Rockford Rocked: Catching up with the unpredictable Brad Elvis
By Todd Houston
Exclusive to TRRT
Brad Elvis has many times been said to be the Midwest’s answer to The Who’s Keith Moon and for good reason. His drumming style is tight, solid, fun and sometimes unpredictable. His long musical career spans nearly four decades and literally thousands of gigs. Starting off with Infinity Records recording artist, Screams, Brad has since found himself playing drums for The Romantics. Last week Rockford Rocked Interviews caught up with Brad to pick his brain about music, touring and life in general. Read on.
Rockford Rocked Interview: Tell us how you got your start playing drums and why not guitar or saxophone?
Brad Elvis: Originally, I made a choice between bass or drums. I knew I wanted to play music and eventually at the age of 11 or 12 I made the choice of drums which, fortunately, seemed to come naturally for me. I never took lessons, I just played along to the 45s and albums that I owned and it all worked out. However, my multi-talented wife Chloe who is co-leader of our band, The Handcuffs, can play saxophone, guitar (and a few other instruments) so that fills that void! By the way, I’ve kept a book of every show I have ever played and I just played my 4,180th show last week.
RRI: One of your first bands Screams scored a record deal with Infinity Records (Canada) and were getting a lot of attention in the states opening for Van Halen on their first tour. That must have been a cool experience for a young rocker like yourself. Thoughts?
BE: Having the dream of getting a major label record deal and then actually achieving that, was fantastic and a confidence builder. The Infinity/MCA label imprint (based out of NYC, not Canada) itself was short-lived but in that brief time, we got to tour the U.S. and England, which was great experience for us youngsters in 1979. Screams was selected to tour with Van Halen from July through October that year. It was exciting for us to be playing in front of huge crowds and also to look side stage and see Van Halen band members watching us from the wings. Just last year, I was talking to Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, and we both had fond memories of that important tour for both bands. It was Screams’ first support tour and Van Halen’s first headlining tour (which also sold out every venue). That tour ended at the Los Angeles Forum and then Screams was off to the UK to headline our own tour. A whirlwind year for us.
RRI: Former REO Speedwagon singer Terry Luttrell produced Screams’ debut album. Do you still keep in touch with him?
BE: Between Terry and our manager, Jeff Ross, they shopped our demos together and found a major label that was interested in us. A new imprint, at the time, called Infinity, which was part of MCA (Universal). I’m friends on Facebook with Terry (who also was the lead vocalist for Epic Records band, Starcastle), Jeff and all of the Screams band members but we don’t really see each other much these days. There is a Screams Facebook site where we post and comment regularly.
RRI: By the early ’80s you had already moved on to (Portrait Records) The Elvis Brothers. Which one of you decided it would be a good idea to change all of your last names to Elvis?
BE: One night at an early gig I jokingly blurted out that my name was Brad Elvis. Graham’s (bassist) eyes lit up and he immediately introduced us individually as, Brad Elvis, Rob Elvis and Graham Elvis. It just stuck.
RRI: You guys did a bunch of shows with The Clash and Billy Idol during this time. Any cool stories to tell that wouldn’t get us in trouble?
BE: Starting with Screams and into The Elvis Brothers, we were fortunate to play on bills with so many great bands. What great experience it was to play shows with The Ramones, The Clash, Billy Idol, The Pretenders, Cheap Trick, Devo, INXS, Big Country, Culture Club, etc. So many stories to tell in my lengthy career. How much time do you have?
RRI: Your side project The Handcuffs has been through Rockford a few times. Any plans to return anytime soon?
BE: I don’t look at The Handcuffs as my side project. I actually had The Handcuffs prior to joining The Romantics, and we had already recorded an album. A quick history: After The Elvis Brothers I started Big Hello and that is where Chloe F. Orwell and I met. We released three albums and played Rockford many times. Then, Chloe and I started The Handcuffs, released three albums and are now working on the fourth one. We always had a blast playing at Kryptonite in Rockford. They were always so nice and supportive us but now that it’s gone we’ll have to play somewhere else. Maybe Mary’s Place?
RRI: For the past 12 years you have been the drummer for The Romantics. It’s got to be a gas getting to play songs like Talking in Your Sleep, What I like About You and Rock You Up! Thoughts?
BE: I have a great time playing drums and touring with The Romantics. I still get to be Brad Elvis and do my thing which is very nice, and the band is very supportive of that. I get to experience their fans’ excitement of meeting and seeing the original members of the band. It’s also nice to see and meet some of my own fans at the shows, as well, who often bring my own past and current albums to sign. I love that!
RRI: I’m going to say a word or phrase and you answer with the first thing that pops into your head.
RRI: Skinny ties.
RRI: What’s currently in your music playlist?
BE: I’m all over the place being a casual record collector. I might listen to Queens of the Stone Age and St. Vincent one day, Mott the Hoople and Spooky Tooth the next, and just today I bought a Dave Brubeck Quartet and a Webb Pierce album.
RRI: Clem Burke (Blondie drummer).
BE: One of my best friends (who also recommended me for The Romantics). Thanks, Clem!
RRI: Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats drummer).
BE: He’s a stand up guy!
RRI: What do you sing in the shower?
BE: Usually bits of my own songs that I am currently writing/working on.
RRI: The Kings (Canadian Band – This Beat Goes On).
BE: Ha! True story: In the part of that song Switching to Glide, I always thought they were singing, “Switching to guys.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that).
RRI: What’s next for Brad Elvis?
BE: Continuing a busy and hot summer touring with The Romantics all over the U.S. and a festival in Belgium coming up in mid-August. Also, Chloe and I are working on new songs for The Handcuffs, a studio-only, secret side project and looking into booking shows for the fall and beyond. Maybe a Handcuffs show in Rockford…?
Photo: Kenny Williams