Elephant Jake is a band on the move, and one that could not have existed the way it currently does even ten years ago. The band recently released Classic. through Wreck It Records and No Mom’s No Rules Records. Spanning the emo genre from Modern Baseball to American Football the album, much like the band, has an intense driving force as its backbone. Even as we spoke, Elephant Jake was en route to the first stop of six on a two-day radio and concert tour de force. Classic. was tracked in much the same way: a whirlwind. “We recorded the LP in a weekend because we knew that we wouldn’t be together for a while. In three days we spent 40 or 50 hours in the studio.” With four members in three locations, each four and a half hours apart they have to make every second count. In-studio this meant sessions lasting until three in the morning.
While the band formed in Orange County, NY, college has greatly widened the physical space between them. But it has brought them even closer creatively. “We thought that going to college separate places was going to be the hardest thing for us and it actually ended up being the best.” It has given each member the ability to form their own connections in different areas, thus providing more opportunities for the band. “I think that it doesn’t give us time to be lazy. If we were all together, all the time, we might not have the incentive and energy to just write as much as we can and work to our full potential. It would be like ‘hey, let’s watch Rick and Morty for three hours’ or ‘let’s play Call of Duty all night’ or ‘let’s eat ice cream forever.’ But now that we don’t, now that we’re only together on the weekend it’s like ‘okay, what are we going to do?’” They still find time to bond, of course, but the limitations allow them to really push the band further by taking away the luxury of an open schedule.
Additionally, technology plays a major role in the way Elephant Jake functions. “Basically we have a group chat and one of us will write a song and we’ll send it to each other. One of us will write an entire song by ourselves and we’ll all flesh it out. When we get together a song comes from that, from all of our ideas.” And because all of these ideas were formed in solitary the results are sometimes surprising, even to the band members. The person writing a particular song will have their own image for what the track sounds like. This is sometimes lost in the translation of voice memo demos, taken differently than intended, or otherwise expanded upon by someone else. “You start out thinking the song’s going to go in one direction and then one person has an idea and takes it in a completely different direction. And it’s way better.” This also adds to the efficiency of time actually spent together. “By the time we all actually get to the same room it’s like ‘hey, let’s play the new songs that we sent in the chat’ and we can already just run through it. Sometimes we’re like ‘oh, how do you guys know it already?’ It’s because we played it in the chat!”
Elephant Jake songs range musically from a raucous party to twinkly and introspective. The one-two punch of “Sebastian Bauer” into “I Knew I Was Alive For Something” is a prime example of this. “We get our energetic stuff from Modern Baseball and the Front Bottoms. But like a year ago both of us discovered American Football. We were in high school and Colin and I were like ‘What is this tuning!? Did you know you could tune your guitar like this and strum and it still sounds pretty without doing anything?’’ This epiphany informed songs on Classic. as well as their writing moving forward. Lyrically, the songs are personal takes on things that are actually happening. The line “I hear nothing / won’t you dance with me anyway,” from “I Knew I Was Alive For Something”, is referencing a time when co-frontman Sal Fratto would hear music, even when there was none playing. “I always hear a whole band in my head, all the time. Like drums, guitar, bass – everything. I actually ended up talking to someone about it because it started freaking me out. I couldn’t really handle hearing all the music in my head like 24/7.” Taking specific personal experiences and finding ways to turn them into creative output is how the much of the writing process goes for Sal. It serves as a release. “I think the way I write lyrically is I try to make myself comfortable with the fact that I’m really uncomfortable all the time.” Throughout the process each member of the band serves to balance the others out, trashing ideas when necessary and working to expand the best to their true potential.
Even before the full release of Classic. the band was seeing their hard work pay off. The hometown show they played after premiering their first single was at a packed barn, fittingly called the Elephant Graveyard. “We started playing ‘Sebastian Bauer’ and as soon as we got to the first chorus you couldn’t even hear us singing anymore. Everybody was screaming it back at us. There’s no better feeling than that.” These weren’t just friends, but new fans that had already formed a strong connection to these Elephant Jake songs. With such momentum, Classic. out now, and summer touring plans coming together, it will certainly not be the last experience the band has like this.