By Simon Weedn
The United States and some countries abroad have encountered what is probably the greatest resurgence in popularity of American folk-inspired music since the 1960s. One might even get a little overwhelmed by the quantity of bands out there to check out. However, one group definitely worth giving attention to is the Nederland, Colorado quintet, Elephant Revival. Formed in 2006, with members hailing from all over the country; the group has stayed incredibly busy since its inception recording three full-length albums and touring relentlessly in its seven years together. Unlike many of its peers whose style tries to mimic the success of the Mumford & Sons folk anthems, Elephant Revival’s sound is built upon rich, smooth tapestries of sound which seem to unfold from one’s speakers like a thick, warm fog. The band’s thoughtful, intricate playing mixed with ethereal, dreamy voices makes the beauty of any of Elephant Revival’s lush tunes immediately obvious to any first time listener. As folk music’s following continues to rise, and sound-alikes of the most popular groups coming out of the wood work, bands like Elephant Revival, who’s self-described, “Transcendental Folk,” sound is distinct amongst their peers, is a welcomed reprieve.
Only a few weeks ago, the band released its third full-length record, These Changing Skies, to much deserved accolades. The album was recorded over a three-week period in the beginning of the year outside of Seattle, Washington at Bear Creek Studios with famed producer, Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Ra Ra Riot) and his esteemed assistant, Jerry Streeter. Like many bands, Elephant Revival had a magical experience up at Bear Creek and found that they were able to easily get into a routine that incorporated both work and play instrumental in creating a great record. “Ryan Hadlock is a great producer and his assistant, Jerry Streeter, is a great engineer and producer too,” bassist, mandolin player and vocalist Dango Rose explains, “With the team of them, we got into a really fun vibe; Ryan would help keep the structure and keep us on task and then we’d let loose later in the night.” Though the band didn’t enter the studio with any huge, over-arching goals, there certainly was a bit of a vision that the band had in their minds for the record. Rose muses, “(We wanted) to create a cohesive tapestry that really felt like it was naturally coalescing, song by song, to kind of create a bigger picture. A sort of a thematic element without having a focus on really what that was.” With that idea in mind, Elephant Revival achieved a depth with These Changing Skies unmatched by many other folk acts these days.
The songs are all gorgeous and solid, and contain the organic flow that the band intended; the sonic equivalent of one of the crystal clear mountain rivers found all around the band’s Colorado home. “I think he [Ryan Hadlock] has produced so many records that he understands that flow, a common thread interweaving between the music, is an important aspect of the production process,” says Rose. Similarly, Ryan Hadlock’s production gave the record a fullness and warmth that some producers find hard to reach. All in all, These Changing Skies is a remarkable record and a stellar addition to an already amazing, and still growing, body of work.
In celebration of their new record, Elephant Revival has been on the road since the beginning of September to share its new work across the country. While many bands might be intimidated by trotting out new material so quickly in a national tour, Elephant Revival sees no such challenges. “It’s just all good,” says Rose, “It’s really a great thing to have the new album and to be able to share it with people is why we do it.”
Elephant Revival at UCR’s The Barn, 900 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 827-1012; www.rside.ucr.edu/barnseries. Wed, Oct. 30. $12.