Meet: Elephant interview

I took my children to Chester Zoo once, and we spent the day looking at the animals. Some we didn’t spend long with – Camels, Zebra’s, even Seals. But Elephants, now there was something different. We watched those incredible beasts for ages, in fact I had to drag them away. There’s something mesmerizing about these enormous yet graceful beasts, drawing people in and keeping them there, while they go about their everyday business of eating, walking, playing, walking under a shower sort of affair and…well, their everyday business.

That same sense of drawing you in and keeping you there, transfixed is Sheffield based band Elephant, who are really beginning to pick up momentum following the release of their third EP, Pixels. Describing themselves s ‘somewhere between Radiohead, Portishead, Wild Beasts and Four Tet’, they make deep, occasionally emotive sounding music that indeed has music from the stated artists. I think it sounds fresh and fantastic and the EP is one of the real finds since I started this blog. Its one of those records that you put on while you’re putting stuff away, or washing up (or trying to write blog posts) and find you’ve just stopped and listened, and done very little else. And there’s not even a walk through rock shower either.

We spoke to Callum from the band out more……

You’re based in Sheffield, but you’re not local boys, how did you get together?

Me and Toddy know each other from back home in Leicester. When Toddy came up to Sheffield for Uni, he met Ben, Rob and Dave. They started doing music with each other but didn’t have a vocalist. I came up a year later and joined the band.

Who were the initial influences that made you want to start in a band  And now? Who influences you now?

Well we’d all played in bands before doing different genres of music so a lot of the musical influences that made us want to start playing are different to what we’re playing now. With Elephant, we always listened to bands like Portishead, Radiohead and Wild Beasts. They’ve always been a big musical influence on us. People like Four Tet and Bjork and Aphex Twin have been influential on us too. But we kind of take things from everything…. Songwriters like Waits and Dylan and Cave Young mean a lot to all of us. Since meeting we’ve also listened to a lot African music – people like Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabate and Mulatu Astatké.

How do you describe your music to other people, when you first meet them etc

We normally just list bands we like to them I think. It’s always hard for us to say and nobody wants to say the wrong thing or get anyones’ hopes up!

Why Sheffield? 

We all came here for Uni, But I think Sheffield was the right place for us all. We all came from further south which is OK but I think we all prefer it up here.

And it all seems to be going well at the moment?

Yeah it’s ok. We’re just having lots of fun writing more and more songs right now. Our sound has changed quite a lot over the last 6 months or so and it’s really exciting at the minute! We want to get back into a studio!

To me, a lot of your music sounds introspective, with this feeling of angst there. How do you respond to that? And if so, where does it come from?

Erm, I don’t know. Sometimes, the songs are nothing to do with me. More so in our later stuff too. I went through a period of writing songs about things that were doing my head in, that first EP is like that. I prefer it now, writing’s more fun and the songs are generally about some story or joke.

How do you write? Is it a long process or do you find it comes quickly to you?

Recently we’ve been writing in small groups, finishing the song as a demo and then showing it to each other.Then we all put in ideas. That way the song doesn’t depart too much from its original conception. We can go for months without having written anything then they all come at once within a couple of weeks. It’s a lot easier when we’re all in a similar mood. It’s normally me that writes the lyrics but sometimes Ben chips in too.

You’ve released 3 Ep’s now, how do you think you’ve progressed through these?

We’re a lot less angsty now. More obviously I think we’re a lot more electronic and synthy too. The same moodiness is there throughout though. We’ve certainly stripped back our sound a bit; a little more restrained.

Did you work with a producer on (latest EP) Pixels?  We worked with a couple of guys in Sheffield at G2. They were good, but we didn’t give ourselves as much time and prepare as much as we would have liked to. We did the EP in two days.

Are you pleased with the way it turned out?  

If we’re being honest, we think ‘Pixels’ could have been done better. We never focus too much on what we’ve done though. We’re always thinking about the next batch of songs and we’ve been writing a lot since then.

Any plans for a physical release? 

It’s something we should do, really. Whether we get round to it or not is another matter.

Whats the scene like in Leicester? How does this differ from the Sheffield scene?

Leicester’s pretty exciting at the minute. Flat Five are really exciting. Their artists Cream Tangerines, Humble He and Kenworthy are all great. A reggae band called By The Rivers are good friends of ours, putting on great shows and doing really well. There’s a really great band called Muted Fnord, too. Making really interesting music. Some Bjork influence in there definitely!

Sheffield seems to have a few good bands too. Blood Sport are probably our favourite. There are a lot of bands here which sound a lot like Arctic Monkeys or Richard Hawley but there are also a lot of shoegaze-y type bands. A lot of bands sound like Kasabian in Leicester. That’s certainly the main difference between here and Leicester at the minute.

How important is playing live to you, and do you have live dates coming up?

We love playing live. Obviously some gigs are better than others but that’s how it is. We’re going to be playing at Viper Rooms on 20th March and maybe in Leicester at the end of the month too.

How can people contact/keep in touch with you.

We’re everywhere!

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