There are so many bands out there doing so many interesting things, it's hard to know where to turn. That's why we've created Crash Course, a recurring feature offering a concise introduction to a band or artist that we think slays, covering their origins, process and vision, as well as tour hijinks and crazy shows.
Our latest subject is Elephant Tree, a U.K. group that seamlessly blends desert-swept Kyussian stoner metal with the spacey alt-rock of Smashing Pumpkins. As promising as the quartet's output has been over recent years, their hazy prog-doom achieves heretofore unimaginable new density on their forthcoming third album, Habits, due out April 24th via Holy Roar Records. We caught up with vocalist-guitarist Jack Townley to talk about sleeping in meat fridges, knocking out fans' teeth, and the necessity of an occasional "nervous poo."
WHO IS ELEPHANT TREE? CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY ON HOW YOU CAME TOGETHER?
JACK TOWNLE [Myself] and Sam Hart met in 2012 whilst working together at an audio post studio in London. We went to a few shows together and decided to start a band. After meeting Pete Holland outside a bar in Soho and asking him to come jam on bass, we decided to start Elephant Tree. Riley MacIntyre joined in on sitar shortly after that and we played our first show. John Slattery joined later on, in 2018.
IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE YOUR BAND'S MISSION STATEMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
To make music that excites us, and hopefully makes a connection with people. It's important that there isn't any limitation in terms of what that could mean or be. The lack of an overarching "plan" allows us to change and keep things fluid.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO HEAVY MUSIC?
We all got into it in different ways. The most important thing is that we all like so many different genres that it's just easier to answer that we all "got into" music from an early age and grew up around family members who were music lovers and musicians in their own rights.
BEING IN A BAND, WHAT'S THE HARDEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE COME ACROSS SO FAR, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
Managing the delicate balance between being in the band and our careers/personal lives is the most challenging aspect. We are lucky to have understanding partners and employers, but it is important to respect that balance by not neglecting anything. The opportunity to make music is a privilege and a labor of love, so it is worth it.
WHAT'S YOUR PRESHOW RITUAL?
Beers and possibly a nervous poo? Not really sure you can call that a ritual, though — we just try to relax and enjoy it.
WHAT'S THE CRAZIEST THING THAT'S EVER HAPPENED AT ONE OF YOUR SHOWS?
We once played a show in Manchester and at the end we covered "Wild Thing." We shouted out that some people could come sing the words if they knew them. About half the room crammed onto the stage. It was so crowded that I ended up knocking someone's tooth out with the head of my guitar. The guy just threw the horns up and laughed. That was pretty crazy.
THE LIVE MUSIC INDUSTRY IS ESSENTIALLY SHUT DOWN RIGHT NOW DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. BUT WHEN YOU GUYS ARE UP AND RUNNING, WHAT'S THE BEST PART OF BEING ON TOUR FOR YOU, AND WHAT'S THE WORST PART?
The best part is the fact we get to play to a different crowd each night and each time it's a new set of people out there having fun with us. The worst part is definitely the morning after each of those nights, waking up with a hellish hangover to the dawn chorus of farts. Usually best enjoyed with a long drive ahead of us to the next show.
WHAT'S THE WEIRDEST PLACE YOU EVER SLEPT ON TOUR?
It's hard to say really. We once slept at a place that used to be a butcher's where all the beds were inside an old meat fridge. Another time that sticks out, we slept on the floor of a rehearsal room, but there weren't enough mats left out so Sam slept with his head on the dampening cushion in the kick drum. Other notable mentions include an old caravan inside a warehouse, and Pete once slept underneath a gig poster in the backstage tent at Freak Valley Festival.
WHAT'S YOUR ESSENTIAL ITEMS THAT YOU HAVE TO BRING WITH YOU WHILE ON THE ROAD?
We like to travel light so it's just really a box of Yorkshire Tea and The Greatest Air Guitar Album in the World Volume 2 on CD.
DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES OR PETS? WHAT DO YOU GUYS DO OUTSIDE OF MUSIC?
Music is really the main hobby we all have. A few of us are into tech stuff and computer games. There's not much time for most of us outside of the music and regular work to have any real hobbies. Does the pub count?
WHAT BAND OR MUSICAL ARTIST ARE YOU A BIGGEST FAN OF? PROVE YOUR FANDOM.
That's a really hard one as we listen to so much. If it were merch and listens alone, it would definitely be Stoned Jesus. At least 90 percent of Sam's wardrobe must have their name on it by now ...
IF YOU COULD ONLY PLAY ONE OF YOUR SONGS FOR SOMEONE TO INTRODUCE THEM TO YOUR BAND, WHAT SONG WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
It would have to be "Sails." We really put a mix of everything we do into that one and it's probably the best way to ease yourself into Elephant Tree. It's also got a nice video you can watch, as well, which is something we've been a bit shit at previously, so it's worth watching!