Following the positive response to our review of Devil In The Lake, and after several emails asking me questions about the band, I thought we would take a few minutes to get to know a bit more about Emperors & Elephants by going straight to the source. So, put your headphones down for a minute, grab something cool to drink, and read along as we talk a little trash with Emperors & Elephants' lead singer, Jesse Andrews...
G2G: Jesse, thanks for taking the time to Talk Some Trash with us… I have to be honest, when I was sent your album for review, I almost said, “umm, thanks…pass” all because of the name. Where did the name come from?
Jesse: It’s a combination of two things that deal with a similar topic.. The story, “The Emperor’s new clothes” and the saying “The Elephant in the room”...we just kinda put them together.
G2G: I realize that’s not really fair to judge based on the name…and I’m glad I gave you guys a spin… but I get sent a LOT of stuff that doesn’t fit the style and sound of our site, so I thought you guys were probably just another alt-rock band, but that’s not the case at all, is it?
J: No, there is a lot of influences in the music and we try to draw on them , yet keep it relevant..
When I listen to you guys, I hear a lot of grunge mixed with modern hard radio rock and even a bit of a metallic edge, especially in some of the guitar solos. There is a definite old-school Alice In Chains vibe to a lot of what you do. Would you say that’s a fair summation of your sound?
G2G: You came to the band pretty late, correct? I mean, some of these guys had been playing together for many years already, right?
J: Yes. Jeff and Jason have been playing for almost 20 years.
G2G: Do you ever just step outside your role in the band and go, “Damn, these guys are good!”? Because, in all fairness, E&E does, in fact, have some really good musicians in the band. I’m especially impressed with some of the guitar work.
J: Yeah, every night...and I say that on stage , that I’m lucky to play with these guys ..
G2G: I’m sure you hear all the time that you have a Layne Staley quality to your vocal approach, possibly mixed with some Chris Cornell….is that something conscious on your part, especially based on the sort of sound the band comes across with, or is this just who you sound like?
J: I made a conscious effort to sing in the same vein as Layne, I liked how he did things...
G2G: You do a lot of the lyrics for the band, correct?
J: Yes, I do all the lyrics ..
G2G: Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’d have to say you must spend a lot of time being depressed! (Laughing) Seriously, there is a lot of heavy emotion and anger and misery in some of these songs, right? Or am I missing the point of a lot of this? I’m old, remember….
J: Well, I’ve never been one to write a song about tits and getting drunk, so...you know..
G2G: A couple of songs really stand out for me when listening to Devil In The Lake. First, can you tell me about one of the more laid-back songs, musically, but one of the more intense songs, lyrically…”Hit Of Red”….
J: During the recording of the album my best friend Tony was killed by a drunk guy at a party with a gun.. My way of therapy was writing that song.
G2G: I also love the “ballad” of the album, “You And I”. It’s kind of an odd song, really….there’s no chorus to it, right? You just go right through it, kind of like a poem over music, with no repeated theme or lyrical segment….
J: We did a demo with those lyrics and it just made sense to keep it that way and not add or change anything . It says what it needs to say.
G2G: I’ve heard people say that “Man Of God” is an anti-religion song, but I don’t take that away from the song at all. Am I missing something again, or is this people reading things into a song that just aren’t there?
J: M.o.G. is about your relationship with whatever you believe in and being a man of faith in that regard. Be a man of your OWN faith. Don’t let a single person in the world tell you different.
G2G: Is that personal interpretation on the part of the listener part of the beauty of music? Regardless of the style, I think people can take away from a song what they want to…and sometimes they do just that, coming up with some VERY out of left field interpretations of songs….
J: That’s the beauty of music… and how you connect with the listener..
G2G: Before I move completely away from “Man Of God”, I was curious about the remix at the end of the album. To me, it has a very Nine Inch Nails kind of feel to it. Why a remix?
J: Some of our favorite bands are from the 90’s where they did remixes a lot , so we decided to bring it back.
G2G: Okay, you knew it was coming. Where in the world did Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” come from?!
J: That was one of the songs the guys knew and played during the auditions.. it was fun so we kept it around.
G2G: Please tell me you play it live…I really want to hear it live….
J: Yes, absolutely...
G2G: Alright, let’s change gears completely for a minute. In the pictures I’ve seen of you on-line, in press kits, and in some video footage, it appears you have assembled quite the body art collection. How long have you been inking yourself?
J: Since I was 16 with a fake I.D. and 20 dollars in my pocket
G2G: Any particularly odd pieces?
J: A light saber on my finger.
G2G: Ever have one that you said, “yep, gotta go back and get that covered up!”
J: I’ve contemplated covering up one of my first tattoos only because it look shitty, but I haven’t done it.. it’s a badge of honor of my first tattoo. Plus its an A.I.C. tattoo...
G2G: Without naming names or burning bridges, have you worked with anyone on a musical level yet who just made you stop and go, “man, what a bunch of ego-maniacal pricks!”
J: I plead the Fifth
G2G: On the flipside, anyone who has really taken you guys under their wings and said, “hey, how can we help you?”
J: We just got done doing a run with Tantric and the guys we’re incredibly supportive and great to get along with.
G2g: Every band gets asked this question, so I have to ask you now…have you had your Spinal Tap moment yet? Gotten totally lost backstage, had a major equipment malfunction…maybe couldn’t get out of the alien pod on-stage…something truly Tap-esque yet?
J: Oh, yeah...I dropped my wireless mic jumping over a barricade on a concrete floor and that was the end of it.
G2G: If you couldn’t be doing this what would you be doing? What’s your dream job…or are those two different questions?
J: Owning a record store...it’s all about the vinyl!!
G2G; Ever thought of throwing in the towel?
G2G: Realistically, how far can E&E go?
J: As far as it can.. as long as we keep plugging away, we will progress...
G2G: Do people even buy music any longer? My wife and I were just talking about this and I argue that with Pandora and Slacker Radio and iHeartRadio, and even YouTube, people can narrow their listening preferences so much that they don’t even have to purchase music now and can still listen to pretty much whatever they want whenever they want.
J: Yes, people still do buy stuff. Jack White just broke a record sales for vinyl for the last 30 years...
G2G: How do you even make a living? Something has to change somewhere, right?
G2G: Alright, outta left field random “this or that” kind of questions for you….ready?
Van Halen with David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? (We all pretend Gary Charone wasn’t ever in the band and VH3 doesn’t exist)
J: Neither.. not a Van Halen fan. (Laughing)
G2G: Ouch! Okay...Ozzy or Dio in Black Sabbath?
G2G: Bush BEFORE Gavin Rossdale was with Gwen Stefani, Bush AFTER Rossdale was with Stefani, or Bush BECAUSE Rossdale is with Stefani?
J: Before… I loved Bush from the beginning
G2G: Nickelback…why all the hate?
J: Because they make a bunch of money and sell out arenas, so every one’s jealous..
G2G: Pearl Jam’s “Ten” or Nirvana’s “Nevermind”?
J: PJ Ten ..
G2G: Demon Hunter or Five Finger Death Punch?
G2G: Journey or Foreigner?
J: Don’t stop believin !!!
G2G: Prince….musical genius or one weird dude?
J: Musical genius
G2G: What is your biggest guilty pleasure, musically? Who would people NEVER guess you are into?
J: Maroon 5
G2G: When people come to see you live…which I get the chance to see you and hang with you guys in a couple of weeks when you play with Emphatic…what do you hope they take away from and Emperors & Elephants show?
J: That what they just saw was genuine..
G2G: How do fans stay in touch with you? I’m sure you guys are all social media savvy, correct
J: Facebook, Instagram… we’re all over social media... We have a website up now, too, at http://emperorsandelephants.com/
Well, there you have it, folk...not a lotta trash-talking going on, but a pretty cool, to-the-point, little interview with Jesse. If you haven't done so, make sure you check out Devil In The Lake and get out and support Emperors & Elephants when they are out on the road this summer and fall.
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