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The Reputation were an indie rock band from Chicago, Illinois. Its albums were published via the recording company Lookout! Records. Fronted by former Sarge singer-songwriter Elizabeth Elmore, the band toured the United States and released records since their inception in 2001 through their eventual disintegration in 2006.
Following the disbanding of her old band, Sarge, Elmore enrolled in law school at Northwestern University. (Elmore was quoted as saying "I enrolled in law school in the fall of 1999. Sarge ended in Dec. 99, after I'd already begun law school, and NOT by my choice, despite numerous reports to the contrary.") She embarked on a series of solo tours between classes, with later tours taking on the help of friend Sean Hulet, a Chicago guitarist formerly with Moreno, Scott Rosenquist, a drummer in Hulet's band, and Joel Root, formerly the bassist for the Chicago jazz band Andiamo. This group of musicians would tour as The Elizabeth Elmore 4, and they completed a short, not-too-serious East Coast tour. The group continued to record some demos and complete smaller regional tours under Elmore's name, and, learning that Hulet and Root matched up with her well musically, she began working more seriously on the band as a permanent project.
Elmore ended up requesting a leave of absence from Northwestern Law School in 2001 to focus on the band. The group signed to Initial Records, and completed a fall west coast tour with former Sarge drummer Chad Romanski before recording their debut album. The band took on the name The Reputation at this time (although Hulet and Root were content to continue as the Elizabeth Elmore 4), a reference, according to Elmore, intended to be a "personal little... [expression of contempt]" aimed at certain members within the indie music scene who promoted "endless speculation" about Elmore's sex life.
The Reputation, the band's self-titled debut album, was released in 2002 after the band spent much of the fall and winter of 2001 in the recording studio. The majority of the album was recorded in Chicago at Atlas, with the exception of a cover of Elvis Costello's song "Almost Blue," which was recorded with then-Wilco guitarist Jay Bennett on piano and production duties, as well as extra arrangements and recording on other tracks. Elmore, as she did with her work in Sarge, wrote all of the original songs and lyrics, and assisted with the production along with Matt Allison.
The album was well received critically. The Los Angeles Times gave the album 3.5 out of 4 stars, with reviewer Kevin Bronson saying that "[Elmore's] streaming anecdotes give the listener the feeling of walking right into the middle of life-altering events." The College Music Journal's Amy Wan called the album a "showcase for Elmore's powerfully biting lyrics and her passionate voice, dancing deftly between little-girl sweet and outright roar," and The Village Voice gave the album an A-, with famed music journalist Robert Christgau praising the debut, saying that "Elmore left a great band to go to law school. Now she leaves a great law school to start a better band."
Along with the positive feedback for the album, the band was able to secure its first permanent drummer in Matt Espy. The band would tour the United States and parts of Canada a number of times following the release of the album. Along with the performance agenda in 2003, Elmore balanced touring, songwriting for their next album, and a return to law school while the band suffered the loss of yet another drummer, as Espy was forced to leave after a tenure of nearly a year and a half for personal reasons.
To Force a Fate
The band settled on their second permanent, and current, drummer, Steve Van Horn, shortly after Espy left following their round of touring. At the same time, the band began negotiations with Lookout! Records to release their follow-up. After a marathon run of shows and songwriting toward the end of 2003, the band recorded their second album. The sessions were difficult, with 14 hour recording days being balanced with Elmore attempting to finish remaining law school papers, combined with weekend tour jaunts to the East Coast.
To Force a Fate was ultimately released in April of 2004 on Lookout! Records. The album, like its predecessor, received positive press, including favorable reviews in Spin Magazine, which stated that the album "opens up with a bang of power-pop epiphany," Blender Magazine, which gave the album four stars, and Entertainment Weekly, which called the album "muscular yet lush", giving it a B+. The album would eventually reach #58 on the CMJ charts.
The album was unique compared to the first album as well as other Elmore projects, in that other members of the band assisted in the songwriting process.
The band spent 2004 and 2005 touring the United States for over nine months, including opening slots for Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and Grammy nominees The Killers, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Donnas. The band's performance at South by Southwest in particular was covered positively in Entertainment Weekly.
2005 took the band overseas to tour the United Kingdom for the first time, as well as two separate two-month United States tours. In June of 2005, bassist Joel Root left the band for personal reasons. They completed their summer tour with Stereo South bassist Greg Mytych, and planned to record a new album in 2006, but came to a halt due to mitigating factors, including the issues with Lookout! Records. Elmore, in November of 2006, posted a message to the band's official mailing list noting that the band had dissolved and no further plans had been announced.
The Reputation's lineup changed numerous times during the band's existence.
- Elizabeth Elmore - vocals/guitar
- Sean Hulet - guitar/vocals
- Steve Van Horn - drums
- Greg Mytych - bass
- Scott Rosenquist - touring drummer
- Ben Kane - touring drummer
- Chad Romanski - recording drummer, debut album
- Matt Espy - drummer
- Joel Root - bass
The Reputation released two albums.
The Reputation contributed tracks to a number of compilations:
- Fields and Streams - Kill Rock Stars - One track: "For the Win (Demo)" - 2002
- Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again: A Compilation Benefiting American Veterans of the Vietnam War - Exotic Fever Records - One track: "For What It's Worth" - 2002
- OIL - Thick Records - One track: "Some Senseless Day" - 2002
- That's My Bag - Lookout Records - One track: "Face It" - 2005
- Aversion.com: Making a New Reputation, by Matt Schild, accessed 19 June 2006
- Reputationmusic.com: Band bio, Elizabeth Elmore. Accessed 20 June 2006
- San Francisco Bay Guardian: Elmore's World, Jimmy Draper. Google cache acceessed 20 June 2006
- The Reputation liner notes
- Los Angeles Times, Kevin Bronson Review, unknown date
- CMJ: Amy Wan, unknown date
- The Village Voice: Album review, Robert Christgau, 20 April 2004, accessed 20 June 2006
- Reputationmusic.com: Tour date archive, accessed 20 June 2006
- Miami Herald: Sound Check: Above the Law, Tom Bowker. Date unspecified
- Lookout! Records: The Reputation - To Force a Fate, catalog. URL accessed 17 July 2006
- Spin: "More new music to hear now," Jon Dolan. Date unspecified.
- Blender Magazine: Review, Nick Catucci, date unspecified
- Entertainment Weekly: Issue #760, 16 April 2004
- To Force a Fate liner notes
- Entertainment Weekly: "It's Gettin' Hot at South by Southwest", 2 April 2004, URL accessed 17 July 2006
- Aversion.com news article. URL accessed 13 October 2006
- Elmore: "the band is over."