It’s the last night of their 2016 European tour, and Montreal’s Elephant Stone are lounging in the back rooms of Manchester’s Soup Kitchen. “London was great”, frontman Rishi Dhir grins, talking about the previous night at the Shaklewell Arms. “We haven’t been back there in about two and a half years, so it was nice to see that things have grown for us, ’cause you never know right?”
This kind of easy going and unruffled approach to touring resembles the outlook held in some of the band’s tracks. ‘Where I’m Going’ takes on a transcendent tone with the lyrics, “nothing ever lasts forever”, and it’s striking that Rishi adopts the same acceptance when it comes to playing gigs. “When you’re on tour there’s always ups and downs. It’s funny but, not to complain, it’s very emotionally taxing”, he explains. This is hardly surprising given that Elephant Stone have been on the road for three months. What is perhaps more unexpected is the smile that remains untired on Dhir’s face.
When asked about his favourite European venues, he responds with an uncertain pause and concludes “they’ve all been interesting. What it comes down to for me is that it could be the best venue, but it’s the crowd; if you’re able to feed off their energy. In the cut off little basement under the Soup Kitchen later that night, the band’s innovative blend of classical sitar, psychedelia and indie rock induced people to dance. Hypnotic numbers of ‘Don’t You Know’ and ‘Silence Can Say So Much’ proved the fascination for the sitar was very real; the gathering almost unconsciously shuffled closer to the band. Completely at ease it would seem, Rishi sat barefooted, eyes closed, and from the crowd’s view, his mind could have been anywhere else other than the middle of Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
Sat backstage before the gig, it’s notable that the songwriting role Dhir assumes holds a weightier undertone. Reflecting on the bands past three albums he suggests his “past records are kind of observations on society and presenting it like there’s always hope.” He chuckles at the thought of his scepticism, “With this record, it’s bit more cynical. It’s funny as I get older and see more stuff, it leaves a mark; it takes longer to heal”. Talking about his influences behind the track, ‘The Devil’s Shelter’, Dhir explains, “that song’s very much about unseen powers controlling you”, whilst ‘Cast the First Stone’, has a gloomier subtext. “I wrote that after reading about Israeli soldiers that shot some Palestinian kids who were throwing stones. Right away that brings back the bible”, he says, “whoever is free of sin will cast the first stone. But no one is free of sin. It was just me making an observation on both sides about how futile everything is”. He adds jokingly, “I even swore in that one, I never swear in a song but I just felt it appropriate”.
With the creation of ‘Andromeda’ on the other hand, things are significantly lighter. Instantly recognisable, roughly halfway down the set, it had the audience swaying comfortably from the start. Speaking about what influenced the track he remembers, “Musically, I forgot what I was doing”, and, laughing, he continues, “I was listening to a lot of Pink Floyd and the Beatles”. With an indie rock funk, Lambert and Dhir’s vocals undertake a tone vaguely reminiscent of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. Followed up live with ‘Manipulator’, the middle section of the night’s set shows off what are some of the highlights of Elephant Stone’s latest album. A well thought out close to the set with the intensely built ‘Three Poisons’, ‘A Silent Moment’ and ‘The Devil’s Shelter’ gave the band any extra kick they might have needed to win the crowd over. ‘A Silent Moment’ was nothing short of mesmerising and the final track, ‘Devil’s Shelter’ was placed with intent, being arguably one of the most well known-tracks of the new album.
With that, Elephant Stone’s tour drew to a close, but with new festival and tour dates released for 2017, there is plenty for fans to look forward to (not least hopes from Rishi to release his own acid rock solo album). Keep your eyes on Elephant Stone, it looks as though some pretty interesting sitar music should be right round the corner.
Article First Posted on the Head First 4 Music site: http://www.headfirst4music.com/single-post/2017/01/14/Feature-An-Evening-With-Elephant-Stone