about the Roxbury. You wrote it about the Roxy.

Jeremy Moss: That’s right.

BK: You called this an homage. But it’s very haunting. And the lyrics are kind of harsh, too. So I was wondering about that juxtaposition, how it’s an homage to all the good times there, but the lyrics are kind of dark. You’re in bathrooms, you’re looking at reflections, there’s fistfuls of pills going around. There’s ghosts, old friends and lovers, so… [Gets laughed at] I don’t know if I’m reading too much into this again.

Eric Elliott: I love, you know it’s really funny to hear someone else talk about your song. I mean I don’t really, people don’t really do it that often. 

Jeremy Moss: I will say, Eric wrote the lyrics, but I first wrote the melody, the synth part that Eric then played on guitar. And it was meant to be sort of a melancholy song, a vibe to it. Eric picked that up, ran with it, wrote the lyrics. 

And I teared up listening to him sing it, because it really took me right back to that. And it was this time of experimentation, I guess. Drugs, music. And there was a haunted dimension to it in terms of the Roxy itself, because you got the sense that there was… Trauma is too strong a word, but that there was, like a dark vibe to that club. And I think that’s what resonated for us. It suited us well. 

You know, think about it, people moshing on the dance floor to “Land of Rape and Honey” by Ministry. That was our jam. And so people were letting out a lot of aggression and getting into some really dark stuff. 

And so I feel like Eric captured that perfectly in the lyrics. What’d you think, Eric, when you were writing?

Eric Elliott: Thank you. I mean I just was, kind of trying to remember things about the place that have stuck with me. Like the lights in the bathroom particularly had kind of a certain color to them. The back part of the club going to the bathrooms was so dark, always. I always remember that. 

And there was a lot of catharsis that happened at the Roxy. There was a lot of catharsis because it just was a place where people would go and let loose. Sometimes that would be heavily aided. There were some really wild parties at the Roxy, especially early on, and it was just a lot of catharsis there, I think for all of us in a lot of ways. A lot of really great shows, a lot of nights where maybe you dance like you never danced before. 

I guess looking back on something that doesn’t exist anymore, which is just a memory, an incredible memory, but is totally gone and it just kind of exists in our memory banks now. 

And I guess maybe a little of the sadness is just, you know, when you’re there and you’re all serious about your band and you think you’re going to take over the world, and it doesn’t happen, there’s a certain amount of adjustment that comes with that. And so that was a time when we were in that, and we felt that, when you didn’t know any better, and that’s a fun feeling to have.

BK: Yeah and I mean, we know the Melody got knocked down, it’s now just a patch of grass. Then across the street, the Roxy is just a big hospital building on that block now. 

So the point of catharsis, I imagine, did this get played at the Pino’s show? I could see this track especially kind of stopping people in their tracks, for the nostalgia, the catharsis of it. How did this one go over and how did that whole show go for you guys?

Eric Elliott: I think it went really well. It’s a tough one for me to sing. It’s a little outside my wheelhouse, so it was challenging to do that live, but I think it went well. And I was going to say, we’re pretty close to releasing a Bandcamp release of that show, because we were able to pull a multi-track of it off the board. So we basically have the live album mixed and ready to go. But we’re also working on video, someone videotaped the show. 

So you’ll probably see that come out fairly soon. I guess ostensibly it’s a live album that we’re calling for now, “Night at Pino’s.” That’s the whole hour show, and so you’ll get a chance to see it with good audio, not audio that’s just off a camera. It’s twelve-track off the board that we mixed properly and everything. So that’s coming soon.

Elliott (left) and Moss (right) at Pino’s in August. Photo by bandmate John Russello

Jeremy Moss: What was so cool about that night is Frank [Bridges] tried to manage our expectations and was like, It’s summertime, schools out, don’t expect too much. We actually had a good crowd, and it was a really warm crowd. We saw faces that I haven’t seen literally since being at the Roxy or being at the Melody. People we had no idea even knew we were playing, who used to come see us, came out. And so that was really pretty wild to actually see some familiar faces and be like, Wow, I remember that person from back in the 90s.

Eric Elliott: Yeah, even faces where, just I recognize that face.

Jeremy Moss: Like how do I know that person? Dave Urbano from Mr. Thumb, some of the other people, just Darryl Lamont Jenkins coming out, it just felt really great. And then having each member of the band over the course of our lineup. So John, the singer, and Roderick came back to drum for a few songs. It just made it really special. It was a great show.

BK: Cool. Well, yeah, I’m glad. I was looking for videos of it, because I know Fritch Clark often records that stuff for his Last Bastions of Rock documentary channel. So I was hoping to see it, but I’m glad we’ll get to.

And then that kind of answers my question. We’re just about at time, but I always like to ask, what’s next? Now I know you’ve got this new live album coming out, but yeah, what’s next? How did this even come about, are you going to play more together? Was this like a one-off show? Are you going to spin it into more stuff going forward? 

Or should I even ask? Are you just excited to have put this stuff out and relaxing now?

Jeremy Moss: A little bit of everything. To be determined in terms of what’s next. But Eric and I, I think over Covid we started exchanging music. Is that right? Like riffs or just ideas?

Eric Elliott: Yeah, it was over a year that we, it started off slow and then picked up a head of steam. From that standpoint, it felt great just to be working on some music together again. That was just a blessing, that part of it. So I think mostly, “Hz,” if it’s anything, it’s that. It was just the ability to get together again and do something, and that felt great.

BK: Was this a thing where you would send tracks to each other across the country and each work on it, your own parts, that kind of thing?

Eric Moss: Yeah, exactly. Just exchange ideas. And it’s funny, this just came to me, but Sting, years ago at the Grammys, Sting went up and accepted some award and he said, “Just remember these five words: Music is its own reward.” And that really hit me at the time, and I feel like that’s what this was. Meaning, back to making music to make music. That’s how I felt when we were exchanging music. And then recording with – Eric’s cousin recorded us up in northern Jersey – and it really felt like that. 

It felt like, Here we are, we’re doing this because we’re enjoying it. We’re not writing it for anyone in particular [laughs], we’re just writing to write. And it was great. And so there may be more to come.

Eric Elliott: We have two songs left in the can [Moss laughs] that we didn’t get a chance to finish. So those are out there. The live album is kind of what I’ve been working on here. But there’s some stuff left, and like we said, the band’s had a good four or five different configurations, and so who knows what might happen next with it. But I strongly suspect something will.

BK: Cool. I know your bandmate John also put out music this year, and he played at the Pino’s show too?

Jeremy Moss: Yep. He sang on one song that he had written. The lyrics for “Thrilla,” actually, is on the EP. That was his lyrics, so he came up and sang that. 

BK: Well, good. Well, yeah. Music is its own reward. Staying friends is its own reward. So it’s nice to see you guys can get back, and make some good music and keep it going. 

Jeremy Moss: Yeah. Thanks, Bennett. Yeah, it’s nice to meet you, and thanks for setting this up.

Eric Elliott: Thanks.

BK: Yeah, my pleasure, and thank you both too.

For more Transilvia, find their full catalog on Bandcamp and original performance videos including the Pino’s reunion show on YouTube. The band’s new EP “Hz” is also on streaming services like Spotify.

Music Reporter at New Brunswick Today | | Website

Bennett Kelly reports on music for New Brunswick Today. He is a two-time winner of the Best Arts & Entertainment Coverage award from the NJ Society of Professional Journalists, for his features on the New Brunswick music scene in 2021 and 2022.

Bennett Kelly reports on music for New Brunswick Today. He is a two-time winner of the Best Arts & Entertainment Coverage award from the NJ Society of Professional Journalists, for his features on the New Brunswick music scene in 2021 and 2022.