Friday, October 31, 2014

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Interview: Elephants Of Scotland


Elephants of Scotland is the brain child of multi-instrumentalist and composer Adam Rabin, who took upon the challenge in 2010 to start a progressive rock project in Burlington, Vermont; a place better known for jam bands, cows and maple syrup.

Elephants Of Scotland released their debut album Home Away From Home in the spring of 2013 which was met with positive reviews and praise from the international progressive rock community for which the band was previously relatively oblivious. On the strength of this album alone and with very few gigs under their belts, they were invited to play the prestigious three-day international progressive rock festival RoSfest in Gettysburg, PA in 2014.

Check he interview we did with Adam below:

Interview by Diego Camargo

Progshine – Let's start with the band's beginnings. How did you start playing together and when you decided it was time to record your first album Home Away From Home?

Adam Rabin - Ornan McLean, John Whyte, and I all played in a 1980s cover band for a few years. We were playing Cyndi Lauper and Duran Duran tunes and it was a lot of fun. But I had always been more into writing and recording originals so Ornan and I joined up with an old band-mate of his and we started writing stuff on the side. Eventually John joined up with us and we found Dan MacDonald. Ornan and John actually still play with the 80s band.

After about 9 months together we felt we had enough songs and we were tight enough that we felt it was time to record the first album. We didn't really have any plans or expectations for it. We just wanted to make the album for ourselves.

Progshine – And talking about your two released albums, how different you think they are from each other?

Adam Rabin - Considering they were released just over a year apart, I think they are surprisingly different. Home Away From Home I think is a bit more whimsical and has more of a groove to it - almost danceable in spots. With Execute And Breathe we definitely went darker and heavier. By that time we were much more confident and we were much tighter as a band so we pushed ourselves to be a bit more technically challenging.

Progshine – And talking about your new album, Execute And Breathe, how was the process of writing and recording it? How much time did it take and how’s the response so far?

Adam Rabin - As with just about all of our songs, I'll come to the band with a song that is more than halfway ready. Then the four of us will learn it and tweak it and each of us will make it our own. I can really only write the chords and melodies and a few riffs. Each person in the band molds their own parts.

We released Home Away From Home in January of 2013. At that time we already had a few of the songs for the next album written. In the Spring of 2013 we started writing in earnest and used last Winter to record.

Progshine – Do you have any ideas for the next record already or for a band it’s too soon as your latest album was released earlier this year? How that works within a band? How do you know when it’s time for a new album?

Adam Rabin - Good question. We have one new song written called "The Sun-Dipped Orphans and the Wizard's Teapot" that we are really excited about. We'll be premiering it in New Hampshire in a few weeks. I also have another song that includes some ideas that Dan and I were jamming on. Both songs feature lyrics by Greg Skillman so I want to get Greg's feedback on the new tune and iron out some of the transitions before I present the new one to the band.

So, now that we have two songs in progress (and I, of course, have a few other seeds of ideas brewing) I'm starting to see a direction for the next album. I think it will have the whimsy of the first album with even more of the technical insanity that we've only hinted at so far.


Progshine – You use all the digital retailers available to distribute your music, like Bandcamp and others. How important is the digital selling to Elephants Of Scotland right now and how is it to be the artist, the manager and your own label?

Adam Rabin - I had originally suggested to the band that for our first album we just release it digitally. I didn't think there'd be enough of a market for physical CDs. I, myself, haven't purchased more than one or two CDs in the last few years. But Ornan lead the cause to print up actual CDs. He's more old-school when it comes to listening to music. He still has a ton of vinyl - he didn't just get into it recently. And so he wanted to be able to hold an actual Elephants of Scotland CD. The other guys sided with him so I relented. I'm glad I did.

Prog fans really appreciate the full package, the classic album listening experience. Sales have been equally split between CDs and digital downloads.

As for being our own managers and label, I can't even imagine it any other way. We're Vermonters. We do things ourselves.

Progshine – Do you think that being an American Prog band makes any difference? There is a Prog scene in the USA?

Adam Rabin - I don't know if being American makes too much of a difference anymore. I think it once did. In the 1970s and a bit of the 1980s there was still a heavy blues and blues-rock influence on US bands like Styx and Kansas. Over in Europe, the classic bands were building off of classical and traditional folk. Over the decades, though, I think everything has melded together. Prog Rock has become a standard form that includes all of the blues, classical, and folk sources along with the special flavors that the great bands like Yes and Genesis brought to the genre.

Sadly, it is more difficult to find an audience in America. There are some hot spots like Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey where Prog is doing well. That's about 6 or 7 hours away from Vermont. That's where the internet comes in. We've sold a small handful of CDs locally but we're doing really well in Europe - where we've never even been!


Progshine – This brings me a question. Are you musicians full time?

Adam Rabin - Goodness, no. We all have full-time jobs. We make just enough money making music to help us cover gas money and afford new gear now and then. As nice as it would be to not have to keep a day job, it is just as enjoyable to be able to make whatever music we want at our own pace without worrying about the bottom line. We have nobody to please but ourselves.

Progshine – As a reader, I have always liked to know about my favorite artists tastes such as their favorite bands and albums. If you guys could name the bands/albums that influenced Elephants Of Scotland music, which ones would they be?

Adam Rabin It's no surprise that we're all fans of some of the classic Prog acts like Yes and Rush. Some of the guys are also into Kansas and Saga. But that's just a small part of the music world. Some of us love listening to Billy Joel, Abba, Robyn Hitchcock, Billy Cobham, Queen, and even The Outfield!

Progshine – In all of my interviews the final space was devoted to messages from the bands and artists to their fans. So the space is all yours!

Adam Rabin - I know we all grew up with the big record labels and the huge stadium tours. Artists were selling albums in the millions and sometimes getting on MTV. That era is totally and forever gone. Maybe it's a good thing, maybe it's bad thing. The good side of all that is that now it -really- is up to the fans. When it comes to independent artists like ourselves our success is absolutely dictated by the fans - not by some corporations pumping millions of dollars into a promotional campaign.

So, I'll say two things to our fans. The first is thank you. Thank you so much! The other is that our future depends in part on your support. When you buy an album from us, with the exception of a tiny bit going to credit card fees, that money goes directly to us. We put all that money right back into the band to print up more CDs or buy equipment to help make our next album sound even better.
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