Elephant Wrecking Ball brings their jazz/dub fusion back to Summit County
The three musicians who make up Elephant Wrecking Ball have a lot more on their plates than just the one project — the trio are recognizable players in the scene with groups like Pretty Lights and John Brown’s Body. Elephant Wrecking Ball, a fusion of jazz, dub and what the band describes as “science,” is a pet project for them — one that combines each member’s personal musical desires.
“There’s not a huge market for instrumental music out there but this satisfies more of a passion for the music we are creating rather than trying to take over the world, so to speak,” said Dan Africano, bass player for Elephant Wrecking Ball, who also performs with John Brown’s Body. “Creating something new and fresh and trying out these new textures and new sounds I think is something that makes us more excited and passionate about the music that we create.”
The trio consists of Africano on bass, Scott Flynn from Pretty Lights and John Brown’s Body on the trombone, and Neal “Fro” Evans of Yamn, R.A.Q. and formerly Dopapod, on drums. It’s not often that a band’s sound can be described as “unique,” but Elephant Wrecking Ball’s horn-heavy, instrumental music layers jazz with dub music and other sound effects to create it’s very own genre.
“There are a lot of crazy elements going on, where do I begin?” Africano said. “It’s all kind of rooted in some groove-based jazz music. I say jazz in terms of the improvisation that happens between members of the band as well as the melodies throughout played by the trombone. But in dub music there is a lot of interesting textures created by different effects, and that’s a lot of what we incorporate into the overall palate of sound that we create. The science is basically sending trombone sounds and bass sounds through all these effects pedals and creating other-worldly sounds that are unique and we like to call scientific.”
While it can be a challenge to grow as an instrumental band, Africano said they find it fulfilling to use the limited resources they have as a band and put forth the type of music they are creating.
“We’ve thought about the options of adding lyrics or a vocalist but none of that really appeals to us with what we are trying to accomplish with the music that we are putting forward,” he said.
THE ART OF COLLABORATION
After an eight-song demo record followed by full-length live record, “Live Demolition,” the group released a full-length studio album “Barren Serenade” about a year ago. The album is a compilation six songs by the group and two remixes done by friends Ben Sword and Scott Hannay.
“The first remix … might be my favorite,” Africano said. “It’s actually someone else’s take on one of our own songs. That’s really cool to see someone else’s creative vision — given the coloring box of our sounds — and for them to create their own song. That’s one of my favorite parts of the album.”
Elephant Wrecking Ball is currently working on a new album they recorded in Morrison, Colorado, in August. While they have about 10 songs to work with, they are still in the planning stages of what songs will be on the album and whether they will again add any remixes done by other artists.
“I do like that aspect of it though — give someone else the chance to take those sounds and make something of their own with this vocabulary that we threw out there on the canvas,” Africano said.
The group has a stretch of shows throughout Colorado in November, from Denver and Boulder to Fort Collins, Keystone and Winter Park. Africano is personally excited to be coming through Summit County, as he lived in Breckenridge from 2002 to 2007, where he skied “every day when I lived here.” The band played in Breckenridge at 320 South before it closed, and also when it was formerly known as Sherpa and Yeti’s. The last time Elephant Wrecking Ball passed through the county was last summer, when Frisco hosted MarchFourth! for its Concert in the Park series, and the group played the after show at The Barkley Ballroom.
“That was a great turnout, probably the best show of the tour,” Africano said.
The group’s November tour dates are stacked, with shows one after the other from Chicago to Kansas City, through Colorado and on to the East Coast.
Africano said they don’t mind the busy schedule because they don’t have a ton of time with all their other projects to tour together throughout the year.
“When we have the chance to get together and tour, it’s really nice because we get to really dig into what we are doing as a band in that moment and push the songs we currently have into new territory and try out new songs on the road,” he said. “I think it’s pretty intensive but it’s like the express lane to progressing our band.”
Elephant Wrecking Ball has been together for about five years now and Africano said he still feels like they are in the beginning of their career as a band. The group has been talking recently about making some types of evolutionary pushes in terms of the presentation of shows and their musical product, he said.
“This remains a really great passion project for all of us,” he said. “It’s tough to say whether or not it’s our main project, but it hits closest to home because we do a lot of the creative aspects of this band, while it’s just really the three of us driving the whole unit together in terms of creativity and promotion and pretty much doing everything.”
Africano is excited to see some of his old Summit County friends while he’s out here and hopefully get some new fans turned on to the music.
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