Locals Only: The George Elliot Underground

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The George Elliot Underground was an idea years before it became a band. As students at Pickerington Central during the early part of this decade, the members of The Sheens and Starboard Fluke often talked about how cool it would be to team up someday as a side project.

"Kind of like a supergroup," lead drummer Brian Mayes said. "I mean, not really, but in our minds."

As the years rolled on, both bands broke up. Eventually, that core group of friends found themselves musically idle and living together in a Campus-area house. So last summer Mayes teamed with lead singer Matt Zab, lead guitarists Marlin Kornegay and Jeremy Browning and lead bassist Derek Ultican to form the Picktown supergroup they always dreamed of.

(Yes, they have "lead bass," "lead drums" and two lead guitarists.)

In some ways the band still has roots in Pickerington, where they maintain a rehearsal space. But their first year of existence has been all about coming to know and be known in Columbus proper.

When the GEU debuted their classic-rock-inspired, showmanship-heavy live show in Columbus clubs last year, they did so with extreme confidence - a confidence that their peers quickly chipped away.

"We saw bands that were tighter. It felt like they were louder," Kornegay said. "It just makes you want to be better."

The band honed their craft for a few months, thanks in part to the challenge of matching the energy and charisma of groups they admire like The Lost Revival, the Floorwalkers and Nick Tolford and Company.

But this spring, just as they were beginning to learn some new tricks, the band went on hiatus while Zab completed a school commitment in Missouri.

That hiatus finally ends Saturday, when the GEU plays Skully's with Hotel War, The Lost Revival and Scott Neff.

In the interim, the remaining band members followed the lead of their signature song, "Welcome to Battlethorne Castle," by taking "to the streets like a goddamn rolling stone."

They became some of the most active supporters of local music, often rallying crowds for other groups as they tried to foster the kind of community that could support them when they got back on stage.

The band also used that time to tweak some recordings they made at Analog Sound Studios, all of which are now available for free at shows and on MySpace. They hope to get around to making an album at some point, but for now they're focused on putting on a live show that slays.

For Kornegay, that means connecting with the audience, sometimes through tried and true rock tropes that might make some bands feel self-conscious.

"You'd be surprised when you point at people," he said. "When you play a chord and you point at them, they really feel like that chord is just for them."

E-mail your local music news to Chris DeVille at cdeville@columbusalive.com

The George Elliot Underground

When: 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17

Where: Skully's Music Diner, Short North

Web: myspace.com/thegeorgeelliotunderground