After much speculation, a strong dose of airtime and more than a handful of knowing nods Melbourne quartet, Elephant Eyes have officially released their debut single I want to know. The track is a smoulderingly subdued piece that stands out for what isn’t there, as much as what is. Stripped back and laid bare, the dual vocals weave intimately between the sparse jazz beats as a sweet melody drifts by on the breeze. It’s The XX, meets Joan as a Police Woman combined with some Thom York magic for good measure.
The guys where kind enough to take time out and answer some questions I had for them and I think their answers give a pretty warm insight into their music, and their future!
Congrats on releasing the new single, I want to know, it sounds ace. Where have you drawn your inspiration for this track?
Kate: Hmm, well, I actually wrote the lyrics and chord progression for this song a couple of years ago, but I never developed the song properly, because I always knew it needed guitar (it was written on the piano). So I showed it to Stu one day to see if he could help, and he came up with the bass line and it just took off from there. I guess lyrically, it’s a bit apocalyptic. There was a lot of stuff in the news about natural disasters, and I felt a bit helpless in it all. That’s where that line comes from – ‘I want to know if the sun comes up today, and if i will get a say in it or not’.
Stu: We definitely took a less is more approach to the song. The melody and duet vocals work so well on their own, so all the band had to do was keep it really simple and sparse. Of course we couldn’t help letting out a little craziness for the ending, where the skipping stop/start drum patterns are blatently stolen from Radiohead.
The track has been receiving some much sought after attention, even in it’s demo form. How much has that reception helped cement your focus as a band?
Kate: I guess it’s just reassuring to know that people are liking what we’re doing. Helps us be surer that we’re going in the right direction.
Stu: Well it has cemented the idea that we should write more duets! Yeah it’s been really surprising and awesome to hear our track on the radio, especially when it was the fairly rough and recorded-for-free version.
How are you working as a band, is there a clear leader or is it more collaborative?
Kate: D’oh. I guess that’s me. I’m a benevolent, democratic leader though 🙂 Most of our decisions are made democratically. We often vote on things. If someone really, really hates something we won’t do it. That would be unfair. Musically, we’ve got two approaches. The first is that I come up with a skeleton of an idea. So, the lyrics, basic chord progression, and a basic structure, and then we work that idea as a band. Everyone writes their own parts, and we often change the songs quite a bit from their original form. The other way we do it is we jam on an idea, and then I take it home and inject some structure and lyrics.
Where does the name Elephant Eyes stem from?
Kate: Haha, it stems from necessity! We needed one to get gigging. What were some of the options we had guys?
Stu: Elephant Fires. Picadilly Lilly. White Fox. Son of Bear.
The band has a real mixture of sounds rippling through it, what influencers lie behind the music?
Kate: Mine include Joan as Police Woman, Feist, Howling Bells, PJ Harvey, gutsy female singers. And Radiohead, Augie March, Midlake etc.
Stu: Portishead, The Restless, Ben Folds Five, Ainslie Wills. As well as heaps of funk, folk, metal, even drum & bass stuff. From the perspective of the drums I’m always trying to hold back and do less fills, and just lock into a single groove or pattern instead, a la Elbow/Radiohead/Joan. It’s almost imitating electronic drum loops. Partly because I’m not a flashy technical player, and partly because I find that drummers who do that, who just play the bare minimum of what’s required for the song to work, they really engage you way more than hitting every part of the kit and overpowering the music. It also makes it possible for me to sing harmonies at the same time.
Tom: Much like Stu, just trying to lay a solid foundation with a good groove and try to find the best tone for specific sections of songs. I listen to a lot of Omar Rodgriguez-Lopez, The Black Keys and Radiohead.
If there’s one song as a band that really gets you excited what is it? It can be one of yours or someone else’s?
Kate: Hmm, dunno. We’re gonna have to brainstorm this one. Out of our songs I reckon it’s Need. We always seem slightly out of breath by the end of that one. Other people’s? Maybe Paranoid Android by Radiohead? Or something epicly jazz?
Stu: Definitely Need. Audience members always tell me it’s their favourite. They are probably all musicians though, who love how the song switches from 5/4 to 6/8, and how it has 4/4 drums over everyone else doing 5/4. We love nerdy music school stuff like that.
Tom: Need definately, Mother Said and also Sunday Inertia are particular favourites.
What’s next after the single, are there plans for an EP? …and when will you be coming to Sydney?
Kate: after this single? Jamming the summer away, coming up with enough money to do an EP or maybe another single. Writing grant applications so we can make it to Sydney with 3 keyboards in tow! Playing around Melbourne as much as possible. We’re also playing at Moomba this spring, which should be awesome. I reckon we’ll come to Sydney once enough people ask us to or maybe to promote the next release.
Stu: We will be adding even more strange effects pedals and noises, as well as some Melodica if you’re lucky. Looking forward to playing more festivals and big support slots.