Vanessa Tam is a freelance marketing consultant and lifestyle writer based in Vancouver, Canada. An all around music lover and friend of HEX, she takes every opportunity to attend as many live music events as possible. Vanessa met up with Montreal based Psych-Pop band Elephant Stone at Levitation Vancouver and here is how the conversation went:
Levitation Vancouver is our version of the Austin Psych Fest music festival produced in collaboration with Timbre Concerts, a local concert production company. Along with live performances happening all day at Malkin Bowl, a scaled replica of the Hollywood Bowl in LA, the party continues throughout the night at select venues in the city. The festival boasts a solid curation of both local and international artists celebrating psychedelic, pop, electronic, shoegaze, metal and experimental music.
I was stoked to be able to sit down to chat with Rishi Dhir from Elephant Stone, with a cameo by Christian Bland from The Black Angels, after their set. Influenced by bands such as The Beatles and Primal Scream, Elephant Stone incorporates traditional Indian instruments like the sitar and the tabla into their psychedelic sound. Outside of Elephant Stone, Rishi has toured around the world with bands such as The Black Angels as one of the most sought after bass and sitar players in the genre. Scroll down to check it out our interview below.
Rishi Dhir and Christian Bland
Vanessa: So this is your first time in Vancouver eh? Welcome!
Rishi (Elephant Stone): Thank you!
V: So I read somewhere that you were first inspired to pick up the sitar when you were traveling with your family in India?
Christian Bland (The Black Angels): False!
R: Correct! I grew up listening to a lot of Indian music and you know, we also grew up on The Beatles.
C: Yeah and we were exposed to The Rolling Stones.
R: Yeah and all those bands. The sitar was just something that's always been there, and everyone wants to own a sitar correct?
C: Oh yeah, I wish I could get a left handed one...
R: And it just so happens, you're in India. So what are you gonna do? Buy a sitar. So in India, I bought a sitar.
V: So here at Levitation, you're sharing a stage with The Black Angels, whom you went on tour with as a bassist in the past.
C: Yes, that is a true statement. Haha! What a job Rishi did.
R: Man, what a time. That was in 2012! My second child was born and I was like, awesome! Then Christian called me and said, wanna tour Europe with us? I was like okay! Then I was on the road for a year.
V: Awesome! So are you still lending your sound to other bands or is Elephant Stone your main focus musically?
R: Elephant Stone, but...
C: Yeah we're mainly focusing on Elephant Stone
R: Haha! Yeah it's true! Elephant Stone is my baby, but I'm always interested in collaborating with bands.
V: I read somewhere that when you were touring with The Black Angels, their music influenced your musical style and also influenced Elephant Stone. In a positive way of course.
R: Now there's a lot of truth to that because Three Poisons (Elephant Stone’s third LP), have you heard my record? *looks at Christian*
R: You have? No you haven't!
C: Yeah I have!
R: Sing a verse!
R: Yeah so during 2012, playing with him (Christian Bland) for a year, I learned a lot. These guys are a phenomenal band. Like one of the first songs on our record, that riff, that could've been an Angels riff. It's funny because I wrote the riff thinking of you (Christian Bland) playing it. I was like, ugh, it sounds too much like the Angels! Then I put it on a sitar and it sounded more like Elephant Stone. So yeah, I had a lot of influence from these guys from touring with them.
V: I read somewhere that your main goal when writing a new song is to create the perfect pop song.
R: Well yeah, every song should be your best song. You always want to refine your craft, so I always want to write a better song. You don't want to release stuff that's not the best thing you could make.
V: I feel like, especially in music now, there's a lot of pressure on artists to constantly just pump out stuff. Not necessarily good stuff, but just volume. Because people's attention span, especially on blogs or on Soundcloud, it's so short.
C: I mean, I don't know. I guess you just gotta play what you enjoy.
R: I don't know. I think it's too unfiltered, music right now. I think the industry needs people to tell bands that's not the best you can do. Like the last record we did, Three Poisons, we pretty much recorded ourselves. Now I look back on it and i'm like, it sounds like it's pre-production when it released. So to answer your question, yes I do believe people need to filter their music and that people are putting out too much music right now.
C: Yeah, it's hard to weed through the good stuff.
The Black Angels
V: What are your favourite festivals that you've played in your career so far?
R: Well, I've played a lot of festivals with these guys (The Black Angels). I would say Coachella was great.
C: Yeah, oh that was really cool!
R: Harvest Festival was really cool too; that was in Australia.
V: Last question: What's going on with the rest of your summer? Are you guys touring a lot?
R: No, we're not touring much. We're in pre-production for the new record. So we're recording in September then we're coming back to play California in November. So yeah, I don't want to tour much this year, I just want to make the best record I can make, no matter what.