New York's Elizabeth & the Catapult focus on the songwriting talents of Elizabeth Ziman, whose indie pop makes room for Brill Building influences, coffeehouse folk, and piano jazz. An active musician since childhood, Ziman trained as a classical pianist until the age of 16, and was studying composition at the Berklee College of Music when Patti Austin visited campus to recruit singers. Ziman won a spot in her touring lineup in 2002, singing background vocals for the soul legend for the next 18 months. After returning to New York in 2004, she began piecing together a trio with drummer Danny Molad and guitarist Peter Lalish. Elizabeth & the Catapult released a self-titled EP two years later, having recorded and produced the disc themselves.
After establishing a D.I.Y. ethic and attracting attention from (but never signing with) several major labels, the band inked a contract with Verve Records in 2008. Elizabeth & the Catapult then traveled to Nebraska, where they set up shop inside Mike Mogis' Omaha studio. Taking inspiration from the serene surroundings, the band pounded out an album's worth of material at a quick pace and returned to New York shortly thereafter. The resulting record, Taller Children, marked their major-label debut in June 2009. One year later, Ziman and Molad returned with a second LP, The Other Side of Zero, whose dark humor was largely inspired by Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing. Guests on the album included co-producer Tony Berg, guitarist Blake Mills, yMusic's Rob Moose, and on the title track, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
Elizabeth & the Catapult then parted ways with Verve, and Molad left the official lineup and joined Lalish in the indie pop group Lucius. Partly for ease of transport, Ziman took up the guitar and started a routine of busking at New York subway stops. She also began accumulating credits for work on documentary film and TV scores, including 2013's The Other Shore and The Republic of Two, both with writing partner Paul Brill. Among shows of her own, she toured as a member of Kishi Bashi's band in 2013.
Both of Ziman's former bandmates contributed to her third album, Like It Never Happened, released on Thirty Tigers at the beginning of 2014. Her first record to feature songs written on guitar as well as piano, it landed in the Top 20 of Billboard's Americana/Folk Albums chart. That summer, Ziman and band opened a show for her friend Sara Bareilles at Madison Square Garden. While working on material for her next album, she co-composed music for documentaries such as 2015's In My Father's House and 2016's Trapped, also with Brill. Elizabeth & the Catapult signed with Compass Records for 2017's Keepsake, which featured songs produced by Molad, Ziman, and Richard Swift, among others. ~ Andrew Leahey & Marcy Donelson