Bonnie Paine and Daniel Rodriguez Share the Elephant Revival
Photo by Dan Perry
Nederland, Colorado’s Elephant Revival continues to win over new ears and hearts. The quintet, has just released a new studio recording, These Changing Skies after a summer traveling on the festival circuit and beyond. The group will close out the year with two nights at The State Room in Salt Lake City, UT and then in late January it’s off to Europe. In the following conversation the group’s Bonnie Paine and Daniel Rodriguez discuss the Elephant Revival’s origins and their own musical paths.
Some people have called Elephant Revival folk, newgrass, indie, what do you feel your sound or genre is?
Dan: I would describe our sound as a necessary thing we are doing. If I were to step outside and pretend I wasn’t one of the members, and look at it objectively, I would say folk-rock with a Celtic-jazz tinge to it.
Bonnie: I wonder sometimes if when Jazz music first started coming out, before there was a term for it, if people got asked this question, and were like, I don’t know what it is. A lot of our friends are in bands that don’t fit in any kind of category and I wonder if some term is forming, maybe, because it ties in a lot of folk influence and traditional instruments with kind of a modern feel and songs that are original. But, yeah, definitely Celtic, folk, rock, kind of Gypsy.
What have been some of your major musical influences personally?
Dan: I just found this out, but my very first concert I’d ever been to was Richie Havens.
Dan: Yeah, my mom told me that. That was my very first influence. Then of course, Raffi, “Baby Beluga.” Then I got much older and became really involved in Bob Dylan’s work, his songwriting just really got to me. John Ritter is doing it for me. And, the musicality of Railroad Earth, I’m really drawn to that too.
Bonnie: Yeah, Taj Mahal has been a huge influence. Nina Simon, Billy Holiday, Tracy Chapman. Our friends are in a band called Taarka, and also played in a band called The MuseMeant at one point. Richie Havens was a huge influence on me also.
Being a jam-heavy scene, the Grateful Dead has been very influential to a lot of musicians, have they played any role in your life?
Bonnie: Yeah! Actually that’s one I was just thinking about. Pink Floyd was my first concert, and Grateful Dead was almost my first. My dad was in line for tickets and they sold out just two people ahead of him. It was their last show anywhere near Oklahoma before Jerry Garcia passed. He was about to get tickets for like twenty of us. My whole family was about to tour out there in a little greyhound bus. I love the Grateful Dead, I’ve listened to them my whole life. When I was starting to sing harmonies, my mom suggested I listen back to Grateful Dead again and try out different harmonies that weren’t there to help get more familiar with singing harmonies. They’re awesome, great songwriters.
Dan: I think the Grateful Dead is probably the biggest influence when it comes to breaking down that line where entertainment and….well, they were really like the American Shamans of our culture. They were pre bling-bling music, record label, image, publicity, before all that. They were representing the moment, and what comes out of the moment, what explodes out of the moment, this ecstasy of fans who are just glued to the moment they are expounding upon, and I think that’s hugely important for our culture, and I think Yonder Mountain resurfaces that too, and Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth…It’s really important for our souls.
How did your band come together, were you all friends before?
Bonnie: Daniel and I met first from the band. We met in 2002. He was working sound in a club, I went to visit my friend in Connecticut, she had moved from Tulsa, so I drove my car out there to meet up with her, see how her life was going, and I ended up running into Daniel and playing music on a rooftop until the sun rose. He’s got such a solid groove. We were playing funk tunes actually, and that didn’t fit into any of those genres we just mentioned, but he’s a very good funky guitar player too. I met the other three members at a Winfield Bluegrass Festival in Winfield, Kansas.
Dan: I met Sage at a Rainbow Gathering (laughs). And, I met Dango at a place called Webb’s World of Fun in Oklahoma. We threw horseshoes for like two hours.