Formed in early August 2013, Elephant Tree began life int the dingy back streets of London’s answer to Tin Pan Alley. Nestled behind the the now demolished 12 Bar Club, in a hot and humid piss soaked alley, the rehearsal space that saw the very first notes of Attack Of The Altaica (AOTA) could be found. Jack Townley, then on bass guitar, and Sam Hart would meet here each week in an attempt to cobble together some semblance of a band with original material. It wouldn’t take long before one of their many post-rehearsal trips to the local Crowbar saw them encounter the almost mythical Peter Holland. After talking for a few hours the tree agreed that they should get together to jam, an idea later cemented at a viewing of OM in the Village Underground venue, with Holland taking over the role of bass guitarist and Townley moving into the more familiar territory of electric guitar.
The trio began by polishing up the rough edges of AOTA before progressing onto newer riffs and melodic ideas, this time including Holland’s signature vocal styling alongside the already unique sounding ideas from Townley and Hart. Something would still allude the group though, feeling like the sound was still missing something. Enter centre stage, Riley MacIntyre. Having made the move from Canada and finding a job in London working in the same post production studio as Townley, MacIntyre was looking for a group to satisfy his musical itch. Having chatted together and discovering similar tastes in music, as well as revealing his hidden talent as a sitar player, MacIntyre was invited to join the group in early January 2014. Finally the group felt that their sound was complete and could now focus on setting down a collection of songs that they were happy to play live should that opportunity ever present itself.
That opportunity did in fact present itself and much sooner than they had expected. Holland, being the only established musician at the time, managed to reach out to promoters and secure an opening support for Holland’s main musical project, Trippy Wicked And The Cosmic Children Of The Knight, alongside Bong Cauldron. The date was set as the 12th of April 2014, at the newly refurbished and revitalised venue The Unicorn, Camden. At this stage Hart had only been playing drums since the band’s formation, Townley had only recently restrung the guitar since his college days and MacIntyre had yet to obtain a complete set of strings for the sitar. It is safe to say the group was more than nervous on their first outing. The event passed without major incident, just a few errant notes and stick drops, and a string of booking enquiries followed, beginning with the opening support of Electric Moon at The Underworld, Camden. People were also beginning to enquire about the possibility of physical releases of the bands growing material.
Moving into the summer of 2014 the group decided upon the tracks to be included in their first EP, named after the hypothesised ancient planet of the same name. The choice of studio was an easy one to make, with glowing recommendation and solid track record, The Cro’s Nest was chosen, with it’s owner Sam Thredder taking on production duties. Taking just over 4 days in total, the album would be mastered by James Plotkin before being released as CD and Digital Download. That is until Mike Vitali happened across a demo recording of AOTA that had been uploaded to Bandcamp and offered the band a chance to have vinyl pressed and a much wider release market. The group signed with Magnetic Eye Records and in September of 2014 Theia was released into the wild.
Following a slew of positive reviews, the group were soon asked to provide the main support to friends Bright Curse on their 2015 tour of the European mainland. This first tour saw the group give their first performances to a foreign crowd and helped cement the idea that the band was no longer just a casual hobby. This unfortunately also meant some tough decisions were needed to be made and marked the start of MacIntyre’s retreat from the stage, as the band was asked to play more often and work commitments were becoming a strain. The group also decided during this period that the sitar element of the music was becoming seen as a gimmick and had to be phased out. Naturally, almost every band changes and develops their acoustical signature over time and this situational influence was what pushed the group to begin writing once more.
Following on from Theia, the group decided to get more serious about how the music was to be produced. While Thredder had done stellar work with the material, the writing and creative process was rather haphazard. The search for a new creative space was started before once again fate’s fickle finger took another swipe. The rehearsal space the band had come to know and love was to be demolished in favour of the renovation of the now decrepit Tottenham Court Road tube station. Forced to find somwhere new, it was Holland who jumped to the task, once more reaching out to his web of contacts, finding a modest permanent rehearsal space. Located next to Finsbury Park in North London, it was nestled in this small ‘shanty-town’ of rooms that the group’s first LP would be written.
The writing process for the groups next effort would revolve heavily around vocal melodies and riffs, pushing the extra instrumentation back to the production phase. This laid down a solid base in which the band could bounce ideas around before taking it to MacIntyre in the studio. Once again it was immense luck and through established contacts that the group were able to secure a recording spot at The Church Studios, London in mid August 2015. The time may have been short, with the initial recording process covering only two weekends, but the group made the most of the opportunity to push their sound further than before, adding much more production and additional instrumentation than before.
The group mulled over the tracks through to one last session in mid January 2016, before eventually presenting the Self Titled LP to their now growing following in April of the same year. Shortly afterwards it was time to hit the road once more in their first proper tour of the UK in support of Mars Red Sky, seeing the group give their first performance in Scotland. The summer saw a slew of shows and an extremely welcomed offer to be included in the line up for the upcoming Planet Of Doom Project, headed by the prolific David Paul Seymour. The project saw the band return to The Church Studios to record, with MacIntyre once again leading the production.
Pushing into the end of the year the group kept up the pace, performing shows a cross Europe, culminating in a notable achievement for Townley and Hart when the offer to play an opening set at Desert Fest London the following May was made. This would not be the only major festival performance of 2017 however, as the group were invited to attend the 2017 edition of Psycho Las Vegas, marking their first performance in the USA. By now the group were also working closely with European booking agents Sound OF Liberation (SOL), performing at various festivals across Europe through 2017 and into 2018, building towards another tour.
At this point in time, new material was once again worming it’s way out of the woodwork. Several new songs had been tried and tested upon smaller audiences and, with the larger audiences that touring with Stoned Jesus and Mothership would bring, a select few were cemented as being part of an as-yet-undecided upcoming piece of work. The process was aided by the inclusion of a new member, John Slattery, who joined proceedings initially to give support as second guitarist and synth player for the groups live shows.
Ideas were banded around and talk of a series of singles, or even potentially several more EPs, was eventually dismissed in favour of the next LP offering.
With Slattey’s added input and MacIntyre returning once again, the writing for the new material took a turn to the more traditional. The new tracks were mulled over once the core composition had been completed, only this time rather than embellishing, the tracks were then ripped apart and restructured to give them a gentle nudge in a new direction from the Self Titled album. Writing this time around took much longer with work estimated to be dated back as far as 2017, leading to the group making the decision that the time was right to enter the studio in early January 2019.
The Church Studios was chosen once again as the venue for the recording, with the group securing a longer stay this time. Over the first two weeks of January the bare bones were once again laid down and summarily picked over before MAcIntyre and Slattery began tracking the extra instrumentation. The passage in time between the inception of Elephant Tree and now had also lent itself to the group broadening their musical tastes and learning how to incorporate them into the new tracks. The mixing process was this time taken on with Luke Pickering alongside MacIntyre, taking a long slog before being completed shortly before May 2019.
It was at this time the band had to also make a difficult decision on whether to stick with their current label or search for pastures new. In the end, the draw of a label closer to home was to hard to resist and the decision was made to accept an approach from the well renowned Holy Roar Records. The mastering process was well underway and the release process being planned out once again before the group got another offer from SOL to return to mainland Europe once more.
In October of 2019 the group set out across the channel once again and teamed up with Steak and Lo Pan to cover mainland Europe over a two week stint. The shows featured more finalised snippets for the upcoming album and climaxed at the Belgium edition of Desert Fest 2019. Rounding the year off with a debut at Vitus Bar (NYC) and final performance st Soulstone Gathering Krakow, the winter period provided a proverbial calm before the storm that would brew up in January 2020.
Seeing in the New Year with the release of the single ‘sails’ on Radio 1’s Rock Show and an announcement about the release date of Habits, time will only tell where the bunch of miscreants will resurface next. To be continued..
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