Monday, 9 April 2018

Interview: Elephant

Elephant - Interview - Shane Clarke

Elephant - Waiting Game

Info: Dundalk multi-instrumentalist alternative act Elephant is set to release his sophomore album this summer following the critically acclaimed wonder that was debut LP HyperGiant in 2015. The new album is a concept record spanning over an hour of music across 12 tracks, and as a result, in order to secure a vinyl release it will need to be a double-LP. To get the project over the line, Shane Clarke (Elephant) is hoping fans of his music will pre-order either digital, CD or a lush 180g heavy-weight vinyl pressing (or all three!) via the records Fund:it page which can be found here

With the countdown on and the clock ticking on the next 20 days and 17 hours as of right now to reach this goal, REMY caught up with the man himself to reflect, project and ponder on his latest creation.

REMY: First of all, to put us into some context! What are your reflections looking back at HyperGiant, your debut album in 2015, how do you feel about it now in terms of where you were as a song-writer and the great reception it received? 

Elephant: I went through a phase about a year ago of not liking my first album. I’d been recording it over such a long period of time that, yes, when I was writing the songs 6 years ago I was listening to loads of folksy rock stuff, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley etc... but by the time we were nearly finished the album I was getting way deeper into synthy and gothic 80's romantic stuff like Cocteau Twins and The Cure. So when we were done with the album I already wanted to be working on my own 80s inspired dark, romantic synth heavy album... which made Hypergiant a frustrating listen. 

However, recently I stuck it on for the first time in about a year and I really enjoyed it. The songs are solid, Darren Clarke did a great job making it and I can hear 80s moments now and again scattered throughout so maybe I got a few in there after all! As for its reception, that came as a huge surprise and a very welcome one. 

REMY: It was this time last year in The Spirit Store in your hometown of Dundalk that we last spoke, and at the time you were just putting the wheels in motion on the second album. You mentioned you struggled with song-writing post-HyperGiant and found the way around that was to give the acoustic guitar a bit of a back-seat and focus on keyboard and electric guitars, did that switch help a lot with putting together the new collection of songs on the forthcoming LP? 

Elephant: Massively. Once I got out of my own way and just started writing songs  because I love writing songs again, they started coming thick and fast.  I couldn't wait to get home from work and get straight on the computer and start demoing ideas. I didn’t jettison the acoustic entirely from the process, but I didn’t rely on it either. I wrote in different ways. Threw out any form of rule book I’d created while writing the first album. I think the songs I am writing now are more complete and honest. Simplified on the surface with the more complex ideas layered into the songs...deeper than before, but they are there if you listen. 

REMY: I have to say personally I absolutely adored your recent singles 'Wating Game' Parts I & II, for me they came along at the perfect time, I got into Prince properly about 8 years ago with albums like Dirty Mind and Controversy, but also in more recent times have become quite obsessed with Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music. That 80’s sound is in full flow on these recent singles, how did it become the focus for Album No. 2?

Elephant: First of all, thanks very much, that’s awful kind of you to say.  I’ve always really enjoyed that kind of music but it was only in the last few years where it went from something I would consider almost a guilty pleasure to the music I wanted to be making. I’m not saying I came anything close to Bryan Ferry let alone Prince on anything on the album...nor was I aiming to. I just knew I wanted to try and write something that feels like when I listen to that kind of music...when it was hip to be over the top and talk about schmoozy love stuff....everyone is so cool now. I'm not a cool guy. I live alone with my basset hound, play DnD with three other 30 year old men and I cry when I listen to 'Take My Breath Away' by Berlin. So I am not going to try to be anything else, I am just  going to make what I want because I want to make it. Otherwise what’s the point of any of it. Also, a huge Elephant shout out to the Heroes of Wayrest!

REMY: I always get very excited when Irish artists release albums on vinyl, we also have fellow Dundalk act Just Mustard releasing their debut album on the medium shortly, how important was it to you to have your music on wax, also, it must be a kind of dream moment for an artist? 

Elephant: It’s certainly a dream to have an album on vinyl. I love to buy records myself so to have one with Elephant music would be so exciting. I didn’t get to put the first album on vinyl as I couldn't afford it. I have always financed everything myself and vinyl is such an expensive medium but this time I’m hoping I can! With the help of Dundalks new music label Pizza Pizza Records along with my Fund:It campaign which is underway, I’m aiming to put the new album onto a 2-disc 180g heavy-weight gate-fold. The artwork is already designed by the super talented Taine King of Farney House and it is so nice. All the pieces are there, we just have to hit the target goal and it’ll happen, so cross your fingers for me!

REMY: Tell us a bit more about the Fund:It campaign which you've just touched on above, which is ultimately necessary in most cases for independent artists wanting to release a vinyl record, tell us about the campaign itself and any particular offers early-bird purchaser of the record can expect? 

Elephant: The reason it’s necessary for me is that the album has finished out around an hour long… you can only fit 40 odd minutes of music on a disc so I need to make it a double album which costs twice as much, I have to admit...we weren’t quite on the ball watching the clock on that one! 

The campaigns goal is to hit €3000. It will be split between paying for mastering of the album and a portion of the pressing to vinyl. It will also cover Fund:It's cut. There are loads of options for pledges and rewards. The record itself of course. Launch tour tickets, official T-shirts, lyric zines, private gigs (solo and full band). Lots of options. However, if I don't hit €3000, we get nothing so...I really am relying on people to help.

Elephant - 'Mirrors'

REMY: I’m also quite curious to find out what new music albums you’ve been listening to and enjoyed most over the past 12 months, be they Irish or international, as I think we have fairly similar taste! Any tips? 

Elephant: Haha, aren’t I supposed to ask you for tips? You’re the music journalist! (REMY: zoiks!)

But okay, seeings how you asked…I’ve actually been listening to Kamasi Washington's 2017 album Harmony Of Difference non-stop lately. It’s something really special. It’s also my first real connection to a modern jazz artist. Andy Shauf is someone I found while recording the new album and have really gotten into, along with Lower Dens. One of the most amazing bands I’ve gotten into in the last year that I’d never listened to is The Walker Brothers...their song 'The Electrician' is amazing. Also, Jackie Trent’s song 'Where Are You Now My Love' makes me want to write a 60's big band jazzy that could be next.

REMY: Throwback quickly again to around the time HyperGiant was released in 2015, the Irish music scene was starting to heave at that stage, 3 years on it’s still growing, do you think it’s even more challenging for artists to get heard now than it was back in 2015? 

Elephant: The amount of talent is ridonkulous. It’s just pouring out of everywhere and it’s so inspiring. I don't know if it’s harder… I mean, yes there is a lot more great music out there but there is a lot of outlets for it too? I think it comes down to quality. If you are making good music then someone is going to notice? It depends on your end goals too I suppose. Maybe I’m wrong..I don't keep my ear to the ground in that end of things. I'm mostly concerned with making music that connects with people, the rest of it is just icing.  

REMY: If album no. 1 was influenced by contemporary music to a degree and album No. 2 looks towards earlier decades, have you thought yet about where the music will take you in the next phase of Elephant?

Elephant: Every time I hear a song that really touches me I immediately want to go and try to write something that feels the same way. So the next one could be anything. Like I mentioned earlier, I have an inkling to do something 60's jazzy/big band...but then I have had this dream of making an orchestral instrumental album blending very traditional classical with modern soundscape ideas and so on. Though, I don't know if I’m there yet, ready to take on something like that. So as of yes, I guess I’m not sure…what I can say for sure is that there will be another Elephant album...and it probably won’t sound anything like this one! 

REMY: Finally, I’m sure the FundIt campaign will be a big success, what’s your plan for touring etc. with Elephant once the album is released? 

Elephant: Well I’ve had a major line-up change so I have a new band now.  New friend, Conal Duffy on bass, a life long friend Stephen Ludlow on drums and of course you know Shane O’Hanrahan on keys. It’s a leaner group but I’m confident we can make it happen. The albums release and tour is being handled by the label, Pizza Pizza Records. It’s a new indie label in Dundalk. They are involved in the new Just Mustard release as well as an up-coming We, the Oceanographers album so it’s very exciting. We are all helping each other which is the way it should be! We’re planning the album release and tour to happen in July/August. This will actually be Elephants first time gigging in a few places so I’m excited. I’m excited for people to hear the new album. I’m generally just excited in what I’m doing lately and that’s a great be excited about what you are’s kind of the whole thing, right?

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