By Jonathan Goldman
It’s fitting that an ‘80s band from Phoenix would rise up from the ashes after 35 years, but until last summer, getting the band back together was the furthest thing from the minds of the guys in Basic Elements.
When the group formed in 1984, John Denis, Jonathan Goldman, William Bowling, David Youssefi, and Matt Barton were spread across three different high schools (Shadow Mountain, Horizon and Brophy) but a common thread brought them all together.
“We were always getting our butts kicked for being different,” says synth player Jonathan Goldman. “We listened to all the new wave music coming in from overseas and tried to emulate the bands we liked by shopping in the ‘Gear for Guys’ section at Judy’s in the mall, so starting the band was kind of a survival mechanism.”
A cross between Simple Minds and Tears for Fears, Basic Elements made a name playing gigs in iconic Valley bars The Mason Jar, Metro, Sun Club and Edsel’s Attic as well as the Arizona State Fair and the backyard of any teenager whose parents were out of town. During their six-year run, Basic Elements played alongside local legends Gin Blossoms, Gentlemen After Dark, BonTon/Caterwaul, Ditché, and Radio Architecture. They also opened for larger touring acts Bolshoi and Gene Loves Jezebel, while maintaining an average age of 17-years-old.
In 1990 the band broke up – well before any of them were old enough to legally enter a bar.
In the 30 years since, members of the band have moved on to become a sculptor, TV producer, real-estate agent, graphic artist, and an attorney. After last year’s reunion show at the legendary Mint in Los Angeles, the band found themselves with an opportunity too good to pass up—the chance to record songs they wrote as teenagers with one of the artists who inspired them to write the songs in the first place.
Ed Buller is a Mercury Prize-winning producer who created albums for bands like Suede, Pulp, and White Lies. He was also the original synth player for the Psychedelic Furs, a band that influenced Basic Elements from day one.
“We never got to work with a producer who was into the post-punk scene,” says bassist William Bowling. “Back in the day all we got was some head-banger behind the mixing board, so finding Ed was like finding some new wave saint. He’s just a brilliant producer.”
Written in the ‘80s and recorded today, each song delivers a euphoric mix of nostalgia for original fans of post-punk/new wave, and an exciting sense of discovery for the next generation finding the band on streaming platforms.
The band dropped its first single “Hide,” on October 2. Written in 1984 against the backdrop of the Cold War and George Orwell, it’s an anti-authoritarian fight song with lyrics that feel more relevant than ever.
Over the next several months the band will drop each track recorded with Buller as singles, and cap it off with a full release on pressed, collectible vinyl that includes a B-side of the original, archived recordings. Keep up with the band at basicelementsmusic.com.