45°: We meet… Elevant

Move over Peter Capaldi, you’re not the only one who has bragging rights over their heroic abilities with a sonic screwdriver anymore… Enter, Michael Edward of Liverpudlian outfit: Elevant. However, unlike the sci-fi do-gooder, Edward has learned how to wield his apparatus for the good of rock’n’roll to unleash an almighty racket as he jams and slices the DIY implement across the strings of his instrument. On tracks such as “Damage” and “Inhaler” that feature on the eponymous debut album (set for release on the 17th September 2014), Edward can be heard to be embracing his inner Thurston Moore as he serves up some of the most avante garde sounding Alt-Rock we’ve heard all year. Needless to say, we couldn’t wait to have a chat with the ambitious front-man. As Edward leads the troupe out the studio and onto the road for the first time this Autumn on their first major UK tour, 45 Magazine managed to grab the front-man for a chat about the future of Rock’n’Roll, licking faces and what the future has in-store for them.

Q. Your sound has been described as a “Love Letter to Rock Music”. When did you first fall in love with it?
A. My first musical memory is putting up Christmas decorations with a Rolling Stones best of my parents had on aged 4, and it’s only rock and roll (but I like it) came on. I was like, oh damn, this is for me. I mean, it’s so badass. “If I could stick a knife in my heart and spill it all over the stage, would it satisfy, would it slide on by, would it help to ease the pain. Ease your BRAY-AY-AYN”. Just the coolest thing.

Q. Has your taste in types of rock music changed as you’ve got older and has this been reflected in how your sound itself has changed?
A. Definitely more open minded. There’s a greater appreciation for experimental stuff, or other different styles of music. For example, there’s quite a big krautrock influence on some of the stuff, bands like Can and Neu! who were under appreciated but really groundbreaking. Then there’s the really nasty stuff like Swans that I adore as well (greatest live show I’ve seen in my life). Just that sense of ugliness that once you get a taste for it, you can’t get enough.

Q. You started off with 2 warm-up dates in Liverpool and Manchester and have now embarked on a UK Tour. How has the experience been so far?
A. Pretty fun. We played in Leeds and the room was full of people we didn’t know! For a first time touring it’s such a relief to actually have an audience. Touring itself is mostly spending long periods of time in the car and eating bad dinners, but that’s all forgotten when you’re on stage.

Q. Any tales of Rock’n’Roll craziness to share from along the way?
A. I wish. Unless you’ve got a road crew and a private jet, you can’t really get up to much hedonistic destruction nowadays. I licked an audience member’s face during the opening night of the tour though (don’t worry, it was consensual). Some crazy shit will probably happen soon enough though. We’ve only been on the tour proper for three dates.

Q. People often decry that Rock’n’Roll is dead? How will Elevant ensure it stays relevant?
A. First of all, that’s a spectacular pun. I hate this Rock and Roll is dead bullshit. As long as people listen to it and enjoy it it’s not dead. It may not be dominating the mainstream in the same way it used to but that’s purely because major record labels are shitting themselves about falling record sales, instead opting for the easy options. They’ll suffer for it in the long run, they’re clutching to the last piece of wood after the boat has sunk. As long as someone is enjoying what we make it’s relevant. All you can do is make music that’s honest and true to yourself. The rest is just white noise.

Q. So tell us about the full live-band set up for this tour…
A. There’s me (Michael Edward) on guitar and vocals, Hannah Lodge on bass and Tom Shand on drums. Joe who played bass on the album unfortunately had to move back home to Jersey because he couldn’t pay his rent, which is a great shame, as he’s a good friend and a hell of a musician. Hannah’s been killing it though, she’s fit in really well. As for the stage act, I tend to go a bit off the rails mental. Hannah is a good foil for me, keeps me under control to some extent, and Tom is basically a second frontman who happens to be behind the kit, a total wild beast. The plan is to crush skulls and melt faces. So far it’s worked.

Q. You’ve got your own label in which you’ve released your s/t debut record. Any plans to release records by other artist on the cards?
A. Definitely in the future, but I don’t have immediate plans to do so. I don’t have the money yet. Ideally I’d employ a few people and build a scene around what we’re doing, in the way that Dischord or Deathwish Inc did for Minor Threat/Fugazi and Converge respectively.

Q. Who has most excited you of the new releases and emerging artists in 2014?
A. New releases, I’d say the new Swans album is pretty high up there for me, even though they’ve been around forever. The St. Vincent self titled is a favourite of all of us. The Sun Kil Moon record Benji is amazing, I’ve shed a tear to that. Me and Hannah both love FKA Twigs’ debut. The new Bo Ningen record is utterly mind bending. Silver Mt. Zion’s Fuck off Get free We pour light on everything is some truly epic stuff. Clipping’s album clppng is fucking gnarly. And the new Tune-Yards record, really good fun.

Q. Although patented by Doctor Who, it seems you have your own interpretation of a sonic screwdriver to create your sound right? Tell us about that.
A. I saw the guitarist from Portishead using a pair of pliers on a guitar and it got me thinking about other weird stuff people have done, which lead me to the Glenn Branca/Sonic Youth prepared guitars. They used to use a screwdriver as a third bridge by shoving it under the strings, gives a weird melodious sound that’s also really noisy. I had one lying round so started messing about with it, dragging it up and down the strings, just making some really nasty sounds, and I found that you can use it almost as a note selector stylus to get eerie, sustained notes that don’t really sound like a guitar. That coupled with some effects and you’ve got a really spacey cocktail.

Q. The tour wraps up in Salford on the 27th of September. What Next?
A. We’ve booked studio time in November to do the next record. No rest for the wicked. It’s such a shame, but where we like to record, Western Recording Company on Seel St. in Liverpool, is getting knocked down to make way for student flats, so we figured we had to go back before it was wiped out. Such a shame. Apart from that, we’ve booked some more shows, Liverpool at the Lomax on the 18th of October, Birmingham at the Adam and Eve on the 19th, and the Lomax again on the 28th of November. More to come.

Q. And finally, Royal Blood recently sold 66,000 copies of the s/t debut album to become the fastest-selling rock debut since Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ 2011. Does this reflect the British public getting hungry for Rock Music once again? Are you a fan of the record?
A. I know Tom likes it, and I think it’s alright. I find it kind of annoying though, because of the two piece heavy band scene that these guys came from; bands like Wet Nuns, Drenge, Deap Vally, I always thought Royal Blood were the most boring and safe. Wet Nuns could really fuck shit up, if any of those bands deserved it, it was them, but they had to go and break up. C’est la vie. Their popularity strikes me as more of a rebellion against the cooler than thou media bullshit that surrounds pop stars and hype acts. They’re two normal blokes playing in a band, and all power to them. Are the British public hungry for rock again? I’m not sure. It’s not really a question of genre. The British public are hungry for something great, something that captures the imagination. If that comes from rock, hip-hop, electronica, R&B, whatever, it doesn’t matter. As long as it makes you feel.

Full Autumn Tour Dates

The Lomax, Liverpool, 4th September
Milo Bar, Leeds, 6th September
The Thirsty Scholar, Manchester, 11th September
The Lord Clyde, Newcastle, 13th September
The Fiddler’s Elbow, London, 17th September
The Continental, Preston, 19th September
The Hop, Sheffield, 20th September
The Eagle, Salford, 27th September