We interviewed Liverpudlian rock band Elevant to discuss their latest tour, their upcoming forth album and their new festival WRONG.
Interview by Jane Howkins.
Last time we spoke to you was in January of last year, when you were in the middle of writing your fourth album. What have you been up to since and how have things changed for Elevant musically?
First off – we’ve played a hell of a lot of shows. I think we’ve toured 3 times since we last spoke. We’ve had a bit of a weird patch in terms of musical growth that’s ended up working out well. After finishing the tour for There Is A Tide there was a sense of frustration that we were three albums in, working as hard as we can, but that our lives were still exactly the same. There was a trepidation about just continuing the cycle and worrying about it becoming a crushing routine and there was a definite weird atmosphere for a while, but after we started properly working on the new material everything became easy again. You’ve got to do it for the love of playing.
You’ve been in the studio since then, recording at the famous Abbey Road Studios. How’s the record coming along?
It’s going to be an E.P. actually, and it’s done. We thought since we’ve delivered 3 slabs of material we’d do something a little easier to digest this time. The sound’s changed a little. We’ve got far better at writing hooks and have been consciously more groove focused, which has allowed us to be more sonically adventurous elsewhere. You can get away with more weird if you wrap it up sweetly.
How does it feel to be recording at such a prestigious recording studio? Obviously it means things are on the up for you, but was there a feeling of trepidation or nervousness when you first went there?
Honestly, you kind of get over it pretty quickly – though we didn’t really have time to be awestruck tourists. We recorded with a good friend of ours (Sam Jones), who works there, but he had a very limited schedule to get us in. The whole thing was done in three very tight sessions. I think it was from 5-11 on the Monday, 9-2 on the Tuesday and 9-5 on the Wednesday, including having to completely set up and take down the gear each time since other engineers were using the room in-between So realistically we only had about 13 hours of tracking, tops. Luckily we work fast.
Have the Beatles been an influence on you? You probably get asked that all the time as you hail from Liverpool (apologies!), but if so recording at Abbey Road must be especially poignant.
If you play rock music or have existed in western civilisation you’ve been influenced by The Beatles, but I don’t think we ever write something and think “let’s make this really Beatlesque”. It is pretty cool being in Abbey Road, but not just because of them. So many incredible musicians have recorded there: Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Edward Elgar, Stevie Wonder, Nick Cave, Elliott Smith, and pretty much every film soundtrack that needs an orchestra was done there. After a while being there, the shadow of The Beatles becomes the tourists stopping the traffic because they’re posing for photos on the crossing pretty much 24/7.
Who would you say you are most influenced by as a band, and what have you been listening to recently?
In terms of what we sound like as a band, we’re most influenced by each other. Listening wise we have some overlap but we have fairly disparate tastes, especially when comparing Hannah to me and Tom. We’re into a lot of pretty disgusting noise rock, punk, and metal like Indian or Todd that she doesn’t dig so much. I’m easily into jazz/funk/soul/hip hop the most out of the three of us, although Tom’s a big fan of the way drums are treated in more out there hip hop production like EL-P’s solo stuff. Hannah’s super big on more atmospheric stuff like MBV and Eno, or stuff with a great sense of melody like St. Vincent. Generally we all consume an alarming amount of music though. In terms of current listening, I went through a big Boris phase recently, we’ve been listening to the new Velcro Hooks album a lot, and Fugazi or Hey Colossus are never far from being put on either.
The new record is to be released via your own record label Loner Noise/Elevant Music Limited. We spoke a little about your label last time and you mentioned some of the acts on the label – how has that changed in the year or so since we last spoke? Do you have any new acts on the label?
First of all, we changed the name to Loner Noise to avoid confusing the identity of the label and the band. I can’t remember who was on the label last time we spoke, but at the moment we’ve got Gravves who’re killing it right now, and SPQR who’re getting ready to drop their debut E.P. We should be putting out Pocket Apocalypse’s EP some time this year too, plus we have 3 or 4 bands who’re unannounced as of yet but are all preparing releases. We also thought we would be putting out something by Duke Mercury soon but sadly they’ve broken up.
You’re in the middle of a mini tour at the moment. Most of your shows are still to come, but how have the ones you’ve already played been so far this year?
We’ve actually just done the one show so far, at EBGBs in Liverpool. There were some things we wanted to address about the live show: the pacing, not talking so much, the way we perform etc, and it felt like we hit every nail on the head. A good few regular fans came up to us afterwards and said it was the best show they’d seen us play, so if you’re coming to see us on this tour, odds are you’ll catch us in good form. Really, it just feels like we’re getting better all the time.
You’ve also started your own festival called WRONG, happening in Liverpool on April 22nd. How did that come about, and what made you want to start your own festival?
There’s a great underground rock scene, not only in Liverpool but across the country, but it doesn’t quite have a platform to elevate it. This is a pretty big issue in Liverpool especially, because the city has this pop centric narrative. Too many jangly beige-core bands that get disproportionate amounts of attention because that’s what’s expected – bands that are all image and no substance – and you can feel that people are getting bored with it now. They want something with a bit of danger. We figured a festival is a pretty in-ignorable beacon for a scene, and judging by the buzz there’s been so far, people have been crying out for something like this. Plus we get to play with some of our favourite bands, and we get to say that we did it all ourselves.
You’re taking a few bands with you for WRONG, including The Wytches, Heck, and Part Chimp. Have you got anyone else playing? How do you pick who plays the festival with you?
I won’t go through the whole bill, but at the business end of the bill we have Bo Ningen, The Cosmic Dead, Blacklisters, USA Nails, Evil Blizzard, Cowtown and Skinny Girl Diet, amongst others. There’s no application process or anything like that. Really the bill is a mixture of who’s on our iPods, bands from the label, and bands we know from touring all the time like False Advertising who we’ve played with 3 times now, or Super Luxury who are one of the most insane live acts around. The first time I saw them the frontman ripped a microphone in half, fired a confetti cannon into a floor fan, then hoovered up during the last song.
Any last words for the fans?
Keep going to shows and buying records from bands you love at every level, because without that, there is no music industry. Especially buy records from and go to the shows of bands you love who haven’t broken and aren’t making a living from music.