Musical Memory 

Elephant Revival strives for depth, connection

Elephant Revival came together almost a decade ago, dedicated to creating "great music with meaning."

Angie Barnes

Elephant Revival came together almost a decade ago, dedicated to creating "great music with meaning."

Two elephants lived together for 16 years in a now-empty exhibit at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo before one was sent to another zoo. The elephant being moved died during transport; the one left behind died as well.

"So in honor of these elephants, we brought the tribe together as a band, as tribal creatures are meant to live together," said Bridget Law, the 32-year-old fiddle player for Colorado-based Americana band Elephant Revival.

Since it was founded almost a decade ago, Elephant Revival has played in Boise at least half a dozen times, including at Treefort Music Fest 2015 in March, and returns for an all-ages show at El Korah Shrine on Friday, Sept. 11. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m. with Ketchum folk-punk band Sheep Bridge Jumpers opening. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door.

Elephant Revival's five members decided early on, according to Law, to create "great music with meaning," and do so with a slew of instrumentation: Law on fiddle and octave fiddle; Bonnie Paine on washboard, djembe, musical saw and stomp-box; Charlie Rose on banjo, pedal steel, guitar, horns, cello and double bass; Dango Rose on double bass, mandolin and banjo; and Daniel Rodriguez on guitar, banjo and double bass.

Together, Law said, they strive to delve deeper than mainstream pop.

"We write something more along the lines of how we're all connected through the planet, and the water that makes up our bodies is also flowing through the mountains, and the sky is always changing." —Bridget Law

Songs like "Remembering a Beginning," off 2013's The Changing Skies (Itz Evolving Records) see the band exploring existentialism with lyrics like "Where does it go/ the wind that blows."

"It's just the idea that the skies have been here for millions of years. Thinking about what the skies have seen of this place and how it's changing," Law said. "All things have an experience, whether they seem inanimate or not. I think that's profound and I enjoy that thought."

If Elephant Revival sounds like a band of little hippie-dippy treehuggers, that's probably accurate. When Law isn't recording or touring with her band, she enjoys practicing AcroYoga and climbing aerial silks.

She said a person doesn't have to be a nature lover to love Elephant Revival's music, but she has noticed regional audiences react differently. In the West, she sees more outdoor venues where barefoot people wear flowing clothes hold their hands in the air. On the East Coast, not so much.

"Folks in those places are contemplative, listening to the lyrics and absorbing the poetry," Law said. "Maybe they're a little more curious about the instrumentation because it's not every band out there that has a washboard. Some of those more folky root styles are a little more ubiquitous out here."

The band members work to keep touring as environmentally friendly as possible. They used to run vehicles fueled by vegetable oil but because of their growing crew, they finally had to buy a tour bus this year.To help offset the fossil fuels, however, they're having the roof of the bus covered in solar panels.

"[Having a bus] is providing more freedom," she said. "It's much better for our bodies and our experiences where we're playing. We get to see these places instead of just driving in, doing the gig, then pulling out at night."

Elephant Revival just finished 16 days in the studio recording its sixth album, which is scheduled to be released in the spring. Law said she has loved dedicating her life to music.

"Writing songs is like trying to turn the frequency of our emotions into sound," she said. "It's like uncovering—dusting off the layers of dirt above a dinosaur bone. You're digging for the rest of it to understand it fully. ... Even from the beginning, it felt really fertile. We are standing on fertile ground."

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