Interview: Elephant Stone (Montreal)

Elephant Stone, the psychedelic rock outfit based in the bustling city of Montreal, offer up a transcendental blend of Eastern psych-rock on their strongest release yet. Their new self-titled LP is a clear and concise 10 song set that revives that allusive fusion of mystic scales and western pop melodies. Many who have tread this path come across as tourists in the global pop scene (yes, even The Beatles) but Elephant Stone front man Rishi Dhir and his scruffy compadres have found a unique balance that is anything but contrived.

Having the chance to speak with Rishi after the band returned from Europe, supporting the Black Angels and headlining their own shows throughout the Netherlands, I found a forthright man comfortable in his own skin and optimistic about the future of music and it’s effect on the world.

I am in agreement that the 60’s were one of the most brilliant musical moments of recent history and would love to see a new and unique movement/message emerge from our current times. What is the calling card for the end of the century?

Rishi: I don’t really romanticize the past. I am all for the present with an eye always on the horizon. I spent my formative music years cutting my teeth on the Beatles, Motown, The Who, freak beat/mod, garage, power-pop, psyche… And I find the music that is coming out now is a perfect evolution from rock’n’roll’s humble beginnings. I get very excited by new bands and never find them “retro” just for the fact that they use reverb, echo and write good songs. The calling card for the end of the century is that there is hope in art.

Other bands have tried for the Eastern influenced Psych Rock sound, namely Brian Jones Town Massacre in San Fran circa 1980s whom you have been affiliated with for sometime. It seems that more then anything, the original BJM line up imploded due to interpersonal relationships. How important is it to walk your talk when you are singing about hope and love?

Rishi: I am very face value; what you see if what you get. I like to practice what I preach and treat people with love and respect. However, being in a band and on the road all the time can be a wonderful experience but also can be very trying as you’re away from your family for extended periods, spend hours upon hours in a cramped van, sleep very little… So, we all have less than noble moments and I’m no exception. All I can do is try my best and I believe everyone else is doing the same.

I love that you are bringing peace of mind to rock fans everywhere. The backbone of the new age music scene is a bit limp, with little creative or worthwhile output, yet you are offering similarly positive messages via rock. Is personal growth something you wish to impart to your listeners and if so, how do you imbue your songwriting with spiritual undertones?

Rishi: From personal experience I can honestly say life change and evolution is the goal to happiness. You cannot change the past, but you can have a helping hand in directing where your life is going. A first step in this is to truly understand who you are and what you want out of the life. From there the possibilities are endless…

The Eastern esthetic seems to be growing exponentially in the USA everyday through Yoga, Meditation, Self Help, Ayurvedic food and medicine. Can you for see a time when the rock scene and the new age scene merge? Returning more to the 60’s model…

Rishi: I am not really familiar with the current new-age scene… music is music. People are now looking for something more than just money, a house and a fancy car. We all need meaning in our life… we’re all looking something. I don’t want to live in a world based on the past… I want something new, exciting, and forward thinking. We can change the world by first changing ourselves.

Very true indeed. One’s inner work and accomplishments always seem to be reflected in the outside world, not the other way around. How does you’re your home base, Montreal, reflect your inner world? How does living in a city filled with diversity help the creative juices flow?

Rishi: I love the city. It’s where I was born and raised (my parents arrived from India in ’69). It’s kind of hard from me sometimes to see how the city has helped me creatively… I sing about songs of the heart, not of the streets.

The progression of Elephant Stone has been pretty fluid since it’s inception in 09. Did your experiences in your previous band, The High Dials, help you conceptualize this new musical path, and further, how do you see your evolving consciousness effecting your musical path and success?

Rishi: Definitely. Being in the High Dials all those years made me see what I wanted to do in music, and what not to do. I am like a sponge and absorb all that is around me… but what comes out now sounds like… Elephant Stone.