Hail to the King! We Get Weird with Elvis-Centric Nirvana Cover Band Elvana

Words: LP Mills
Sunday 30 September 2018
reading time: min, words

If the last twenty-four years are anything to go by, it's unlikely that we're going to get a Nirvana reunion any time soon. Thankfully, those time-hopping grunge geeks Elvana have got us covered, blending the musical stylings of the world's first and best garage rock band, and the king of rock and roll himself. We sat down to chat with them over a steaming plate of cheeseburgers, and here's what they had to say. 


Firstly, how was the flight over from Disgraceland? 

Not bad.  Bass Guy locked himself in the John the entire time as he’s terrified of in-flight peanuts.  He was also concerned he might accidentally view a movie for the first time. Both things terrify him.  They also didn’t serve red bull and that’s the longest he’s ever gone in his adult life with some. To be honest it was the safest thing to do.

This is your second time in Nottingham, right? What did you think to the city last time? 

We had a real f*ckin’ blast here last year!  The show was fantastic, we were educated on what a ‘cob’ was — something to do with pond life if I remember correctly — and were also shown the correct Lion to meet at.  We received a lot of peculiar looks prior to knowing this.

How did Elvana come about?

We all got in a knife fight over an unclaimed Cheeseburger at a popular fast food outlet.  We were officially introduced to one another in the holding cell. True story.

Obviously both Elvis and Nirvana are huge cultural touchstones in the States. What inspired you to merge them? 

Doing a straight up tribute didn’t appeal to any of us really so we hit on the idea of merging something.  To us Nirvana are the greatest band to have ever existed and we love playing their songs. We already had an Elvis suit so we dug that out and hoped it would all work together.

Which would you say is a more accurate description of the band: Elvis Presley covering Nirvana, or Nirvana with Elvis Presley as the front man? 

Well we are ‘Elvana: Elvis Fronted Nirvana’ so … Take your time.  

Between Bjorn Again, the Fab Four, and the wealth of Elvis impersonators out there, I think its fair to say that tribute acts are pretty popular. Why do you think that is? 

I think traditional tribute acts have always been popular but it’s more in the limelight now as people either can’t go see the originals or they rarely tour.  People still wanna enjoy their songs live.

Of the two bands, do you personally identify more with the music of Nirvana or Elvis?

As we’re under the age of 105 we’ll have to say Nirvana.

A lot of our readers might feel like starting up their own tribute bands. Do you have any advice for them?

Twist it.  Add comedy if appropriate.  If you’re gonna cover someone you can’t really take yourself too seriously but you still gotta be true to the tunes and be passionate about it.  

Now, I understand you boys enjoy your fried food. What would your ideal burger look like?

To be honest I’ve been wanting to audition as a food writer so if you don’t mind I’ll audition my critic skills right here.  If any of y’all know Jay Rayner feel free to give him my number. If any burger joint in the fair city of Nottinghamshire can do this for us you will win a bottle of Elvis sweat and Bass Guy’s soiled airplane slacks.  Ground rump steak, 12 rashers of canadian smoked bacon, brioche buns … TOASTED. A burger can be ruined by an un-toasted brioche bun. Giving someone a burger with an un-toasted brioche bun is like giving someone a drink with a turd floating in it.  Pickles. Not a thinly sliced piece of pickle lost in the centre of the burger, a fuckin’ whole pickle on the side. Onions, slowly browned so they are sweeter than Pricilla’s ass. Melted cheese. If I bite into a cold slice of cheddar so help me god!  Tomato/Tomato … I don’t know how you guys pronounce it here, but some of that. Hot sauce, plenty of it. Strawberry milkshake to wash it all down and a re-inforced solid gold toilet on standby with QUILTED toilet paper. I can’t re-iterate that enough. And finally, laxatives … just in case.   


Viva Nottingham, Baby: Elvana at Rock City, 28 September, 2018

Well, that was weird. 

The good kind of weird, definitely, but still weird. 

Rock City has seen some pretty incredible bands over its thirty-eight years, but nothing could have prepared regular concert-goers for the irreverent strangeness that was about to take the stage. I've seen a lot of hype surrounding this show on social media over the last few weeks, and honestly I can see why — there are few experiences quite like it in the modern world outside of a particularly groovy fever-dream.

The set opened with support act Damn Craters, whose front-man Simon Smith — wearing an elegant dress and bug-eyed shades perched over a hearty mustache, bottle of red wine in one hand — looks like a surreal combination of Courtney Love and Chris Cornell. This is appropriate, as much of the band's set can trace its roots back to the early nineties grunge scene, with all the fuzz and distortion of Soundgarden and the passionate, screeching vocals of Carrie Akre. Damn Craters don't come across as a 90s knock-off, however, clearly borrowing the sound of their clean melodic riffs from classic metal bands like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. The set itself could have perhaps benefited from the occasional chorus line or change in pace — as it stands, much of the Craters set blended together towards the end, and it is difficult to pick out any particular stand-out song. That being said, Damn Craters put together a thoroughly enjoyable, technically-tight trip through grungy nostalgia and 70s psychedelia, and their work is definitely worth checking out if you consider yourself a fan of contemporary metal. 

Then comes the main act. Boy. Where do I begin? 

Have I mentioned it was weird? It was pretty weird. Beginning with an introductory spiel about how the band formed — a combination of Back to the Future and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, with a dash of Montage of Heck thrown in for good measure — Elvana immediately dive in with an incredibly faithful recreation of Nirvana's greatest hits, sans one key detail — Kurt Cobain. This is clearly a band that does not take itself too seriously. "At points in the evening I may sound like Nicolas Cage — at other points I may sound like Matthew McConaughey", front-man Elvis Cobain announces to the crowd, a few songs in, and during a brief interlude Danny Cobain assures the audience that Elvis is being catered to by the best "burger cooks and narcotics dealers that money can buy". 

With Elvis as a front-man, it would be easy to dismiss the band as a novelty act, and while there is certainly plenty of novelty here, this is not a band centred solely around a gimmick. An Elvis-fronted rendition of In Bloom actually benefits a lot from the low, slurred, sultry tones of the King, and it is clear from the sheer accuracy of their performance that this is a band that truly, deeply loves Nirvana. Even the occasional breaks into the work of Elvis Presley feel somewhat authentic and from a place of love, if not somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Hell, if I had a few more beers in me I would happily state that a Nirvana cover of In the Ghetto is exactly what this world needs, and Elvana are happy to deliver it. 

The band rattled out crowd-pleaser after crowd-pleaser, and as someone who was raised in both an Elvis and Nirvana household (it was a confusing upbringing, try not to think too much about it), I admit to having thoroughly enjoyed myself. The set was also littered with appropriately King-esque costume changes — it's good to see the diamonte business is still booming — and playful interactions between the band and the audience. One memorable section involved a packed Rock City chanting "Bass Guy" to the reportedly bashful and stage-shy bassist, all at the encouragement of Elvis. Another section, during which Elvis clambered around the back of the crowd so he could serenade the audience with a rendition of Can't Help Falling in Love With You from the balcony, featured a performance of the Holes classic Celebrity Skin as sung by the twin backing vocalists and a stage-full of burly, bearded grunge musicians dressed like teenage girls. Did I mention it's weird? It's kinda weird.

"Look," I hear you cry. "We know it's weird. You've mentioned that much. But was it a good gig?"

Honestly, yes. Upon leaving the venue I felt energised and entertained, with a great deal of respect for a band that have taken what would otherwise be classed as a gimmick and turned into a tight, faithful, and technically stylish performance. There is humour here, but there is also heart, and in spite of all the self-ribbing and winks to the audience, it was clear that the audience were never being laughed at for enjoying this, nor were the band solely to be laughed at for the way they dress or behave. 

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