Elephant Stone: The TVD Interview

The wonderful Elephant Stone, hailing from Montreal in Canada, released their debut album in 2009. ‘The Seven Seas’ made quite a splash (ouch!), garnering positive press across the globe, and attracting the attention of several labels.

When their second release, the EP ‘The Glass Box’ was issued in 2010, it appeared on the band’s own Elephants On Parade imprint in Canada and North America, and 360 Degree Music in Europe. A hectic flurry of activity followed, with a support slot on the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s north American tour, the group’s first trip to Europe and showcases at CMJ in New York, and M For Montreal.

2011 is shaping up very nicely, with dates in Chicago, Toronto and Brooklyn commencing this week (June 3rd) as support to the excellent The Soundtrack Of Our Lives. The band play in Toronto on June 17th, before heading back to the studio to record a new single, which will be released in the Autumn, to coincide with a European tour that runs from October 12th through to Halloween.

We caught up with principal songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Rishi Dhir, and put some questions to him:

You were previously in The High Dials, how did you come to leave that band and form Elephant Stone?

I was in that band and previous incarnations, (Datsons, Datsons Four) for about 10 years. I guess getting married and taking my first real vacation (honeymoon to Indonesia) kind of made me reassess my life and what I really wanted out of it. Also, it made me question my ability as an artist and whether I actually had anything significant to give to the world… Yeah, getting married was definitely a life changing experience! I decided that I really wanted to focus on the sitar (I’d been taking lessons since 2001) and put rock & roll on the backburner for a while. However, two months after leaving the band I found myself writing songs. It was a trip to India in summer 2007 that was really the catalyst for most of the songs on The Seven Seas. Upon returning from the trip I met up with Jace Lasek (Besnard Lakes). He runs a great studio (Breakglass) in Montreal. We really hit it off, he was 100% into the idea of making an All Things Must Pass-ish record (i.e. lots of reverb!). A bunch of my friends played on the record and Elephant Stone was birthed on June 9th, 2009 with the release of The Seven Seas in Canada.

How did you recruit the members of the band?

Montreal has an unending supply of amazing musicians. Initially, Elephant Stone was made of friends from the High Dials, Besnard Lakes, and bunch of other Montreal bands. However, as everyones main gigs kept them from committing fully to Elephant Stone, I managed to find some people through friends of friends.

Jules and Gab have been with ES since the release of the Glass Box, Bobby’s been with me since the beginning of ES and Chris joined us last fall.

You have released one full album, The Seven Seas, and an EP, The Glass Box, in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Will you be issuing new material this year?

Yeah, we’re currently working on a UK-only single! Very excited! Lots of sitar, geetars, drums, and drones!

You have toured with the likes of Brian Jonestown Massacre and Besnard Lakes, do you have any road stories?

The BJM tour was great. It was the first time I hit the road in about 4 years, it made me realize how much I missed touring. It was actually a pretty tame tour… I’ve toured with BJM in the past and have some pretty wacky stories from back then. But this time was pretty uneventful… except for some great music and great audiences! Sadly, the Besnard Lakes tour never happened as they ended up cancelling their headlining tour for a supporting tour with Band of Horses.

We also had the chance to open up for Teenage Fanclub. I was delirious the whole time…. watching them soundcheck for 1 hour was definitely special. We’re also heading out on the road with the amazing The Soundtrack of Our Lives (TSOOL) for some North American dates. I’m a huge fan.

Which music has inspired and influenced you?

I guess the biggest musical influences are the Beatles, the Who, the Jam, Teenage Fanclub and Cornershop. Mash them all together and you get Elephant Stone.

There appears to be an understated political conscience in the band. Can you elaborate on that?

When I left the High Dials in 2006 I began questioning whether I actually had anything to say. Did I have an opinion on life and the world? Was I able to empathize with all the suffering in the world or had I become so jaded? At that point I saw playing in a band as being very shallow and self-centred existence. I didn’t feel like I was giving anything to world. So, I signed up with a few NGOs (engineers without borders, ASHA). I wanted to feel like I was giving back. What came from that was a new sense of self. At that point I read an article about how some Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire… from that came Bombs Bomb Away. I was also reading the Bhagvad Gita… it’s teaching had a pretty profound influence on the lyrics of The Seven Seas…

Vinyl, CD or download? And why!

Back to Vinyl! Actually, vinyl with a dig download. That’s where it’s at. I absolutely love vinyl, I’m so glad it’s making a resurgence! Vinyl provides limits as to how long a record can be. I actually sequenced The Seven Seas for vinyl (upon Jace’s suggestion ): side A ends with The Straight Line and side B starts with Blood from a Stone. Now, if only someone would release it on vinyl….

Please name five works of art (music, painting, book, movie etc.) that you could not live without.

Bhagvad Gita, The Beatles – Revolver, Teenage Fanclub – Songs from Northern Britain, Cornershop – When I Was Born for the Seventh Time, and The Very Best of Bollywood.

Sum up Canada and the amazing music that has come from your country.

Big country with lots of space = lots of room to grow and nurture great talent!

Will we be seeing the band live this year?

There will be several north American shows, then in October we go back to Europe.

Please click below for an exclusive demo of ‘The Straight Line’ by Elephant Stone.

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