Music runs strong and thick through the bloodstream of Elephant Stone mastermind Rishi Dhir
Shooting to Montreal notoriety at an early age in the late 90s as part of The Datsons – who quickly became The High Dials – the groove that makes Rishi Dhir’s boots shake comes coated in sweet harmonies that are fluffed up by Rickenbacker chords. Eventually leaving The Dials behind, the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist formed his current project, Elephant Stone, in the mid-2000s and has led a revolving cast of members through two stellar psychedelic-meets-Eastern-tinged-pop/rock releases, their debut The Seven Seas and last year’s The Glass Box EP. For a band operating on their own terms, they’ve been able to jet over the ocean a number of times, and have shared the road and the stage with the likes of The Black Angels, The Soundtrack of Our Lives and Brian Jonestown Massacre. Not bad at all.
Hour: Do you see a bright future for the classic pop music Elephant Stone drop, or is it bound to get overshadowed by more of-the-moment genres?
Rishi Dhir: I think good music will ultimately always prevail, no matter the style. The "of-the-moment" genres are usually invented by labels, publicists and music critics. The bands that are in it for the long run are not saying, "We’re an indie-post-rock-dream-core-blahblahblah." They’re just writing songs and they end up sounding like they’re supposed to.
Hour: What direction is the new material headed in musically?
Dhir: My intention on The Seven Seas was to push the "hindi-rock" vibe as far as it could go while not sacrificing my pop inclinations. For The Glass Box I wanted to focus on developing my songwriting by cutting away some of the fat and serving the song. I guess the new tunes are much more direct than our previous material. It’s still very pop-focused with much more confidence. With the new material, I’m looking to define the Elephant Stone sound. I believe we have something special that is not just defined by the sitar. The new material is being created by a real band as opposed to just me and friends. This formation of Elephant Stone has been together and performing live for the past two years. So when we work on a new song, it can happen that the end result is very different to how it originally started. Every song is sounding like Elephant Stone. Also, I’m looking past the sitar and looking to include dilruba and classical hindustani vocals. The sky is the limit.
Hour: Can you tell us about the European adventures from last year?
Dhir: Since 2010 we’ve been on two European tours that took us to Iceland, U.K., Germany and France. The reception was pretty mind-blowing. Our two headlining London shows were sold out, and we played to packed houses in Reykjavik and Berlin and all over the U.K. Our first EU tour in 2010 was very DIY (we booked the tours ourselves, drove our own van, slept on floors…). This summer’s tour definitely felt like a step up: the crowds were getting bigger, nicer hotels, and we were playing really well.
Hour: How have you been able to get noticed over there without a huge promo or publicity machine behind you?
Dhir: I guess my past role in The High Dials and my moonlighting services with Brian Jonestown Massacre, Black Angels and Soundtrack of Our Lives definitely helped peak people’s interest in the band. Still, I do believe what we’ve been building with Elephant Stone has been very organic. Our booking agent recently told our new manager, "Congratulations for signing the craziest SOB in rock ‘n’ roll!" I guess I am a li’l crazy in the way that I’m very focused on what I want to achieve, and we’ve been able to do it all up to now without a manager, booking agent, record label, or even any money! Music is a very impractical profession. I set my sights on touring Europe and we did it. I feel like we’re really building something there…
Hour: Do you feel that bands like Elephant Stone and The High Dials are often overshadowed at home here in Montreal?
Dhir: No, I don’t feel like we’ve been overshadowed in Montreal. The talent in Montreal is mind-blowing and there are so many amazing bands. I had a good run with The High Dials, but Montreal was never our focus. I guess the same goes with Elephant Stone. I have a tendency to always shoot for something that’s always a bit out of reach, but not out of sight. Montreal is here to help bands grow and develop, and that’s what it’s done for Elephant Stone. So now we’re ready to take this as far as we can go.
w/ Molly Sweeney
At La Sala Rossa