wrong festival

In Elevant we trust

Crash met with Michael Edward, frontman of eclectic Liverpool 3-piece Elevant, for our first band profile. Made up of Michael, (guitar, lead vocals) Hannah Lodge (bass, backing vocals) and Tom Shand, (drums, backing vocals). Elevant’s sound is difficult to categorize. They manoeuver with effortless ease the fault lines between psych rock, hard rock, (post-)punk, and prog, even throwing elements of goth and metal into the mix. But there’s a clear sense that Michael, for his part, no longer wants to feed into an excessive labelling of their sound.

“(We’re) just a rock band, you know? It’s pretty eclectic, we hit the drums, play loud guitars.”

Michaels often oppressive and Kafkaesque lyrics meld perfectly with the ominous, brooding riffs and fuzz drenched guitars and together they plumb the depths of primal depravity.

Elevant burst onto the Liverpool music scene in 2014, and since then they have been positively prolific, self releasing 3 albums Elevant, Dreamface and There is a Tide, single Hide it Away and the 2017 EP Normal Life on their label Loner Noise. There has been a clear progression in their sound from the self titled debut through to their latest EP, which Michael attributes to a larger involvement from the whole band in the songwriting process. Elevant’s songwriting process, Michael tells us, has evolved over the last couple of releases to involve more input from the full band as a “process of quality control,” and he attributes the development in their sound to this change in how the band come up with songs: “When Hannah joined the band and started writing, it all got a better sense of melody!”

On top of their 4 releases in 4 years, Elevant maintain a busy touring schedule, with a recent highlight in April playing and (in Michael’s case) organising the inaugural Wrong Festival, billed as Liverpool’s “festival for the freak scene,” and described by The Quietus as a “titanic success!” Michael tells us that the freak scene slogan comes from the Dinosaur Jr track of the same name. Asked about the Liverpool scene more broadly, he seems hopeful that outsider music is on the ascendant in the city:

“Wrong Festival probably helped, because.. Y’know, you’ve got The Quietus reviewing that, and basically declaring that there is like this weirder, sort of, harder edged rock music happening in Liverpool. It’s been a kind of massive struggle to be from Liverpool and make this kind of music. Particularly because like.. No one who’s looking for this goes here. BBC Introducing Merseyside don’t do anything with a fuzz pedal”

But as Michael says, “maybe that’s changing.” And Elevant themselves are well placed to be at the very forefront of that change.

Their latest release, 2017 EP Normal Life showcases a band comfortable with their sound, whilst still genre hopping and incorporating innovative ideas into their songs. In Michaels words, “Normal life, looking back on it now, is a bit of a transition. An excursion into not being quite as heavy.” Normal Life captures the listener’s attention right from Lodge’s disjointed, primal bassline on opener and single Acral Affection, to the freak out guitars and yells of “I will lead a normal life” in the title track and album closer.

Elevant, lyrically and musically lay bare some of the darkest and most atavistic parts of the human psyche. Michael’s lyrics on the the EP have a welcome but subtle thread of political and social commentary, although he seemed surprised to hear it mentioned:

“So much horrendous political and social bollocks is going on that I really struggle to remember any specific thing I was angry about at the time. It’s just kind of like a constant..numbing.”

These subtle but clear political threads through the EP echo the seeping of political turmoil into every facet of normal life. Michael himself, while seemingly pleased to talk about the origin of his lyrics, is scathing of bands who try to force their views:

“We don’t really try and ram it down people’s throats.”

In particular, the track Somewhere Safe, which Michael tells us was inspired by the increasing “anti immigrant rhetoric around Brexit,” tells the story of a refugee and his surviving family attempting to escape war and seek asylum. One of the standout tracks of their catalog to date, it would be easy to imagine the bombastic stadium chorus played on a festival main stage in pouring rain!

While their recorded output to date has gone from strength to strength, it’s still clear from first listen that Elevant are a band meant to be experienced live, and, by all accounts, they deliver. Despite this, there is an unusual lack of live videos available online. (“Yeah! It’s really weird!” exclaims Michael.) Elevant are getting a reputation for the quality of their live performances, with reviewers constantly commending their stage presence, crowd engagement and their majestic sound, holistic and far more than the sum of its parts. You would be easily forgiven in places for forgetting that there are only three of them on the stage!

So, what does the future hold for Elevant? Michael tells us that the trio are currently working on new material in rehearsals, and they will surely be a staple in years to come of the Wrong Festival and the wider Liverpool “freak scene” emerging, with Loner Noise and Elevant as its focal point. While their self released catalog and punk aesthetic give them a well deserved reputation as a DIY band, Michael doesn’t rule out a future deal with a more established label, “if the conditions are right.” He laments the fact that, in the current musical climate, the only way you’re likely to tour the world is on a major label or with “venture capitalist backing.” Here Michael aptly quotes drummer Shand:

“Getting a band up and running is like flying a plane. Taking off and getting to altitude takes loads of fuel, but, when you’re up there, you can just glide.”

To all readers of Crash, make sure you catch these guys while they’re still taking off!

Elevant will be playing The Freak Scene all day festival at Liverpool’s Invisible Wind Factory on Saturday 14th October, alongside the rest of the Loner Noise roster. Make sure you catch Elevant in their ascendance! You can also check out their latest single Acral Affection, off the EP Normal Life, here:

 

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