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New York art pop trio Elk City spun off from the alternative rock-era group the Melting Hopefuls in late 1997. Both groups feature drummer Ray Ketchem and singer/bassist Renee Lobue, but the addition of singer/guitarist Peter Langland-Hassan truly makes Elk City a different (and better) group.

Indeed, Elk City (no connection to the Western Oklahoma town of the same name should be inferred) began when Langland-Hassan auditioned for a new lineup of the Melting Hopefuls, an ever-shifting unit Lobue and Ketchem had led since 1990. His songwriting and singing gifts were such, however, that the trio decided to make a fresh start under a new name, with a new musical aesthetic that gives the two singer/songwriters equal weight. Lobue had been the Melting Hopefuls' sole lead singer, but Elk City quickly became a much more collaborative effort, with the pair sharing the lead vocals. (Most Elk City songs are actually duets.)

The group, as yet un-named, began recording its debut album in early 1998, but it wasn't until the following year that one of the most characteristic elements in their sound was discovered. For their earliest shows, Lobue played no instruments, and the musical background consisted solely of Ketchem's drums and Langland-Hassan's guitar. Later, the trio discovered a vintage Novation Bass-Station analog bass synthesizer, which Lobue adopted as her new primary instrument. The first song to feature the new instrument, "Judori" (written for the wedding of two friends of the band, Jude and Midori), became Elk City's first single, released in early 2000. It was followed by their first album, Status, released in the U.S. on Hidden Agenda in June 2000; a slightly revised European edition, with the 11-minute "Trapped" tucked on the end, was released by the French label Talitres in early 2001. It wasn't until 2002 that their second full length release, Hold Tight the Ropes, would be released on the George-based WARM Records.