Album review and interview: Bent By Elephants – self titled

This article was originally published on Exclaim.ca.

Bent_By_Elephants

Bent By Elephants
Bent by Elephants
By Jessica Lewis

For their first EP, of just six songs, a pat on the back is in order for Bent by Elephants, a folk six-piece from Montreal. Each song is as beautifully laid out as the one next to it, so the whole proves equally strong. The songs detail real stories, and it’s the down-to-earth, willing-to-explain-almost-anything qualities that lie in both the music and the lyrics that warrant attention. Currently featuring Chesley Walsh (vocals), Luke Fowlie (guitar), Ryan Frizell (trumpet), Alex Whyte (guitar, trombone, vocals), Paul VanDyk (upright bass) and newest member Charlotte Cornfield (drums), this band are, for the most part, comprised of classically trained musicians. They brought together learned and honed talents that created sweeping, warm, explorative tunes of lost encounters, close ties and a love for Canada. There is nothing on this EP that doesn’t fit with something else, and there is a good amount of variation in solo efforts on it to boot. Walsh’s vocals are uplifting, while each instrument finds elements of shy or brash to work with. It’s almost cautionary that this is their first try.

I feel like a lot of the songs are based on certain people. Are they real?
Walsh: Yeah, most of them are. “Victor” is about this guy named Victor who I met when I was going on a road trip down the West Coast two summers ago. I’m from Los Angeles, originally. I was travelling along visiting friends and family that were kind of dispersed along the West Coast, kind of hitch-hiking and taking busses and ride shares and stuff down the way and I met this guy Victor. Somehow both of us got stranded in Sacramento together because our rides ditched us. He had this very specific kind of spiritual live-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude that I dug a lot. I have no idea how to get in touch with him.

What about the other songs?
Fowlie: [For “Saskatchewan Pool”] I was at a cottage with family. I’ve been going there forever. Once there was a tornado when I was there by myself and I thought it was a very romantic songwriting story. When all the lights went out, I was sitting there by candlelight writing.

Walsh: I felt that when I listened to it, and he told me about it. I wrote the lyrics about a similar experience I had had in the mountains in California and basically, I had an amazing time with this one person and then it passed and I haven’t seen them in forever. Actually, come to think of it, most of the songs I feel like are about people that I knew for brief periods of time and then haven’t been in contact with. I think that would be the idea for that song; we weren’t really thinking about the outcome of it. It’s kind of about time passing and observing a moment or the space around you in particular.

The EP also sounds like it would do really well on a movie soundtrack to me.
Walsh: Yeah, man! I’ve always said that about the way Luke writes songs, I always said that Luke should go into film, and I think we’re both interested in that in our own way.

What kind of film would you like to be on?
Fowlie: I’ve seen some really good documentaries. There’s this one about [artist] Andy Goldsworthy that a guitarist played all the songs for. I really like that kind of thing. It’s appropriate. (Independent)

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