New Artist of the Day: Elephant Stone
Louder Than War introduce Canadian psych band Elephant Stone who’ve just real eased a new single ‘Setting Sun’
A sound that up till now has pretty much been a product of its time and place, psychedelia, is not only back inspiring and influencing a new wave of groups, artists & music fans, but, more importantly, it’s evolving into something new, a more modern sound which all the while continues to pay homage to its mid-60’s roots. This change and progression is coming via a select group of band’s from all around the world & is very much an international scene having already taken in Australia, the UK and also, now, Canada via Montreal psych-rocking troubadours Elephant Stone.
Elephant Stone are led by the talented singer / songwriter Rishi Dhir who’s not only a much respected player of eastern instruments (& is an “in demand” session musician who’s played on a number of successful albums) but is also one of a few artists right now helping to push the whole sound-scape of psychedelia into the 21st century, something you can hear very clearly in Elephant Stone’s new swirling psych-rock release ‘Setting Sun’.
The first single from their ‘self titled’ recently released second album nods its head to past masters like The Byrd’s and the sound of the Fab’s ‘Revolver’ courtesy the chiming dark / spiky guitar line which glides along Rishi Dhir’s warm vocals. Its the perfect intro to the band’s sound and total vision for the rest of the album. ‘The Sea of your Mind’, ‘Heavy Moon’ and ‘ Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’ are just a few more stand outs from a wonderful album which breathe a new life into the colorful and inspired sound of psychedelia.
Louder Than War recently sat down with Rishi for a chat about the band’s second album and their new single.
Big thanks for talking to Louder Than War, Elephant Stone are on tour right now yeah? So where are you and what’s happening?
Rishi: I’m actually in Austin, Texas right now rehearsing with the Black Angels. Elephant Stone just had our album launch in our hometown (Montreal) and then I zipped on south to meet the Angels… we have an “industry” gig in San Francisco tomorrow…. I managed to pick up a new sitar while I’m down here!
And what a great collection of tracks there are on the new Elephant Stone self titled album. The single ‘Setting Sun’ is a personal fave picking up on the classic pop / psychedelic mix of 65 / 66 era (eg, Beatles-Revolver, The Byrd’s, the Who) but it also comes across as a real indie guitar tune?
Rishi: Awesome. Yeah, that song was a real treat to write. I had the chord progression for the verse for a while… it had a nice BJM-vibe to it… but had a hard time finding the right chorus. Then one day… voila! The chorus arrived which then led me to the psych/tremolo coda… Songs really write themselves. Anyhow, did a demo version and then Gab added his guitar. the end.
Other tracks include the cool pop-beat of Heavy Moon, another personal fave with the joyous / uplifting sound of ‘a silent moment’. Each track is pushing that fusion of psychedelia, pop and rock, what would you say are the stand out tracks on the album?
Rishi: I do love all my children equally. They all have a special something. I really did feel that expectations would be high for this record (myself, the band and the public). Since the release of the Seven Seas and the Glass Box, Elephant Stone has done a fair bit of travelling… and I’ve been pretty busy touring with the Black Angels. As a result, I’ve noticed people started to pay attention to Elephant Stone a bit more and were curious as to what our sophomore would be like… so, I did feel pressure to delivery a batch of songs that would set us apart from the million other bands. When we overdubbed the Hindustani vocals on “A Silent Moment”, I knew we had accomplished that… the song became psychedelic without being self indulgent… it just became something big and beautiful…
The band have already got a real healthy fan base back in your native Canada as well as the US, do you think the new album will open the group up even more to the UK and European fans?
Rishi: I hope so. I’ve very proud of this album. The plan is to start taking it overseas in the new year and see what happens..
Is the new album in any way of progression on the first album ‘The Seven Seas” which was described as the ‘trippiest Raga fused with the¬ perfect pop’ or have you gone somewhere totally new on this album?
Rishi: I wouldn’t say this album shows a “new side” of the band… As a songwriter/musician, you always have to get better at your craft and evolve. It just so happened that while working on the songs, my ears were really peaked by all this wonderful music being made (the horrors, tame impala, black angels, etc…) that got me really excited. I love love love music. And right now, there is so much goodness to go around. So, it’s inevitable that all this music I’ve been listening to would help to define Elephant Stone. I’m still looking for the trippiest raga and the perfect pop song.
You’re a respected artist who’s been involved in many successful projects / albums with a range of groups from Brian Jones Town Massacre to The Soundtrack of our Lives and your playing is highly regarded, especially with eastern instruments sounds and styles? Tell us about that please.
Rishi: Wow… funny, Elephant Stone had our first sold out show in Montreal a couple of days ago… I kept telling everyone that all it took was 15 yrs… Yeah, I’ve been making/recording/touring music for 15 yrs… First as a mod/60s band the Datsons, then a more power-pop/psych band the High Dials (I was just the bassist and sometimes sitarist in both bands) and now as Elephant Stone. And along the way I managed to make some amazing friends… the Black Angels, BJM, the Earlies, the Horrors, the Soundtrack of Our Live, the Blue Van, the Night Beats… the list goes on… Really, you reap what you sow: if you’re true and honest to everyone, they will be the same to you. So, I’ve been lucky to have made all these wonderful relationships with such talented people. Anton from BJM has been a huge inspiration and motivator… and it just worked out that I was free to tour with the Black Angels for all of 2012… we did North America and Australia (where through a weird cosmic alignment I ended playing sitar on stage with Beck).
I picked up the sitar on a family visit to India in early ’97… I had no idea at the time that it would be such a huge part of my life and being. You really can’t plan these things… we have no control over what’s happening… we just have to hold on tight and follow our heart.
I’m curious about where the bands name actually comes from. The most obvious place would be The Stone Roses song ‘Elephant Stone’. Is this the case & have they been a big influence on you and the band? Did you catch any of the reunion shows at all? Or maybe the name came from somewhere totally different?
Rishi: I’ve gone on record to say that the first Stone Roses album is one of the best debuts of all time. I love them, but I love Teenage Fanclub more. As for the name, I have a stone statue of Ganesha (god of new beginnings) and felt it was appropriate to pay homage to him with my new band… for good luck I suppose;). Anyhow, I wanted to band name to be Elephant something… thought of the roses and voila!
I’m not that big on reunion shows…there are so many amazing bands now to discover. Still, I’d probably go see them if they played North America…
There’s been a real interest and rise in groups returning to the sound of psychedelia, groups like Tame Impala and yourselves taking it to a new / modern setting, a sound that’s starting to influence young groups again. It’s a genre you’ve been involved with for many years now so how do you feel about psychedelia in the 21st century and where its going at the moment?
Rishi: I remember really discovering true psychedelia in the late 90s/early00s via the British Invasion nuggets box set. My band at the time were doing the early 60s/Mod/Motown thing… suits and all… then once the nuggest box set came I discovered the Creation, Small Faces, Easy Beats, Pretty Things… the list goes on… This lead to SF Sorrow, Oddysey and Oracle…. As a musician, your influences always start influencing the music you make… so, you start reconciling your older influences (teenage fanclub, mbv, ride, blur, sonic youth) with the new ones… Anyhow, I think that’s what’s happening now. There’s been over 40yrs since the beginning of psychedelic music… and over this time there’s so many amazing bands. Hence, the psychedelia of now is a mix bad of so many styles and sounds and influences (CAN, stereolab). People are tuned into this and want good music.
Elephant Stone’s on tour right now, a tour which kicked off in Canada then moves on to the US, hows the tour going? Are you getting good reaction’s to the new material and what are the shows like?
Rishi: There’s a sitar, a Farfisa, guitar, bass and drums. We’ve been dabbling with projections, but haven’t really found something that fits. We have a few dates coming up with the Zombies, then SXSW, then a North American tour with the Black Angels. So, the reception has been really great…. I’m hoping things will just grow from here…
Will you coming to the UK and Europe to promote the new album?
Rishi: I hope so! Our two last London gigs have been sellouts….
Finally, whats the best thing about being in Elephant Stone?
Rishi: Doing something you love.
All words by Carl Stanley. More features by Carl on Louder Than War can be found here.