Meet Sam Elfanbaum, a St. Louis native with a killer voice

Whether singing lead vocals in his band’s latest music video or performing with MU’s music department, this local musician should be on your radar.

By Caroline Watkins | April 4, 2017

Tags: Band interviews Music

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In addition to his velvety smooth voice and scruffy appearance, freshman Sam Elfanbaum’s persona is as equally charismatic as it is low-key. You can tell that he is just as comfortable in a Sunday interview at Kaldi’s as he is jamming out on stage. He is the epitome of a young rocker.

Elfanbaum was introduced to music at an early age. He credits his family with fueling his passion for singing and playing instruments.

“I was in a ‘feel the keyboard’ class when I was two, and then I took piano lessons for five years,” Elfanbaum said. “I was always singing … and my dad was a musician.”

Elfanbaum also plays the ukulele and guitar and dabbles in bass. He hopes to become a professional musician someday, but until then, he is studying vocal performance at MU.

At the end of his sophomore year of high school, Elfanbaum and his best friends decided to form a band after casually playing together for several years. The band, later named Phuzz, started going to open mic nights. The jazzy rock group was eventually hired out for a three-hour Friday night gig by the same venue that hosted the open mic nights.

“It was really fun, so we just decided to go from there,” Elfanbaum said.

In addition to Elfanbaum on bass and vocals, other members of the band include Drew Brodsky on drums, Phoebe Lieberman on guitar and vocals and Leo Diamant on keyboards.

The band gathers inspiration from several genres when it comes to generating its unique sound.

“We all love Jason Mraz, lyrically we try to make ourselves sound like him; we used to play a lot of Twenty One Pilots songs,” Elfanbaum said. “Recently, we have been going away from that and are focusing on rock, jazzy and hip-hop [sounds].”

Why Phuzz? The band name was inspired by an effects pedal called a fuzz pedal, famously used by rock legends such as Jimi Hendrix. In the band’s song “Sunny Days,” the band members decided to put the guitar pedal on a bass to achieve a more “crunchy sound,” Elfanbaum said. Lieberman decided the effect was emblematic of the band’s sound and would double nicely as the group’s name.

Even though the band is currently separated at different colleges, the band has not taken a hiatus. On Christmas, Phuzz released its EP, Sunny Days, which features three original tracks written by Lieberman and Elfanbaum. Elfanbaum’s voice is featured on the band’s song “Dr. Good,” while Lieberman takes lead vocals on the other two songs, “Forlorn” and “Sunny Days.”

Phuzz’s full-length album is coming out next summer; it will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Prime and Apple Music to buy and stream.

The band is currently aiming to land a gig at The Blue Note this summer, among other venues in Missouri, Illinois and potentially Colorado. However, plans are still tentative considering a majority of the band members attend different schools.

Elfanbaum’s musical talents are not exclusive to singing and playing with Phuzz. In addition to performing with his band, Elfanbaum also enjoys singing jazz, and occasionally sings jazz solos. If he is performing by himself, he enjoys throwing in a few jazz standards in his setlist, like “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Autumn Leaves.”

In a time when hip-hop and pop music dominate mainstream media, Elfanbaum is disheartened that not as many people his age appreciate jazz music.

“Especially when people are soloing, it’s something you can’t replicate, really,” Elfanbaum said.

With his passion for jazz and rock, in the next few years, Elfanbaum could be either be the next Seb from La La Land or the next Jason Mraz.

But for now, he’s comfortable sticking with being Sam Elfanbaum from Phuzz.

Edited by Katherine White | kwhite@themaneater.com

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