Coming up this October, Elephant Revival will bring their uplifting gypsy-folk harmonies to several regional venues, including Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC (10/5), New Mountain Amphitheater in Asheville, NC (10/7), Visulite Theater in Charlotte (10/8), and The Festy Experience in Arrington, VA (10/9).
I was lucky enough to catch Elephant Revival for an interview after their Sunday set at FloydFest in July, and I found that their words are just as beautiful as their music.
Whether you’ve seen them live or listened to their studio material, it’s clear that one of the defining elements of Elephant Revival’s music is the variety and unique style in which each member plays his or her instruments. Every one of the five band members brings a different, individual piece to the group, and it all fits together in an angelic presentation of music. But that unique style of playing didn’t necessarily come naturally and instantly, explained Charlie Rose (banjo, pedal steel, guitar, horns, cello, double bass). “At first, you try to sound like your heroes, but it’s hard to do that because their experience and yours are so different,” he said. “As you keep working at it and try to sound like somebody else you want to sound like, eventually you might not sound like them, you sound like yourself.”
When playing live, Elephant Revival really channels the energy of the audience, making every show different in a truly organic way. “Everybody in the space is a part of the picture,” said Bonnie Paine (washboard, djembe, musical saw, stompbox). “The audience makes the experience bigger. I get this kind of sensation of this wheel going this way and that way a lot of times from the audience, “ she said, moving her arms in a circular motion to emulate a turning wheel. “It grows and grows and grows. It’s an energy exchange, and feeling that is when things get in the groove. That’s a good feeling.”
On stage at FloydFest, Paine mentioned that she’d recently written a story called Currach, which, she noted in our interview, will unfold into multiple Elephant Revival albums. “The first song is about a boy who climbs out of his crib and hops onto a currach, which is a shaky little boat, and he gets washed out to sea,” she said. Paine went on to explain that she figured out how to write the story through her songs, making direct connections between the music and the storyline bit by bit, as if the story were already written out and her purpose was to translate. “It’s like putting together a puzzle, but you have to make the pieces as you put it together,” Rose chimed in. For instance, Paine discovered the word ‘currach’ while at a renaissance festival, where she overheard an Irish folk woman telling a story about a currach (a little wooden boat historically used in Ireland and Scotland). At this point, Paine had already written the song but knew that something about it was incomplete. A spark of curiosity in this particular word drove Paine to approach the storyteller afterwards and ask what ‘currach’ meant, and that’s when she realized the missing piece to the song.
With Elephant Revival’s upcoming visit to multiple venues in North Carolina, we can’t help but be reminded of a tragic incident earlier this year, when the band’s tour bus caught fire before their show in Hickory, causing them to lose a lot of personal belongings including their beloved instruments. Still, with help from a few kind locals, Elephant Revival played their show that night wearing and playing borrowed clothes and instruments. Reflecting on that experience and losing her two fiddles that day, Bridget Law said she “ended up sort of grieving on stage, which was really helpful and powerful.”
The band realized that while they had a very serious connection with each of their instruments, at the end of the day, it’s just that, just possessions. “Losing our instruments was an opportunity for us to discover ourselves as players,” said Daniel Rodriguez (guitar, banjo, double bass). It was an emotional day for each of them, and the support from fans and locals is what kept the show alive that night. “Seeing people have the opportunity to give was a special thing,” Paine said, adding a specific thanks to Sydney and Houston, a couple who owned a business across the street and offered help to the band before the show. They even went to an antique store and found a washboard for Paine to play that night.
Referencing a Pema Chödrön quote, Paine articulated from the experience of the event that “one of the biggest misconceptions of life is that you are supposed to come out unscathed, never having experienced loss of any kind, when really those are the things that bring depth and meaning into your life. We definitely felt that.” Paine intentionally left her journal on the bus that day, which had actually survived the fire. This personal notebook of hers was overstuffed with hours upon hours of thoughts, unfinished songs and stories throughout the pages. “It’s funny how your mind works in those situations,” she said. “I remember thinking, ‘okay, that chapter of my life is passed, whatever I’m supposed to remember, I’ll remember.’ So I left it there, and now, sometimes I’m like, ‘why did I do that?’ But I think you’re just supposed to trust that whatever you’re supposed to take will come back to you.”
With that, we’ll leave you with this link to Elephant Revival’s new music video for their song “When I Fall”. There is an option to download an MP3 of the song, for which all proceeds will go directly to National Network of Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Here’s the link: http://www.elephantrevival.com/when-i-fall/.
For tickets and information about upcoming shows, click here: