“Some songs, in particular, are like love songs for the planet, and I like that a lot,” says Bridget Law, referring to the music made by her bandmates in Elephant Revival. With most members based in the thriving music scene of Nederland, Colo., the band consists of Law on the fiddle, Dango Rose on upright bass and mandolin, Bonnie Paine on washboard, stompbox and other percussion, Daniel Rodriguez on guitar and banjo and Sage Cook on the electric banjo, guitar and mandolin.
As Law puts it, the band has been “making music naturally and authentically and with love and intention” since 2006 and released their third album, These Changing Skies, in September. With everyone in the band on vocals at some point, their music possesses the atmosphere and imagery of an old folk group and the communal energy of a jam band.
Social consciousness is very important to them. Sadly, at the time of this interview, their hometown and surrounding areas were facing a devastating flood.
The band found some time to talk before a show at the Loveless Barn in Nashville during the recent Americana Music Festival. We sat down outside the barn on a blanket that Paine laid out, while the beginnings of the Music City Roots show echoed in the background.
CMT Edge: Do you feel like there a certain kind of mood on the new album?
Rodriguez: I think it’s kind of mysterious.
Paine: We were by a river, and it was raining a lot. There’s a mood like being in a rainy barn for a month, being by a river and surrounded by water. Water has that dreamlike quality.
Law: However, I’ve also heard that there is a lot of groove, and every song has a lot of rhythm to it. Also, it has been described as somewhat “up” and as this interesting, moody album that is somewhere in between. It allows you to feel soothed but also to be invigorated, you know?
Rose: It was recorded at the Bear Creek Studios outside Seattle with Ryan Hadlock, who is a great producer and his assistant engineer Jerry Streeter. We lived up there for three weeks in a barn together. We did have accommodations, so we weren’t sleeping on the hay. It was a focused endeavor with a lot of intention behind it. Just steer the course. And we’re really happy with the results and really happy with this album.
You are involved in quite a few environmental causes, too.
Rodriguez: Yeah, we’ve done some work that we’re really happy to be a part of with Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for the Lakota Nation, supporting the children’s youth programs on the reservation as well as heating projects to make sure everybody’s warm in the wintertime. That’s been through Conscious Alliance and Trees, Water & People.
Then there are some other organizations that we’ve worked with, like Rock the Earth which supports a whole bunch of different causes. And then Frack-Free Colorado, trying to support fracking regulations in the state of Colorado.
Law: We’ve talked a lot about setting up a flood relief fund and collecting money on behalf of our friends who lost absolutely everything and also finding out which flood relief efforts are worth contributing to and notifying people about that. We’ve also done work to support local farming and the local food movement. We ran a biodiesel and veggie oil bus back in the day. It’s getting a little trickier to do that, but environmental causes are really important to us.
Where do you guys see yourselves going from here?
Paine: We definitely want to put on our own festivals someday. We’ve talked about that a lot.
Rose: It seems like we’ve been defining it as it goes along.
Cook: I’m excited to grow a big garden next year. As far as my career, that’s all — and continuing to do this.
How big of a garden?
Cook: Half-acre. With a fruit tree orchard.
What are you going to grow in the garden?
Cook: A bunch of different things. … Potatoes, tomatoes and apples do really well in my area of Kansas. I’m trying to find a way to basically be able to do those sorts of things and still do the music and have it be a symbiotic inspiration for both facets of life.
What kind of festivals do you want to present?
Paine: We have so many great musical friends and artistic friends. We’ve talked about having an art-of-all-forms festival, and that would be amazing someday. But that’s a lot of planning and a lot of conceptualizing. I’m telling you to help plant the seed a little bit further, I guess.
Law: I’ve been trying to get more and more involved in the Colorado music festival scene. When I find a festival that I think is really doing some good stuff, I like to find out who’s putting it on. It’s like research and development for how we can support a festival community through our music ultimately. We’re trying to support that dream, for sure.
Do your fans find you through festivals a lot?
Rose: Yeah, we really love playing festivals across this country and across Europe and Canada and Australia. … I’m hoping to visit all these places in the coming years and to keep playing music from the heart and sharing with all the wonderful communities that come together. We’re grateful for all that we’re able to do.