Neil Watts 08/02/2009
Oxfordshire label, Vacuous Pop has a history of providing bands and artists with their first steps in the dog eat dog world that is the music industry. New signings Elephants, hope that they are set to follow in the footsteps of Youthmovies, the now sadly defunct Help She Can't Swim and members of The Edmund Fitzgerald and Diego Garcia who have gone on to greater success with Foals and Fuck Buttons respectively.
The four piece from Folkestone, Kent comprises of a mix of old and new friends; Owen (guitar, vocals, keys), Dean (bass, vocals), Tom (guitar) and George (drums). Let's hand over to Owen to explain the origins of their unusual name. “We were asking friends to suggest names to help us out and someone said, 'Why don't you have a name that is opposite to Arctic Monkeys and call yourselves Desert Elephants!' We thought that was a ridiculous name but we liked the name Elephants, and it stuck.”
On the other hand, their music doesn't have such an odd foundation, being based on neat time changes and intricate, noodling guitar lines a la This Town Needs Guns and Minus The Bear. But their own take on the post-rock blueprint is driven by galloping riffs and a heavy emphasis on power pop, or what Owen terms “poptastic” sounds that lean towards mainstream acts like Vampire Weekend. There's even a nod to Wave Pictures' Dave Tattersall and New Rhodes' James Williams in Owen's engaging vocals, keeping the influences dotted all over the musical map. Raw energy and passion are central to the band's aesthetic, no more so than Alexander, the opening track of their forthcoming Lions EP, that twists and turns with a pounding insistence. They seem intent on creating big music - the faint whiff of Thin Lizzy on For Laika may or may not have been intentional - that tugs at the heartstrings.
With the credit crunch reaching out indiscriminately the band doesn't appear to be overly concerned by dwindling CD sales, or recent reports that 95% of all downloads are made illegally. Instead Owen holds a great sense of optimism that they and other emerging bands deserve to get the breaks that their hard work warrants. “There are so many bands at the moment that are so exciting and are getting no coverage at all, like ourselves, Bayonets, Load.Click.Shoot, Mathematics, Part Dinosaur; bands that aren't getting the exposure because people don't give us a chance. We love writing music at the end of the day and just want people to give us a chance to see how good we are.”
Perhaps this is why Elephants haven't exactly been backwards about coming forwards. Whereas lots of bands take their time in the hope that the perfect deal will one day come along, they seem to have made a conscious decision to try and fast-track their way into the minds and hearts of music lovers. “We've given ourselves a year to make some progress as a band. We knew that labels, radio, and fans weren't going to come to us, we knew we had to get ourselves seen and heard so we put the effort in to do it.” The early signs are promising; they've already had Radio One airplay, played the indie haven that is 93 Feet East in London, and are on the roster of a rejuvenated and prolific indie label.
Despite not releasing their debut EP until May, they already have a handful of tracks and ideas for the next release. Apparently the band “don't mind taking risks” and as a result “the musicianship has definitely improved and these songs have had more input from all members, so we sound tighter as a band.” The band's main hope is that this is a sign that they can continue to develop at their current pace, and Owen concludes defiantly; “As for fears, we haven't got any. Our motto is party on or die!”