The vocals found on Bury The Devil, somewhere between a roguishly rough hewn and a silky smooth croon, may sound familiar to those who remember the heady times of the NYC Revival (circa. the early noughties). A time when The Strokes broke the UK - then the world - and musos everywhere looked to NYC for their next guitar fix. At this time a new-wave band made up equally of British expats and NYC natives formed. They released three albums: Bend to the Breaks (2006), Speak Your Language (2008) and Different Times (2011), toured America and Europe (including tours with Albert Hammond Jr.) and had the UK press praise their “feisty punk power pop” - Time Out and their “power to creep into your subconscious” - NME. The band was Five O’Clock Heroes and Antony Ellis (now A.J. Ellis) fronted them.
Three years removed from the last Five O’Clock Heroes album, Ellis has written and recorded his first solo album, Bury The Devil. Although most know him as a band frontman, Ellis’s solo venturings aren’t entirely new. Born in the UK and originally Northampton based, Ellis moved to the USA (initially to upstate New York) as a teenager in the mid-’90‘s and played in his brother, Steve Ellis’ band The Simpletons (Columbia Record). This experience gave him a taste for both music and the musician’s lifestyle, fueling his decision to leave The Simpletons after two years, to move to New York City and pursue his own ambitions to be a songwriter. Ellis’ first solo efforts involved performances on the open mic circuit, performing alongside (then) upcoming artists such as Adam Green and Regina Spektor at New York City staples such as The Sidewalk Cafe and The Raven Café.
Ellis then formed Five O’Clock Heroes in 2003. The band enjoyed a long nine year run and though they still play live together today, their last studio release was in 2011. In the subsequent three years, Ellis, always the music obsessive, kept his foot in by founding NYC based Soundtrapper Publishing. The company allowed him to get his brilliant, but under the radar musician friends the musical platform and recognition they deserved - bypassing commercial radio and placing their music straight onto high profile adverts.
Working alongside those involved full time in the creative process was eventually too much of a pull and Ellis began jamming with musician friends and returning to his main love of songwriting. This led to him writing the eleven tracks that form his debut solo album Bury The Devil. The result is a more mature sound which perfectly showcases Ellis’ distinctive vocals and Elvis Costello-esque guitar-pop songwriting style, with its hints of country twang, bluesy refrains, and anti-folk aesthetics. The album also spans a wide emotional landscape and takes the listener on journey through the different periods of Ellis’ life. For example, there’s “Isambard” a trip back to the lost, confused days of youth, the upbeat “Dance All Night” which is a rollicking kiss-off to responsibility and settling down and “A Long Way Down” which takes the listener on a brooding tour through deep despair.
The singles released from the album deal with the issue of a broken heart on the brooding “Cheating the Czar”. While second single, “Stand Up” is “street wise organ drenched” - American Songwriter (on which it premiered), with its Jam-esque sound and lyrical call for the song’s subject to assert themselves.
Bury The Devil was recorded in Leeds, England at Cannonball Studios and produced by George Riley (10,000 things, The Blacklisters, Heart Ships). The album was mixed in Nashville, TN by Willie Breeding (The Breedings) and mastered by Duane Lundy (My Morning Jacket, Vandaveer) in Lexington, KY. The album is released on Glaze Records in North America and on Ragtime Records in the UK.