THIS IS NOT AN ELEPHANT: Strange World of Seeming Normality

This is Not an Elephant

Munich-based alternative/progressive rock four-piece This is Not an Elephant launched their self-titled album in March 2019, a collection of nine songs filled to the brim with catchy melodies and heavy grooves. Songwriter and bassist Randy M. Salo talks with Prog Sphere about the ideas that informed the release, influences, and more.

Describe the musical frameworks your self-titled album explores.

The musical frameworks of our self-title album are rooted in groove, melody and an appreciation of the riff. Andy [Andreas Krebs, guitars / programming], as the chief songwriter, brought parts of what we achieved musically in Tanertill — dynamic sounds, intricate parts and precision — with other influences from electronic music, grunge and modern rock. While prog is a label we often are given, there isn’t much effort in the songwriting to fit a prog-specific mold. I think I am the biggest prog-head in the band but we all love bands like Tool, Karnivool, Katatonia and Riverside, so if some similar elements come through in the music, it’s only natural.

Tell me about the ideas that inform This is Not an Elephant.

Visuals and mood are very important to the band. I don’t mean that we dress up like wizards or wear matching suits, but our music videos, artworks, band photos and general social media presence tends to reflect our ironic, humorous sides. A good example of this can be found in our video for “Not Where They Belong.” Of course it is full of pretty people generally enjoying life, as if they lived inside of a commercial. But there is something sinister lying just behind the smile. I kinda wonder if they all didn’t just murder someone and are seemingly carrying on like a bunch of psychopaths. As the filmmaker in the band, one of my influences is the photographer Gregory Crewdson. His stunningly realistic and familiar images are always tainted by an underlying strangeness or darkness. We approach a lot of visual and mood elements with a bit of irony. Our band name is This is Not an Elephant, after all.

This is Not an Elephant

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and lessons learned during the creative process for This is Not an Elephant?

Marketing or selling the band has not been easy when it comes to the creative process. We have had loads of support and positive feedback, but we are a hard band to categorize. We are too proggy for the grunge fans and too grungey for the prog fans. As one label-head put it “the band doesn’t fit into a sellable niche.” But that doesn’t influence our creative process. We make the music we want to and don’t conform to any visual standards. We have yet to make a traditional “performance” music video and I guess our band photos are a little weird (laundry rooms are making a comeback!).

What does the “Maintaining a Healthy Level of Hate” song communicate, symbolically?

It communicates that there are so many things and people that can be wholeheartedly despised in this world. No doubt, no discussion. And that you should please do so. That it’s okay and very liberating, at times, to be angry and just hate. Not to be naïve and find excuses for assholes and their shenanigans. It will keep you away from toxicity and therefore from harm to your mind and soul. Some humans or events don’t deserve you making efforts to take the high road — symbolically.

To someone who hasn’t heard the album, what can he or she expect from TINAE?

Groove, soaring vocal melodies, hard riffs and some pretty sweet guitar and bass interplay await the unexpecting listener. Plus, if they take a dive into Andy‘s artwork or my video elements, they will discover a strange world of seeming normality marked with some dark, unsettling motifs — to be quite pretentious about it!

What were the biggest challenges you faced when working on the album?

On this album, we decided to record ourselves. We didn’t have any professional backround when it came to the actual production of a finished album. But we trusted our gut and ears, so the result made us all happy. It then was mixed and mastered by our good friend Erdem Engin. But in the end, the biggest challenge is always to kick out a riff or part you like, in favour of the song.

Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed during the creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed drastically?

It was the first time for us to work together on songs. So we discovered each other so to say. [haha] The approach changed drastically at the point David joined the band. Andy made some Demos by himself with his own vocals. With David, he had a new companion to collect, share and discover new ideas with.

What types of change do you feel this music can initiate?

I think our music can bridge a gap between fans of grunge or alternative rock with those that are more into prog. At first, those two sides seem to be diametric, but i think we fuze the styles together in an honest way and appeal to both the ’90s Alice In Chains-heart as well as the modern Leprous-brain.

Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?

Absolutely not. However, if a riff or bass part or song sucks, we throw it out. Serve the song!

What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

TINAE is not a political band, but we are all concerned human beings. If there is frustration or fear in our lives, due to non-music elements, those things find their way into the music and performance. But usually, we just jump around and have a good time. At least for me, music is the ultimate mindfulness activity. No matter how angry I am about politics or personal matters, the act of playing music with TINAE blocks out the unnecessary. In the middle of the song, I’m not worried about my bus being late… I’m only worried about playing late and missing my stop (sorry bad public transportation analogy!)

What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in forms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?

Find a musical partner(s) who challenges and inspires you. Try to make sure everyone in the band shares the same vision and the same goals. Talk about everything, but don’t get stuck on disagreements. Move forward. Also, don‘t wait for someone outside the band to give approval. If you are certain in your goals then you have to just go for it. As the great Yoda once said: “Do or Do not. There is no try.”

This is Not an Elephant’s self-titled debut album is out now; check it out on Bandcamp here. Follow the band on Facebook, and catch them on a tour through Germany and Switzerland this April together with Ultima Radio. Check the poster below for dates.

This is Not an Elephant tour

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