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It's Olivia's World, We Just Apple Elephant - The Awesome Weird Retro of Elephant 6
MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #34




REC – “Sparkle Shine Shine” (from The Sunshine Seminar)

REC – “The Accumulate” (from Symphony for the Weird)



I love the whole idea of a music collective. It’s pretty much how musicians work anyway. We all bounce between projects and help out each other. We all influence and inspire each other. But very few musicians have had the guts to create an actual collective, and of those, Elephant 6 was by far the most innovative, successful & influential.


They were founded in the late 1980s, but really took hold in the 1990s and early 2000s. E6 (which no one calls it) spawned well over 30 bands, of which at least four – The Apples in Stereo, The Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, and of Montreal – have had notable success and influence, especially on bands like Franz Ferdinand, Arcade Fire & Tame Impala. I’d argue they’ve done more to shape the indie scene of this entire young century than any other music.


With so many bands, their sound is naturally all over the map. But their core elements stem mostly from the mod/psychedelic/chamber rock/pop of the mid to late 1960s. Think middle period Beatles, Pet Sounds & Smile, the Zombies. Mix that with ‘90s indie rock, alt pop & some synths, and you get … something really weird and really catchy. Also really weird. And very easy to listen to. And weird.


If you don’t know any of this music, start with the Olivia Tremor Control. No single E6 band represents their whole aesthetic, but Olivia Tremor Control comes closest. I was disappointed when they disbanded too soon, and sad when Bill Doss, their main driving force (and also the founder of the Sunshine Fix), died so young. Hit up their “singles and beyond” collection, and you’ll be instantly drawn in.


Then move on to the Apples in Stereo. To me they created the most complete and most accessible amalgamation of all of the above styles. They also released way more music and had probably the most hit singles.


I don’t know as much about of Montreal, except that they are the more ambient & synth-y incarnation of the Elephant 6 sound, and the most modern sounding. They’ve also lasted the longest & released the most music, which has been much more ubiquitous than any of the other bands’ music.


As for Neutral Milk Hotel, I know next to nothing about them. I was happy to see their album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, representing E6 on the Rolling Stone top 500. They had kind of a freak folk vibe. And if you listen to Arcade Fire or bands like that, you will hear a huge influence.


Speaking of … So much of music creation is about “permission” and “implant”. An artist comes out who does something unorthodox or otherwise out of place, and a part of the creative mind says, “You’re allowed to do that?!?” Those new or newly contextualized ideas get implanted, and influence what comes next.


A whole lot of my work has been tinged with indie/mod/psychedelic/synth/alt pop – released and unreleased. (Latter case in point: Here are two recently released examples, one more mod/retro/synth & the other more indie/psychedelic:


REC – “Sparkle Shine Shine” (from The Sunshine Seminar)

REC – “The Accumulate” (from Symphony for the Weird)


Have you heard any of this music? Have you even heard of the collective or any of these bands? Are there other Elephant 6 bands you prefer? Discuss dammit!

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