Today sees the release of the newest opus from Elephant Micah. Being big fans around Slowcoustic HQ, this is an even bigger day as we also have a quick interview with Joe O’Connell along with our post on the album!
The album is “Louder Than Thou” and is released from O’Connell’s own label Product of Palmyra in digital and vinyl formats. It is 6 tracks of what might be called a return to form if you thought that was even needed from this Indiana project. First off, it comes in at 6 songs and some of you might say that it is an EP and not an LP, but songs range from 4 1/2 to 7 1/2 minutes each so we can all agree this album while still being a touch short is definitely in the LP arena.
The songs are described as “Avant Americana” and include instrumentation some may find experimental in nature but still natural with the songs. Louder Than Thou fuses a feel for the music instead of arranging 10 x 3 minute tracks of acoustic guitar. Sure I say that flippantly, but it is actually true – the album isn’t straight forward but still includes the bones of what would be called a folk album. Tracks like (my favourite) ‘Airline Living’ has this floating aura with 70s influenced band elements and this bass line straight out of a Sofia Coppola movie soundtrack. As a stand alone track, this one has been a favourite for weeks now.
The lead off single (if that is what you would call it) is the song ‘If I Were a Surfer’ and it could be the beginning to ‘Airline Living’ and is simply a blanket of pure velvety folk goodness.
You might even get a bit of ‘upbeat’ in the track ‘My Cousin’s King’ and ambient instrumental-ism in ‘Rooster On the Loose’ but you always know you are listening to Louder Than Thou. While there is an ebb and flow to the album’s song crafting, it is still a full album and is one that fits into the incredibly deep back catalog of the band.
I had a chance to have Joe O’Connell talk about a few items on who “Elephant Micah” is and a bit about this new album.
~Interview with Joe O’Connell of Elephant Micah~
- For those in the know, they [for the most part] consider Joe O’Connell to be “Elephant Micah”. Who (or what) is Elephant Micah to Joe O’Connell?
I guess Elephant Micah is the name of a project, and I’m the person responsible for that project. The name is just a placeholder… just a title that ties together some series of performances and recordings over time. It’s supposed to be, ah, adaptable.
On this record, Justin and Nathan Vollmar (of the band Vollmar) helped me arrange and record basic tracks. Kate Long, Kyle Langvardt, and Michael Anderson each did overdubs.
- Your website indicates that Louder Than Thou is the “…clearest statement of the Elephant Micah sound”…what should someone take away from the new album if they hear it for the first time today?
This project has developed pretty slowly over time. I think it has only recently started to hit its stride. I would like this record to come across as the work of people who have been at it a long time, who are making their most compelling music in the present, and who are committed to continuing on that trajectory.
On Louder Than Thou – there is an ebb and flow on the album from the softer singer songwriter to the more experimental song crafting – how do you balance the traditional and non-traditional sounds?
On this record, it was less a matter of balancing two different styles and more a matter of creating the right, ah, stylistic contour (?) over the course of the recording. We just aimed to make decisions (in arranging, performing, mixing, etc.) that would allow the songs to hang together… within the overall scope of a record that is fun to listen to, and changes a lot over its course.
What I mean to say is, I was probably looking for a way to have changes in style without polarizing (?) style in terms of folk vs. rock, quiet vs. loud, experimental vs. “poppy,” or whatever.
How is it to be an artist and your own label? Does your label half push you to release more and then your artist side ask to slow down and enjoy the actual music?
Ooh, well, it is impossible. I just want to get this record out there and I don’t know a better way to do it.
- Would you release any other acts on your label? Any side projects that you feel shouldn’t fall under the moniker of Elephant Micah?
Sure, if I had unlimited resources, I would want to help release other people’s music. I can think of lots of great projects to do along those lines. As it stands, though, it takes all the time and money I can muster to get one Elephant Micah record out.
- As a songwriter – do you collaborate, write from experience, collect stories and combine to create an song/album?
I think the answer to this question might be “no.”
I do fool around with words, tunes, and guitar parts a lot. When I hit upon something that piques my interest, I pursue it and try to expand upon it. Sometimes my sense of an idea is strong enough that it will lead to other ideas. I try to string these ideas together into a set that I can record as an album.
My ideas come from playing with language, themes, genre rules… and maybe sometimes the starting point of an idea is something you could call experiential or real… something sort of observational. But that is mainly just a jumping off point for the rhetoric of the song. If I sing about the village of Rocky Ripple, Indiana, for example, it’s because I find it useful for staging a song with a certain aesthetic about “real places” and “real people.” I do like these genres that are take up real life (country, confessional, etc.), but I think that how they work and whether they work is purely a matter of good style, not a matter of true stories.
- Do you feel successful as an indie artist?
At first I wrote “no.” It’s a struggle to gather up all the resources I need to make a record. That’s why it’s been a while between this one and the last one.
But I’m going to go ahead and venture that I do feel successful. I’m managing to make really strong recordings, and get them out to people that derive some meaning from them. I don’t want to come across as anti-commercial in any simple way, or as being indifferent to whether more people hear my music. And I don’t want to claim some integrity or importance on the basis of being “marginal” to the indie music world. But I think I can say that I’m happy with what I’m doing, and I do see it as successful by my standards.
- Who are a few contemporaries that you would want to work with?
Will Oldham, Dark Dark Dark, the Cairo Gang, Small Sur, Hiss Golden Messenger, Vollmar, Pillars and Tongues, Magnolia Electric Company, Breathe Owl Breathe, Lougow, Bronze Float, Time and Temperature, the 1-2-3’s, the Flying Burrito Others, Scout Niblett, Thousand Arrows, Hurray for the Riff Raff, the Luddites, Bubbly Mommy Gun, the Blue River Music Association, Jon Kay, Grease Gravy, Century of Aeroplanes, Jandek, Califone, Little Wings, Aurora Nealand, Delay, For Barry Ray, Ben and Bruno, the Hollows, Open Sex, Norman Oak, Mary Oakie, Joe Manning, Nathan Salsburg and James Elkington, the Red Queen Hypothesis, Honey Radar, Canadian Rifle, Tammar, Uno Moss, June Panic, Alasdair Roberts, Cathy Irwin, Mark Kozelek, June Panic, and more.
- What was your main “New Year’s Resolution”?
“Keep going,” as they say.
Swing by the Product of Palmyra Bandcamp page HERE to pick up a copy today. Digital is “Pay What You Want” and the vinyl is a limited version of 375 and it will sell out.