They're one of the Twin Cities' best live bands, a rolling-and-tumbling rock unit that plays it loose and wild in concert.
They're also fans of Mississippi blues and modern Southern rock bands like the Drive-by Truckers. And they're blue-collar guys with day jobs, too — or day-and-night in the case of bassist Tony Zaccardi, owner of Palmer's Bar.
All of which made it a perfect scenario for the members of Eleganza to block out a week and head down to Drive-by Truckers bassist Matt Patton's studio outside Oxford, Miss., to record their new album.
"It just made sense to take off work, get out of town and hammer this thing out all together in the studio," singer/guitarist Brian Vanderwerf said.
Not to be underplayed: "It sounded like a lot of fun, too," he added.
Unfortunately, the timing of Eleganza's best-case recording session was far from perfect: They made the trek in January 2020, right before the pandemic.
Thus, what was to be one of the most butt-kicking rock albums of 2020 is now just coming out in 2022, with a release party scheduled Friday at 7th St. Entry.
Eleganza's six veteran band members — mostly 40- and 50-something dudes who've each clocked in a quarter-century or more of steady live performances — never really considered issuing the new LP during COVID lockdown.
"If we couldn't play the songs live, what would the point be?" Vanderwerf sternly asked.
You'll get his point when you hear "Water Valley High," the band's second album in a now decade-long run.
Named after the city in north Mississippi where it was recorded — interpret the "high" part however you want — the LP captures the rowdy but steady power of Eleganza's live shows. It also shows off how far Vanderwerf has come as a soulful howler and country-leaning, Replacements-rooted songwriter since his days leading the grimy, early-2000s Minneapolis punk group the Midnight Evils.
A Drive-by Trucker since 2012, Patton said he became a fan of Vanderwerf's when the Evils played shows with his prior band, the Dexateens (whose album was produced by DBT leader Patterson Hood).
"Aside from his singing voice being pure dynamite, he's just a great person to be with and work with," Patton said.
Eleganza has become one of the flagship artists signed to Dial Back Sound, a new label Patton started with Bronson Tew, his engineer and partner in the studio of the same name. Patton said their goal in co-producing the Minnesota rockers was simple.
"The secret to working with a band like this is to do your job and be free of agenda," Patton said. "This band sounds amazing, no question. If it turns out stale or bad, it's on you."
Vanderwerf introduced many of the new songs to his bandmates on the spot in Water Valley: "I'd never made a record where the band was so ill-prepared," he said, "which I think was actually a good thing."
They worked 12-hour days taking advantage of all the cool vintage gear the studio's musician owners had to offer.
"I don't think I used my own bass on any of the songs," said Zaccardi, who praised Patton and Tew for "really being invested in and adding to what we were doing, instead of just punching the clock."
The group also greatly benefited from the addition of pianist Charlie Smith, who — like longtime Romantica bassist Zaccardi — was hired just for one gig and wound up becoming a full-time member. Smith first joined for Eleganza's thrilling staging of the Stones' "Exile on Main Street" in the Entry in 2018, a performance the band will revive May 12 at the Turf Club to mark the album's 50th anniversary. (Not to be missed!)
"Charlie is so good at what he does, it kind of forced us guitarists to find more room for him and sharpen what we do," said Greg McAloon, who shares guitar-dueling duties with Vanderwerf's fellow ex-Chooglin' bandmate Jeff Johnson. Drummer Tim Baumgart rounds out the lineup.
Akin to some of the Truckers' best stuff, "Water Valley High" boasts redneck-y musical overtures with progressive undertones.
The Jerry Lee Lewis-ized rocker "Get Brown," for instance, celebrates the fact that white people will soon be in the population minority in America. And the darker and slower-stewing "Scared and Stupid" sends up Trump-era fearmongering.
Vanderwerf gets personal here and there, too, singing about his mother's death in the bluesy, bittersweet opener "Even If There's One" before musical hell breaks out in the self-examining blaster "Sick of What I Need."
Happily married and steadily employed at the post office, the 52-year-old bandleader said he long ago gave up aspirations of musical stardom. Which may be one of the secrets to why Eleganza is the best of the three well-liked Twin Cities bands he's fronted.
"We all love doing this, but we're also laid-back about it and with each other," he said. "I seriously think that's the main thing that makes us a good rock band: We just really like each other and have fun together."
It's not rocket science.
LP release party: 8:30 p.m. Fri., 7th St. Entry, 701 1st Av. N., Mpls., with Monica LaPlante and Mad Mojo Jett, $12-$15, eTix.com
"Exile on Main Street" 50th celebration: May 12, Turf Club, St. Paul, $15, eTix.com