Festival Heartstrings Interview

INTERVIEW: Elephant Revival at Newport Folk Festival

Paul Krugman of The New York Times writes:

“If [Elephant Revival] doesn’t make you smile, something is wrong with you.”

And we couldn’t agree more. We felt it first as they took the Fort Stage at Newport Folk Festival on Friday, and then again later that night, at the State of the Union after show, hosted by Langhorne Slim at the Jane Pickens Theater. We can also tell you that, without a doubt, over the course of the day, Elephant Revival brought smiles to the faces of thousands. In fact, Bridget Law (fiddle, vocals, octave violin) recalls noticing those smiles, as a view that was equally as breathtaking as the Newport sea and skies that were also in front of them.

Elephant Revival is comprised of Bridget Law, Bonnie Paine (vocals, washboard, djembe, musical-saw, stomp-box), Daniel Rodriguez (vocals, guitar, banjo, bass), Charlie Rose (banjo, pedal steel, guitar, horns, cello, double bass) and Dango Rose (upright bass, vocals, mandolin, claw-hammer banjo). Once in their presence, the term band seems to fall short. They are more than “just” a band. They are a family, bonded by music and shared purpose, and we are their kin, invited in to share every sight and sound of the musical stories they have waiting for us.

Later, in our post-Newport interview with Bridget, we discovered that Elephant Revival is even more awe-inspiring than we had already witnessed. We learned everything from secret jam sessions with other artists in the stairwell of the Jane Pickens and late night swims in Newport harbor, to enjoying circus arts and their plans for their highly-anticipated next album. So, gather ’round folks and we’ll catch you up on the latest stories they have to tell.

I read the following quote on your Facebook “About” page: “Brought together by a unified sense of purpose — the spirit of five souls working as one, in harmony, creating sounds they could never produce alone.” — How did Elephant Revival come to be? How did you find each other?

We were all in our early twenties and searching for purpose. We all loved music, so we found ourselves chasing the vibes at music gatherings and festivals. We all especially enjoyed the often spontaneous and late night jam sessions. Essentially these qualities led us to each other throughout a series of events ranging from a rooftop in Connecticut after an open mic at a club to bluegrass festivals in Colorado in Kansas. We found a common thread with each other, we all wanted to make music with meaningful messages that brought people joy (us included). We traveled informally for a few years playing together; then in 2006 Dango booked a tour under the name Elephant Revival ((Concept) at the time) and so it all began!

How did you feel when you found out you were added to the Newport Folk Festival lineup?

We were thrilled! We had heard wonderful stories and we all were aware of the big moment Bob Dylan went electric so we were glad to follow in those footsteps. It was truly an honor!

How did you prepare for Newport? Did you treat it like any other show?

We rested for a couple days on the beach in Rhode Island to be sure we would feel inspired by the ocean and be able to gather our energy. Also, many of our personnel came so it was an opportunity for the team to get together and enjoy the magnificent opportunity! We also put together the best set list we could think of.

What was it like arriving at Fort Adams?

We arrived in the evening at sunset. Crossing over the two bridges was spectacular! We love the sea. We were particularly excited to find that our bus would be parked in the harbor. We all enjoyed a late night walk on the dock and a few of us jumped in the ocean at night to experience the bioluminescence!

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Can you describe how it felt to be on the Fort Stage, in front of all those people and that Newport setting?

The view was absolutely incredible! And I don’t just mean the sea…there were so many shining smiles! It was easy to recognize that many of the people had never heard us before and it was wonderful to watch them get into the music; it was super special. AND, it was awe-inspiring to see the sea while we played!

How did you get involved in the State of the Union after show, hosted by Langhorne Slim?

We met Langhorne last summer at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. We have a few mutual friends so connected easily. He’s so fun that we were instant friends. It was really nice to be invited to be involved in the after show! We played three songs during the show and joined in on the encore. It was great to celebrate the experience of Newport with so many great friends. It was certainly a highlight!

If you could choose three words to describe your experience while at Newport Folk Festival, what would they be?

Delightful, inspiring, fun!

What was your absolute favorite moment of the weekend?

After the Langhorne Slim show a few of us gathered in the stairwell to jam with David Rawlings. We are all giant Gillian and David fans so this was really special to get to share a jam with him!

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What prompted the idea to record Sands of Now live at Boulder Theatre?phyxcPzl

We knew it was time to make a live record, and Boulder is our home. The community here is amazing so we knew we could count on the energy of the crowd being good! Also with two nights in a row, we knew we could get lots of footage. It all unfolded pretty perfectly! It means a lot to us that folks are enjoying the end product!

Can you tell us anything about the upcoming album (scheduled for release in 2016)? For instance: Do you have a theme in mind? Where will you record? Album title?

We just did 6 days of recording in Parsonsfield, Maine with Sam Kassirer. It was so wonderful! We will do 10 more days of recording in Boulder at ETown studios later this month. The music is beautiful and there seems to be many songs about the sea…so perhaps that will lead to an album title eventually. Some of our previous records were titled about the sky, so it might be time to move on to the water.

What do you all do when you’re not doing music?

We try to write new music, rest, exercise, meditate…you know all the necessary calibration techniques. Bonnie and I enjoy circus arts, so when we have time, we play on aerial silks or do acro yoga. Currently we are choreographing a short show where we play some violin and cello duets (yes, Bonnie plays cello wonderfully!) alongside our amazing acrobat friends as they show their wildly beautiful skills!

Photo: Jay Blakesberg

Photo: Jay Blakesberg

If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?

Love this amazing planet. Take care of her, enjoy her beauty, and thank her by consciously making less trash and protecting the clean water sources!

Any “lesser-known” band/artist recommendations you can make?

Some of my favorites are:  Xerephine, Sea Stars, We Dream Dawn (Sage Cook’s new band) and Bonfire Dub.

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