Taking their name from David Letterman’s classic Top Ten List of Christmas Movies in Times Square The Hot Buttered Elves began creating offbeat, darkly humorous, and sometimes caustic and offensive Christmas Holiday tunes in the early 1990’s.
Formed in Philadelphia in 1993 by Scott Carr, Gene Pembroke, and John O’Neill, their debut cassette release A Sunshine Christmas appeared on the Tape Hiss Recordings label a few days before Christmas. The widely varied tape included the songs Moonpuppy the Surfin’ Elf, Christmas in Deep Space, Jangled Bells, and Have Yourself a Sunshine Christmas, among others. It was later reissued to include Old Tyme Religion and Mindy Married Santa, which had originally appeared on the Johnny Sunshine and the Happy One’s cassette Songs That Aren’t About Phlegm in 1990. The band expanded to include Bob Tricoski, Paul Dellevigne, and George Lennox by 1994’s Yuletide Sensations, which featured 27 tracks, most notably Wishbook, Poinsettia, Jack Frost, Department Store Santa, and Black Christmas.
In 1995 they played their first live show at Fergie’s Pub and released Stocking Full of Sunshine, another tape of new material containing very lo-fi versions of Christmas on Ice, Rockin’ Merry Christmas, Pajamaland, and Dead for Christmas. 1996’s tape The Hot Buttered Elves Bake a Pie featured a number of interviews with people who answered the question: “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” interspersed between the songs Santa is a Fastcat, New Year Rising, Holiday in a Box, Steve the Reindeer, Santa All Year Through, Salvation Ringing, Better Be Good and several others.
Subbing for Tricoski on guitar, Andy Starr was added to the line-up in 1997 for five shows in Philadelphia venues including a supporting performance at the Trocadero Upstairs Lounge during the Big Mess Cabaret. Recordings of the shows engineered by Daniel Moyer would later be compiled and released as Beer Vote Let’s Thud. Following the December 1997 shows, Lennox and Starr retired from the band to pursue other interests. Hot Buttered Outtakes, a tape of demo recordings from the period covering 1990 to 1996 was also released late in 1997.
1998’s Plowed was the last cassette-era release as Tape Hiss Recordings transitioned to CD and MP3 releases. It introduced collaboration on a wider scale and included Sodomy Christmas by Churchy Bottom members Tammy Stoner, Daniel Moyer, and Patrick Taylor. Bob Tricoski contributed several tracks, including Snowdome co-written with Sadie Contini. Other tracks by Carr, Pembroke, Dellevigne, and O’Neill included Plowed, I’ll Be Your Fruitcake, The Darkness of Christmas Night, The March of the Hot Buttered Elves, Satan Claus, Larry Was a Yule Log, The Greatest Present, and A Go Go Christmas.
Despite Pembroke’s temporary absence (he had become an active world traveler and photographer and was visiting Eqypt at the time) and Carr sustaining a ligament tear in his leg two days prior to the performance, the band played a full set in support of El-Vez’s Merry Mex-mas Show at the Trocadero in 1999. The lineup was Carr, Dellevigne, and O’Neill, with Dan Creskoff and Dave Lorenz of the band The Sinners on guitar and bass respectively. The band’s first compilation CD Unwrapped was released at this time as well.
2000’s Dark Jollies was the first CD of new Hot Buttered Elves material to appear on Tape Hiss Recordings label. Among the 23 tracks are Christmas in the Barrio, Lou Reed Christmas, Christmas is the Same Old Song, Sex Elves, and Pollyanna. Brock Galland and Jeff Crane contributed three tracks including the Negativland inspired Consumer Nation. In 2001 a second compilation of tracks from the cassette years dubbed The Hot Buttered Elves Present: A Very Lo-Fi Christmas was released and the beginnings of a “Christmas in Space” concept album were recorded.
After several years off to pursue other interests and projects, Carr and Pembroke began work on a new album in 2007 with help from Jeff Crane, Ric Zegri, and a few others. MP3 Demos were officially leaked on December 24, 2007 under the name Doom Tint Wreath. Over the holiday season of 2008 the ideas from the previous year were refined and rerecorded and a couple of tracks from Tricoski and Stoner were added, culminating in the release of the full length CD Hypothermia. Tracks included That Winter Mood, A Disappointing Vindaloo Christmas, A Winter Perfect Moon, ‘Lil Snowy the Serial Killer Elf, The People’s Republic of Christmas, Hypothermia, and Dolls & Trucks.
2009 saw the release of 2012: Planet X-mas, the result of the spacey concept recordings begun in 2001 featuring Cosmic Santa Time, X-Wing Fighter, Christmas in a Black Hole, Alien Santa, and Solstice 2012. Also in December of 2009 a 5 song limited-time online-only EP entitled Jingle was released on the Tape Hiss Recordings website which included prototype versions of 3 songs slated for the next album.
In the summer of 2011 Carr and Dellevigne started listening to demos and began to formulate to groundwork for Coal. By September Pembroke and Carr had started recording the bulk of the album and by mid-October the album was being mixed down. Coal includes Broke for Christmas, X-mas is for Everyone*, The Ex Back in X-mas (Dan Creskoff’s songwriting debut with the Elves), Reverse Santa, a new version of 1994’s Poinsettia, Curb Alert Christmas, Coal (a seven part mini-rock-opera), Holly Go Heavily, A Christmas Song (from Jingle), Day 359, and The Happiest Noël (from Jingle) and several others.
As of December of 2011 Carr and Pembroke continue working on a few videos for Coal.
Pembroke and Carr have discussed ideas for the next two releases and Dellevigne is working on a prototype for a theatrical and / or film production.
Related Bands: Johnny Sunshine & The Happy Ones, The Reloaders, The Sinners, Churchy Bottom, The Invisible Cities, The Snowcakes, Sanchez Profundo, Hebephrenic, The Tapegerm Collective
Influences: Bing Crosby, Yogi Yorgesson, Stan Freberg, Tom Leher, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Firesign Theatre, The Bonzo Dog Band, The Sonics, The Velvet Underground, MC5, Brian Eno, The Ramones, Bauhaus, Nick Cave, The Legendary Pink Dots, Nurse With Wound, The Dead Milkmen, Ween, The Flaming Lips