Say Hi's Eric Elbogen Drops "Um, Uh Oh"

New release proves excellence outshines attitude


If his bio is to be believed, someone might think Say Hi's Eric Elbogen is kind of an asshole. According to the info, he may decide that a bandmate is more troublesome than talented, and leave him or her in whatever city Elbogen suffered the final straw:

"Say Hi has broken up 37 times in the last decade," the bio reads.

"Musicians have been fired more often than not, and for every conceivable reason. Some have quit. Others have simply stopped returning phone calls."

And on his website,, Elbogen has an FAQ section--not so much to help fans discover intimate details about the musician but to dissuade them (and possibly the media) from annoying him:

1. Please do not ask about the name change, it's been more than four years.

4. Referring to the band as "them" or "you guys" is incorrect, there is only me.

When Elbogen released his first album, Discosadness, in 2002, it was under the name Say Hi To Your Mom--the name change referenced in No. 1. He now records and performs under the shortened moniker Say Hi, but the project still is, and always was, Elbogen alone. He writes and records everything, employing other musicians for touring and live performances.

On his FAQ page, Elbogen also asks that those hoping to correspond with him avoid LOL-speak, refrain from sending requests or offering suggestions and, again, mentions that he does not want questions about the name change. Based on the above examples, you might want to jump into the Elbogen-is-a-tyrant camp, but spend a few minutes chatting with him and you will probably be persuaded to hop the fence. He's an erudite, pleasant, kind of quiet and surprisingly humble fellow who is isn't a tyrant but a stickler. And he understands that better than anyone.

"I'm a perfectionist and a workaholic, and it takes a certain brand of human being to deal with my shit," Elbogen said. "But I'm working on that more and more. It gets easier as time goes by. More people will come out to shows, and we'll make more money at the door, so I can now afford a couple of hotel rooms on the road and everyone can get good sleep and not be in a tiny room all together ... Certainly there have been some situations where I have just not gotten along with some people, and either they quit or they've been fired. It's a sad but mostly humorous thing to me at this point. When I hire new people, we joke about it."

And even if you were still not sure about his tyrannical nature, Elbogen would be easy to forgive in light of the craftsmanship on his striking eighth release, Um, Uh Oh (Jan. 25, Barsuk Records). The album is quintessential Elbogen with its lo-fi, pop-infused melodies and Elbogen's low-key vocals. He has also refined his craftsmanship of vocals that are often deep-blue, sometimes sky-blue, pop-infused reflections on the past, the present and the future as he looks look at what was, what is and what may never be.

In Um, Uh Oh's opener, "Dots on Maps," a melancholy flute introduces chunky guitar as a couple in a car hurtle down a highway toward who-knows-what.

"We're only in Dakota, dots on maps en route to bigger cities / When it's dark like this, all that I can see is the whites of her green eyes when she says, 'Tell me is this all it's gonna be,' / and I say, 'Oh, I don't know just how it's gonna be.' / There's a trigger somewhere let's pull it."

"Devils," is an echo-y, almost-rocking '60s throwback in which the up-tempo, happier melodic moments are belied by the Elbogen's restrained voice and sinister lyrics.

"Well the devil got my number and the devil got my size / and the devil got my head and the devil got my eyes / Woe is me indeed, woe is me indeed, woe is me indeed, woe is me indeed."

"Devils" became the album's default single after it was picked up for an episode of Gossip Girls last year. So far, Elbogen has found it easy to say yes to licensing his songs.

"I haven't encountered a situation yet where I wanted to say no. The reality of it is, that is how someone like me can pay my bills," Elbogen said. "It gets harder and harder to sell records. Hitting reply to an e-mail and writing the word 'yes' will mean that I can spend more time not working for the man, making records, being able to tour more, paying my musicians better. It's pretty much a no-brainer. I'm sure at some point the devil will approach me and try and license a song. I don't know what I will do."

Elbogen understands that licensing individual songs may help him keep his day job as a musician, but he would prefer his records were heard as they were intended: as a whole.

"The concept of the single is weird to me," Elbogen said. "The entire record is a body of work that is intended to be listened to as a body of work. I know that there aren't a lot of people left in this world to ingest records that way anymore, but it's still always shocking to me that people buy single song downloads and not the whole record. That always seems to me like just going to see one scene from a film."

Though the album may be called Um, Uh Oh, as with Elbogen's approach to his music, each line and each note are quite intentional. And he doesn't mind if that makes him look like an asshole.