For the last decade, The Elephant 6 recording collective has been a reliable source for the most progressive and innovative indie rock/pop releases. The collective"s base was comprised of three bands operating mainly out of Athens, Ga. The original triumvirate of Neutral Milk Hotel, The Olivia Tremor Control and The Apples in Stereo spawned dozens of offshoot bands that were stamped with the signature sound of "60s psychedelic pop influence.
The Apples in Stereo (from left): John Hill, Jim McIntyre, Hilary Sydney and Robert Schneider
The philosophy was simple: E6 was a "collective of like minded friends and their bands just trying to make pop music and make records that stand up to the best records ever made," reflects John Hill, lead guitarist for the Apples. "It was never really agreed upon what is, what it was, what it would be, or what we intended to do with it." What it has turned out to be is one of the most influential tides to hit indie rock in recent history. Now, just shy of 12 years of life, The Elephant 6 Recording Collective is officially dead. According to Hill, about two years ago E6 was on the verge of turning into a real record label, but never had a chance to materialize due to lack of communication and total disorganization. "It just didn"t happen," Hill says. "For those of us who are Elephant 6, it"s a thing of the past. Not in a negative way. We"re all still friends. It"s not like we broke up the club. I think everybody just wants to be free of it to do other things." Hill asserts that the spirit of E6 isn"t dead, but the logo isn"t going to be put on any future releases. For many, including myself, stumbling on to Elephant 6 was like finding a gateway into a whole new world of music. E6 defined the spirit and creativity and possibilities of indie rock. By discovering one band, you could be introduced to several others. Hill explains that in Athens, everybody was in six bands with no two songwriters in one band. "I don"t know why it worked out that way. There"s about a hundred bands when there really could just be four really, really good bands." The most prolific and quintessential examples of this very unique structure are Bill Doss and Jeff Mangum. Mangum is a lyrical genius and heart of Neutral Milk Hotel, but also worked with Elf Power and, most recently, the critically celebrated Circulatory System as well as many others. Bill Doss was the heart of The Olivia Tremor Control, but has been seen playing with the Four Corners and his long-standing and enduring project, the Sunshine Fix. Doss has also done some recording with the similarly influenced Bloomington-based Impossible Shapes in Athens. The Shapes have always sited Elephant 6 bands as strong influences. Hill believes that it"s hard to say who"s influencing who, but "we are now just starting to see and realize the impression that E6 has made, in younger bands, but also older ones. I think we may have definitely turned the way things were going with indie rock." Hill has been with the Apples for eight of the 10 years they"ve been a band. He is also the lead guitarist for the Denver-based E6 band, Dressy Bessy. "I always call the Apples my primary band because I started with them first. I ended up going full force with Dressy Bessy while Robert and Hilary [of the Apples] had a baby." Dressy Bessy is still going full force and seems like a ticking time bomb of schedule conflicts, but Hill maintains that he "could definitely be in a worse situation" than being in two strong bands. The term "power pop" in its modern application is the sonic definition of the Apples. Their new record, Velocity of Sound, has an added rock edge, but maintains the standard of high-powered sunny "60s psych pop. "We get told we sound like the Beach Boys even if we"re just playing fuzz guitars," Hill remarks. "But the rock sound on this album is more like the Ramones meets the Beatles." Appearing with the Apples this Saturday at Birdy"s will be Oranger and The Pieces. Hill affectionately describes Oranger as being in the same vein as The Olivia Tremor Control "without all the weird stuff going on." Oranger has been around for about six years, but rarely tours, which makes this a great time to catch them in the neighborhood. The Pieces are a hi-fi minimalist rock and roll outfit based in Indianapolis that sounds like a cross between Supergrass, T-Rex and John Lennon. Tickets for the show are $10 and available by calling 239-5151 or visiting cc.com.